Ugly Jesus

It was Thursday. The Reader, Chicago’s alternative weekly, comes out on Thursdays. Despite the decline of print journalism, the Reader remains one of the best source of theater reviews in the city, and one of the few publications that will review an improv show, particularly one that’s not affiliated with a big theater.

The Reader had come to the show the previous Thursday, which meant that its judgment would be appearing today. Michael didn’t want to read it. But he did. Only he didn’t. Nothing good would come of it. Unless, of course, the review was positive. Which it wouldn’t be, because the reviewer would resent having to go to a show on Thursday at 10:30 rather than getting drunk, and they only give good reviews to people they know, and the show wasn’t really that strong anyhow…

Of course, it might be a good review. The group did well. Michael did well. He had this scene as depressed Jesus working at a Vespa factory that killed.

But he could kill as much as he wanted, and it wouldn’t translate into a good review if the reviewer just was in a bad mood or if he decided to take offense at something or if he just felt like being vindictive preemptively. Best not to take the chance.

No, that’s a cowardly way out. He’d had three reviews in eight years.

They’d all been terrible reviews, though.

Although they’d all been reviews that declared the show awful and then went on to discuss unrelated things. So they weren’t about him, really.

The battle raged within Michael throughout the morning and most of the afternoon. It prevented him from concentrating at work, but that was okay; the month’s billing at his firm (Greenco Green Consulting) had closed the week prior, so his work this would have consisted of staring at his computer and keeping a spreadsheet open so he could jump to it quickly if he ever had to pretend that he wasn’t mucking about the internet.

It got absurd; he couldn’t even enjoy how he was wasting time, and he’d found a page that produced dozens of different fart sounds. He had to face it.

All of the reviews are posted online. Trembling, he pulled up “Socket Puppies.”

It wasn’t good.

This mélange of mediocre improvised scenes lurches between settings with no connection and, worse, no passion. The performers and their characters were singularly uncompelling; any number of points from the running commentary in my head would have made for more fruitful explorations that what the cast opted for. (My thoughts ranged from “Why doesn’t the cat bleed in colors?” to “Is that the least physically attractive person to ever portray Jesus?” which tells you more about the scenes that inspired them than I care to re-live.)

Well, what did he expect?

Michael fiddled with the empty spreadsheet and pretended he didn’t care. He wouldn’t have been remotely successful at this, except for the fact that nobody in the office cared about him.


Something from the unnamed, still-hypothetical but probably inevitable book set in the Chicago improv world today. I’ve heard rumors of people who are okay with reading their reviews, but I’ve never been one of them. Although I think the reviewer’s question is valid. You don’t see a lot of physically ugly people portray Jesus. Maybe Christianity should work on that.


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