Second City 

What's funnier than Jim Belushi or Eugene Levy? Go ahead, improvise.

Improv is a rare bird. Poised somewhere between standup comedy and theater, the improvisational artist riffs on human interaction in the present tense. Sometimes all that searching for the elusive vein of humor can be a bore, but when a good actor -- and all great improv performers are good actors -- hits his or her stride, everything is forgiven. Think of salesman Alan Arkin scuffling through Glengarry Glen Ross. Or Dan Aykroyd's Southern folksiness in Driving Miss Daisy. Or Bill Murray's inspired skulking in Lost in Translation. You might remember the intensity of Peter Boyle in Taxi Driver. Do Julia Louis-Dreyfus' prissy shpilkes drive you nuts? How about funny fat men John Candy and Chris Farley? Or do you prefer the refined theatricality of director Mike Nichols?

All of the above, plus many, many more actors, comics, writers, and producers, have something in common -- they're alumni of the Second City, Chicago's renowned improvisational troupe, now a mini-empire with five theaters in the United States and Canada plus three touring ensembles, its own production company (SCTV, anyone?), a business services operation, and more. With all that going for it, it was just a matter of time before Second City hit Pleasanton. That will happen when the troupe's 45th Anniversary Tour glides into the Amador Theater (1155 Santa Rita Rd., on the Amador Valley High School campus) this Friday at 8 p.m., which means "comic tax relief" for Tri-Valley audiences with a sense of humor ("You can drop off your taxes at the post office, then come see the show," enthuses Amador publicist Barbara Lewis).

For Amador's Rob Vogt, booking Second City fulfills a longtime ambition. "I grew up with Saturday Night Live, so I thought it'd be great," he says. "I remember John Belushi, Gilda Radner, all the Second City comedians. All their material seems to have a political bent, so it fits in with income tax day." The touring show, according to producer Beth Kligerman in Chicago, consists of classic archival material, new scripted stuff, and of course pure improv. And you may catch the next Mike Myers. Tickets: $20-$30 from www.civicartstickets.org or 925-931-3444.

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