Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Laugh at the Annoyance Theater | Live review
Before it had Michael Jordan and Barack Obama, Chicago had Oprah. She’s been on air longer than I’ve breathed it. Now she’s saying goodbye to all of us, leaving behind a legacy that includes her magazine, radio show, TV network and producer credit on future Tyler Perry films.
Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Laugh, which plays the Annoyance Thursdays at 8pm, began as all shows should—with the Space Jam theme song. As O, Michelle Renee Thompson captures the aura of the TV goddess, prickly boss, wise prophet, urban aristocrat and everywoman, complete with convincing O-ration. We’re welcomed as the audience to her final talk show taping (brilliant). An hourlong musical comedy poking fun at an hourlong television show establishes infinite potential—cast, crew and director Anne Marie Saviano can concoct the finale they’d wish to see on May 25th (maybe Oprah and Gayle retire to colonial life a la season 18 or Oprah is unmasked as Maya Angelou).
We're given a montage of famous clips from years past—both real (maniacal couch-jumping) and imagined (James Frey-spanking). But then we’re no longer viewers in Harpo Studios; we’re just flies on the wall watching the prelude to the last episode. Much of the exposition is very funny: Oprah wakes up and asks, “Stedman, where do you work?” and he deadpans, “That’s the first question you’ve asked me in 20 years,” but we also get a Ghost of Christmas Past allegory when Mayor Richard Daley Sr. presents life if Oprah had never come to Chicago. Meanwhile, Thompson’s six co-stars portray 73 separate characters, including show regulars Suze Orman, Nate Berkus, Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, plus Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley Braun, Ellen DeGeneres, Refrigerator Perry, Gandhi and Jesus among others. Back at the last few seconds of the taping, we’re met with an ambiguous ending (Oprah in a halo, ascending) and the feeling we missed a final episode that never happened.