CHICAGO — Is Donald Trump turning comedy audience members into monsters?
That's what some cast members at Chicago's Second City think after a series of incidents involving racist and obnoxious audiences at their e.t.c. revue shows, according to CBS Chicago. The environment is reportedly so fraught, four cast members have left in recent weeks.
Former Second City performer Peter Kim told CBS said he witnessed audiences grow more abusive in the past year, often spewing homophobic and racist slurs during performances.
In an interview with DNAinfo Friday, Second City's longtime owner Andrew Alexander said he has noticed a spike in inappropriate audience behavior in the last six or seven months, which was not common before now. He said he "absolutely" blames such a rise in racist attitudes to the recent political climate that encourages "certain demographics on the Trump side" to voice their opinions.
Kim's departure from the critically acclaimed comedy enterprise comes shortly after half the cast of "A Red Line Runs Through It" left the team. The hit revue has been running for five months.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was a man was sitting next to a Hispanic couple,” Kim told CBS. “We asked a question to another lady, completely different lady, we said, ‘Hey, ma’am, what is something small that pisses you off, like getting stuck in traffic.'” The man, Kim said, yelled, "‘Sitting too close to a Mexican.'"Earlier this week, Kim told DNAinfo he's seen "a lot of racism" in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood specifically, which he described as being "predominantly straight, white."
Kim could not be reached for comment after his decision to leave the cast was made public.
In the wake of the departures, the Chicago comedy theater has installed a new creative management team, including a new president. Steve Johnston, former president and managing partner of Second City Works, will now lead the entire company while Bob Knuth will take on the role of creative director of marketing and brand. The Tribune first reported the shakeup Tuesday.
Despite the tumultuous changes, Alexander said Second City maintains a good relationship with former talents, with small projects already in talks with some of the former e.t.c cast.
"As this progressed, I have to say we could have handled it better in the beginning," Alexander said. Now, the new management is planning on implementing a variety of measures to ensure the safety and comfort of performers in hostile situations, including security details in and outside the performance room and signs declaring zero-tolerance policy for hate speech.
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