Tina Fey's return to Saturday Night Live ended with the perfect parody that nodded to the former head writer's comedy beginnings and also hit on a current piece of pop culture. Notice how all of those Dick Wolf procedurals have left New York behind and embraced the chilly winds of Chicago? Where could they possibly go next? The Dick Wolf's "Chicago Improv" Saturday Night Live sketch was a perfect parody of procedurals and comedy... so much so that it might actually work.
Can this be a real network procedural, please? Think about it. References to long form improv terms and people like object work, sweep edits, TourCo, zip zap zop, and the mysterious but important "Greg Amico" are no more obscure than medical, legal, or... firefighter terms.
"Life doesn't ask for a suggestion," reads the Chicago Improv tagline — and if you've ever been to an improv show, that's a reference you'll understand. Does that make this fictional series inaccessible? Maybe, but it's still fun!
Fey herself is familiar with the Chicago Improv world in real life, having studied at The Second City and auditioned for their touring company of players on the same day as Amy Poehler — who would go on to basically ground the New York City Improv scene with the Upright Citizen's Brigade. See, this is where this procedural could get really interesting. There's crossover potential here, between Second City and the improv Olympic in Chicago, the UCB in New York, and Groundlings in Los Angeles. Honestly, Wolf should get on this. It could be a whole new franchise.
As the sketch progresses it becomes more and more of a rag on the art form itself, because comedians are nothing if not self-loathing. The most dramatic things to happen to the characters was deciding to try open mics, and "selling out" by booking two commercials. One of the characters on the team had a plaid flannel tied around another plaid flannel. All of the fake reviews were confused. Even Improv Magazine said there was too much improv. "Did Dick Wolf lose a bet," asked the fictional Wall Street Journal in the sketch. "Why did he make this?"
But also, like, wouldn't you watch this? It would be like Don't Think Twice with the urgency of NBC's Rise. Why do all procedurals have to be about cops, detectives, lawyers, and doctors who save lives or whatever? Why do the stakes have to be so high? What about a gritty procedural about a bunch of egotistic basement dwellers who, despite their egos offstage, come together to support each other night after night? An "unflinching depiction" sounds kind of amazing.
The sketch was a favorite of the night, "Chicago Improv" trended during the show with many fans offering to audition or watch the series IRL or praising how real it is for anyone who has ever stepped into an Improv 101 class or been dragged to see a friend's indie team perform at a bar. A capella had its moment, why not improv?
Fey's SNL episode itself was rife with current commentary, including a Mean Girls: The Musical digital short with a cameo from Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as Royal Wedding jokes and sketches that had to have been down to the wire in order to get all the details right. Dick Wolf's Chicago Improv was a perfect way to reference the host's career, throw out a couple of inside jokes for the comedy nerds watching at home, and maybe even put a decent idea out there like The Secret.
At the very least, Poehler and Maya Rudolph should appear on SNL in recurring Dick Wolf Improv sketches as the New York and LA branches, respectively. Let this not be the last we see of Chicago Improv on NBC, please!