The University of Michigan–born troupe Team StarKid, which has been producing in Chicago for the last few years, is known for its parodies of such properties as Harry Potter and Starship Troopers—live stage shows that achieve YouTube fame—and for the rabid young following its Web videos have engendered. Judging from the throngs of squealing, mostly female teenage fans that greeted the group’s new sketch show at Second City’s UP Comedy Club, including one clutch sporting homemade T-shirts indicating they’d traveled here from Massachusetts, StarKid is basically the Biebs of YouTube comedy.
The 11-member cast of Airport for Birds, most StarKid regulars, is appealing, talented and possessed of strong comic timing. What most of its sketches aren’t, confoundingly, is funny. From blackout sketches to musical numbers to recurring bits to long pieces, these setups are often wacky, odd, zany—but lacking a punch line or a proper build, which is unfortunate for the troupe’s first outing under the Second City imprimatur. Even the strongest sketches—one in which the Bennet family of Pride and Prejudice receives a suitor named Mr. Wingley who turns out to be a screeching eagle, another in which U.S. Customs officials use pop music to establish passengers’ citizenship—reveal their gags and then repeat, linger too long and finally taper off. The evening’s far from a total crash and burn; it’s more akin to being left sitting on the tarmac, wondering when this thing’s going to take off.