TBS brought their Just For Laughs comedy festival to Chicago and as a part of the fun, they dusted off an old script for a movie that never was, but definitely should have been. On Saturday night, Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn’t played two a pair of packed houses at the Park West to raucous crowds who in many cases dressed the part. It was like a cross between a Bears game and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but with phony Ditka mustaches.
In case the title doesn’t give it away, Da Bears Movie picks up the wildly popular (OK, maybe wildly popular is a stretch on a national stage, but in Chicago it definitely was wildly popular) Saturday Night Live Superfans sketches made famous by the likes of George Wendt, Joe Mantegna, and the late Chris Farley.
The cast for the Chicago show brought back a bunch of the big names including co-writers Bob Odenkirk and Robert Smigel , George Wendt , Horatio Sanz (taking on the Farley role) , Joe Mantegna , Richard Roeper (as the narrator), along with special cameos by Da Coach Mike Ditka, Keith Van Horne and even Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Ryan Dempster.
This was TBS’s description of the show:
Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn’t
For one night only, the never-produced Super Fans movie will come to life as performers from the legendary SNL sketch and Mike Ditka reunite for a live reading of the 1995 script written by Bob Odenkirk and Robert Smigel. The epic script, both a freewheeling examination of the Chicago sports fanatics and an absurd satire of big money’s influence on sports, will highlight the charity event for Have Dreams: Helping Autistic Voices Emerge and the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, along with several Super Fan sketches and a Q&A with Da Coach himself. Odenkirk and Smigel will be joined by original Super Fans George Wendt and Joe Mantegna, along with several surprise guests.
The Superfans was conceived by Robert Smigel during his time in Chicago in the early 80’s while working with Second City. He turned the concept into a show in Chicago back in 1988, but it only went on to get national attention when Chicago native Joe Mantegna hosted SNL in early 1991.
The show opened with a bit of a tribute to the latest Chicago champion, the Chicago Blackhawks before the star-studded cast performed a live reading of a modified version of the script for packed house.
The enthusiastic crowd came ready to have fun and cheer the Superfans and the stereotypical Chicago fans they portrayed, but the biggest cheers came when Da Coach made his entrance. That guy still has this city in his grip.
Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn’t gave the audience a glimpse into the lives of the Superfans as they go head to head with a new owner set to ruin Da Bears and all sports as we know it. Without giving too much away, Da Superfans and their icon – Da Coach – save da day.
Considering the script was written back in the ’90’s, it’s pretty prophetic, given the state of today’s leagues loaded with luxury boxes, corporate sponsors and astronomical player salaries.
For me, the best part came at the end when Da Coach along with the main characters of the show opened up to a round table discussion, led by Smigel. It turned into a mini roast of Ditka, where the cast clowned Iron Mike about his Levitra ads and solved the oil spill crisis by sending Da Coach down to the gulf to intimidate the oil spill and use the remaining oil for his hair and mustache. I think there’s a new Ditka hair oil in there somewhere. The crowd roared throughout the improvised segment.
Proceeds from the show were set to benefit two great charities, Have Dreams and Ditka’s favorite charity, Gridiron Greats. A couple of great items were auctioned off, including a commemorative plate featuring this picture, autographed by Da Coach himself, for which Ryan Dempster ponied up a handsome sum.
If you’d like to read a real critic, check out this article from the Trib’s Chris Jones. Check out some more pics that I took from the event in the pages that follow.