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'The Daily Show' rats us out on second night in Chicago

On his second night in Chicago, Trevor Noah and his “Daily Show” busted us for vermin issues, took our deep-dish pizza fetishization into a surprising place and, once again, attempted to address the city’s festering street violence problem.

Fair enough. And, mostly, funny enough.

But before all of that, we got a little mini architecture tour. On Monday’s first show from the Athenaeum Theatre on the North Side, Noah opened with a lively taped piece, an homage to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Tuesday, it was a simpler bit: Noah on the street, in front of the iconic Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower, saying how great it is that Chicago doesn’t have much Trump. The camera pivots, and there are those notorious giant letters on the side of Trump Tower: “T-R-U-M-P.” The host does his best Edvard Munch, and the opening credits roll.

In the monologue proper on the Comedy Central show, Noah delivered a quick dig at Cubs fans for feeling entitled after 108 years in the championship-free wilderness.

But then it was all about the rats. For the third year in a row, Noah said, the city has come up as the “rattiest” in America, according to pest control company Orkin.

“It’s your first threepeat since Jordan,” he said, an acceptable invocation of His Airness.

“ ‘Second City,’ my (backside),” said Noah. “First city.” He thought the place was clean, but “now I realize it’s just because the rats are eating all of your garbage.”

At its best, “The Daily Show” digs a little deeper. And Tuesday, it reported that the rat rankings are based on calls to exterminators. “It’s not necessarily true that New York has fewer rats,” Noah concluded. “It’s just that New York don’t snitch. Yeah, who’s the real rat now, Chicago?”

And then came the filip, the sort-of-subtle reference to Oprah, the longtime queen of Chicago television. “Look under your seats! Look under your seats!” Noah enthused. Not that there was any kind of giveaway there, just that “I need you to check. I’m afraid of rats.”

The show’s second segment, taped, started out like a typical Chicago-vs.-New York pizza piece. A piece of pizza, if you will, or at least a piece on pizza.

But no: Correspondent Ronnie Chieng, after first name- and logo-checking Al’s Italian Beef, Garrett’s Popcorn and Portillo’s hot dogs, went into a Giordano’s, got served that local chain’s version of deep dish, and proceeded to abuse it and other thick pies across the city as “bricks.”

“This looks like me eating pizza and then throwing it up into a bread bowl and then leaving it in the sun to dry,” he said, which is pretty high on the grossness scale but also a defensible description.

“Where can I find a decent slice in this city?” he lamented.

And that’s when the segment turned, because instead of some foodie joint that does thin crust right, he took us to Cook County Jail. Did not see that coming.

“That’s right,” said Chieng. “The best pizza in Chicago is in the biggest jail in America.”

From there he spotlighted a program called Recipe for Change that teaches the inmates to make good pizza, and gave county Sheriff Tom Dart some screen time for being behind it.

“What made you become a hero sheriff and not a Joe Arpaio sheriff?” said the correspondent from the national show (and the future bit of Dart campaign literature).

The piece ended in a moderately clever “Shawshank Redemption” parody about trying to sneak the pizza out of the jail so that others could enjoy it too. Shaking the dough out of the pant legs was a nice touch.

For the show’s third and final segment, the interview, Noah went earnest again, like he did with rapper, actor and activist Common the night before.

Tuesday is was former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former street gang leader Curtis Toler spotlighting their Chicago CRED program, which, as the guests described it, aims to defeat violence in the city by identifying the most likely shooters and working with them to provide jobs, mentoring and social services.

Noah’s heart is in the right place in such a segment, and he gets credit for taking on some of what ails the city that’s hosting him instead of just taking us to Wiener’s Circle again.

But it’s tough, in a 6-or-so-minute interview at the end of a comedy show to get across the nuances of an anti-violence program. “Tell us about your story,” Noah said to Toler, which you know is something that the man is not going to be able to deliver in a few quick sentences.

The result was choppy, and it raised as many questions as it answered. Maybe, though, the taste of it, provided to viewers who wouldn’t otherwise be exposed, would end up doing some good.

But just for the record, America, there are funny people in Chicago who can be interviewed, too, and I suspect the show will balance things out a bit in the next two episodes.

sajohnson@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @StevenKJohnson

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