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Comics Mon Jun 14 2010

Comedy and Funk Make This City Work

061410_schadenfreude.jpgLong-running sketch group Schadenfreude and the soul, hip-hop and funk band The Jordan Years blend music and comedy with occasional rent party shows, but their Chicago Just For Laughs show pulls out all the stops adding some of the city's top comedians and a Grammy award-winning rapper.

"I've been racking my brain to try to figure out how to explain it, because you don't see a lot of things like this," said Justin Kaufmann, who makes up Schadenfreude with Kate James, Sandy Marshall, Adam Witt and Stephen Schmidt. "It's sort of rock and roll with actual comedy."

The 90-minute comedy hybrid show examines Chicago from an insider's perspective, facing the day-to-day jerking around city-dwellers face, from parking meter privatization to skyrocketing property taxes, the cutback of city services and the ever-rising crime rate. Schadenfreude performed at last year's inaugural Chicago Just For Laughs Festival and were invited back by the producers.

"Just For Laughs wants to have a greater Chicago presence, and it's sort of like the comedy festival of record," Kaufmann said. "This year, they've been more than accommodating with the idea. We pitched to them and said, 'What if we want to do it in the club with music?' and they let us pick our lineup. We've got standup comedians Brian Babylon, who does a lot of work in Bronzeville, and Joe Bill, who's an old friend of ours from way back. And Rhymefest, he'll be there as a special guest during the JFL show."

Chicago-born hip-hop artist Rhymefest co-wrote and won a Grammy for the Kanye West hit Jesus Walks. "We had done a bit with him at The Hideout a few years back, we got him to do a comedy bit with us ... he's a really funny guy," Kaufmann said.

Schadenfreude's been music-oriented since they started out in 1998, but added The Jordan Years and started playing bar venues instead of a comedy clubs to infuse new life into their performances.

"I think with the band, it's almost really natural for us to be on a stage like that. It was one of the missing pieces," he said. The band started out doing musical bits behind the sketch group, but they organically became funny, musical pieces.

The Jordan Years isn't making up songs on the spot, but the members of Schadenfreude let the improvisation happen within the structure of the songs and thrust of the show.

"It's been really fun to do a lot of different genres with them, like an indy-rock spoof, sort of a Radiohead type tune, and the week before, they did some polka, like a late-night band at an old chophouse on the West Side," he said. "They're very versatile."

The full-blown comedy funk-out The City That Works goes up as part of Chicago's Just for Laughs Festival at 9 p.m., Thursday, June 17 at Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln
Avenue. Tickets are $10 and available here. A second show will be held at 9 pm on Thursday, July 8 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Avenue. Tickets for that show are $10, too, and available here.

 
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Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
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Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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