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Wednesday, June 12

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Comedy Wed Feb 22 2012

UP Comedy Club Off To A Strong Start

The tone in Chicago comedy these days feels like one of change and transition. New theaters like The Laugh Factory and Up are opening, and an interest in high-brow comedy and stand-up seems to be on the rise. I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical when I learned that Second City, legendary for improv and sketch comedy, was opening a club that would feature stand-up, sketch and improv, among other mediums. I was unsure of whether or not UP could cross all of those boundaries in one theater, but I wanted to keep an open mind. While I was hesitant going in, I left the theater feeling optimistic and excited for things to come.

Second City's Improv All Stars was the first show to bring me around.

(L-to-R Kellen Alexander, Cody Dove, Chelsea Devantez, Hans Holsen)

The show, directed by Mick Napier (artistic director and founder of the Annoyance Theater), showcases a rotating cast of some of the best improvisors in Chicago. Improv veterans Chelsea Devantez, Cody Dove, Kellen Alexander and Hans Holsen (pictured above, not present are repertory cast members Rachael Mason, Ryan Archibald, Brooke Breit and Tim Ryder) were the first of the cast to take the stage on Monday, February 13th.

Things started out slowly but quickly gained momentum as the audience warmed up. Napier's trademark "anything goes" style shone through in scenes that layered one complicated form on top of the other, and the games became more unique and innovative as the show progressed. Some of the forms I was witnessing were different from anything I had ever seen on stage; it felt as though Napier created them specifically for this cast, and it turns out that that's because he had.

Cast member Chelsea Devantez, whose quick wit and musical timing had me in tears at one point, spoke of Napier's unique directing style. "Mick is a phenomenal director...during rehearsals he would introduce an idea, regard a room full of suggestions and then create a complex and precise new form that would be on its feet within moments."


(Chelsea Devantez and Rachael Mason)

Napier also directed The Next UP Spotlight later that week, which featured an eclectic mix of sketch, performance art, monologues and stand-up. A tricky combination to have in the same lineup, Napier, along with Stage Manager Jeremy Smith and Musical Director Jacob Shuda, successfully carried several strong comedic performers from vastly different facets of comedy through one show.

The show felt long and I would have loved to have seen more variety in the booking (so much character work!) but the talent was strong enough across the board that it brought me back in at the end.

Jet Eveleth filled the room with laughter and Dan Telfer's first-hand account of a childhood incident that included a leg brace, a makeshift zipline and pockets full of porn-confetti was, hands down, one of the funniest things I have ever seen him do on stage. Neal Dandade, Dean Evans, John Hartman, Ever Mainard, Chris Redd, sketch group Schadenfreude and Adam Burke filled in the evening with seamless sets, and host Cody Dove transitioned smoothly between them all.


The soft lighting and rich colors that fill the interior of the space feel like a throwback to comedy clubs of the past, with the design of a modern theater and a touch of Chicago history in Frank Sinatra's infamous booth, purchased from the iconic Pump Room restaurant to add to the theaters nostalgic vibe.


Second City CEO, President and Co-owner Andrew Alexander sees opening the theater now as part of the natural progression of comedy in Chicago. "The bar is being raised, there are new theaters going up all over town... comedy is changing and the timing was right."

Cody Dove shares his enthusiasm. "A new theater, thankfully, means new opportunities to grow and display our work. It's a great to be a part of an exciting new venue right from the beginning."

If it's true, if comedy really is changing and the bar is being raised, I am excited to see the direction things take. If UP keeps doing what it is promising to do, and with guests like Colin Mochrie and shows like The Next UP Spotlight, the gap between tourists, comedy fans and the industry may soon be bridged and countless doors will open for local talent.

For showtimes and ticket information, visit the UP Comedy Club's website.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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