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Comedy Tue Jan 08 2013
As we close(ed) the curtain on 2012 and head(ed) into lucky '13, I thought I'd write about the comedy shows that my brain remembers with the most fondness. This past year I saw a lot of funny shows -- seriously, people are crushing the game -- but it was only a small percentage of what's out there. There is no way I could or would want to make a hierarchical list, so this is not a "Best Of." Plus, I've noticed that with some people "best" usually just means most boring. This list is just to say, "Hey, these shows are super funny, and you should go see them."
With that said, the comedy scene in Chicago is producing consistently great work, and I want to give props to all the writers, performers, lighting people, and everyone else that have put themselves out there for us to laugh. In no or arbitrarily numerical order, here are five of my favorite comedy shows that I saw in 2012.
Messing with a Friend -- the Annoyance, Thursdays @ 10:30pm, $5
When it comes to improvising, few people can out-weird Susan Messing. The thing I love so much about her show -- where she invites one of her friends to play with her -- is that I always leave thinking they made a situation that shouldn't be funny absolutely hilarious. There are always just really great moments dropped throughout the whole show. It can be a mind-fuck in the best way possible.
Messing has been in the game for a while (in a lot of ways she is the game) and has the ability to really control the audience while still keeping things fresh, a talent that makes each show scary-good.
Making Out is a variety show in Andersonville. Conner O'Malley, Gary Richardson, and Philip Markle have all performed at the show. But Perry doesn't only ask comedians -- he also invites performers like performance artists (Colin Self) and story tellers (Eric Budzynski). You never know what to expect (besides that it will be a good time).
"It's a mix of comedy, performance art, drag queens, and me, and it's free," said Perry back in our September interview (which we did on a curb next to Beauty Bar). "[I]n that show I host and I tell true stories and sing songs with a live band."
To Thine Own Self Be Skewed -- Chemically Imbalanced Comedy
Part of CIC's Solo Series, To Thine Own Self was made up of two solo shows: "This is Me, This is You," by Patrick Rowland, and "Bede" by Brianna Baker. While this show had a limited run at CIC, you can catch Baker and Rowland performing everywhere in the city -- they are really on their grind. Baker will be performing Bede at the PIT in NYC on Feb. 19 -- check it out if you can.
What I said: "[In This is Me, This is You] Patrick Rowland -- of Barack All Night -- plays a mix of characters that he's observed while living in Chicago. That's what good comedians do, they observe, and Rowland runs through a mix of characters that are not only hilarious but real."
"OK, so I'm just going to get right to the point: "Bede" is good, like -- and I'm only supposed to curse when absolutely necessary -- really fucking good."
Dummy -- iO, Wednesdays @ 10:30pm in the Del Close Theater, $5, free for iO students
Two-person improvised sets are some of my favorites to watch because you really get to see the performers' talents. It can also be scary. The two have to trust each other with their lives; they are basically sky diving on stage. If they don't pull the ripcord in time, everyone will just be awkwardly staring at each other wondering when it's time to go.
In Dummy, Colleen Doyle and Jason Shotts are the perfect compliments to each other. They let their scenes build in a really rich way, and they are both really good at playing multiple characters at once without it being confusing (unlike this sentence, amiright?).
You should definitely go jump out of an airplane with these two. Or maybe just go check out their show.
Lethal Action Force (improv group)
I saw this relatively new team back in October at the Playground Theater, and they had almost more energy than I can handle (I said almost!). As to where they'll be performing in 2013, a post on the team's Facebook page says "February...Saturdays at midnight...IO Chicago...yippie kay yay...Wrigleyville." Check back in with them for more details and to make sure of the date/time of their performances.
What I said: "Seeing Lethal Action Force perform is like watching an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie but with better acting. Throughout the set, team members call out different camera angles -- like, "close up" or "from his crotch's perspective" -- and the team adjusts the point-of-view for the audience. It might seem confusing, but the team does a really good job of just rolling with it, and a few minutes into the set I was right there with them."
photos of Susan Messing (upper) and Brianna Baker (lower) courtesy of Carol Bontekoe of Colorful Cow Photography