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Comedy Wed Apr 10 2013
Ian Abramson, Tim Barnes, Melody Kamali and Marlena Rodriguez are a comedic quartet not unlike "Captain Planet," as Barnes points out. The four can be seen doing stand-up frequently all over Chicago, as well as huddled in dark corners around the city editing films on their laptops. Recently, they had a joint realization. "We looked at the Chicago comedy scene and saw that there were a lot of people who enjoyed both film and stand-up, but there wasn't much that brought them together," said Abramson. In an attempt to foster collaboration and showcase a variety of Chicago talent, the four comedians decided to create and produce Double Feature, a new showcase combining film and stand-up, which will debut on April 24 at the Den Theatre. "We're calling it a 'Stand Up Comedy Film Festival,' Barnes said. Through film and performance, the producers hope to include all of the comedic genres and communities. "Double Feature" will "serve as a melting pot for Chicago comedians," Rodriguez says, "whether they [are] filmmakers, sketch writers, improvisers, or stand-ups." While stand-ups will have new, broader audience to cater to, Double Feature presents filmmakers with "rare opportunities to hear a live audience react to their work," says Barnes. I talked to the producers about what makes Double Feature different and why you can't afford to miss it.
What makes Double Feature unique?
Barnes: Double Feature is reaching beyond the typical comedy audience by seeking filmgoers, and reaching beyond the typical film audience by seeking fans of stand-up comedy. I just hope they all get along.
Kamali:There are successful shows in Chicago that integrate comedic videos with stand-up, but this show will be more focused on the video element, as they will be screened back to back with the comedians.
How did you choose the venue?
Kamali: We wanted a venue that would make performers comfortable and filmmakers eager and proud to showcase their work. We spent our first visit to The Den Theatre suppressing squeals and left in awe of its legitimate yet relaxed environment and its convenient location (on Milwaukee Ave in between the Division and Damen Blue Line stops). The theater's café and lounge area with its full bar and popcorn machine didn't hurt, either.
Rodriguez: When you walk into The Den Theatre, you feel like you've walked into an old lounge from the 1940's. There's a fireplace, a full bar and an incredible vibe. [...] its definitely somewhere you want to spend your night.
You all do both stand-up and film. Do you each have different specialties?
Barnes: I was into filmmaking before I fell into doing stand-up. I've done everything from editing cheesy news segment for public access, to co-producing a web series associated with Tom Snyder ("Dr. Katz," "Home Movies"). What's great about all of the producers is that each of us has experience dealing with both worlds.
Kamali: We all do stand-up and have varying strengths in film. Producing this show is strengthening our skills as we collaborate on promo videos and comedic shorts of our own.
Rodriguez: Tim and Ian have done great work on "Explosion Bus", their own web series, and other freelancing around Chicago. Melody has worked with WGN, The Chicago Underground Film Festival, and is currently in film school. And I have done sketch and improv with The Second City and iO.
How much of the featured art will be your own versus that of other Chicago artists?
Abramson: You will see a little bit of our stand-up and film work, but the big goal is to showcase Chicago filmmakers and performers.
Kamali: Every month we will select at least four shorts to screen in between four stand-up comedians. For each show, there will be rotating roles between the four of us: host, performer, running 'tech', and managing the room and ticketing. We will also screen a new producer's short at the start of every show.
Has it been a lot of work to get this show off the ground?
Barnes: The most difficult part of making the show was coming up with the name. Here are some show titles that could have been: Intermission, Hi-def Jam, Shark Week, Chocolate Wednesdays, Chocolate Shark Week... I wish I was joking.
Kamali: We started working on the show in February. It is a lot of work, but the amount of time we've had to prepare has worked to our benefit.
What is the best part about working on this show?
Abramson: Seeing the variety of film submission--the different styles and approaches have really been exciting.
Barnes: Discovering how each of us works. We make a good team.
Kamali: Getting to collaborate creatively has been the most fun. Also, viewing submissions, which is how we typically end meetings, provides non-stop entertainment.
Rodriguez: Getting the submissions. It's been so fun to watch all the shorts that have come in. There is such a wide range of genre in what we are getting. I'm very excited to showcase the ones we have picked.
What is your biggest hope for the show?
Barnes: I'd love to see a few of the same faces in the crowd each month. I want Double Feature to be a show that people really look forward to.
Kamali: I want this show to both draw in a consistent audience and inspire comedians and filmmakers to produce quality work. There is so much talent in Chicago, and I hope we can tap into it successfully from this angle.
Rodriguez: To give exposure to both comedians and filmmakers who deserve to be seen by the same audiences who pay for shows at The Second City or The Laugh Factory, or any movie theater. And then for those artists to meet, see each others work and then start working together. Yeah, I think that would do it for me.
How do you think Double Feature will change the Chicago comedy scene?
Abramson: I hope that this encourages all the funny people we know to create more and more stuff. There's an absurd amount of talent in Chicago, and I'd love to see more of it put on film.
Barnes: Hopefully this will inspire [the creation of more] shows that don't stick to the same old stand-up showcase format.
Rodriguez: If Double Feature is successful I think it will get more comedians, of all forms, working together to create digital media. Webseries, shorts, mockumentaries, etc., are all things we can do, but the production aspect can be so daunting. Hopefully Double Feature will motivate more comedians to tackle and demystify the process.
What do you look for in submissions? Any insider tips?
Abramson: The bottom line is we're looking for films that we think are funny. Films that have a strong sense of what it is they are going for, coupled with strong editing, I think is they key.
Barnes: We're looking for films that have a unique perspective. They don't have to have the highest quality in the world--they just have to be really funny. The best submissions are the ones that have such great ideas that they actually make me a little jealous.
Kamali: We're looking for thoughtfully produced comedic videos. We want the production value of the short to hold up to the venue provided for it, but above all, effective humor should be a priority.
Rodriguez: Love what you're sending us. Be so proud of it. And more specifically, if 30 seconds goes by and another beat hasn't hit, reconsider whether you need that whole 30 seconds.
Double Feature debuts April 24th at 9pm at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. For more information, visit DoubleFeatureChicago.com. Submissions should be sent to DoubleFeatureChicago@gmail.com. Submission deadlines are the first of every month for a show on the last Wednesday. The show posts regularly on Facebook and can also be found on Twitter.