By now most of you have heard of web series, for those of you that have not, it is simply a series of video content posted and obtained online. The most popular, and probably most recognizable, of these today is arguably "House of Cards." Mind you, "House of Cards" is not what I would consider typical, or most common, when thinking about web series. Most web series that are being produced today are independent, made by people that want to tell a story or be a part of the entertainment or film/video world but do not feel it is accessible from where they are, so like all great producers they just get out there and make it happen.
YouTube, Blip and Vimeo have given video creators a platform for distributing their footage. Today I want to focus on five web series being produced in Chicago.
Has the hustle and bustle of the holidays made you want to delay "decking the halls?" Take a respite from Rudolph? For a break from the traditional holiday experience of jingling bells, roasting chestnuts, and taking sleigh rides, One Night Only is a refreshing and entertaining alternative.
Created and produced by Second City's Michael Girts, One Night Only, comprised of "some of Chicago's most esteemed comedy and musical professionals," returns from Off-Broadway to the Windy City; this eight-night series, which mixes dancing, rhyming, and singing, kicks off tonight and runs through the remainder of the holiday season.
Tucked beyond the parades of gleefully drunk Cubs fans, just on the outskirts of Wrigleyville, sitting in humble solidarity is The Public House Theatre. I've walked past it on many occasions with questioning curiosity of what may be going on inside...
This cozy theatre is where a group of veteran sketch artists and improv actors known as (long pause) perform their zany Chicago version of "Saturday Night Live." One-half pre-recorded film segments and one-half sketch comedy in front of a live audience, the group of actors, writers, and improvisers have garnered some national attention with their ongoing sketch comedy series. The sixth installment of the show is being performed every Thursday at the Public House Theatre.
Every Saturday at midnight, for three years and six successful seasons, audiences have flooded the iO Theater for Chicago's own premier late night talk show, "The Late Live Show" hosted by Joe Kwaczala.
Since 2010, "The Late Live Show" has offered iO's weekly audiences live late night talk show just like the pros. This small, independently-produced show has attained national recognition and welcomed such distinguished guests as Paul Feig, Danny Pudi ("Community"), Lucas Neff ("Raising Hope"), and local all-stars such as superchef Rick Bayless, Olympic speedskater Shani Davis, and best-selling author Rebecca Skloot. This sketch comedy show has become a staple in the Chicago, and has gained recognition at festivals from coast to coast. Its credits also include a writing team that has produced writers now working for such shows as "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and "The Onion News Network."
This Saturday, after three years of laughter, "The Late Live Show" will put on its last hurrah, with a "finale full of jokes, characters, interviews, sketches," and a few special surprises, as the crew looks back at the show's run. As part of their finale and 50th show, host Joe Kwaczala and his staff will welcome back returning favorites, Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen from the Filmspotting podcast.
Don't miss your chance to see the last run of this hilarious late night performance this Saturday, May 11 at 11:59PM. "The Late Live Show" is held in iO's Del Close Theater, 3541 N. Clark St. and is only $5 online or at the door (free for iO students).
Here I was, on the South Side of Chicago at an old decrypted warehouse surrounded by a bunch of nutjobs. Gathered at the massive space was the lackluster circus known loosely as the Born Ready Films crew.
In full character, here were the yacht-club yuppies, hood-ass rappers, hardcore metal freaks and white-trash weirdos. Hours prior I was told that these strangers were supposed to play each other in a tournament of dodgeball. Uncertain of everything but surprised by nothing, I the objective bystander was supposed to interview them for a film.
You might know comedic actor Lucus Neff from his primetime role playing Jimmy Chance on FOX's "Raising Hope." Raised only a few miles from Improv Olympic himself, this Chicago-born star is back in town for a night of wacky skits and laughs this Saturday, March 30 as a guest in iO's sketch comedy show, The Late Live Show.
The Late Live Show will host Neff as well as the musical guest for the night, Brighton MA. Their indie stylings have been featured on shows such as "Gossip Girl," "Community," "Castle" and "One Tree Hill."
Along with Neff and Brighton MA, the Late Live Show's Players will also perform, so get ready for a night of weird jokes, sketches, and characters, all crafted by the iO staff writers, whose credits include The Onion News Network and Funny or Die.
See The Late Live Show Saturday, March 30 at 11:59 pm at iO Theater, 3541 N. Clark St. Tickets are $5; for more information, call 773-880-0199.
Ever Mainard and Rasa Gierstikas are two Chicago comics and producers who are as similar as they are opposite. Both sassy, loud, and unapologetic, but in totally different ways, they are a unique and dynamic duo when they take the stage to co-host The Shit Show, a free comedy showcase on the last Friday of every month at The Shambles. While Mainard, a cast member at Chicago Underground Comedy, packs her schedule with stand-up, sketch and film, the more focused Gierstikas pours herself entirely into the project that she and Mainard are currently co-producing: The Shit Show. Mainard and Gierstikas have devoted many more hours of planning and decorating to the show than their audience, buzzed from The Shit Show's free Fireball Whiskey shots and delirious from laughing too hard, might ever know. But now they can! Here, the co-producers confess that their "shit show" is much more work than the title suggests, and that their relationship is a bizarre, but functional, business and drinking partnership.
The Shit Show started as an open mic that was a comedian-favorite on Monday nights, but, since August, you've transformed it into a showcase on the last Friday of every month. What was that transition like?
Mainard: We knew it would be a little different to run it as a showcase. There's a lot of organizing and a crazy number of press releases to send. We were a little nervous about turnout, but it's been fun watching the show grow more and more.
Gierstikas: I think since it was an open mic before, we know what we want from the showcase and it transitioned smoothly. I haven't experienced the worst of it yet (except for Ever Mainard).
How did you two decide to do a show together? What is it like being co-producers?
Mainard: I met Rasa when I used to go to The Shambles open mic. I thought she hated me and was the meanest person I had ever met. We started working together and the open mic grew from just 7 comics stepping up to the mic to the now 100 people in attendance for the show. [As co-producers], we try and fail at GoogleDocs and then we text a lot. We also meet at The Shambles to talk and plan and drink. We have fun, and then we stay out of each other's lives.
Gierstikas: [When I met Ever], I thought she was really fun and talented, so it seemed like the logical choice to have her help take over co-hosting The Shambles open mic every week. We're on the same page with what we want from this show and I think we trust each other's judgment.
Oh, St. Patrick's Day in Chicago. It can't be beat. This year, why not celebrate with an age-old Chicago tradition: Improv Comedy.
In celebration of St. Patrick's Day weekend, ComedySportz will be hosting six comedy shows beginning Thursday, March 14th and running through Saturday, March 16th dedicated to the two great Irish traditions- drinking and joking around. Shows will build off Irish themed suggestions from the audience, so come ready with your Irish trivia! ComedySportz's ususal games, scenes, and songs will be altered for the special occasion. Make sure to show your Irish spirit and wear green to the show for the chance to compete on stage to win a St. Patty's Day prize, and as an added bonus, guests will get a souvenir picture of themselves in the clubroom.
Finally, Irish drinks won't be left out! ComedySportz's bar will be stocked with green beer, of course, and St. Patrick's Day staples -- shots of Jameson and cans of Guinness -- will also be on special for $5 each.
If a night of risqué comedy and provocative burlesque performances sounds fun, or even just plain interesting to you, then look no further than Kiss Kiss Cabaret's Second Anniversary Show on February 1.
This special anniversary show features Kiss Kiss Cabaret's full lineup of comedians, burlesque performers, musicians, jugglers, magicians and hosts. Guests are even invited to partake in post-show birthday cake. Maybe this is what they meant by having your cake and eating it too.
This second anniversary party also marks Kiss Kiss Cabaret's 100th performance since the company was founded. The Cabaret's burlesque troupe, "The Kiss Kiss Coquettes," includes performers who have traveled the world practicing their craft. Bella Ciao, Naughty Natanya, and the rest of the company are sure to entertain.
The 18-and-over show is happening February 1 at 11pm at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. The show is expected to sell out, so it's a good idea to purchase in advance.
If you can't make it for the celebration, Kiss Kiss Cabaret puts on a weekly show every Friday at the Greenhouse Theater Center.
"Who will wheel around my oxygen?" and "Will my mother ever die?" were among many important questions in the random, risqué and hilarious Miami Nice: A Golden Girls Musical.
In the Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown, within the small, 80-seat Gorilla Tango Theater, there's a charismatic pianist who begins every performance of Miami Nice by asking the audience for suggestions for specific nouns and verbs, an adult mad-lib of sorts, to be used later in the show for improv. Our suggestions ranged from "dirty sock" to the word "cantankerous." She set the tone for the show, leaving the audience laid back and ready to laugh even before the actors appeared on stage.
Then there were the actors -- men as women, and women as men -- dressed in their finest Golden Girls getup. The whole theater was bent over laughing before five minutes of the show had passed. Who knew that combining some real musical and acting talent with crossdressing, a wholesome 1980s television show, and a dash of melodrama could be so funny?
The characters are familiar to most of us. There's the awkwardly tall and mannish Dorothy Zbornak, whose sole goal in the play is to find a man who she can love and who can love her. Dorothy lives with her outspoken mother Sophia, the promiscuous Blanche Devereaux, and seemingly dull-witted Rose Nylund, whose lack of intellect is the perfect cover for her life as the mastermind of a cocaine ring. Through a high-energy series of lyrically cunning songs and a cheesecake business gone wrong, the four women's picturesque lives devolve into an every-man-for-himself style race to the finish.
Miami Nice has been extended by popular demand through Jan. 26. The musical plays at the Gorilla Tango Theater in Bucktown, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., this Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm. Tickets are $20.
I woke up this morning and opened my computer for my regular routine, which involves checking Facebook, my email, and my always growing list of news sources and social media sites for anything strange or out of the ordinary.
Today, nearly every one of my Facebook friends has posted about the end of the world. Some are kidding, some are serious, and some, like me, joke around about it in that uneasy way that people do when they need to laugh at things that would be terrifying if they were real.
While tomorrow's Mayan-predicted end of the world is real or not is up for speculation, everyone in this world has more immediately pressing fears that are truly and paralyzingly absolute. Earlier this week, 40 individuals bared these fears to an audience of over 700 people in a production called Fear Experiment 3.
Chicago-native Jason Hodge started getting interested in improv when he was in high school. His father was a police officer whose foot-route was on Clark Street and was able to get him tickets to shows at the then-called Improv Olympic (iO, now). He started doing improv at 19 and has taken classes at iO and the Annoyance. For five years he was part of a member team at the Playground and for two years has been playing with pH -- who opened their new space in Andersonville this month. For the past year, Hodge has participated as a coach in pH's College pHarm Team program -- a free initiative that matches collegiate improvisers with pH company members and gives the teams an opportunity to play.
What made you want to coach a college improv team?
When I first started with pH I hadn't seen many of their shows, so they told me to go see shows and get familiar. The first show I saw was College Night and that show would have a couple college groups and then the coaches would perform. I had a ball, and I wasn't much older than most of the college teams... What I liked the most about it was that when I started improv I was their age, but I tried to get into it with all the twenty-somethings and the thirty-somethings, and I was very much an outsider -- it kind of caused issues -- I think -- with my development and that outlet is incredibly important, and I liked that pH has that. I basically went every night and didn't stop going.
Whether it's through improv, sketch comedy or stand-up, Tara DeFrancisco has made her mark on Chicago's comedy scene. The Ohio native, named "Funniest Person in Chicago" by the Chicago Free Press and listed as "One to Watch" in Time Out Chicago, teaches improv and performs all around the Windy City at popular spots including ComedySportz and Second City. Currently, DeFrancisco can be seen as "Molly" in "Delusions of Grandeur," a "loosely scripted, Generation-Y" comedy series that airs on BLIP.TV.
Here, she talks about her love for improv, the impact of Internet television and the importance of nurturing Chicago's comedy and arts community.
You always knew you wanted to pursue a career in comedy; was there a particular show or a particular comedian that gave you the bug?
I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to do comedy but I didn't have a specific kind of comedy that I watched or wanted to pursue. My brothers are older and they introduced me to "SNL," "SCTV," Monty Python, and things of that ilk. But I got a little "class clown-y" in my tween years and at that point, I started looking up to a lot of comedy heroes that everyone shares, you know, the "Gilda Radners," the "Bill Murrays" and people of that nature.
It looks like you were inspired by the legends...
I really loved Steve Martin and a lot of the other performers that were a generation or two above me. I watched a lot of stand up, too, but when I became a teenager, I really didn't know what the path was to getting into the kind of comedy I primarily do now, which is improvisation.
For both emerging and established performing artists, Chicago boasts unlimited opportunities for those looking to hone their skills; and at "The Shit Show," performers of all kinds can try out their, well, shit, in front of a live audience.
Produced and hosted by Ever Mainard and Rasa Geirstikas and held every last Friday of the month, "The Shit Show" is a comedy mix of improv, stand-up and other performance art, and includes (and encourages) audience participation, drinking games, prizes and more. The performers heading up this week's show include Chicago comedian and radio host Brian Babylon, Kristin Clifford, Kate Duffy, Ted Tremper and others.
Catch "The Shit Show" at 8:30pm (doors open at 8pm) this Friday, Sept. 28 at Shambles, 2050 W. Division St.; for more information, call 773-486-0200. Free.
Comedy is subjective, but one thing is not: everyone dislikes obnoxious people at improv shows. Chicago is known for improv — like known for it — and Chicagoans should go see as much stuff as possible. I mean comedy shows are like CTA buses — you can catch one every 45 minutes to an hour. Seriously, they happen a lot.
There are a few things I've noticed that audience members can do to be in on the joke instead of being an obnoxious punch-line. Here are four tips to help you have a jerk-free time attending an improv show.
There's a new name in late night and that name is ...Barack Obama? That's right, with veteran improvisor Patrick Rowland hosting as a goofier, more laid-back version of the current POTUS, iO Chicago's new show Barack All Night! may be a traditional late-night talk show with monologues, desk pieces, special guests, and stand-ups, but it is far from staid. Seeing the prez dish out surprisingly biting topical jokes that one suspects, or at least hopes, get told behind closed doors in the West Wing is a dream come true. From his suggestion that the recent hugs the First Lady gave to the US Men's Basketball team in London mean that he has twelve new names on his "kill list" to his ideas for new Chick-Fil-A slogans like "Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Loser, loser gay marriage," Rowland's Obama is brazen and eager to show who the leader of the free world really is.
In a web publication called Gapers Block, it seemed quite appropriate to review a show in which six gals do some mimed burlesque and somewhat sexy twists on short-form improv standards in their bra and panties. At least that's what this guy was thinking on the Wednesday night he saw Underpants Improv at the Gorilla Tango Theatre. Of course, he brought a date along, lest he be viewed by the predominantly female audience as the leering guy who was a little too into games like "It's Not What It Looks Like," in which two performers mimed sex acts like toe suckling, salad tossing, and blow jobbing while trading explanations as to why, you guessed it, it's not what it looks like.
Two of the most universally joyous experiences in life are laughing and winning. ComedySportz has long been known for combining these elements of comedy and competition, but this summer they're taking it to the global level with the annual ComedySportz World Championship. This four-day event will feature as many as 21 teams from the U.S. and Europe who will fight for the last laugh in this winner-takes-all tournament of improv comedy.
For the uninitiated, ComedySportz is a brand of short-form improv comedy played as a sport. Two teams take turns creating scenes based on suggestions from the crowd and the audience votes on the winner. For the long-time fans of the red v. blue battles, this competition will feature the funniest faces from Chicago's stage throwing down against other cities from Manchester to Milwaulkee for the title.
When it comes to Monique Madrid, the phrase "cuttin' up" could refer to her skills as a hairstylist--or her ability to make people laugh--or if you're lucky--both. Read on to learn all about this talented cosmetologist and comedian and her improv show, "Monica Barcelona: Bitch, I'll Cut You," one of the shows featured tomorrow night in the first annual Chicago Women's Funny Festival.
Comedy and hairstyling combine your two talents--when did you know they would make for an interesting show for performing arts? Was it just a given or was there one particular incident that sparked the idea?
Actually, a friend of mine was sitting in my salon chair and I was cutting his hair. I don't remember how it came about but he had the idea of "Why don't you do a haircutting show?" To me, it didn't necessarily seem like the most entertaining thing because that's what I do everyday and I don't even think about it. But he brought up the idea and the more I thought about it, I realized that it actually made a lot of sense because its kind of like "Taxicab Confessions"--people open up to me--I get to know them and they get to know me. We started thinking, "Hey--that might actually be something fun to do onstage." I know that I've never seen it done anywhere, so it evolved from that to become the show that it is now.
This week marks the 15th annual Chicago Improv Festival, bringing improv troupes from across the country and around the world to the city that's known far and wide for it's improv tradition. Among the many troupes visiting our fair city this week is North Coast, a troupe from NY that will be making their CIF debut. I spoke to troupe member James Robilotta, and he told me what the troupe is looking forward to this week.
"We're super excited for our first time at Chicago Improv Festival", he said. "We've done a number of other festivals but Chicago is where it all started -- it's the mecca of improv, when improvisers pray we all face towards Chicago. It will be great to do what we love doing in the city where it all started."
The rhythm method as a form of contraceptive may be woefully ineffective, but the improv group of the same name is actually doing quite a bit for reproductive health this month. Rhythm Method, Chicago's premier rock 'n roll improv ensemble, is delighted to announce Chicago Women's Health Center as the charity partner for their April run of shows at the
Playground Theater. Rhythm Method performs with Bella and one additional improv ensemble as part of the Sandbox Improv Showcase on Mondays in April at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 and available at the box office located inside the theater at 3209 N. Halsted St. in Chicago.
Reservations for Rhythm Method or any Playground show can be made at (773) 871-3793 or www.the-playground.com. All shows are BYOB for audience members age 21 and up.
For those who love musical numbers in their intergalactic adventure, Chicago-based improv group Octavarius presents Stars! Wars! The Musical!
Join Luke, Leia and the gang of robots for this one-night-only showing at Mercury Theater on Friday, March 9 at 8pm. After its premier in November, the musical is back by popular demand, telling the story of Star Wars: a New Hope with original song and dance numbers, accompanied by a live band.
Following the musical, attendees will get a bonus improv set from Octavarius, joined by R2D2 who will be playing himself.
Tickets are regularly $10, but discounted admission of $7 will be offered to audience members who dress like their favorite Star Wars character or bring a light saber - like you wouldn't have done that anyway.
The top-ranked troupe will have just come off one of the longest running independent improv shows at ComedySportz where they perform on Sundays at 7pm, with a final show on February 26. To learn more about the group, view videos and listen to their weekly themed podcasts visit their homepage.
The Second City has a deep vault of material shot over the years that they've posted on YouTube -- including a special made-for-TV show called "The Second City's 149½th Edition" made for A&E. The 48-minute show featured a young Steve Carrell and Jackie Hoffman; Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris were among the writers. It's hard to tell whether it ever aired, but it was available on VHS from A&E Home Video. Watch the whole thing, sans commercials, here:
"The hot cow's back!" my friend whispered to me about 30 minutes into Octavarius: Trial of the O'Leary Cow.
It's odd for a man dressed in a cow suit to be called "hot," but the costume worked for improv performer Nick Mikula. A member of comedy troupe Octavarius, Mikula played the title role in the show, staged on October 9--the 140th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire.
Jimmy Carrane. Photo credit: Zoe McKenzie Photography.
Sitting in the audience of Jimmy Carrane's show, Improv Nerd, put me in the mind of a talk show taping, minus having to drag my ass to New York or L.A. and stand in line for hours making small talk with a bunch of tourists. Carrane, known for his work on WBEZ's Eight Forty-Eight, is a Chicago improv veteran. His credits include: The Annoyance Theater, where he is a founding member; the improv troup Armando at the IO; and several one man shows. He is a certified improv nerd, and in this interview-style show he brings a different Chicago improv icon onto the stage of the recently renovated Stage 773 Black Box theater each week.
Sunday's guest was Second City alum Susan Messing, who's show, Messing With a Friend, runs every Thursday night at 10:30pm at the Annoyance Theater. Carrane warmed up the audience of about 30 people with a brief monologue about why he is still friends with a man he calls "Shitty Dave," followed by an interview with Messing, with topics of conversation ranging from the show Co-Ed Prison Sluts, which Messing started in 1988, to her unsuccessful audition for SNL, to parenthood.
Blood Dolphin may be a fledgling improv duo, but they are already off to a strong start. During their recent run at Studio BE Blood Dolphin debuted their form, which is a mixture of musical improv and quirky yet grounded scene work. With Carrie Shemanski rocking the banjo and Erin Thorn on tambourine, they take a suggestion of a name and and object from the audience and open with a whimsical musical number. (The night I attended the suggestion was Paulie Prism, which prompted a charming number about a man who rode through the streets of Boystown saying "hi" to everyone that he passed.) What follows is a slew of short but invested scenes that are offbeat, but played with the utmost sincerity. The ladies of Blood Dolphin aren't afraid to wander into strange territory (Such as with the scene that involved using a pooping baby as a graffiti tool.) but they never let things wax too unbelievable.
Opening acts that performed at the show I attended included stand-up comedian Alexandra Tsarpalas and sketch comedy duo Aggie and Irene. Tsarpalas entertained the crowd with "Golden Girls" jokes and tiny porcelain hands, and Aggie and Irene sang, told jokes, and sprayed each other with shaving cream as their friendship comically fell apart onstage.
With the recent announcement that "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" were being canceled, it would seem that the golden era of the soap opera is drawing to a close. What's a soap opera fan to do? Well, Chicago area soap opera fans can indulge their penchant for the melodramatic at The Davenports, a weekly improvised soap opera that's playing on Friday nights at The Playground. The Davenports have enough scandals, secrets and enemies to fill Mariah Carey's closet 14 times over, which sounds like it could ween even the staunchest soap opera fan off their programs.
The Davenports plays Friday nights at midnight at The Playground (3209 N. Halsted). Tickets are $5, and can be purchased either over the phone 773-871-3793 or in person at the box office.
Remember when it was 85 degrees and sunny on Sunday? The birds chirped, children frolicked, and happy Chicagoans sat drinking beers on sidewalks and patios. It couldn't have lasted. In the remaining two-and-a-half weeks of April there will likely be cold, snow, hail, rain, and any other number of unwelcome elements. There is a bright side to this, however, with musical improv group Baby Wants Candy's latest promotion.
On any rainy Friday from now through April 29, mention the password SHOWERS to receive $10 tickets to a Baby Wants Candy show, available in person at the Apollo Theater box office or by calling the box office at 773-935-6100, Ticketmaster at 312-559-1212 or visiting www.ticketmaster.com. The regular schedule for Baby Wants Candy is Fridays at 10:30pm on the Mainstage at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave.
Baby Wants Candy takes a suggestion of a musical that's never been done before, and completely improvises that show from start to finish. Here's a snippet from one of their shows:
Criticallyacclaimed comedy troupe Octavarius is premiering a new show series titled "Octavarius: Battle for the Belt," tomorrow night (March 13) at 7pm at Stage 773. Additional performances will take place on March 20 & 27. Colt Cabana, former WWE and current Ring of Honor superstar, is a special guest of the series, making an in-person appearance on night two (the 20th) and video appearances on night one and three. "The Ego" Robert Anthony, CZW Heavyweight Champion, will make a surprise appearance on the final night of the series (the 27th). The stage will be transformed into a wrestling ring, complete with ropes, turnbuckles and a Jumbotron. Tickets are $15 per show, or $25 for a ringside pass to all three nights. Audience members are encouraged to make a sign cheering or jeering their favorite Octavarius superstars, and receive tickets at a discounted rate of $12. For more information, visit Octavarius.com.
"It would be pretty cool if mermaids were real, because I could stop fucking all these manatees."
3159 N. Southport
First Sundays of the month, 8pm sign-up, 9:30 show
"You're not funny," says the skinny, lisping frat spud. He breaks into my birth control joke. This guy is not a comedian. Normally, open-mic comedians love "civilians," real audience members who show up just to watch. Civilians are few, and they're a better litmus test for material, for many complex reasons, than fellow comedians.
But this drunken asswipe has been antagonizing us all night. I first noticed him downstairs, after I signed up and during the long wait before showtime. His voice carried as he shouted at his friends about "bitches." Now, he's breaking into everyone's set and refusing to leave or shut up.
And after he breaks into mine, everyone else finally wants blood. Another group of civilians lays into him about his striped shirt and wallet chain. He offers a fist bump, as though it's all good and we're all buddies. His fist bump is declined. Another comedian tells him to go choke himself. It is now the heckler versus everyone else in the room. I've lost the room's attention. My set is totaled.
One of the greatest things about Chicago is the abundance of comedic talent that you're likely to find on any one of the city's stages. One of the saddest things about Chicago is the abundance of comedic talent that migrates to the coasts looking for bigger fish to fry. That is where the internet comes in handy. When Chicago ex-pats do great things that are captured on YouTube, the glory of technology makes it possible for us to keep tabs on them.
Second City alum Rebecca Drysdale has recorded her own contribution to the "It Gets Better" project, a slammin' dance track that's funny, vulgar, and encouraging all at the same time. It combines hopeful honesty with filthy lyrics and hip hop dancing, which is always a winning combination.
If laughter is on your agenda for the New Year, then you should definitely check out the Chicago SketchFest. Now in its 10th year, this funny festival, also the nation's largest of its kind, features the best in the world of sketch comedy with over 150 performances by over 100 comedy groups from all over the world.
For Brian Posen, Artistic Director of Stage773, this year's festival brings with it a lot of exciting changes--even though it has always been held at 1225 W. Belmont since its inception nine years ago, this time out marks the first year of the building's management under Stage773. "We are not going to have some of the restrictions that we had in earlier years," said Posen. "It's incredible to be doing the festival in our home, and we think both the performers and audience will experience some fun changes." In addition to a record-breaking number of performers this year, other changes include extra timeslots to accommodate the increase in the number of festival participants.
The commercials for Go Daddy (godaddy.com) certainly have their fair share of "eye candy" for the guys, but what about women? For Chicago comic/improv actor and writer Jamie Black, it's high time the online giant added some sexy men to its roster of commercials.
Black, a graduate of Second City's Writing Program, is a contestant in Go Daddy's Commercial Contest, where the winners walk away with fabulous cash prizes up to $250,000.
Click here for Black's Go Daddy contest entry. Online voting is still open; click on "rate this video" at the bottom to vote for the hometown guy.
Most Chicagoans who work in the Loop have some familiarity with the Pedway, Chicago's network of (mostly) underground passages and tunnels that transports pedestrians from the E,l to shopping, to work, without having to step foot out into the snow or rain. Many of us, however, use it purely to get to work and back, without ever bothering to find out just where the mysterious bends can actually take us. Let's face it--the Pedway can be downright intimidating. So, both locals and tourists will be interested in local improviser and tour guide, Margaret Hicks', reprisal of her Pedway Tour. The intriguing, 90-minute tour begins again this month, and features some of Chicago's most famous buildings, without stepping outside.
"The Pedway is such a weird and wonderful place," says Hicks. "It's like a whole other world down there. Parts of it are scary, parts of it are beautiful but all [of] it is pretty warm - and that's a big plus," says Hicks.
In celebration of ten years at their 1306 S. Michigan Ave. location, the Dance Center of Columbia College will present 13 hours of free dance performances, workshops, and classes on Saturday, Sept. 25. The event, 1306 - Ten Years Later, will fill the studios, theater, hallways, and even the stairwells of 1306 S. Michigan Ave. with activity from 10 am until 11 pm. Whether looking to learn how to dance, or to sit down and enjoy innovative contemporary pieces, audiences of all ages will find something to enjoy at 1306 - Ten Years Later.
Don't worry, it's not as gross as the headline may suggest. Independent improv team Michael Pizza is celebrating their two year anniversary, and they're throwing a big bash to thank their supporters. They're pulling out all the stops, with musical improv group Baby Wants Candy opening for them, and special guest improviser TJ Jagodowski will be joining the men of Michael Pizza on stage. There'll be free pizza for the audience (!) and drink specials all night.
This all goes down this Sunday, September 5 at 8pm at ComedySportz (929 W. Belmont). Tickets are just $5 (Where else can you enjoy dinner and a show for that extremely reasonable price?) and can be purchased by calling 773-549-8080 or through www.ticketmaster.com
All summer long pairs of improvisers have been battling it out on the stage of ComedySportz, and this Sunday the top duos will have one last chance to fight it out in ComedySportz's Dual Duel. At stake are a trophy and a hundred dollars for each winning improviser.
Here's the show's line-up...
Diva - Jamie Campbell & Chris Tiberio
Buscow - Matt Castellvi & Matt Herzau
The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour - Mel Evans & Brian Finlay
Curt Locker - Lisa Linke & Mike Johnson
Door-in-face - Kate Cohen & Mike Girts (Last year's winners, back to defend their title!)
The show is this Sunday, August 29 at 9pm at ComedySportz (929 W. Belmont). Tickets are $5, and can be purchased by calling 773-549-8080 or online.
Last night at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, Under Construction Dance Project presented the first night of their show, "Socio-Analytic Perspectives on Gender Culture through Dance." In order to present their examination of gender through dance, co-creators, Philip Elson and Samantha Spriggs, students of the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, took advantage of Links Hall's Linkages program, which provides studio space and tech support for self-producing artists. Their three-night production features other Columbia University dance and performing arts students, as well as independent artists from the Chicago area.
Chicago's longest running, late night dirty improv show, The Hot Karl, is celebrating their 11th anniversary this Saturday, August 21, at midnight. The group is getting together for an hour of raunchy improv, and they're inviting back illustrious alumni to join them onstage. After the show, audience members are invited to stick around for the after-party, where they can hang out with the cast and enjoy specials at the bar.
The show is at The ComedySportz Theatre, 929 W. Belmont. Tickets are $10 and you can make reservations by calling 773-549-8080 or go to ticketmaster.com. Reservations recommended. Last year's anniversary sold out.
I recently took a weeklong hiatus from Chicago to cruise to Bermuda with my family and Chicago followed me all the way to the Atlantic Ocean! Second City, Chicago's famous improvisational comedy troupe is in the middle of a four-month contract with the cruise boat I ventured out on- the Norwegian Dawn. On a boat dominated by East Coasters-- New Jersey and Long Island accents a-plenty-- I was so excited to see these hilarious Chicagoans on the list of entertainment for the week.
Margaret Hicks of Chicago Elevated loves Chicago and its many unique neighborhoods, and if you've ever been fortunate enough to take one of her walking tours, you no doubt agree. Sunday evening, I joined her Boystown tour, eager to learn more about a neighborhood I've known to be chill yet vibrant; full of unique restaurants, bars, and shops; and, most importantly, bursting with people who can and do express their individuality with abandon. There's no denying that I was already a fan of Boystown, but there was an awful lot I had yet to learn about the neighborhood. And that's where the Chicago Elevated Boystown Tour comes in.
Appropriately, Hicks kicks off the tour at Roscoe's, the neighborhood's first gay bar to open up its windows over two decades ago. From here, the tour migrates down Halsted, incorporating such spots as the Leigh Gallery, the former Mandel Bros Warehouse, and down to the Playground Improv Theater. Heading back northward along Boystown's primary thoroughfare, Hicks describes the history of the gay movement in the U.S., how the movement manifested in Chicago, and even how Nixon--yes, Nixon--played an integral (though inadvertent) role in the extended lifespan of gay bars in Chicago.
Last Saturday the first installment of Second City's The Late Live Show premiered at their da Maat Theater. The show adopts the traditional "late night variety show" format made popular by the likes of Carson and Letterman, and is hosted by local comics Joe Kwaczala and C.J. Toledano.
The Late Live Show will take place every Saturday night at midnight at Second City's da Maat Theater located at 1616 N Wells Ave. The show is free, but you can reserve tickets for $5 through secondcity.com or calling the Second City box office at 312-337-3992.
Long-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.
Improv group Almost ATLANTA (Tj Jagodowski, Noah Gregoropoulos, Annie Calhoun, Annie Donley, Linda Orr, and Ted Tremper) kicks off the first Chicago Live! Festival tonight with a "Dream Team Thursdays" show at A Red Orchid Theater. With the Chicago Live! Festival, "Almost ATLANTA seeks to engage, delight and astound audiences by incorporating art from every medium with long form improvisation." The festival will test the bounds of improv by combining it with theatre, music, dance, and other art forms not typically associated with improv.
"Dream Team Thursdays" aims to showcase teams that are a mixture of veteran and novice improvisers, and artists from other disciplines. Amongst tonight's teams that are performing, there will be musical improv, improv that features spoken word poetry, and psychic improv, amongst other types of performance. These types of performance are a creative departure from what's typically seen on a Chicago improv stage, and the results will certainly be an entertaining and intriguing treat to watch.
"Dream Team Thursdays" starts tonight at 7 p.m. at A Red Orchid Theater (1531 North Wells Street). You can reserve tickets online or purchase them at the door. The Festival runs June 3-6 and June 10-13, and more details can be found here.
The Chicago improv comedy group Octavarius doesn't think we use the word "boner" enough in our daily lives. Starting today, they aim to change that. In pursuit of Octavarius' mission to "Find Fun Everywhere," today they light the fuse on their first Fun Activism campaign. The mission? To make "boner" the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day. In the official press release for this event, they wrote that they feel driven to accomplish their goal because "boner is one of, if not the, most fun words in English. By making it the Word of the Day, we can celebrate, explore, and honor this great word."
Yesterday was a perfect day for going for a jog or sitting on a patio enjoying a beer, but it doesn't look like we'll have the same luck with Chicago's weather today. Instead of sitting inside and pouting that you wished you lived in a city with normal seasons, why don't you go see a funny show as a pick-me-up?
Tonight at iO, we have the latest installment of improv from the gentlemen of "1,2,3, Fag!" While one of their members is away, they will be bringing in Chicago's top female improvisers to perform their trademark improv style of intertwining scenes with bold, outrageous characters, hence the creation of "1,2 Fag + Hag!" With some of the funniest improvisers in Chicago joining them, "1,2, Fag + Hag!" promises to be hilarious. The show is tonight at 8 at iO (3541 N. Clark St.), and tickets can be purchased online, over the phone (773-880-0199), or at the box office.
If you're in the mood for scripted fare tonight, then perhaps you should swing by Chemically Imbalanced Comedy for their latest offering, "Ring Around the Guillotine." It's like Back to the Future meets the Reign of Terror, as a young woman from the 1980s travels in time and gets unwittingly gets involved in the plot of an evil, flamboyant prince to overthrow a kingdom. The script drags at moments, but there's a strong cast of comedic performers that make it a worthwhile show to catch. "Ring Around the Guillotine" is tonight at 8 at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy (1420 W. Irving Park Rd.), and tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.
History isn't their strong suit. Luckily, comedy is. Local improv groups The General Washingtons and Eleanor team up to present an evening of big laughs and altered memories as they use an audience suggestion as a means to explore their collective subconscious.
But with countless improvisational teams all over the city, what makes these two groups (one all male, one all female) stand out?
"We try very hard not to rely on our gender to get us by," says Eleanor member Kate Carson-Groner. "We want to be funny by funny standards, not by, 'Oh, they're a girl-group' standards."
The General Washingtons agree, "We're trying not to do 'dude-prov'," says Greg Ott. "We're trying to do more theatrical and dramatic scenes."
You can catch Historical Inaccuracies at Donny's Skybox Theater (1608 N. Wells Street, 4th floor) every Saturday through March 27 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $12 for general public, $10 for students, and $8 for students of The Second City Training Center. Reservations can be made online or by calling (312) 337-3992.
If the Olympic coverage wraps up for the night and you've still got the energy to go out, check out "the El Show with Alex Moffat" at iO. It is a weekly talk show that hosts local notables and combines interviews, improv bits, and taped segments. Tonight's guest is Evanston's own Tim Kazurinsky, "Second City" and "Saturday Night Live" alum.
Tickets are $5 and can be purchased online, or at the iO box office. iO is located at 3541 N. Clark street.
Rush Limbaugh! The Musical begins previews in The Second City e.t.c. Theatre on Sunday, January 31 at 2pm. Brought to you by the team that created Rod Blagojevich Superstar!, Rush Limbaugh! The Musical follows Rush from his humble youth to his meteoric rise to conservative talk radio fame. Tickets are $25 and can be ordered online.
Chicago Improv Festival Productions is proud to announce the finals for the third annual College Improv Tournament on Saturaday Jan. 23 at 8pm, at pH Productions (3310 N. Sheffield). The tournament is open to the public, tickets are $15 public/$10 students and are available for purchase at pH Productions the day of the competition.
The regional competition, which determines the tournament's finalists, will be held throughout the day at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm, also at pH Productions. Tickets are $10 public/$5 students for the preliminary rounds.
There's a lot of great sketch comedy in town over the next few weeks, but what about if you prefer your comedy unscripted?
Opening this Friday, January 8th, Gorilla Tango Theatre presents the $1,000 GTT IMPROV THING, a 36-team improv comedy tournament, with $1,000, a spot at the 2010 Chicago Improv Festival, and a six-pack of 7 pound hot dogs from BigHotDog.com at stake. Think of it as March Madness crossed with a comedy show and a pack of hot dogs.
The show runs every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm until January 30, with additional preliminary rounds on Sunday, January 10 at 5pm and 9pm. Tickets are $12 and available either over the phone (773-598-4549) or at http://www.gorillatango.com.
When people think iO, they usually think improv, and since iO is consistently giving us the best improv in the city (TJ and Dave, Cook County Social Club, Improvised Shakespeare) this is most definitely warranted. But to simply see iO as an "improv theater" would undercut its reputation for exploring other avenues of the comedic landscape.
Last night I caught the premiere performance of The El Show with Alex Moffat, a talk show that boasts itself as "a mixture of standup, improv, sketch, music, video clips, interviews with local celebrities, magic, poetry, [and] magical poetry." Moffat's host, a sort of cosmopolitan everyman, is accompanied by a rambling, somewhat drunk sidekick (Joey Romaine), a boisterous announcer (Rob Grabowski), and an adorable accompanist (Stephanie McCullough) through a jumbled array of comedic sketches and interviews. Last night's show featured Brian Posen, founder of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, and while it's got plenty of kinks to work out, it gives neglected Chicago artists a loose and supportive venue to promote themselves and have some fun. Next week's show will feature Craig Uhlir, one-half of Middle-Age Comeback, one of my favorite shows at iO.
The El Show with Alex Moffat runs through February 19, playing every Friday at midnight in iO's Del Close Theatre (3541 N. Clark). Tickets are $5 (free for iO students) and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 773.880.0199.
Be sure to bring your cell phone and crank it up loud. Whoever gets the most calls or text messages during the show wins a prize!
World War II is going poorly for Hitler and the Nazi party. So the Fueher decides the best way to turn the tide in the war is to kidnap Santa Claus and take control of Christmas and all of Santa's magical secrets. The only thing standing in the way of their evil plot is a misunderstood elf, a misfit toy and a couple of hit men reindeer. Will that be enough to save Christmas? Find out when The Hot Karl presents, "Santa Claus Conquers the Nazis: The Musical."
"People expect us to do a dirty funny show, so that's nothing new. But thanks to musical director Steph McCullough and a cast of thousands -- actually a nine-person chorus -- it's a real holiday musical with real songs," said Hot Karl member Zach Thompson. "You should really come see it." It's only going up five times, every Saturday from Nov. 21 to Dec. 19. Shows start at 11:59pm at Comedy Sportz, 929 West Belmont. Tickets are $10, and you can get 'em here or call 312-559-1212.
Part of me hesitated even posting this, for fear that the event would sellout and I'd be left weeping outside the ATC Theatre, but I figured it was my duty to share this crazy exciting event with the culture vultures of Chicago. Oscar Nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) will be playing with Chicago improv group Pudding Thank You, TJ Jagodowski, and more this Friday night as part of the regular ATC Improv series. The show begins at 11:00 pm, and for only eight dollars you get to enjoy a night of improv and free beer.
Michael Shannon at ATC Improv. Friday November 6th at 11 pm. Tickets are available only at the door for $8 and include free beer. ATC is located at 1909 W. Byron.
In case you aren't registered on the NYT site, here's how it goes down: The Q&A has turned to what Leingang looks for when she's scouting for talent:
Q. How do you keep from becoming jaded?
A. You just see one performer for every 50 who is just bizarre, irreverent, who has some sort of take that you have never seen. Not to sound Mary Sunshine, but it's rejuvenating. It reaffirms why I do it.
Q. Who was the last person who made you have that reaction?
A. The group Improvised Shakespeare; I brought them to Bumbershoot. They improvise a Shakespeare play based on a suggestion by the audience. It starts with rhyming couplet; it ends with rhyming couplet. The way they worked together is amazing. Every show had a standing ovation. It was one of those things where I'm crying laughing: just, how did they do it? That's the feeling that I like to have, and it's very validating. You can't translate that to TV. But we can try.
Robot vs. Dinosaur, a writer-centric improv ensemble that originated in New York and was brought to Chicago in 2007, is enjoying a run of their show: Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School, at Gorilla Tango Theatre. A series of sketches loosely based around a preschool classroom, the show opens strong but loses focus. The premise of a school as a reference point seemed unnecessary, and even the best sketches ran too long, losing steam before they ended.
Some genuinely funny moments were had, but if this show were a national holiday it would be Canada Day, not the 4th of July - no fireworks but plenty of sparklers, and a few standout roman candles in the forms of Erin Morrill, Andrew Kraft, and Anthony Ellison, who came across like younger versions of Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell and Bill Murray.
With social networking sites penetrating every aspect of our lives, it was only a matter of time until it got to our improv comedy as well. The Playground is currently presenting "The Tweet Life," a long-form improvisational show that utilizes an audience member's Twitter feed to help shape their show.
To choose the subjects of their show, The Playground asks twitterers (tweeters?) to follow @the_playground and @ reply "i want in on #thetweetlife." A random twitterer is selected (though presently the people following The Playground on Twitter tend to be fellow comedy folks), and prior to the show their tweets from the prior week are printed on slips of paper and given to the cast. Instead of asking for a suggestion, like in a traditional improv show, the show starts with someone reading a tweet, and throughout the show new tweets are thrown into the mix.
A show such as this could easily rest on its laurels and allow the conceit of the show to do the work, but "The Tweet Life" is serviced not only by a talented cast of performers, but the show is fortunate not to be overly reliant on the Twitter concept. Instead of recreating Tweets and replaying the minutiae of the twitterer's life, they use the tweets to inform the piece and incorporate them into a coherent whole that ties together recurring themes and characters. It's a surprisingly smart and hilarious night of comedy.
"The Tweet Life" plays Wednesday night at 8 o'clock at The Playground until October 11th, then moves to Friday nights starting October 13th. Reservations can be made at 773-871-3793 or www.the-playground.com. Tickets are $10.
Chicago has long ago made its mark in the world of improvisational comedy, helping such stars such as John Belushi, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell achieve superstardom.
"What Are They Saying" is another improv troupe whose goal is to produce Chicago's next comedy superstar. The troupe, founded in 2001 and under the umbrella of educational theatre company For Children, By Children (FCBC), was founded and created by Rod Lewis, who also serves as its artistic director and producer.
What makes this improv troupe stand apart is that these family-friendly shows are not only performed by youth; they are also responsible for technical aspects including stage management, light and sound and choreography.
"What Are They Saying" is performing this Thursday, September 17, at 8pm, at the Showtime Comedy Club, 13343 S. Cicero Avenue in Crestwood, Illinois. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. For more information, please contact Rod Lewis, Artistic Director, at 708-769-9880.
Starting Aug. 28, improvising thespians hit the stage Fridays for their regular 8pm show and then dust off, regroup and churn out a brand new show, based on a completely different suggestion, at 10:30pm.
Improvised Shakespeare shows start with a suggestion, which becomes the show's title and inspiration, all done in the language and themes of The Bard. That means lots of mismatched love and dastardly deeds, pickled with pop culture nods and just plain silly fun.
Each show (8pm and 10:30pm) is $14 in the Del Close Theater at iO, 3541 N. Clark St. For tickets, call 773-880-0199 or visit the website.
If you've felt like there's been a gaping void in your life since "Perfect Strangers" went off the air, then there may be something out there to fill the emptiness that you've been feeling. At iO, "Guy Friends" is going into the fourth season of their fully improvised sitcom, which has been drawing crowds with their hilarity and series of very special guests. This season the friends move to Paradise Cove to open a beach-side bar, which seems to be a loving wink to sitcoms of past who do their string of "on the beach episodes". Tonight the second episode of the season "airs" at midnight and tickets are $5.
"Guy Friends" at iO, 3541 N. Clark St. midnight. Call 773.880.0199 for tickets.
Long el rides, MegaBustrips to visit your family in Milwaukee, waiting to see if you'll be called to serve on a jury- these painfully long occasions all require some sort of self-contained entertainment to get you through them, and a clever podcast might be just what you need.
We'll Be Right Back with Ruby Streak is a Second City endeavor, hosted by their mainstage musical director Ruby Streak. It's both entertaining and edutaining, as the show's guests chat about life, comedy, and often their paths that lead them to Second City. They interview local Second City folk, in addition to reaching out to their extended family on the coasts and getting folks like "30 Rock's" Jack McBrayer and Scott Adsit to spill the beans. The show may slant towards comedy nerd-dom, but all should find it a good listen.
In these tight economic times, it can be easy to just hole up in your apartment with a box of store-brand cookies and the remote control and claim financial distress as the excuse for you not leaving the house. However, local comedy theatres are taking down that excuse, and giving you a reason to leave the house- at least on Wednesday nights.
At iO (3541 N. Clark St.), Wednesday nights at 8 pm have traditionally been the free night, where comedy-loving patrons looking for some free entertainment can spend the night watching various groups perform the theatre's long-form piece, The Harold. The theatre puts some of its most seasoned teams on display, and generous drink specials make the night even more appealing.
At ComedySportz, they are returning with their second season of the Free Night of Comedy, also Wednesday nights at 8 pm. The Free Night of Comedy features a rotating roster of Comedy Sportz acts, ranging from newer teams to signature ComedySportz performers, and there's even a shot to get up onstage during the improv open mic.
This Thursday at iO (3541 N. Clark St), local improv group 1,2,3, Fag! begins their run of Qweirdo, a totally gay, totally hilarious showcase that features homosexual performers from Chicago's comedy scene. The men of 1,2,3, Fag! are Kellen Alexander, Seth Dodson, and John Hartman, who met at The Playground and began improvising together this spring. Though the members of 1, 2, 3, Fag! are all gay, they do not set out to promote any type of political agenda when they perform. "1, 2, 3, Fag! sets out to entertain the audience and make them laugh, just like any other comedy group," says Dodson. "However, being three young gay men in a scene where we are a minority, our own viewpoints, opinions and feelings are undoubtedly going to be expressed."
With Mother Nature repeatedly delaying the true advent of warm weather, it's no wonder that Chicago comedians are looking to head out west. The Los Angeles Comedy Festival has been running since April 30 and will come to a finish this upcoming weekend, but not before two Chicago acts hit their stage this week. "Sex ed. with Sex Ed Vincent" (better known as Paul Brittain) and "Teenager of the Year" (Joe Avella and Tim Racine) both perform this week before the festival's close. "Sex ed" has enjoyed a successful run at iO, and "Teenager of the Year" performs regularly at the Playground, in addition to having a film accepted to the SXSW festival. I'll be sure to give you a heads-up when these folks perform, but in the meantime let's wish them luck in LA!
"Taking the stage as Denny Bender and The Denny Bender Four, White Jazz present an unpredictable, quirky improv show that satirically riffs on the white band leaders of the 1940s who turned the vibrant, fringe sounds of jazz into a form more popular with mainstream audiences."
The show is at 9:30 and tickets are $10 and can be purchased online, over the phone (773-561-HONK), or at the Annoyance (4830 N. Broadway).
Colbert Report head writer and executive producer Allison Silverman is interviewed by Stephen Colbert in this month's Elle. Silverman was a Chicago comedy kid, performing at iO and Amsterdam's Boom Chicago, then she moved up the ranks and wrote for both The Daily Show and Late Night with Conan O'Brien before moving to the Colbert Report. (It's worth reminding everyone that Stephen Colbert started out as a Chicago comedy kid himself.) Allison Silverman has done a lot of comedic ass-kicking, winning both Emmy and Peabody Awards for her work on these shows, and in this month's Elle Stephen Colbert sings her praises as part of a series of interviews with smart women.
Wait, that's not right. Take a look at Long Pork's Soda -- yes, that's better.
Sketch comedy troupe Long Pork is mounting their new show Soda on Saturdays through May 23 at the Apollo Studio Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave. The show is described by co-producers (along with Player's Ring West) Grandma June's Sewing Circle as "a hyper-reality that bleeds Saturday morning cartoons. From shock collars, to science inspired dances, to robotic auditions, to renegade cops with a little girl to save, Soda is a sketch show that is a roaring ode to fun."
No clips available of the show, but here's a peek backstage:
The episode of "The Cosby Show" where Cliff finds a joint in Theo's geography book is perhaps one of the best known "very special episodes" of an 80s sitcom, and a member of Chicago's improv community actually played a part in this piece of pop culture history. If you've ever seen "The Armando Diaz Experience" or "The Improvised Movie" at iO, you may know Jason Chin, who in addition to being a terrific improviser, also made a guest appearance on "The Cosby Show" as Wickers, the guy who Theo first confronts about the joint in his geography book. Check out this YouTube clip of Jason's appearance, and relive all the greatness of this seminal piece of tv nostalgia:
You get a call from your Uncle Larry. He's in town for a conference out at O'Hare. He calls and asks what he can do for kicks without straying too far from his hotel. You doubt he wants to see Britney Spears at AllState Arena, and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Rosemont Theatre isn't really his bag either. Uncle Larry is a pretty funny guy, so you think he might like to check out a comedy show, but there aren't any good ones out by O'Hare...or are there?
In a partnership with the Hotel InterContinental Chicago O'Hare, local improv comedy theatres The Annoyance and Comedy Sportz are providing weekly shows out for audiences by O'Hare.
The Annoyance performs "Un-Tied" Fridays at 8:00 pm while ComedySportz performs their main stage show Saturdays at 8:00 pm.
The Hotel InterContinental Chicago is located at 5300 N. River Road in Rosemont.
In an effort to compare apples and oranges, NBC 5 had a showdown between Zanies and iO Theater where Chicagoans could vote on the "Best Laughs" in the city. Zanies was triumphant, winning by a staggering 51% to iO's meager 49%. What's funnier than either comedy club, however, is the comments on the debate page. My personal favorites are "you suck, improv is not comedy and you need to realize that," and the claims that the competition is rigged. People apparently get pretty worked up when there's a human trophy at stake.
If the crowds of over-served, over-festive St. Patrick's Day revelers haven't forced you to hole up in your apartment until the holiday is over, I recommend you check out Cook County Social Club's "Unplugged" show this Tuesday at 8:00 pm at the iO Theater (3541 N. Clark St.). According to the group they'll be improvising while their musical pals Butterscotch "pump out the Irish jams". The CCSC is always sharp and hilarious, so let them take your mind off the green madness in the streets with some laughs and tunes. More details here.
This is the first year for Spontaneous, hosted by Atlanta's Basement Theatre and co-produced by yours truly. The festival snagged 313 as major headliners for the weekend, which includes Second City alumni Larry Joe Campbell ("According to Jim"), Keegan-Michael Key ("MAD-TV") and Nyima Funk (MTV's "Wild 'n Out"). Incidentally 313 will also be headlining the Chicago Improv Festival (April 13-19).
The late Del Close, co-founder and guru of the iO (formerly Improv Olympic), would've celebrated his 75th birthday this year, and in honor of the improv legend, the iO is hosting Del Week, a week-long series of shows, discussions, and special events. One of the highlights of this week, and an event that would surely have Del Close rolling over in his grave, is Women Aren't Funny. Del Close was firmly of the belief that women cannot be funny, and much to his horror, the women of Children of a Lesser God (Emily Candini, Kate Duffy, Rachael Mason, and Susan Messing) will be taking the stage with some special lady guests, attempting to improvise in spite of their gender deficiencies. Will these women be able to bring the funny even though they have ovaries? Come see for yourself this Sunday at 10:30 pm at the iO theatre (3541 N. Clark). More details here.
I don't want to tell you what to do, but you would be wise to check out Michael Pizza, playing tonight at The Playground (3209 N. Halsted) at Midnight. Michael Pizza is Ben Kass, Eric Christensen, Josh Logan and Brett Elam. They're a fairly new group, but they play like they've been together for years and years. They bring the funny, and they bring a lot of it. There are three shows left in their run at The Playground, so if you can't catch them tonight, you have two more chances. Tickets are $5 and The Playground is BYOB.
Each week Seth Weitberg (iO, Second City) sits down with one of his comedy friends and records two installments of "The Chicago Sessions", one of the hippest new podcasts around. "The Chicago Sessions" offers listeners the chance to catch both an improvised scene and also a casual conversation between Weitberg and his guest.
Although the show is only a couple months old, Weitberg has already built up an impressive archive of funny. His guests are a venerable "Who's Who" of Chicago improv rockstars, and each week they sit down to craft a hilarious scene (think "The Jack Benny Show" or Nichols and May) which is followed up by a chat about a topic of interest to the guest. It's like going to see a particularly hilarious improv show and then ending up on the same L car as the performers and eavesdropping on their conversation...only much less voyeuristic.
Though "The Chicago Sessions" podcast lends itself most easily to on-the-go listening, the website also features a nifty photo shoot with each of the show's guests. You can check out "The Chicago Sessions" here or you can subscribe via the iTunes Store here.
The Chicago Improv Rebellion is back and performing at ComedySportz. This is "punk rock improv" and not the usual family-friendly CSz fare. However, this lineup is about as close as improv gets to a guaranteed good time. Guests for this first show will be fantastic iO ensemble, The Reckoning, and one of my personal favorites, Pimprov (pimps who unwittingly took a class at the Playas Workshop of Second City).
The house ensemble, Hodge Podge, will feature (time around): Jon Barinholtz, Tyler Barkley, Allison Bills, Colleen Breen, Sean Ellis, Nick Hausman, Nathan Jansen, Peter Kremidas, John Langen, Ray Mees, Katie Nunn, Conner O'Malley, Matt Owens, Andrew Peyton, Eric Rutherford, Jake Schneider, Sam Weiner and Thomas Whittington. The whole hootenany is hosted by musician Nathan Cotter.
The Chicago Improv Festival (CIF) announced their first main stage headliners for the 2009 festival (April 13-19). Frangela consists of Frances Callier and Angela Shelton--best friends from Chicago who now live in LA. According to the CIF website, the two can be seen on VH1's "The Greatest Week Ever" and Frances is also a cast member on "Hannah Montana." Frances and Angela will will also play themselves as guest stars in the upcoming movie He's Just Not That Into You.
Jonathan Pitts, CIF executive director, said, "Frances is also the co-founder of the Chicago Improv Festival, so we are looking forward to having her return to CIF's stages. Plus, this funny duo is a great example of the kind of thematic programming we're doing for the 2009 festival."
Chicago stand-up showcase stalwart The Lincoln Lodge is all atwitter over a strong lineup for tonight and Friday night.
Lodge alumni Kumail, who is currently making it big in New York, recently made his debut on Saturday Night Live with a speaking part in a media-related sketch, and is back in town to make all his old pals at the Lodge laugh again. Also scheduled to perform are local favorites Dan Telfer and Allison Leber.
Still feeling political? Well, you can catch Chicago Tribune opinion page illustrator Joe Fournier giving a quick lesson in silly sketching at the Lodge as well. Audience members are invited to compete in a contest to sketch President-Elect Obama and his VP-Elect Joe Biden.
So brave the drizzle and boogie on over to the Lincoln Restaurant (4008 N. Lincoln Avenue, at the intersection of Lincoln, Damen and Irving Park), tonight at 9:00, part with a paltry $10, and enjoy a night of top-notch stand-up comedy, Chicago style.
The prodigal daughters return, hometown favorites who came back to step their game up. The comics and regulars who file into the Beat Kitchen on Belmont stop to welcome back Brooke Van Poppelen and Joselyn Hughes. The greetings are warm, congratulations and curiosity instead of envy, or spite. The two are here to take the stage for Chicago Underground Comedy, one of the most innovative stand-up shows in the city. Hughes and Van Poppelen both moved to New York City in 2006, and their return visit, they insist, is not a defeat but a strategic retreat before launching a new offensive.
"We just refuse to surrender," Joselyn tells me in between sips of Amstel, her light eyes fixed and sincere, looking through me. "New York City does try to beat you down. I hate to admit it, but it does."
"Everybody has a breaking point," Brooke breaks in. You know they are natural comedy partners, because Joselyn doesn't take issue with the interruption; rare for a stand-up. "But our reaction to the challenge was to put this show together, and to keep creating and refining."
The show they have created ("Macho"), is an ambitious two-woman sketch show directed by beloved Second City alumna and member of the improvised musical Baby Wants Candy Deb Downing-Grosz. Van Poppelen and Hughes will premiere the show this Thursday and Friday at the Lincoln Lodge at Lincoln, Damen and Irving Park. The Thursday show is at 8pm and the Friday show is at 7:30 with another at 9:30 (both $10). The highly wonderful Fay Canale opens on Thursday; and Nick Vatterott, one of the most unique stand-ups still local, opens on Friday.
Centerstage has posted a list of five funny Chicago ladies to keep an eye on. What’s cool about the list is that they profile performers who are making their own opportunities outside of the improv establishment. Whether performing in one-woman shows or as part of an ensemble, the article gives the impression that these ladies work within a tightly knit community that’s not afraid to do their own thing in a traditionally male-dominated scene.
Jared Logan, 2007's Best Comedian at the Chicago Comedy Awards, is going to be famous, and then you can be one of those annoying people who says, "That guy? Man, I saw him back in the day, when he used to perform in the back of this bar on Belmont." You can talk about how you "like his old stuff better." Don't you want to be one of those annoying people?
Jared is performing a 45-minute set tonight at the Beat Kitchen -- for free -- at 9:30. For stand-ups, a 45-minute set is something like an artist getting their own gallery show, except it is considerably less annoying, and about two-thirds drunker. How about another clever metaphor -- a 45-minute set for a comic is like bragging to all your friends that you're going to bowl a perfect game. So when you come to the Beat Kitchen to support one of Chicago's funniest humans, hold him to the standard of bowling a perfect game. Not really.
The set is presented by my heroes at Chicago Underground Comedy. Jared is a member of the fearsome Blerds. Come, drink, laugh, and flirt with the comics at the bar.
Mallory Sohmer is a freelance documentary filmmaker from Chicago and a Columbia College alumna. She co-directed the new film, Drum Beat Journey, the story of four inner-city youth who travel to Petit Mbao, Senegal, to participate in a drumming workshop. The program used music as a vehicle to capture and connect with the young men in an engaging and original way. But this is not just a film about drumming; it's about stepping into another culture to learn about oneself. Read this feature »