Thinking Too Much About TV Comedy with J. Michael Osborne

It more or less goes without saying that, if you’re into seeing sketch comedy on television, it’s a pretty good time to be alive. There’s Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele and Kroll Show on Comedy Central. IFC is cornering the young, hip, conceptual market with The Birthday Boys, Comedy Bang! Bang! (a sketch show dressed in the clothes of a talk show) and Portlandia. [adult swim] is skewing even younger with Loiter Squad and Robot Chicken. And then, of course, there’s Saturday Night Live usually bowling its demographics straight down the middle.

Despite the limited number of networks involved here, cable-owning Americans (or people with reliable Internet connections and questionable senses of ethics, like me) now have an unprecedented spectrum of options to choose from when it comes to short-form comedy. It’s a more diverse game now than it’s ever been, both in terms of its writers/performers and in terms of comedic sensibilities. Viewing all these shows together, there’s a couple major observations we can take away from this TV-sketch-show zeitgeist: sketches performed in front of a live audience are all but on their way out, and it’s becoming increasingly important that the rest of them have some high-ass production values.

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Seven Minutes in Purgatory returns to Chicago November 18th!

Ian Abramson and The Steamroller's standup comedy science experiment Seven Minutes in Purgatory returns to Chicago with a special one night only event on Tuesday, November 18th at 7pm!

Standup comedians perform their material directly to a camera alone in a soundproof room while the audience watches live onscreen at the beautiful and historic Music Box Theater.

Guests include Danny Kallas, Mike Lebovitz, Rebecca O'Neal, Candy Lawrence, Jeff Steinbrunner, Trey Brown, and John Eisenrich.

This show doubles as the tour kickoff event for Thanksgiving in Purgatory: Ian Abramson on Tour, which will take Ian and Seven Minutes in Purgatory all over the Midwest in the following two weeks. Comics in Denver, Omaha, and Kansas City will have the chance to participate in their own pop-up edition of 7MiP before Ian moves to Los Angeles in December.

Poster design by Tim Giuliani

Poster design by Tim Giuliani

Interview: Harrison George of Seance: An Exploration Of The Metaphysical Hosted By Ms. Ella Rothschild

 Chicago-based improvisors Harrison George and Libby Schreiner have concocted an impressively ambitious new horror show, which takes audiences of 10 through a series of sporadically interactive scenes, full of detailed props and dark characters. CIC is converted into a Victorian mansion owned by Ms. Ella Rothschild, we meet a spiritual medium whose seances have unsettling and unexpected results.

Going beyond the typical "guy in a mask with a chainsaw" manipulations, Harrison and Libby have opted for more challenging scares with their take on a haunted house, using their experience as comedic performers to explore darker topics. Following a successful opening weekend, I spoke with Harrison about the show's creation and his motivations behind crafting an experience like this one.

A few tickets remain for this weekend's shows, which happen every hour, on the hour, from 1pm-5pm this Saturday and Sunday, October 25th and 26th. Reserve those by emailing cic.seance@gmail.com now!

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Goodrich Gevaart and saki Present Fill Up My Bag! featuring Tommy Crowbar

As a big fan of hardcore, it’s an honor that The Steamroller asked me to introduce you all to the legendary Tommy Crowbar.  While bands like Minor Threat, Black Flag, and Cro-Mags take up most of the conversation about hardcore punk history, anyone really into hardcore knows Tommy, his band, and his larger than life reputation.  

Forming the band Street Justice in Brockton, Massachusetts in 1979, Tommy was the face of intense, aggressive music for decades. His on and off stage antics have gotten him banned from literally every venue he has ever played at, be it a Moose Lodge in New Bedford or CBGB in New York. His band is on it’s fourth or fifth reunion tour with Tommy as the only original member still performing. He’s been criticised for being a “cash grabber”, “opportunist”, and “overall piece of shit” by many hardcore luminaries.

Saki records was cool enough to reach out to Tommy to start their new feature, Fill Up My Bag.  Watch the video and respect the history this man represents.

-Goodrich Gevaart

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Letters between Uncle Rob's niece and nephew before Uncle Rob's Big Day

This weekend, our Uncle Rob will be reborn in the image and likeness of our dark lord and savior, Follicanis. It’s a big day for everyone, and we’d love to share the food, the fun, and the ceremony with you.

Uncle Rob's Big Day is an immersive experience. You will meet a variety of characters and be invited to explore the entirety of our homestead. You can follow one character the whole time, or you can follow wherever your interest takes you. You'll often be rewarded with interesting discoveries if you pay close attention. And this is a real BBQ. Uncle Rob's Big Day is completely free, but we would be grateful if you brought along some hot dogs or beer.  

It will be occurring four times: October 4 and 5, at 3:00 pm and 4:15 pm. If interested, please email UncleRobsBigDay@gmail.com with the date and time you’d like to attend. Once you’re confirmed, we’ll send you the address of our homestead and a few preparatory notes.

Ordinarily, the god of luscious full hair, Follicanis, demands a high level of secrecy. But recently, a series of letters between Uncle Rob’s niece and nephew, the twins Gary and Stephanie, was leaked to the press. They can be read in their full, unfiltered form below, offering a rare glimpse inside the lives of this extraordinary family.

-Gary Pascal & Steph Cook

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Freak Happening: The Real Story

Today is the 2nd anniversary of The Steamroller.

If you've ever written, read, or re-posted something from the site in these last two years, thank you!

If you've ever performed on or came out to an event produced by The Steamroller, thank you!

I rarely appear onstage or screen, that sort of thing is not really for me. That said, when I found out the a documentary team was hoping to get an inside look at the history of the monthly comedy show I help produce, Freak Happening, which also recently celebrated an anniversary, I was happy to take a seat in front of the camera and share my experiences.

Happy Birthday Steamroller. Happy Birthday Freak Happening. Happy Birthday everyone.

An Encounter with The People's Temple of Comedy by Randolph LeGrasse

Earlier this week I received an unsolicited email from an anonymous email address with no text in the body, only the subject like "For Steamroller" and a text file attached. I cautiously opened the text file and have copied + pasted its contents below. What follows appears to be an account from an Arkham, MA-based scholar about his experiences with and attempts to understand The People's Temple of Comedy, which begins a residency at the Laugh Factory this Sunday.

Those who are poorly acquainted with reality often believe that everything of interest to history has been documented to build up the knowledge base of future generations. Those unfortunate souls, such as myself, who are offered a terrible glimpse behind the veil, know all too well that sometimes secrets are kept secret for nameless eons, never meant to be peered upon by public awareness.

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Harrison George On The Closing of The Upstairs Gallery

In 1964 Isaac Asimov was asked to speculate on what life in the year 2014 would look like. Some of his predictions were spot on (cordless appliances), while others were way off (flying cars). The goal of this piece is something similar, to attempt in some small way to predict what Chicago might look like in the next 1-5 years.

Last month we saw the closing of The Upstairs Gallery, an ambitious 3 year experiment in alternative-theater spacework. Now that the theater’s closed, I’m wondering what comes next, if we’ll see new spaces inspired by Upstairs; an UG 2.0 if you will.

There are lots of ways things will be affected by UG’s closing. Here are my guesses.

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