Interview: Blair Beeken and Adam Hitchell of Peekin With Beeken

The final episode of one of my favorite new documentary webseries Peekin With Beeken was just released. The series follows writer and improviser Blair Beeken around to some of Chicago's most recognizable cultural institutions, like Navy Pier, Wrigley Field, and The Field Museum.

Her curious and endearing perspective on such iconic places makes this a one-of-a-kind travel show, like if a really friendly fourth grader hosted No Reservations. In celebration of the series finale, I spoke with the PWB team, Blair Beeken and Adam Hitchell about the show's development and production.

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This Wednesday, December 3rd is the first preview for the brand new Annoyance musical, Penny, the F*ckable Dolphin: A Love Story. To celebrate its opening, writer/producer Kristina Felske wanted to share some true and not-so-true facts about her favorite marine mammal.

Try to guess which facts are FACT and which facts are FICTION!

  1. The dolphin is the only mammal that gives birth tail first!
  2. The average lifespan of dolphins is 17 years, but they can live up to 50! Dolphins be Golden Girls too, y’all!
  3. Dolphins have retractable penises that they sometimes use like hands!
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Interview: Matt Riggs of Laughs 4 Smiles

In advance of Jimmy Pardo's legendary Never Not Funny Pardcastathon, Chicago comics Matt Riggs and Dan Friesen joined forces to present a one-night-only benefit show for Smile Train, an international organization that helps fund surgeries with kids with cleft lips and palates. Pardo and company have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for this charity, which helps change the lives of underpriveledged kids worldwide.

Laughs 4 Smiles is tonight, November 25th at Subterranean, with special guests Stephanie Hasz, Andy Fleming, Tommy McNamara, Goodrich Gevaart, Dan Friensen, and Matt Riggs. Admission is a $10 donation that goes directly to Smile Train. Here's a chat with Matt before tonight's show!

The Steamroller: Can you tell me how you came to learn about Smile Train?
Matt Riggs: I learned of it via the podcast Never Not Funny. Jimmy Pardo, Matt Belknap and Pat Francis do a podcast marathon known as the Pardcast-A-Thon the Friday after Thanksgiving to raise money for Smile Train. It's usually more than 12 hours and they bring in celebrity guests every 20 minutes or so for the entire show. They've been doing it for six years and I want to say they have raised around a quarter million dollars for Smile Train. What's weird is that once I heard about it through them, I started seeing bus and magazine ads... It just started entering my life more.

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Holy Hell, A Bird Is Inside by Dan Sheehan

Oh holy hell that’s a bird.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Someone must have left the back door open or something. Oh Jesus this is going to ruin dinner. Who left that goddamn door open?

Are you supposed to touch birds? I read somewhere you’re not supposed to touch birds. I think they have diseases or something? I don’t know. What if it’s endangered, isn’t it illegal to touch the endangered ones? No, Carol, I do not know what an endangered bird looks like.

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Mastering Surf-Engine Optimization by Manny Manningham, with introduction from Nick Martin

"I make a(n) (e)-zine collecting digital garbage culled from the internet called, Mechanical Yammering. Recently, I’ve been soliciting submissions. I received a .txt e-book from a Mr. M. Manningham, at an otherwise anonymous email address ( He has asked I excerpt his work on a website dedicated to e-commerce, in hopes of finding a suitable illustrator for collaboration.

I’ll let you read the book for yourself, only prefacing that the text has absolutely nothing to do with search engine optimization."

-Nick Martin

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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