I was sitting on the bus the other night when I had a pretty interesting thought. I thought, hey, it would be really nice to have a boner right now. I wasn’t even aroused, it just seemed like a prime boner time. Lonely bus, sitting in the back row, had the back row all to myself. A boner would be interesting right now. It would keep me company. A boner would be my friend. But I’ll never have a boner, because I don’t have a penis.Read More
Josh B. Mabe is the producer of Sprocket Hole/Speaker Box, a super eclectic bimonthly variety show that started out at the Hideout before relocating to Township. In advance of this Sunday's edition of the show (known as "The Wordy Show"), I talked to Josh about his comedy background and the development of the show.
Sprocket Hole/Speaker Box is Sunday, May 5 at 8pm at Township, and features 16mm films from Dana Hodgdon, Emily Hubley, and Alan Beattie, Music from Advance Base, and performances from local comedians Beau Golwitzer, Caitlin Bergh, Shannon Cason, and Halle Butler.Read More
Caitlin Bergh remains one of my favorite contributors to The Steamroller, as well as one of my favorite comics in Chicago. She's remounting her one woman show, Chunks, at Powell's Bookstore every Saturday from April 20th (that's this weekend!) until May 11th, at 7:30pm. This June, the show will be a part of the second annual Chicago Women's Funny Festival and will be hitting the road as a part of Core Project Chicago. Caitlin sent over this story to run in advance of the new string of dates, with a brief explanation about the story's context as it fits into Chunks.Read More
The cast of The Lincoln Lodge heads north to Rogers Park for a special standup showcase at Mayne Stage tomorrow night (Wednesday March 27th). Tickets can be purchased by clicking here, be sure to use the code word LODGE when checking out for $5 off your order. In advance of the show, I sent over three questions to be answered by all nine Lodge members.Read More
Goodrich Gevaart is a very funny, very friendly standup who co-produces Performance Anxiety, a monthly standup showcase at The Pleasure Chest, an upscale sex shop in Lakeview. Even in the year 2013, a standup showcase in the back of a shop that sells dildos is a bit unusual, or even off putting to some folks. That's why, in advance of tonight's edition of Performance Anxiety, Goodrich sent over the answers to a few frequently asked questions about the show.Read More
If I could, I'd run a piece from Caitlin Bergh every day on here. So few local performers work with such a well developed voice; her self-effacing, reflective style is unrivaled here in Chicago. Caitlin was nice enough to send over this story to run in advance of her new one woman show, CHUNKS, which can be seen every Sunday this month at Studio Be. Tickets links and more information about the show can be found here.
When it comes to relationships with women, I don’t think any word describes me better than “desperate.” Because I’ve been out now for about 4 years, my desperation has significantly decreased. But during my first few years of finally knowing what gender I wanted to date, my desperation around beautiful women was palpable on my skin like a heavy perfume.
My initial desperation is perfectly encapsulated by a very strange night I spent with the first girl I casually dated, who I will call Anna. I was really, really into Anna. Why? I had just come out, been rejected by the “love of my life” (the girl I came out for), and was now, for the first time, desperately looking to date other girls. Anna happened to be the first girl in my tracks.
Anna knew that I was into her, and she was both scared and excited. The first time we hung out, she told me she had just gotten out of a bad relationship. But all I heard was, “hey I’m beautiful, you should pursue me.” The second time we hung out, she told me she needed to be alone because she was trying to figure out whether she wanted to date men or women. But all I heard was “I’m open to dating women. Also, I’m still beautiful.” The third time we hung out, we decided to go out “cruising for chicks” together. Of course, all I wanted to cruise for was her.
We went to Berlin nightclub and Anna challenged me to get three numbers. I agreed. We started drinking and dancing until, several hours later, she realized I hadn’t gotten any numbers and jokingly got mad at me for it. “Honestly,” I said, “it’s hard for me to be interested in these girls when you’re here, and I’d so much rather be getting a number from you.” By number, of course, I really meant amazing sex, lifelong commitment, maybe a few kids and a dog.
Anna looked surprised and walked over to the bar without saying anything. Then she came back and said “Caitlin, I feel the same way.” She put her hand on my hip and pushed me into the wall of Berlin, forcing my exposed back into contact with about 8 million STDs. But I didn’t care if I got back chlamydia, because she kissed me. It was the best kiss of my life.
Anna took me home that night and we made out dramatically on her bed.
We started going on dates regularly, always ending with dramatic make-out sessions on her bed. It was too good to be true. Really. Because soon I found out that I was not the only one coming home with her every other night. So was a guy named Jon.
As it turned out, Anna was figuring out if she wanted to date men or women by dating one of each of us for a “trial period.” Kind of like Netflix. I knew there was no way I could compete with Jon. He wasn’t better; we were just different. We had different body parts, different personalities. I couldn’t compete with an MBA student with a dick, and I didn’t want to.
If I had had any self-respect, I would have told Anna that I needed to know which of us she wanted before it went any further and I got hurt. But I just wanted to keep making out with her. Dramatically. One night we came home to her apartment to find roses from Jon, and it was just too painful. I told her I wanted to be with her. She told me she was ending it with both Jon and me, because she still couldn’t figure out what she wanted. I was devastated. I sobbed uncontrollably in a public restroom.
A few nights later Anna called me from a bar and asked me to come out. Maybe this was it! She had had her space (a few nights) and had picked me! I dressed cute and went to see her. We had a few drinks and she invited me home.
We got to her apartment and I started to kiss her. “Stop!” she said. “What?” I asked, “isn’t this why you invited me over?” “No,” she said, “I just didn’t want you walking home alone so late. I still need space Caitlin. I can’t make out with you or Jon.” “So, you want me to just sleep on the couch?” I asked. “No,” she said, hugging me, “sleep in bed with me.” My head was about to explode from all the mixed signals.
In bed, she grabbed me and started kissing me again. Then she pulled herself away and said, “I can’t! I need to take time.” Then she did something unbelievable. She grabbed her retainers off of the nightstand and aggressively put them in her mouth. “There,” she said, lisping, “now I can’t kiss you.” “Are you telling me,” I asked, “that you brought me home, invited me into your bed, started kissing me, and then put your retainers in to keep YOURSELF away from ME?” “Yes,” she said with a lisp. I was in shock. No one had ever tried to repulse me with orthodontia before; it was beyond insulting.
“Anna, good luck,” I said, getting my stuff. “One last kiss?” she asked, gesturing that she could remove the retainers. I leaned in and kissed her without even thinking. The feeling of someone’s retainers on your tongue with the knowledge that she put them there to keep herself away from you—that’s what it feels like to be desperate.
Now that the year is (almost) officially over, I figured a wrapup of some of my favorite things from 2012 would be something worth writing. The Steamroller was launched in September, but I've been a fan of the folks featured on this site for much longer. What follows is a list of Chicago comedy-related things that were great in 2012.
Best local comedy podcast
This one is a tie. My jealousy of the brilliantly simple concept behind the Standup Mixtape is on record in the Chicago Tribune and continues to this day. Co-producers Cameron Esposito and Justin Schwier brought comedy into the recording studio, Good One style, for great sounding half-hour sets from some of my favorite local acts to be podcasted and sold as limited run cassettes. They just recently wrapped up their first season, hopefully we'll see another run in 2013.
Shortly before James Fritz left Chicago for the greener pastures of Los Angeles, his podcast You Could Be Dead was regularly topping itself with each episode. The show's threadbare concept (Fritz and a couple friends riff on a handful of current events and news items) occasionally devolved into insane bits of transcendent silliness. The show's on hiatus for the time being, but there are some real gems worth checking out from the couple dozen episodes produced. Some personal favorites include episodes from 9/28/12 (with The Puterbaugh Sisters), 9/10/12 (with Chad Briggs), 7/16/12 (with Jet Eveleth & Erin Foy), and 7/11/12 (with Joe McAdam and Danny Kallas). Though some of the topics discussed may be old news at this point, the bits make it totally worth it.
Best new standup album
Look, another tie! Adam Burke's Universal Squirrel Theory and Beth Stelling's Sweet Beth were two of my favorite standup albums without qualification this year. That these two are from Chicago speaks volumes for the depth of talent working in this city.
I'm sure we can all agree that the concept of "nerd comedy" is pretty repellent on its surface. That being said, Universal Squirrel Theory is comedy written by an uncompromisingly smart person, with highbrow references and turns of phrase free of any self-congratulation, making for a sort of best case scenario nerd humor. Burke's charm and smarts are unrivaled in Chicago comedy, and we're lucky to have him.
While Beth Stelling is technically an L.A. resident at this point, this record's too strong to go without mention in this piece. Sweet Beth showcases her endless likability and short form storytelling chops. The album's perfectly capped off with ten minutes of riffing with her former Entertaining Julia cohosts, The Puterbaugh Sisters, making for a charming close to a very strong debut record.
Best trend that should continue into the new year
2012 has seen a ton of new shows in nontraditional venues. While shows like The Lincoln Lodge and The Kates have been carrying the weird venue torch for years at this point, there's been a slew of awesome standup showcases popping up in places that aren't bars throughout Chicago.
The folks behind Congratulations on Your Success, The Funny Story Show, Performance Anxiety, and Creative Control (which I help produce [full disclosure]), have taken to bookstores, tea lounges, sex shops, and record stores, respectively, producing donation based, BYOB shows that are generally free of aggro douchebags and bar minimums. Keep it up, everyone.
Best festival that local club owners & talent buyers should learn something from
While Chicago is second-to-none in creating, developing, and fostering comedic talent, it's not exactly known for bringing through a lot of huge names after they've blown up. For two weeks in June, Just For Laughs approximates what it'd be like if Chicago clubs were actually interested in regularly booking unique, creative comedy shows.
If a character based panel show hosted by a conspiracy-obsessed Jesse Ventura (James Adomian) can sell out The Hideout with essentially zero advertising or promotion beyond the JFL website, there's no reason live podcast tapings and other idea-driven shows from medium-famous comedy folks wouldn't do just as well at venues like Lincoln Hall or Up with the proper promotion.
While I understand that a lot of these shows happen in NY and LA because the folks producing them live there and don't necessarily have to make a boatload of cash from each show, Just For Laughs has proved there is a base of comedy fans in Chicago willing to pay to see their favorite comedians (as well as unfamiliar faces) perform in nontraditional shows.
That is not to discount the work already being done here in the city; it's absolutely great that weird, conceptual shows like Impress These Apes, Shame That Tune, and The Late Live Show exist. They help local performers stretch their muscles in ways open mics and showcases don't and are generally a shitload of fun.
The folks from the Tomorrow Never Knows festival are leading the charge in 2013 for more nontraditional live comedy shows from recognizable names, by welcoming back the Delocated Witness Protection Program Variety Show after a ridiculous JFL show, as well as a Low Times Podcast taping and a straightforward standup show featuring Kurt Braunohler and Cameron Esposito. I, for one, am planning on hitting up all three. Maybe I'll see you there.
November's edition of The Funny Story Show, a hybrid storytelling and standup show at The Looseleaf Lounge in Lakeview, is tomorrow (11/8). In advance of tomorrow's show, Caitlin Bergh, TFSS' host and producer, submitted the following true story to run here, saying "I tried to write a story that I would (and will) tell at The Funny Story Show. If it's too vulgar/out there, feel free to tell me and I can send you something more tame! But it is true to what I would say on stage."Read More