The artwork of Bill Werch: An appreciation post

Bill Werch is a familiar face if you've ever been to a show at saki, he's been a huge supporter of the shop and an all-around solid dude.  He's also a super talented artist, who we (me and the folks at saki and Joe McAdam) have been lucky enough to work with over the last few months. He's designed the last handful of posters for Creative Control (which is coming to an end soon!), and they've been consistently great. Check out a gallery of his work for Creative Control below! 

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You, Me, Them, Everybody's Best of 2012

Brandon Wetherbee's formerly Chicago-based podcast, You, Me, Them, Everybody was one of my first experiences with Chicago's comedy and arts scene when I moved here in 2010. Now it's 2013, Brandon lives in Washington D.C. and mostly records the show there, with occasional trips back to Chicago.

What I like most about YMTE was the show's amorphous format. In a live setting, it assumes the form of a late night talk show, and while recordings of these live shows are the most frequently released episodes, there are occasional one-on-one interviews and themed episodes like the recently released Best of 2012 collections.

The Best of Comedy episode features the 11 best stand up sets from YMTE Live in 2012, hosted by Wetherbee and his new friend Adam Friedland. Friedland is a very funny D.C.-based comic who's become such a regular on the show that there's an entire Best of 2012: Adam Friedland episode devoted to the weird characters and bits he's done for the show. 

A solid bunch of Chicago standup regulars like Katie McVay and Liza Treyger appear on the countdown, plus some D.C. talent that I'm not familiar with but mostly enjoyed. The #1 spot goes to a ridiculous character bit from Joe McAdam, which, when replayed here, made me laugh as much as the first time I heard it a few months ago.

Subscribe to You, Me, Them, Everybody on iTunes.

The art of Kind of Blue comedy

Kind of Blue, a monthly showcase at the Hideout, is kicking off their 2013 season tomorrow night (Saturday, January 5) with a killer lineup featuring Danny Kallas, Junior Stopka, Jeff Steinbrunner, Nicholas Rouley, and Joe McAdam. One of my favorite things about the show (other than their keen lineup building skills and awesome venue) is the screen printed posters that ape the classic style of Blue Note-era jazz albums. Rouley, who designs the posters and helps produce the show, wrote in to explain the show's background and the process of creating of these seriously nice prints.

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The Year in Review

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.

"Another last Friday of the month, another Creative Control at saki."

We've done this Creative Control thing 6 or 7 times at this point, and I feel like the show's never been better. Joe McAdam does a killer job hosting and building an eclectic lineup of performers, and it's pretty heartwarming to see a community of comics and regular humans has built around the show, with a large percentage of folks consistently coming out each month.

November's show features another ridiculously strong bill, and with a few acts I've never actually seen perform before, which is always exciting for me, personally.

We've got standup from Matt Drufke, Michael Joyce, Candy Lawrence, Andrew Smreker, and former Chicagoan, current LA resident, Kevin Lee, as well as sketch or other bizzare shit from Christina Boucher and Chris Stephens, and music from local weirdo rockers Oshwa

Powell Brew House, a Chicago-based brewers' collective, has been kind enough to offer up their homebrews for sampling, free of charge. All they ask is for a small tip, which they split with the show's performers. I can't explain how much I love that they're doing this, and am really happy to be working with such forward-thinking and generous folks. 

Creative Control November is this Friday, 11/30 at 8pm. The show's totally free, as always, but you should definitely bring money for donations/tips. It's the least you can do. saki is at 3716 W. Fullerton. See you there.