The Steamroller's best of 2013

My favorite part of doing this website is getting to spotlight the work being done by the most talented people in the hugely exciting and talented Chicago comedy community. I reached out to a bunch of these people and other friends of The Steamroller to share their top five favorite people, places, and things from Chicago comedy 2013. Check out a huge list of top fives, as well as my personal list, below!

Matt Byrne

Favorite thing: The Late Live Show

This shouldn't be a shock to anyone familiar with The Steamroller. The Late Live Show was the best comedy show of any kind in Chicago, and now it lives in L.A., where Real Actual Famous People are guests (like Mad Men's Rich Sommer and Freaks and Geeks' Samm Levine). The final run of shows earlier this year at iO were some of the funniest, most well-executed nights of comedy I've ever seen; it was so exciting to see a collective with such a strong, specific comedic voice come into their own in front of packed houses week after week. They're coming back next month for a handful of shows at iO and SketchFest, and I couldn't be more excited.

Favorite festival: A Jangleheart Circus

I can't believe how perfect A Jangleheart Circus was. On paper, a three day festival of improv and sketch from over 100 (mostly local) independent teams and performers might sound well intentioned but ultimately unrealistic. In real life, it was electrifying proof of the power of Chicago's underground improv comedy scene. Endless congratulations are due to the festivals' organizers, Alex, Walt, and Caitlin, the folks responsible for making the Upstairs Gallery the palace of comedy it is. Jangleheart packed an unbelievable number of friendly, clued-in comedy people (performers and fans alike) into one venue, filling out shows on three separate stages, distilling everything that's cool and energizing about SketchFest into one no bullshit Summer weekend.

Favorite one-off/concept show: Henry Soapfloats' Funeral/HIJINKS November (tie)

I've written a whole bunch about both Hijinks (the monthly show produced by Two Bunnies Eating Flowers and Sovereign at the Public House Theater) and Henry Soapfloats' funeral (organized by local standup Ian Abramson) on here, so, again, this should come as no surprise. Ian Abramson's Funeral For A Prop Comic was a delightfully absurd, fully realized vision put on in a death trap of a basement, featuring some of the funniest, strangest up-and-coming standups in the city flexing their solo sketch muscles.

I posted a breathless wrapup of The HIJINKS Trolley Show earlier this month, and want to reiterate one last time that it was one of the most delightful things I'd ever seen, made all the more special considering of the pitch-black darkness the two teams behind HIJINKS are generally known for. It felt like one of those shows that, in 15 years, 300 people will talk about as if they were there. They weren't.

Favorite internet thing: Garfbert

Yes Yes Garfbert Yes!

Favorite audience member: Fard Muhammad/Katie McVay (tie)

Fard and Katie are two of the biggest assets to any audience in Chicago. The effect of Fard's tremendous, purely delighted laugh, which can be heard soundtracking most, if not all footage from the Late Live Show (normally punctuated by Andrew Smreker's shrieks of joy), is amplified tenfold by his unwavering proclivity for grabbing a seat in the (normally vacant) front row at every comedy show.

It goes without saying that Katie's one of my favorite comics working in Chicago right now, with perspective that perfectly vacillates between crippling self-consciousness and a total lack thereof. As an audience member, she's often struck by fits of boisterous laughter so ridiculous and sincere, that fellow audience members are enabled to comfortably indulge in their own unhinged enjoyment, which is an incredible thing to watch happen.

First Annual Steamroller Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award: The Lincoln Lodge

Had the window for best of submissions not closed a few days before it was announced that The Lincoln Restaurant was closing and thus The Lincoln Lodge was suddenly cast out into the void, in search of a new home base, most of the lists below would look a lot different.

I'm working on a longer thing about The Lodge's enduring influence and continued greatness, but for now, I'm going to have to speak for all those on this list and beyond: The Lincoln Lodge was (and is, it's not dead) an incredibly important, reliably awesome home for weird, interesting comedy in Chicago throughout the 21st century. Lodge Papa Mark Geary, along with his myriad cast members, worked to create something wholly unique and good. I'm confident that they will find a new home and continue to support and create great comedy well into the future.

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A short thing before this Friday's fundraiser

There's a special fundraising show this Friday (11/16) at saki for Joe McAdam's Aunt and Uncle, whose home in Brick, New Jersey was completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The show features standup from Junior Stopka, Will Miles, CJ Toledano, and Joe Kwaczala, and music from Gabe Liebowitz from Dastardly. We've also received several generous prize donations from local businesses like Second City, The Owl, The Music Box Theatre, and more, which we'll be raffling off at the show.

If you'd like to make a donation but can't come out to the show, head over to Joe's website and click the giant "donate" button in the top left corner.

What follows is a brief piece from Joe about his family and his personal connection to New Jersey.

My aunt and uncle along with their two boys just lost their home the other day to Hurricane Sandy.  It seems hard to even imagine completely losing your house, but I've seen the pictures, there was about 5 feet of water in their living room and it completely destroyed nearly everything they owned.

I'm racking my brain to think of a comparable situation I may have been in.  One time someone stole my clothes at a party, it was weird.  That might be the closest.  

It's hard to imagine a place you used to visit being gone.  I went to their home a lot as a kid, it was my favorite place.  

My aunt Krissy McAdam was always "the fun aunt".  She is a lot younger than my dad and had Grateful Dead posters and a Nintendo.  I remember meeting her husband for the first time too.  He showed up with literally a car's trunk full of candy.  I'm not kidding at all.  To this day, I've never seen such a thing.

My memories of visits with her are some of my favorites, she would always take me out to the boardwalk to go on rides, play carny games and all the other Jersey-type fun.  She used to own a pseudo-head shop store that sold bootleg concerts and incense and all that, and it was my favorite place to hang out.  I'd sit around there all day learning juggling sticks or something.  She let me be in a parade float for her store one time too.  I got to dress up like a Grateful Dead bear and ride a jet ski on the bed of a truck.  This sounds weird and looking back, it was.  To me New Jersey was like an entire state that was an amusement park.  Now I know that it's just Jersey, but my aunt and uncle made it the best place imaginable to a kid.

Even growing up and visiting as a teenager was great.  I remember having one of my first beers at that house (if you tell my dad, I'll fucking kill you.  Also if you tell him about the swearing, well, that's not exactly cool either.)

The point is, my aunt Krissy and her family have been really important to me.  They've been extremely generous and have always been some of the most welcoming and loving people I know.  As a young nephew you're rarely in the position to do something to return the favor.  But right now they need some support to get back on their feet and rebuild.  I'm a broke comic, but I have a lot of good-hearted friends so I figured I'd use the only real skill I have, tricking people into laughing, to help them out.  I know what I'm able to give back pales in comparison to what they've given me, but I feel like they don't even want me to dress them up like Dead bears at this point anyway.

-Joe McAdam