Interview: Brian McGovern of the Mike's Hard's Hard Laughs Festivade Sketch Comedy Festival

Brian McGovern, formerly of the popular local sketch team The Other Other Guys, is one of the curators behind the Mike's Hard's Hard Laughs Festivade Sketch Comedy Festival, which takes over the Upstairs Gallery tomorrow, (Saturday 1/12). The lineup features performances from Sovereign, TV Screams, Morgan Lord & Anthony Oberbeck, Claire Mulaney, Gary Richardson, and John Reynolds, plus drink specials from mixologist Carmen Christopher.

The Steamroller: What's your relationship with the Chicago comedy scene (and the sketch scene in particular)?
Brian McGovern: I love the sketch scene in the city. It's a deceptively small group of super hard-working people. When you see 10,000 performers from 2,000 groups are performing at Chicago Sketchfest it makes it seem like sketch is this booming, over-saturated thing. But then you look at the lineup, and see the people and groups that are out there hustling for the 50 other weeks in the year, maybe like a dozen stick out from that list. I want the sketch scene to be more vibrant and be populated by 10,000 people, but it seems like a lot of performers need a big festival, or a contest, or an audition to feel motivated to write anything.
That's the real scene to me. And admittedly I'm excluding what might be just as awesome of a community by not including whatever is happening in the minor leagues of Second City, but I'm most interested in people who are at it all the time, pushing past singing about relationship clichés, or performing sketches called "Crazy Blind Date" and "The Third Thing I'm Going to Say Is Going to Be the Funniest, I Promise You." Not that those can't work. I mean guys, blind dates ARE crazy... and the third thing is ALWAYS the funniest.
TS: You were a member of The Other Other Guys, a team that a lot of folks were fans of, what was the reasoning behind your dissolution last year?
BM: Two founding members, Eric Roth and Eric Siegel, moved to L.A. I think it was good timing though. We had been developing a style and voice since we started working together and we really hit our stride while doing The Other Other Show at iO. Every month was new and the shows became less about making sketches and more about trying to pull off these absurd, sprawling narratives. I loved it, but it felt appropriate to retire that before it destroyed us or got stale.
TS: What are you working on these days?
BM: I am working on a show with Devin Bockrath (also from The Other Other Guys) that will run at iO in February. It will be crazy. I'm also directing a show by the sketch duo Sovereign that starts on Jan. 18 at CIC. There will be nudity.
I am also the least funny and confident cast member at Holy Fuck Comedy Hour at Annoyance and I run a weekly sketch variety show at CIC called All of It All the Time with Mike Klasek. I haven't really contributed much to this site, but you can see my headshot at
TS: You work for Jellyvision writing for You Don't Know Jack, what's an average day for you like over there?
BM: Sorry, I just got distracted thinking about how crazy blind dates are. Think of all the personality quirks that person might have! And you wouldn't know until you get to the restaurant! Not only that, but there could be a waiter that is both unrealistically sassy AND attentive!
Anyways, an average day at Jellyvision consists of reminding people they can play YOU DON'T KNOW JACK on Facebook and their Apple Devices!!! Lately though I've mostly been working on this new game that everyone will love.
TS: What was the inspiration for Mike's Hard's Hard Laughs Festivade Sketch Comedy Festival? Is there a common thread connecting the various performers on the lineup?
BM: I brought up Sketchfest earlier and the only reason I'm bringing it up again is because the common thread of this show is that nearly all of it's performers had to politely decline the opportunity to perform at Sketchfest. We would have paid the $50 it costs to apply. We would have bugged our friends to pay $14 to see us play. We would have sold out shows for multiple years in the past only to be denied from performing at this year's festival. We would have done all of that, but then I got a call from Mike's Hard Lemonade.
TS: How did you come to work with Mike's Hard?
BM: Mike's Hard Lemonade is a great company. Mike's Hard is really dedicated to supporting local artists who exhibit the same HARD EDGE and BITING ATTITUDE that is consistent with their brand. All of the performers at the Festivade (including John Reynolds, TV Screams, Sovereign, Gary Richardson, and Morgan Lord & Anthony Oberbeck) all perform refreshing and thirst-quenching sketch comedy that leaves you feeling as good as you would feel after taking a shot of grain alcohol filtered through a stack of tangy Airheads.
So when their head of alternative-marketing, Margaret Demonvessel, called me up I was honestly surprised at being surprised. It really is the perfect fit for a perfect night of comedy. So they graciously gave us the funds to put up the show at Upstairs Gallery ($10,000) and the rest is Hard-story (which is Mike's Hard Lemonade's edgy-revisionist view of history).
Anthony Oberbeck said it best when I approached him about performing, "If life gives you hard things, make hard lemonade." And let me tell you, this Festivade is going to be standing at attention, ready to chip a tooth.
TS: What can an audience member expect when coming out to the show this weekend?
BM: Because of Mike's Hard Lemonade's generous ($10,000) donation, people can expect to see FREE comedy at Upstairs Gallery starting at 8 p.m. They can also expect a couple of folks from the Mike's Hard Lemonade company popping in to talk about the product and why it's always been the most important part of the alternative comedy scene, even if no one has known it.
The head of mixology from Mike's Hard Lemonade, Carmen Christopher, will be there teaching everyone how dope mixed drinks can be once they get hard, Mike's-style. Also the P.R. extraordinaire, Margaret Demonvessel (who looks an awful like local comedian/improviser Claire Mulaney) will also be there. Basically it will be the best night of sketch comedy this two week period in January has ever seen. And that's a hard promise.