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!
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.
Initially I was going to write a stupid joke list, but then I realized I’d be missing out on a rad opportunity to shine a light on some stuff that gets me excited about comedy in Chicago. I’m not shit, but I feel blessed to be any part of the Chicago stand up scene. Here’s a small sample of things that get me stoked. Big ups to all those in Chicago that are keeping the underground lit!
Best comedian: Candy Lawrence
Candy Lawrence completely dominated the stage in 2013. I saw her do a ton of sets this year and she made me laugh my ass off every single time. Candy has this ability to weave her jokes in and out of heavy stream of consciousness riffage, leading the audience down a very weird and personal rabbit hole. If that weren't enough, it's pretty clear she's having a blast doing it. When she headlined Freak Happening a few months ago she noticed a security camera behind the stage mid coming out of the closet joke and launched into an impromptu "It gets better" video. It was so funny I truly feel sorry for anyone that wasn't there.
Best pro: Mike Lebovitz
In my eyes, Lebo is hands down the rawest comedian amongst us. Every single time Mike gets on stage he's clearly having more fun than anyone else in the room and his attitude is infectious as chicken pox. Even if a room is shitty he gets 'em moving and when they're hot he shows them no mercy! How can one dude make such brilliant insights on the human condition, while continuously making us think about his dick? Even the way he holds the mic is stylish. It's like watching a pool shark lay down some heavy english. Whenever I watch Lebo casually destroy a room it gets me hyped! Mike goes all out and motivates me to come out swinging.
Best one off show: Brent Weinbach at The Beat Kitchen September 23rd
Perfect show. Candy Lawrence hosting and Mike Lebovitz featuring sweetened the deal, but then Brent Weinbach completely blew my mind. As a fan of comedy, he had be laughing so hard three of his jokes brought me to tears, straight up. Very weird, silly jokes. Without spoiling it, his opener got the whole audience playing together as a unit then made them laugh before he spoke a single word. Very inspiring.
I once heard Dana Gould say in an interview that the key to good stand up is to always have fun on stage because the moment you’re not having fun, the audience isn’t having fun. Danielle and Tiffany Puterbaugh take that theory and run like hell with it. Add their no rules approach to running a show and you get one good ass, freewheelin’ time. The funny thing with EJ is that some people are afraid of the room, stating it can be one of the hardest, most polarizing crowds in town. This only applies the second you stop being fun. Its comedy and its supposed to be FUN, you serious Stanleys. That’s why we’re continuously hanging out till last call in Boystown on a Sunday night.
Best thing I ended up doing on stage a lot this year that I didn't see coming: Kissing tons of dudes on the mouth
Somehow it just happened. I kissed some many boys on stage this year you'd think I had an agenda. I honestly don't know how it happened, but off the top of my head I can think of at least six different dudes I smooched on stage. It was usually spontaneous and the one time it was scripted it was necessary in my favorite ending to a bit ever where I frenched Dan Drees and we ran off stage holding hands, leading to Joe McAdam delivering the closing line, “What the hell just happened? I’m pretty sure that guy is gonna go fuck my son.” On top of that, it also got people turned on. I’ve always frowned on people trading laughs for applause breaks, but I get it now that I’m trading laughs for hard / wide ons.
Best representation of Chicago comedy: Danny Kallas
Danny Kallas is flat out one of my favorite comedians ever. His accent is so thick it makes Bill Swerski’s Superfans look like posers. He’s a part of Comedians You Should Know, which is always the first show I tell people to see when they ask me where to go see great local comedy. He lays out really clever bits and then unloads with the silliest punchlines you’ve ever heard. Like Candy, he’s one of those comedians that I always watch when they’re on stage and I suggest you do the same.
My Top Five Favorite Artists of 2013
Allen Stewart Konigsberg: Probably the most prolific artist on this list (with the last entry being an exception I suppose). This guy has really pushed himself in the past year, giving us some of his best stuff to date.
Robert Van Winkle: This guy is the city's best kept secret. It's amazing to me that an artist this hot can keep so cool on the radars of the press for so long. If you haven't heard his stuff, you need to go out and buy the cassette immediately.
Jerome Silberman: Jerome is funny. Hilarious even. But he brings so much more to each performance. You laugh, but you really feel his pain, and his struggle. Watching him makes me as happy as a kid in a candy factory.
Arthur Stanley Jefferson: It took me till 2013 to realize what a genius this guy is. Whether he's using his words, or making a simple gesture, it's incredible what he manages to accomplish.
Plant Cell: Seriously, if you guys haven't seen Plant Cell work, you need to find a video on YouTube right now. You'll laugh so long, you'll produce enough carbon dioxide to keep Plant Cell going for another ten years.
Two Bunnies Eating Flowers' Favorite Things in 2013 (in no particular order):
A Jangleheart Circus (The Other Other Jangleheart Show in particular was awesome!)
Spend Some Time with Jamison Webb
The Late Live Show, these clips in particular:
I am famously pessimistic about the state of Chicago comedy as you know but I have cobbled together these 5 things from my limited interactions with the scene. In no particular order....
Any time a famous Chicago alumni comes back home to perform in independent shows: Eff seeing them on TV - who cares? - on stage in Chicago is where they will always belong.
Those silly Puterbaugh Sisterz alwayz make me laugh: They even auctioned off themselves to raise money for Candy Lawrence's dad.
Annoyance Theater raises $65K in 5 days (or whatever it was): Proof that community and 'the team' is what counts. Are you listening, stand up kids?
Blewt! productions continues its crazy train: My fave scenesters consistently show how to make it happen.
Junior Stopka buys a hat: Chicago's own industry insider finally comes of age and eschews those teenage hoodies for a 'fancy chapeau' (said in Junior Stopka foppish comedy voice).
top 5 times i wanted to kill myself after a show (in descending order!):
5. SAND did a really good show at upstairs gallery and i was like, oh this show is too good, i should kill myself.
4. i went to shithole and it was the best time. those young kids are so cool and i am not cool and so that i thought i should kill myself. i ride my bike around, so i rode recklessly home, but there were no cars out. opportunity missed!
3. i was watching gary's goodbye show and he and feldmanowski were really killing it and i got real sad about being single and was like, oh i should kill myself. i DIDN'T, and then the next night i thought the same thing so i took a bunch xanax and took a nap and it's okay i'm still here (and single, BOYYYYYZZZZ).
on july 9, 2013, illinois enacted the firearm concealed carry act. but did you know you can just go to wisconsin and drive back to illionoise and just not register a gun!!!!!!
2. one time i thought i solved improv and like i had a real good iO HAROLD SHOW and it was great and a packed hot house and i thought i should kill myself so that i can die a legend. and i had just gotten back from wisconsin, you know what that means! but i forgot to buy bullets.
1. jangleheart made me happy real happy so happy i thought i should kill myself so i can be happy in dirt forever. and i finally had those bullets!!! KABLOWWEY!!!
**This is Steph Cook appearing out of character. I've laughed and joked around about suicide a lot but if you're ever feeling suicidal please check out http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for helpful tips and games but if you're a hot guy who's suicidal then hit me up on tinder.com/stephcook
Favorite New Show: Freak Happening
Freak Happening is run by two of my best friends, Nick Rouley and Goodrich Gevaart (who also co-produces 8x8 at the Hungry Brain with me), and Mr. Steamroller himself, Matt Byrne. Cronyism aside, I think it's one of the most fun shows around. They write new material each month, they aren't afraid to get very silly, and there's frequent, male nudity. It's everything I want in a comedy show.
Favorite Non-Comedian Doing Comedy: Brian Costello
Brian Costello is the drummer for Chicago psych pop band Outer Minds and he doesn't really do comedy, except that when he does, he's great at it. He and Abraham Levitan host Shame That Tune, a monthly, music and story-based game show that mines childhood trauma for material. Neither of them have any comedy experience outside of this show, yet it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. He's also open to doing hilarious character pieces, like he did at the November 14th edition of my show, 8x8 at the Hungry Brain.
Favorite Comedy As Art Experience: Entertaining Julia
Whenever the Puterbaugh Sisters throw a theme show where every comic has to be a witch or talk about Tinder or audition for their fake comedy festival, I wonder if comics in other cities get to have as much fun as we do. I'm almost certain they don't.
Favorite Comic Doing Jokes I Wish I'd Written: Liza Treyger
In general, Liza and I have very different styles, but the jokes she's been doing lately about her dissatisfaction with dating are so universal and upsettingly true that I want to trip her and steal her notebook. The way she tears into men's unearned confidence while still cracking them up makes me believe we could all do better.
Favorite Thing I Do: Comedy Secrets
I run a couple of shows at the Hungry Brain--like 8x8, the first Thursday of every month--but Comedy Secrets will probably always be my favorite. I host it with my sidekick--usually Andy Fleming, unless he's sick with "allergies". We kick off the show by sharing the saddest things that happened to us that month, then 3 people tell secret stories, a panel grills them afterward, and there are some weird bits scattered throughout. The stories get really dark sometimes--we've cried onstage more than once--so the audience has to take an oath of secrecy at the top of the show. Is this an abuse of my top 5 list? I love this show so much that I don't even care.
Jangleheart Circus: The dream version of what things could be. But it was real. The Upstairs Gallery family really put something special together.
Holy Fuck Comedy Hour: I really hope this show returns in some form or another when The Annoyance returns. Which reminds me...
The Annoyance: They closed their Uptown theater and are in the process of building a new space on Belmont. Mick and Jen give people a chance to do whatever they want. This year people got the chance to help Mick and Jen do what they wanted and helped crowd fund their new theater.
Double Feature: "You got stand up in my sketch!" "You got sketch in my stand up!" A really fun concept run by a great group of people.
Leaving Chicago: It seemed like a lot of people left in the last year. Many of them left because they got jobs which is kind of amazing. Others left because they wanted to try doing what they do on a larger stage. I hate seeing my friends leave but I love hearing about their success. If you think its time to move you're probably right.
Top 5 things in my small corner of Chicago Comedy 2014
Improv program that more students should be checking out: Chemically Imbalanced Comedy
CIC has been around for a long time, but i’m really really excited about their improv program right now. They’ve brought lots of awesome younger-mid level improvisers onto their house teams. Right now, it’s like watching a group of your favorite up and coming players from other theaters on some sort fantasy dream team. “What would a scene between Mike Jimerson and Laurel Krabacher be like?” Now I can know! As is, any improv show at CIC is going to be really good and they are only going to get better the longer these teams are together. Yet, it seems like your average iO or Second City student doesn’t know about CIC, much less see shows there. I think a building dedicated to the craft first and foremost instead of a place people go as a stepping stone to get somewhere else deserves to be celebrated more than they are currently. These guys have their hearts firmly in the right place and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Improv team finally getting their due: Sand
If you didn’t know about them before you might know about them now, and pretty soon everyones going to know about them. I predict more shows at iO and more respect from newer/non-veteran/non-Gallery folks. Get on the bandwagon now so you can say you remember when!
Festival that I helped put together: Jangleheart Circus
This festival really floored me. It was so well run and the performances were insanely great. Amazingly curated and smoothly operated. 3 stages running from 7pm-3am Friday-Saturday? Performances from Cook County Social Club? Tim Baltz? and an Other Other guys reunion? ON TOP of performances from close to 90 other teams? Such amazing content. But really, the execution by the production staff was just incredible. You should go in 2014. I know I will
Trend I wish I saw more of: Performers watching shows/donating/buying drinks when they play at independent spots.
The independent scene in the city only exists because people people bust their ass. If no one is charging for tickets/supported by a training center then the producers are relying on donations or their hosts being happy. The gallery is a rental space, any donations in the jar goes to the renters. I would love to see more performers toss a little more in scratch towards the nights when they play. I know its not within the scope to toss in like 5 bucks every time someone plays, but like $2? $3? If more folks did it people would get way closer to breaking even. Likewise at barprov spots. Buy a few drinks, spread the love around. Let's keep the scene vibrant and make it easier for the people who put the legwork in to keep things running.
Thing that i’m sure most people hate but I love: Facebook Bits
FUCK THE HATERZ FACEBOOK BITS ARE FOREVER FUNNY AND AWESOME. The community really stepped up its game this year. Looking forward to many more in 2014 before Facebook becomes passe.
Bobby Budds' Internet presence: It's is a revelation.
Allllll the new shows and mics
Henry Soapfloats's sendoff: I couldn't perform because of The Lodge and I feel like I missed the comedy thing of the century.
The last Cook County Social Club show: I wasn't able to make it personally, but these guys have made me laugh so much over the last few years. It's a good thing they are all doing good things in comedy right now.
JFL's Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant and Mike O'Brien shows: I was so pumped to see all of the new SNL stars come back to Chicago and show us why they were all cast on SNL. It was a big year for Chicago comedy on SNL.
Late Live Show's last run: The Late Live show had been a Chicago staple for years. I had some how missed it up until January, but it's clear why it was so popular. I wish them the best in LA, but I wish they'd just come back for every show.
Cameron Esposito blowing up: She did some great stuff here in Chicago, but I root for her whenever I see her on TV, hear about her on blogs or read one of her incredible essays. She's gearing up to be one of the next big things in stand up and rightfully so, she's crazy smart and incredibly funny.
The Steamroller!: I've maintained that Matt Byrne does some of the best coverage of comedy in the city -- and the Tribune even has a weekly comedy column now (also fantastic). But the Streamroller lets comedians do what they want rather than just covering them.
When I think of my top favorite things about Chicago comedy in 2013 I just remember: SNACK!
S econd City matching every donation made to Annoyance's new theater space
N YTVF - Chicago was all over it!
A Jangleheart Circus
C oleman & Guy Scott
K araoke at Carol's Pub
(and if I had a spot for a sixth, I would add Joey Dundale's Hit the Road, SNACKS! bit)
The Late Live Show's 6th and final Chicago season at iO Chicago
Creative Control and Freak Happening at Saki: the Reggie Watts' instore performance as a wonderful one-time special.
Oh Theodora and Drew's Tumbler at the Public House Theater
Flabby at the Abbey at... well... The Abbey Pub
The Under Pressure Comedy Show Reunion at Pressure
Comedy Secrets at the Hungry Brain
The Funeral for Henry Soapfloats at the Parlour: This was probably the most unique comedy show I ever saw, and I even helped out with a special appearance by Dusty Harp.
Sarah Shockey's Top Five Favorite things from Chicago Comedy 2013 (not ranked!)
Ian Abramson: His stand up comedy (and his comedic mindset overall) is different from anything I've seen in town, or anywhere. His funeral for famed prop comedian Henry Soapfloats was one of the most wonderful and outrageous things I've ever been a part of. He gave Henry a "seven-gum" salute, while we all sat in a dank basement eating free Dimo's pizza and mourning.
Margolis and Reisman: My biggest inspiration in town for great music comedy. Boaz Reisman and Nicky Margolis are always coming up with new songs that are whimsical, specific, cutting, and hilarious. They are incredibly likeable and some of the kindest people out there.
Little Boys Room: New web comic by Stephen Winchell. It's outlandish, prudes be warned, but it speaks a truth most people are too scared to tell. Scooper Jr. (the protagonist) has a strong stance against reading, but a stronger one for skateboarding and causing a general awesome ruckus.
Facebook bits: I don't know. People have been funny on Facebook. Alex Nichols did this whole bit where he tagged a bunch of Facebook pages to make dismal poetry about Dilbert being a sad sad man. There are a million others, that one was my all-time favorite.
God Bless Oh Theodora: They have been a group that me and the Shock T's have grown up with, started around the same time, realized how much we liked each other around the same time, and now they're moving on. I love them so much - their sketches are always top notch, so unexpectedly hilarious. One time, Conor, for apparently no reason, in a sketch quoted an obscure line in the Muppets Christmas Carol, while referencing Death. "He takes his share, don't he?" He sure does. Merry Christmas everyone!
Comedy Secrets: I can say no more.
Candy Lawrence walking across the tables at Lincoln Lodge during Laughs for Lawrence
Every single little thing about Just for Rafts (but especially Just for Graphs)
Natalie Jose's "Do you know how fast you were eating?" quip at Once in a Lifetime: Untouchable!
And finally, this sign at the inaugural Freak Happening show
A Jangleheart Circus: I am constantly amazed at how supportive and energetic this community can be. The Upstairs Gallery has provided such a great home for both new and established talent, and this was a terrific event. A complete explosion of joy, and more proof that improvisation and sketch can thrive outside of Lakeview and Old Town.
Hijinks with Sovereign/Two Bunnies Eating Flowers: Their shows are the best. The Trolley show was one of the greatest theatrical experiences I have ever had. FUCKING FUN AND SMART AND DUMB ALL AT THE SAME TIME. If you don’t see their shows you are really missing out.
More new spaces: It feels like every week there is a new venue that is opening up or popping up. I haven’t been to the Shit Hole yet, but I hear great things. One of the beautiful things about improv and sketch is that you can do it anywhere. Also, it’s not technically 2013, but the Annoyance and IO are going to have shiny new spaces. I also love seeing Money and Flowers play the Den, and Kill All Comedy do shows at the Hideout. The Public House Theater has become a very supportive venue. It’s a big city and there is plenty of room to spread out.
Sketch and solo work: I feel that they are really getting their due now. Improvisation gets the big cult following, but sketch is an art form too, just as deserving of accolades and acolytes. There is so much good sketch happening right now.
The Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup: I don’t care that it’s not sketch or improv. It makes the top 5. I would have put Carmen Christopher’s Thunderdome here, which is a great variety show that mixes improv, stand-up, music, sketch and anything else into the mix. It gives people who don’t improvise together a chance to perform together, and gives people a chance to try out new material….but I won’t ‘cause that guy doesn’t need to get a swelled head.
A Jangleheart Circus: everything about this was so special, fun and smart in its execution. The great teams and wonderful energy and general calm of everyone in charge left me with feeling like I spent a very long friendly late night at the Upstairs Gallery.
The Annoyance and iO moving locations!: It was so exciting to see The Annoyance achieve their Kickstarter goal and I'm loving every update on the new space. 2014 is going to be a huge year for the theaters and community.
Rebecca Krasny's Locker Room: This is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my LIFE. She toured it around different shows over the summer and has plans to incorporate it into a larger work so if you missed it you'll get your chance. I've seen her do Locker Room three times so far and the reaction from the audience is always amazing. People scream, cry from laughter and because it's cathartic and have given her a standing ovation. She's fearless and hilarious and one of the secret treasures of the community. Be on the lookout.
Annie Donley: From her "Teake it of leave it advise" in The Steamroller to the Ladies Love Chocolate Cake stand up set to her characters that are specific, grotesque and real, to the way she walks into a karaoke bar, she is consistently turning out different, hilarious and fierce work.
The community and friendship: Man, this has been just a fantastic year in Chicago comedy. Everyone is working hard and hanging hard and I'm so happy to be a part of it.
Bonus: The Scott twins.
2013 was a great comedy year for me. I got to do a lot of really cool things and I definitely got way better as a performer. I traveled around the country a lot because I love to see new places and comedy is a great way to facilitate it. Chicago, however, is my home for this stuff. I love this city and there are so many fucking good comedians here. I didn't get to see as many things as I would have hoped because I got way busier as a performer and I got into a cool relationship with someone I love very much and sometimes you don't want to go out to just watch shows. But I should. A lot of this stuff I saw and loved so dearly were at shows I helped produce. This doesn’t tarnish my love for it. (And hopefuly it doesn’t make me come off like too much of a douche.)
Also a lot of this is from later in the year. I didn’t take any notes so some stuff that might have blew my mind was forgotten.
Matt asked me to write about five things and the more I thought about it the more I couldn't limit the great stuff I saw this year to just one category of five things.
So here's my stuff:
Top Five Performances I Personally saw in 2013
Sean White getting heckled by his dead family members at Freak Happening Halloween
Yes, this was a show I help produce with Nicholas Rouley and Matt Byrne (of the Steamroller Fortune) but goddamit this was one of the most amazing things I witnessed in comedy this year. I almost wrote about Sean White’s set about divorce at 2 Hour Comedy Hour’s 42x42 because it was such an inspired set on a truly overdone topic in comedy. Sean breathed a lot of new life into it and it was fun to watch.
But goddamn, having Tommy Mac play both Sean’s dead brother and sister first heckling him from the aptly titled “god” mic and then Tommy joining him on stage, covered in flour, giving Sean shit about his material...It’s one of those things that will probably never happen again and I’m so glad I got to see it.
The Last Late Live Show
This was such an exciting evening for everyone who was in the crowd. You could feel it, everyone so excited that they got a chance to see what we all thought would be the last episode of The Late Live Show. (They’ve returned their run in LA and are coming back to Chicago in January but I don’t think anyone involved thought that’s how it would work out) The show was very sold out and every joke hit extra hard, definitely because of how funny this show was, but with an extra boost because everyone in attendance knew they were lucky to witness a show that was SO GODDAMN GOOD.
Danny Kallas Headlining Freak Happening
Again, I helped put this show on, but goddamn Danny Kallas put on one of the best sets I’ve seen. Just so effortlessly funny. His crowd-work went so seamlessly into his material and goddamn if he didn’t end with talking about which bars in Chicago do not have soap in their bathrooms.
The “Toby” Sketch by Oh Theodora
I think they described this sketch as the dumbest thing they’ve ever written, but it’s about the funniest thing I’ve seen in a really long time. If this sketch was on TV we’d be seeing “That’s a Toby” shirts at every Spencer’s Gifts.
Tiffany Puterbaugh as “Kimberly Puterbaugh,” masturbating.
The Puterbaugh Sisters are the type of people I wanted to hang out with before I started doing comedy. Always ready to do bits and goof off and not take comedy so seriously. I love so many things they do, but this particular performance at A Very Tinder Christmas was the tops. Tiff played a Lincoln Park girl taking selfies “ohhhh whuut? there’s a camera there?” and ended up showing off what she looks like when she masturbates. There’s no way I can describe this. It just was the funniest fucking thing ever.
Favorite Trend in Chicago Comedy: Concept Shows
I see a lot of comedy and I worry sometimes if it ruins my ability to enjoy standup. Thankfully some shows in the city have popped up that aren’t just standup (not that there’s anything wrong with a good standup showcase! They’re all great! Especially yours! oh god, please book me on it! please!) and they’ve been fun to watch and participate in.
Here’s my faves:
Comedy Secrets: Stephanie Hasz and her brother from a sadder mother Andy Fleming invite comics to tell genuinely sad stories to an audience sworn to keep the story a secret. They are then goofed on by a panel of comics afterward. I’ve cried numerous times at this show. Some from how sad the stories have been, others from how much I’ve laughed.
Arguments & Grievances: A comedy debate show where two comics debate stuff no one is concerned with like “waterboarding vs skateboarding” or “hugs vs drugs”. But the topics aren’t so much the main event as it is what these comics choose to do with their performance.
Listin’ Up: Dan Friesen and Daniel Shar run an awesome show where standups get a list of words or topics and have to improvise jokes. Then improvisors use that comic’s usual setlist to do scenes. It’s so fun to watch and perform at.
Entertaining Julia Theme Shows: As previously discussed The Puterbaughs=The Best and their weekly show will sometimes have a theme. Disney Princess standup, Just for Rafts Festival, A Very Tinder Christmas.
42x42: Andy Fleming, Katie McVay and Emily Lake run one of my favorite shows Two Hour Comedy Hour at the Gallery Cabaret. But every so often they take one of their shows features “42 seconds of standup comedy” and make it an entire show. A lot of people’s bits play to inside jokes of the Chicago comedy scene since so many of us are in attendance/performing. Which I love.
Favorite Comic to Watch, every time: Candy Lawrence
No set is the same from Candy Lawrence. She has great jokes that have high replay value for me (“juicy cooter!”), but the main event is her ability to improvise. It is amazing to watch her follow the smallest idea to wherever it leads her onstage. Especially when it leads to singing.
Favorite Joke: Trey Brown’s Joke About North Korea and Fat Bastard
I think I’m starting to get a reputation for the worst person for another comic to run a bit by. I very frequently laugh so hard at another comic’s premise or newer joke and then said joke eats shit everywhere they perform it that I am not in attendance to laugh like a hyena.
Trey Brown has such an awesome joke about how much North Korean leader Kim Jong Un loves American pop culture from the 90s. This led to Dennis Rodman becoming the first American to get into North Korea as an ambassador. But if that’s true, couldn’t they also want to meet Fat Bastard from the movie Austin Powers?
I love this joke so much and according to Trey “real audiences have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about” when he performs it for the general population.
But I tell him how much I love it a lot. And he sometimes does me the honor of doing it at an open mic we’re both at. Because goddamn it, it’s great.
Thunderdome: The charming Carmen Christopher has cultivated an awesome college crowd and comedy nerd following. His sketches are always ambitious, out there and hilarious, and the improv mash ups are always a good time. And top off your night with a free beer and karoke at Trader Todds. DONE. Great night. always.
The Curio Show: Irene Marquette curates a night of the city's most interesting artists. Particularly her Kate Bush show, where her passion for Kate was palpable and the performers of the night captured her spirit. I went in knowing nothing about Kate Bush and left the show feeling inspired, grateful to be a performer in Chicago and listened to Kate's catalog the following days.
The Dirty Shame Goodbye Sketch: Before Lee Barats left for a Second City ship for 4 months, the brothers Barat did a perfectly timed sketch at the Upstairs Gallery, that began with a dumb sketch about a horse that quickly dissolved into a fight between the two, Matt left the gallery and went out onto the street where his thoughts continued in an voiceover. The crowd pressed to the windows to watch him enact his thoughts outside as we listened in on his inner monologue. Such a fun treat to watch!
Seth Dodson: Taking over as the show booker for The Hideout, Seth has brought a lot of great acts to The Hideout (including Kill All Comedy) So great to see more and more great comedy at such a fun venue!
Sarah Ashley: Sarah has been doing a lot of really great written and character pieces this year. As well as knock out improv with Dead $$$. Her comedic timing is always on point and I love her use of physicality. She has a knack for deftly skewering pop culture and bougie upper class idiots.