Photo: Clayton Hauck
Second City’s Dalmatian-free one hundred first revue, “Let Them Eat Chaos,” hits the hyperactivity of its titular chaos squarely on the head, but, for all its unneeded projections, “Band of Brothers”-style trench scenes and deviations into the creation of the Panama Canal, the show misses the underlying joy of frenzy. Easily among the most distinctive and likable casts of the past several Mainstage revues, their efforts are appealing but ultimately only somewhat funny. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jenny Yoon
It’s a breezy, idyllic summer night in Roscoe Village. The sleepy, family-oriented neighborhood that houses pretty moms in yoga pants has fallen silent by 8pm on a Monday. It’s hard to imagine walking into an establishment in this neighborhood that doesn’t have a kid’s menu. Just north of the Paulina Brown Line station, however, exists a strip mall, barren except for a lone storefront: The Pleasure Chest. Its floor-to-ceiling glass windows aren’t modest, and they expose red-drenched walls displaying dildos and vibrators to anyone who passes by. My companions and I tiptoe to the back of the shop, late and bashful, feelings that turn into mortification at the realization that the last open seats are in the front row. Read the rest of this entry »
A fast-paced, sixty-minute comedy show that mostly follows the late-night talk-show format—but with eccentrically dark edges—”The Late Live Show” has an inspiring air of DIY ingenuity, from the guest couch balanced on bricks to the laptop used as a teleprompter. Along with sidekick Joe McAdam, host Joe Kwaczala (and a team of clever writers, focused audio/video technicians and quick stagehands) delivers a quality hour of comedy in the relatively tight quarters of the Cab theater at Stage 773. Featuring an introductory monologue embedded with jokes about current events, short features like a phony (and hilarious) Facebook feed and a few character pieces, along with a well-amplified musical guest and an interview with a (typically local) person of interest, it’s easy to forget that this isn’t actually a television show (especially with cameras filming from three angles at all times). Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Elizabeth McQuern
By Zach Freeman
Mark Cuban has a lot of money. You probably knew that. But did you know that he wants to give some of that money ($1,000 to be exact) to the Chicago performer who can out-comedy seven other challengers in an eight-week-long reality-show style tele-competition called “Impress These Apes” judged by a panel of three hyper-intelligent simians from the future? Probably not. Actually Cuban probably doesn’t even know that. But let’s go back a bit.
Last year, Steve Gadlin, executive producer and founder of “Impress These Apes,” went on the ABC reality pitch show “Shark Tank,” and with a ridiculously catchy song-and-dance, convinced the billionaire to invest in a project called “I Want to Draw a Cat For You” in which Gadlin, well, draws a cat for you. A stick-figure cat. And then he mails it to you. The song and dance seemed to seal the deal for Cuban. That’s because it’s a catchy song. In fact, after hearing it, it stays stuck in your head for several days and has so far inspired more than 7,000 people to buy a cat drawing. But, the thing is, when the deal was signed ($25,000 for thirty-three percent of the company), Cuban didn’t just put money into iwanttodrawacatforyou.com, he invested in Blewt! Productions, the parent company of the cat-drawing project, as well as several others, including “Impress These Apes.” So the owner of Landmark Theatres and the Dallas Mavericks now owns one-third of a Chicago comedy project featuring a competition whose winner earns the title Least Pitiful Human (and $1,000 of Cuban’s money). Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Brooke Herbert Hayes
The newly rehabbed Logan Theatre, renovated in March, has unveiled a theater with surround sound, a fully stocked bar and organic fare. Screening a variety of films from independent world premieres to classic noirs to cult hits, the Logan also features an open-mic night on Mondays—the first movie theater to do so in Chicago.
At this event, comedians huddle by the bar in the chrome-accented lobby before the start of the show, sipping on five-dollar PBR tallboys—Monday night’s drink special. At 8:30pm, the crowd moves to the lounge, separated from the lobby by a scarlet velvet curtain. Dimly lit, with dark mahogany chairs and vintage movie posters on the wall, the lounge is a veritable time capsule. A waitress takes drink orders, which come with a complimentary basket of popcorn. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Todd Rosenberg
The theme for the Second City’s thirty-sixth revue on the e.t.c. stage is introduced solidly enough, tying into the “live” aspect of theater by pointing out that even though this show might happen over 300 times, the specific instance of the show that you’re seeing on any given night will never happen again and then making audience members touch their hands to prove that they’re in an actual physical, interactive space, and not just watching Hulu at their desk. But while some of these sketches take that concept and run with it, there’s less theme exploration than the title and the opening moments promise. That’s not to say that the bits aren’t funny. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Clayton Hauck
Second City’s one-hundredth revue jumps right into election year by kicking off with a bit where race, religion and Fox News take the forefront. From the opening moments, director Matt Hovde has shot the entire show through with a fast-paced, slightly unpredictable quality that makes for the best kind of sketch comedy. Even when we find ourselves in a familiar place (a pool hall or a couple’s living room) the characters we meet are captivating and original (without being caricatures… okay, without being complete caricatures). Read the rest of this entry »
Kellan Alexander, Cody Dove, Chelsea Devantez, Hans Holsen/Photo: Clayton Hauck
For years, if you’d ask the average Chicagoan to name the best place to see improv, they’d answer Second City. The problem was, Second City did not produce improv shows; sketch comedy is their thing. So with the UP Comedy Club, their new upstairs venue with a focus on stand-up, they’ve added a regular Monday night improv show in a sort of “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” move.
Acclaimed comedy director Mick Napier has crafted a tightly rendered introduction to the basics of improv, broad enough to appeal to the tourist set, with bits and sketches built around audience suggestions and a recurring run of ” freeze tag,” a common improv game. Read the rest of this entry »
In a remount of their well-received 2011 improv format, Playground Theater ensemble member K.C. Redheart once again takes the audience through “the entire process of bringing a show to the stage,” breaking the action into three parts: the initial table read, a tech rehearsal and opening night. Working from an audience suggestion of the title of a show that has never been written or produced, the troupe (all sporting blank paper “scripts”) kicks off sitting in a semi-circle with the “director” welcoming his “cast” and letting them introduce themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
If alcohol did not exist, sketch comedy would have to invent it. I arrived at this brilliant insight sitting alone at a cabaret table on a Sunday afternoon watching the charming duo of “Gretchen and Regina” deliver a set of clever, funny songs about romance and heartbreak to a roomful of Sketchfest patrons swigging PBR Tallboys. (Three dollars at the lobby bar and from hawkers standing on coolers amidst the crowd lining up for the next show. The festival’s organizers are clearly a mile ahead of me in the revelation department.) It didn’t help my increasingly parched brain that Hillary Williams—apparently there is neither a Gretchen nor a Regina—systematically drained one cocktail after another between songs as part of her act. If Hillary’s character is “the drunk,” her partner, Emily Claiborne, is the guitar-strumming boyish “lesbian,” which informs their dialogue more than their songs, I recall. Though their casual banter sometimes seems a bit clunky, they’re actually quite endearing, as are their folky songs. I bet they’re even funnier if you’re drinking along. Read the rest of this entry »