Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Fall Comedy Preview 2015

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HoneybunsYou know what they say: Every time a mime speaks a Dickensian orphan gets sucked into a jet turbine and blasted out the other side as just a scream. However, it is that cozy time of year when the hopes and dreams of summer die and we artists start making people go into weird rooms and watch us do and say things. Not every show can be the immersive interactive ever-changing theatrical wonderland tour-de-force that my show is. Newcity theater editor Zach Freeman has provided a fine fall stage preview. However, I feel I can offer a few tips—or rather “things”—to do to spice things up on a chilly fall evening at the theater (elaborate hand gesture).

If you don’t want to do my “things” I can understand. All you have to do is something that is even better. So long as you do something. Because, something must be done. Otherwise you would do nothing. Except maybe drink a box of wine, poke that old bag of mulch laying in bed next to you, and call it a night. (Honeybuns)

SEPTEMBER

 

jangleheartA Jangleheart Circus
Start the fall season off right with this three-day comedy festival, including appearances from Sand, Conner O’Malley, Amazing: A ClickHole Show, Tim Baltz and the Neo-Futurists. Begins September 3 at iO, The Annoyance and CIC.
Honeybuns: Wear a ComedySportz San Jose t-shirt and go “tch” after every joke.

Defiant Thomas BrothersThe Defiant Thomas Brothers
A decade ago this sketch comedy duo was on the brink of blowing up, but then split in 2006. Now they return to an “even more politically correct world.” Begins September 4 at Donny’s Skybox. (Update: The first show has been moved to September 5 at Stage 773)
Honeybuns: The last time I was in Donny’s Skybox was 2004. So bring a machete because I can only assume that nature has taken back the theater by now.

camp tree topCamp Tree Top With the Netflix-backed reawakening of “Wet Hot American Summer,” this original comedy show may be timely. It also features a killer stalking them from the woods, so it may be awesome. Begins September 4 at Under The Gun Theater.
Honeybuns: This is a trenchcoat with nothing underneath situation.

splatterSplatter Theatre
A long-running Halloween favorite (and actually The Annoyance’s first show) that takes slasher parody to new heights with buckets of red blood covering a pristine white stage. Begins September 5 at The Annoyance Theatre.
Honeybuns: Wear a white t-shirt and sit in the front row. At show’s end you’ll have a free tie “die.”

The Theater Crossover
A friendly competition among Chicago’s comedy theaters that includes Annoyance, iO, the Playground and MCL. Begins September 12 at various venues.
Honeybuns: Go to these shows wearing a Second City sweatshirt and a gold medal around your neck.

Emo by Guy 53 KBEmo Philips
The comedian from Downers Grove (who, among a lengthy list of accolades, had a memorable role in Weird Al’s “UHF”) brings his unique voice back to the Midwest. Begins September 17 at Zanies.

401Kill Yourself
A sketch show about the moral and emotional toll that needing to work has on people. So serious a concept that it must be hilarious. Begins September 17 at The Playground.
Honeybuns: This theater is BYOB. So don’t forget to Bring Your Outcast Brother.

TappedTapped
Love and the NSA—this musical love story follows an NSA agent as she falls for the whistleblower she’s been tasked with spying on. Begins September 19 at MCL Chicago.
Honeybuns: Wear an earpiece and every time the audience laughs speak gently into your watch.

Scene PartnerMy Fucking Scene Partner Didn’t Learn Their Lines
This clever concept show teams up actors from The New Colony with improvisers from Under The Gun. The actors can’t go off book and the improvisers have never read the script. Begins September 20 at Under The Gun Theater.
Honeybuns: Watch the theater and comedy communities come together and open up a whole new world of potential sex partners.

Source: john-hodgman

Vacationland
“Daily Show” contributor, best-selling author and podcast host John Hodgman presents his “one-human” live show consisting of all-new material with his own brand of humorously intellectual condescension. One night only on September 24 at Thalia Hall.
Honeybuns: Go naked with just a zipper glued down the length of your body.

ph comedy theaterMark & Brandon Kill Demons
Titular buddies Mark & Brandon band together to battle the titular demons, test their friendship and maybe find love. Begins September 25 at The pH Comedy Theater.
Honeybuns: Pretend to be an exorcist and then act concerned that people are laughing during this comedy.

Godfrey
The Chicago native known for a string of movie roles and ad campaigns as well as a special for Comedy Central comes home to tape a one-hour special. One night only on September 26 at UP Comedy Club.

3033 Finale Shows
The entire cast of veteran supergroup 3033 reunites for two final shows to close their chapter in iO history. One night only on September 27 at iO Mission Theater.
Honeybuns: An audience member peeing their pants is considered a good thing at a comedy show. Hydrate well, wait until about mid show, relax and give these performers what they want.

dual duelDual Duel
This ninety-minute show features a competition between two-person improvisation teams that perform in ten-minute slots followed by audience voting and a headlining show afterwards. All of it culminates in a final show where the ultimate winners get $200. Begins September 23 at ComedySportz.
Honeybuns: Competition is so good for comedy and comedians handle it well. Don’t hesitate to wear a large foam We’re Number One glove.

OCTOBER

Babysitter78_CoverPhotoBabysitter Massacre: ‘78: The Musical
From the minds of a slew of popular musical parodies comes this world-premiere take on horror movies and tropes. Begins October 1 at The Public House Theatre.
Honeybuns: Find an actor after the show, shake their hand and say “I can’t believe you did that all in reverse.”

The Salmagundi
A weekly rotating challenge taken on by a weekly rotating set of ComedySportz House Teams. Begins October 1 at ComedySportz.
Honeybuns: Wear a shirt that says Big Time Hollywood Agent, then halfway through the show stand up and leave.

HauntedHaunted: The Improvised Horror Movie
Directed by Kevin Mullaney, as long as this horror improv show doesn’t turn into weekly “Scary Movie” it could be a new Halloween hit. Begins October 2 at Under The Gun Theater.
Honeybuns: Get a white sheet with two holes for eyes and wait patiently to walk into a scene.

Schlocktoberfest! A Killer Komedy Show
EEK! Theatre Company presents stand-up comedy by Jarrell Barnes with a burlesque performance by Peaches N. Cream in this one night of Halloween comedy. One night only on October 3 at Gorilla Tango.
Honeybuns: Bring a butterfly net and try to snag any loose pasties that go flying off.

WEB-Cho_PSYCHOMargaret Cho (The psyCHO Tour)
The comedy legend is breaking out a new set about insanity and her anger at “everything happening in the world right now.” One night only on October 3 at The Chicago Theatre.
Honeybuns: How much popcorn can you put in the hair of the person in front of you before they notice? Maybe a lot.

Dave Attell
Most recently appearing in Amy Schumer’s hit “Trainwreck,” Dave Attell has hosted his own show, appeared across the late-night circuit and was named one of the 25 Funniest People in America by Entertainment Weekly. Begins October 8 at UP Comedy Club.
Honeybuns: This is a good opportunity to test your skills as an amateur sign-language interpreter. Don’t know American Sign Language? Just make weiner-finger-go-into-butt hand and that’ll cover most of his material.

Lewis Black (The Rant is Due: Part Deux)
The comedian so known for his angry rants that his casting as the voice of Anger in Pixar’s “Inside Out” seemed impossibly perfect brings a second round of the tour where he takes rant suggestions from the audience. One night only on October 10 at The Chicago Theatre.
Honeybuns: When he’s taking rant suggestions offer “Old guys that get all worked up until they are dangerously close to having an aneurysm.”

Tribulation
A musical about the rapture featuring a pot-smoking Jesus and a trio of life-insurance agents dealing with post-apocalyptic ennui. Begins October 18 at iO Mission Theater.
Honeybuns: Your best Austin Powers impersonation will blend in nicely here.

The ABCs of Sketch
A sketch show based on the horror anthology “The ABCs of Death” in which twenty-six writers are assigned a letter of the alphabet and will pen a new sketch every week, with all twenty-six being performed in alphabetical order. Begins October 21 at iO Chris Farley Cabaret.

Sam and Mickey Are Friends IV
Sam Radom and Mickey Bravo bring this fourth installation of their show, filled with comedy, dance and puppets. Begins October 24 at Gorilla Tango.
Honeybuns: Join in the show by taking your socks off and making your own puppets named Grabby and Fister.

Spooky Boobs! A Gorilla Tango Burlesque Cabaret
Gorilla Tango Burlesque Geek Girls take it off for Halloween. One night only on October 31 at Gorilla Tango.

November

ThanksgivingThe Thanksgiving Circumcision
A couple discovers that their new son’s bris is scheduled for Thanksgiving. Who cares what ensues, it’s a holiday show with a twisted new angle! Begins November 6 at MCL Chicago.
Honeybuns: Ask the house manager if they have any extra foreskins left over from the matinee.

UTG Pub-trivia
The Under The Gun ensemble takes on pub trivia in a new interactive way. We’re assuming improv is involved. And prizes. Begins November 6 at Under The Gun Theater.

Pennies vs Apples
Remember all the cool gizmos Inspector Gadget used? Well, Apple stole them and now a grown-up Penny is suing them for copyright infringement. Begins November 7 at Gorilla Tango.
Honeybuns: Buy two tickets and sit with your butt cheeks splayed between two seats just because you can.

Kyle Kinane
Chicagoan Kinane headlines the UP Comedy Club for the fourth time. With specials and a ton of comedy voice work under his belt, you’re probably already familiar with his work. Now see it in person. Begins November 19 at UP Comedy Club.
Honeybuns: Everyone knows that stand-up comedians are emotionally stable and just fine without the constant affirmation of laughter. Instead of laughing after every joke simply say “funny” or “very funny, sir” with no affectation.

itsxmas1It’s Christmas Goddamnit!
Dysfunctional family holiday hijinks—murder, miscarriage and misfortune are played for laughs in this returning dark Christmas comedy. Begins November 21 at The Annoyance Theatre.

The Second City’s 104th Revue
As of this printing the title is unknown, but Chelsea Devantez, Paul Jurewicz and Daniel Strauss are returning and will be joined by Rashawn Nadine Scott from the hit e.t.c revue “Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?” Begins in November at Second City Main Stage.
Honeybuns: Sit facing the other direction and observe the strange and unusual things that people from the suburbs laugh at.

Review: A Night of Whodunnit/Under The Gun Theater

Comedy, Improv/Sketch Reviews, Improv/Sketch/Revues No Comments »
interrogating-the-maths-teacher

Alex Wiseman, Matt Pina and Matt Fox

Under The Gun Theater is rife with catchy concepts. Their “Comedy Against Humanity” show was so popular that—despite an informal agreement—Cards Against Humanity objected, forcing the show to close just as it was really taking off. Walking into the theater Thursday night for “A Night of Whodunnit,” I noticed Cards Against Humanity packs for sale at the bar. A sign of no hard feelings, perhaps? Or a reminder that this is a theater that knows (and has proven) that they can deliver on concept work?

“Whodunnit” is actually a double-header, consisting of “One Story Told Week by Week” (a parody of the oh-so-popular NPR podcast “Serial”) and “The Improvised Adventures of Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson” (self-explanatory), in that order. The sources may differ but the theme is the same. To quote R. Kelly: “There’s a mystery going on and I’m gonna solve it.” Both shows last thirty minutes with a ten-minute intermission in between. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: VAMP: A Music Comedy Drinking Show/MCL Chicago

Comedy, Improv/Sketch Reviews, Improv/Sketch/Revues, Musicals, Recommended Comedy Shows No Comments »
VAMP

Michael Shepherd Jordan and Alex Garday

RECOMMENDED

Walking into the MCL Chicago space for “VAMP: A Music Comedy Drinking Show” is like walking into a raucous house party that’s just getting started. A four-piece band (Doc McCullough & The Vampers) plays frenetic jams while audience members mill around chatting and sipping from their various BYOB selections. And once the show gets started, under the direction of endearingly wry host Keenan Camp, it’s not that different from a house party itself. In fact, “VAMP,” as a whole, feels like a loosely organized, low-pressure showcase by a group of popular, talented, semi-intoxicated improvisers in a friend’s basement, with all the pros and cons associated with that scenario. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Buzzed Broadway/MCL Chicago

Comedy, Improv/Sketch Reviews, Improv/Sketch/Revues, Musicals No Comments »
Steven Lyons and Alexander Smith Photo: Heather Scholl Photography

Steven Lyons and Alexander Smith/Photo: Heather Scholl Photography

Improv is a skill. Being able to successfully improvise a storyline to music while drinking is an even greater skill. That’s the challenge the cast of “Buzzed Broadway” takes on during each performance at MCL Chicago.

Watching “Buzzed Broadway” is kind of like watching a group of drunk musical theater students at a party: it might be funny if you’re participating—and drinking along with the cast is encouraged—but if you’re sober, you’ll notice that the story doesn’t always make sense and the singing isn’t always in key. Still, it’s good for a few laughs here and there. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: ComedySportz/ComedySportz Theatre

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ComedySportz-20

Meg Grunewald (referee) and player Alex Garday (in red)/Photo: James Rand

RECOMMENDED

A brand since 1984, in Chicago since 1987 and in their current digs on Belmont since 2007, ComedySportz has clearly hit on a winning formula, proudly maintaining the title of longest-running short-form-improv comedy show in Chicago and extending that run every week. And short form it is, with quick, fast-paced games (most familiar to anyone with a little exposure to improv) making up the majority of the ninety-minute running time, which plays out as a competition between a blue home team (the Chicago Bosses) and a red visiting team (the Lyle Lovetts on the night I attended).

The lovely hardwood stage looks like a cross between a locker room, a performance space and a basketball court, with each team of three jerseyed players given a bench and a television screen to track their ongoing score. Points are awarded based on the success of improv games and there’s an announcer, a referee, an Applause-o-meter and… much like the show itself, which spends a solid ten minutes on introductory information, I’ve already used up a good deal of real estate explaining the premise. Suffice it to say that there is improv, there is competition and there is comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Second City’s Improv All-Stars/The Second City

Comedy, Improv/Sketch Reviews, Improv/Sketch/Revues, Recommended Comedy Shows No Comments »
(left to right) Adam Peacock, Ryan Archibald, Brooke Breit, Kevin Sciretta Second City Improv All-Stars . © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

Adam Peacock, Ryan Archibald, Brooke Breit, Kevin Sciretta/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RECOMMENDED

Still going strong after more than three years, this sixty-minute showcase of Second City’s improvisational skill, with an on-stage cast of five that rotates through almost twenty listed cast members, manages a healthy mix of audience-pleasing quick laughs and more in-depth improvisational games. Director Mick Napier has allowed for plenty of audience suggestions (who laughs more than the person whose suggestion was taken?) with quick, clearly explained improv games while still letting his performers take a few scenes to expand on lengthier scenes with more character development.

On the Monday night I attended, the UP Comedy Club was nearly full and nearly every game, from the stalwart “freeze” to more elaborate games involving telling a story from multiple character perspectives and styles, landed. But the darker moments stood out—“Reunions are about going to be with the people who are supposed to make you happy but they don’t.”/”I thought that’s what Facebook was?”—demonstrating that this cast knows what’s funny is not always happy. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ithamar Has Nothing to Say/Second City

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Ithamar Second City_00027

Ithamar Enriquez

RECOMMENDED

While watching Second City alum Ithamar Enriquez, I couldn’t help but think of “Geri’s Game,” the Pixar short film wherein an elderly man plays an increasingly erratic and high-stakes game of chess against a vicious opponent that turns out to be none other than himself. “Ithamar Has Nothing to Say” is not just a solo performance. It’s also a silent one. Billed as a modern update of the silent masters, Enriquez has sculpted, along with director Frank Caeti, an ode to vaudeville that also celebrates the “Yes And” brand of comedy touted by Enriquez’s alma mater.

Anyone accustomed to sketch or standup may take a little while to adjust to “Ithamar Has Nothing to Say.” The show’s first ten minutes demonstrate Enriquez’s physical dexterity, as he hops all over the stage, seemingly against his will. Transitions between sketches can sometimes be abrupt, though Enriquez keeps the energy going through each. The show uses a good deal of music across a broad genre spectrum, whether it be for the purposes of clever sendup—a The Who-themed spot is particularly hysterical—or to cue the audience into a cultural reference a la Enriquez’s string of handsy movie parodies. Read the rest of this entry »

Funny Future: Looking For the Next Kevin Hart at the Break Out Comedy Festival

Comedy, Festivals, Improv/Sketch Reviews, Improv/Sketch/Revues, Recommended Comedy Shows, Stand-Up No Comments »
Dominizuelan

Dominizuelan

By Loy Webb

When I was younger, my two sisters and I shared a room. One of our many Saturday rituals was flipping through magazines to find pictures to decorate our walls. Most of the pictures consisted of our favorite members of an R&B boy band called B2K (pretty hot in the early 2000s).

But my younger sister, I kid you not, cut out a picture of Kevin Hart and put it on the wall. She was in elementary school at the time mind you, and nobody knew who he was. He hadn’t had a major movie, a comedy special, let alone the title he has today as one of the world’s top comedians.

And if you walk into our house today, on that wall, between the old pictures of Kanye West, Destiny’s Child, Usher and Jamie Foxx, is a picture of a young Kevin Hart with a blurb on the side that reads “up and coming comedian/actor.”

I remember asking my sister why she put that picture up. She shrugged and said she thought he was cute. But maybe, just maybe, she saw his star potential. I know that’s pretty deep for an elementary school kid, but hey, a child shall lead them right?

Watching the two-day “Break Out Comedy Festival” presented by NBC Universal and Second City this weekend, I felt like my younger sister. I was not just bearing witness to the next generation of comedic talent, but the next generation of comedic stars with futures filled with blinding brightness. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Antic’s Roadshow with Devon Myers/MCL Chicago

Comedy, Improv/Sketch Reviews, Musicals, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
Steven Lyons/Photo: Tiela Halpin Photography

Steven Lyons/Photo: Tiela Halpin Photography

Chicago, as you may be aware, is the center of the universe when it comes to improvised sketch comedy. Stages are filled nightly by young comedians who are trying really hard to break into the upper echelons of the comedy field. Sadly, for the cast of “Antic’s Roadshow with Devon Myers,” trying really hard isn’t enough to make a performance worth watching.

The premise of the partly scripted performance is that an aging D-list celebrity, Devon Myers (Steven Lyons), has been tapped to host a PBS-like program conceived by Preston Antic (Scott Allen Curry). The program resembles what “Antiques Roadshow” would be like were it held on the Island of Misfit Toys. The show’s focus is primarily on the appraisers, rather than the items brought in by the studio audience. Each performer introduces themselves in a pre-written song which details exactly how messed up they are. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?/Second City e.t.c.

Comedy, Improv/Sketch Reviews, Improv/Sketch/Revues, Recommended Comedy Shows 1 Comment »
(l to r) Lisa Beasley, Tim Ryder, Carisa Barreca, Rashawn Nadine Scott, Eddie Mujica and Scott Morehead/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Lisa Beasley, Tim Ryder, Carisa Barreca, Rashawn Nadine Scott, Eddie Mujica and Scott Morehead/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RECOMMENDED

Satire works best when it has enough of a bite that even those laughing can feel the teeth marks. Too gentle and the jokes just feel safe and congratulatory for those in agreement, but too much and it’s hard to keep laughing. This narrow playing space is what keeps a lot of sketch stuck in the relative safety of an inoffensive nonsense land (where, to be fair, some of the funniest concepts and characters live and flourish—not everything needs to have a point). Still, Chicago audiences are lucky that the cast members of “Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?”—a slow build of a revue that starts out a bit flat and rises to some impressive peaks—know exactly when and how to push things for the sake of comedy serving as a message delivery system.

To be clear, “Soul Brother” nails some easy targets (and nails them well): the NFL’s record (or lack thereof) of supporting their players, Scientology, the George Lucas museum. But it also delves into much headier territory with equally funny aplomb: remembering 9/11, the dark underbelly of the sex trade, words white people can say that black people can’t, laws based on religious beliefs. And, surprisingly, there’s even a wordless sketch that hits many of the same emotional high-points as the legendary intro to “Up,” delivering more of a gut-punch than a punchline. Across the board, this is very smart, intentional writing. Read the rest of this entry »

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