“Ally” is a word that may not always relate to comedy, but it is a person who is always appreciated in the audience. Whether you support your friends who are comedians or you’re a comedian supporting a show you’re not in - you could be considered an ally. Within the queer comedy community of shows (Chicago has a few now,) “ally” takes up a different meaning. When you attend or perform in a queer comedy show and are not queer identified, you might be called an ally.
One of my favorite comedians is a straight ally helping us launch a tour. The tour is a full spectrum comedy show meaning it has gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and straight comedians and the show is Queer Comedy at Zanies. Her name is Krista Atkinson and she is one of the biggest straight allies I’ve ever known in Chicago. Not only does she sit in the audiences of queer comedy shows, she performs in all of them and, something few people can say in general, she co-produces a queer-inclusive comedy show.
What makes C.J. so unique is that he is a comedian AND a poker player—and not some wanna-be schmuck who tries to hustle you and your buddies at your Sunday night house game. C.J. has a World Series of Poker 3rd place title to his name.
Zen Comedy 3: Performance
In this Zen Comedy article, I will discuss performance. There are an infinite number of performance styles, every style can be hilarious, and none are superior from the start. Whether or not you hold this statement to be true, it is important to believe it, as it allows you to be open. The style with which you perform a joke is as much a reaction to the mood of the audience as an article of your own invention. The Zen Comedian teaches us that the greatest jokes come when a comedian listens to his audience.
Zen Master George (Carlin), for instance, though he began his career doing a straight act with a haircut and wearing a suit, and than he moved on to silly bits like the hippy-dippy weatherman, as time wore on he learned from his audience that his best jokes came from simple blunt honesty. Zen Master George in his evolution has taught us that the greatest style comes from responding to one's audience, and combining that response with one's own artistry.
As always, there's a lot happening in the Chicago comedy scene this week. The biggest news worthy item is the fact that the new Fox comedy show "Laughs" is producing a Live TV Taping at the Chicago Laugh Factory tonight. The inside word is that over 30 comics are going up between two shows. Executive produced by Steve Hofstetter, Laughs aims to be "a ground-breaking new stand-up show". The basic idea is to film hundreds of comedians each week to highlight the national stand-up scene along with info on how to catch all these different comics live - which is a cool new angle for live stand-up comedy TV. However something on this scale is never without a bit of controversy and the fact that comics are apparently not getting paid to perform on a national TV show has ruffled some feathers - even prompting SAG to actually blacklist the whole thing. But the plain truth of this business is that working Comedians are used to shitty and/or no pay, yet for the right exposure plenty of comics will gladly forgo a paycheck. The question of course is this the right exposure? Well the shows are almost sold out to the rafters, (because the Chicago scene always comes together for shit like this) which ain't a shabby start, hopefully that energy sticks with it. Here's wishing that all the comics break a leg - in the meantime check out what's popping this week.
Robin Williams died Monday, I met him once briefly, sat with him at a show here in Chicago. It was truly awesome, here's how I remember it...
It's a strange thing to say, but I remember exactly the most exciting text message I've ever gotten in my life. It said: "He's here. He is sitting with me" - Quickly followed by: " Come over. It's just us. I'm freaking out."
I must have read them fifteen times and minutes later I was inside the faux wood paneled, someones Grandma's basement, perma-dim of Town Hall Pub on Halsted, sitting at a little round table with my brother and one of our child hood heroes, Robin Williams.
Cash Levy (perfoming in Chicago this weekend at The Comedy Bar) is an improvisational stand up comedian who has performed on Comedy Central, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Comics Unleashed, and Comedy TV. Cash most recently produced and released his one-hour special, Cash Levy: Crowd Control which was sold to Mark Cuban’s network, AXS TV, becoming the first stand-up content ever broadcast on that network.
Cash also hosts the extremely popular podcast, Cashing In With T.J. Miller ,where every week he has just one guest - T.J. Miller over and over again. In our interview Cash talks about working with T.J. and how they met, advice for fellow comics, the upside to corporate comedy, and how he gets into the Super Bowl without a ticket.
Time for The Weekly Top 5! This segment gives out respect to events and/or artists that are rocking the scene. This list is subjective, based on opinions and only covers events we actually went to. So of course, we missed some shit. Here are the 5 BEST THINGS that happened last week.
The Three CEES: This newish showcase, produced by Junior Stopka (watch his comedy central debut), Andre Halter and Maggie Ednie, has been the dark horse of scene in the last few weeks since it started. Stopka and gang keep it super loose, booking the best comics around and letting them basically do what they want (lots of new/experimental material). Last week Junior finished off the show with a bit called "Dumb Improv", which is basically what it sounds like - except hilarious. Highly recommended and a great chance to catch Stopka before he goes back on tour. Every Tuesday at The Celtic Crown - 4301 N. Western Ave - Downstairs in the Kilkenny room.