I went to the Three Dead Moose Comedy open mic the other night and guess what? Towards the end of the night two of the best local comics in the scene walked up to the mic and dropped napalm on the stage. I'm talking about Junior Stopka and James Fritz. Junior Stopka (Chicago Reader Best Stand Up Comedian 2010) is fresh off a tour with Doug Stanhope. James Fritz (Chicago Reader Best Stand Up Comedian 2011) has his own comedy album on iTunes and a radio podcast.
Bottom line is both of them are hungry beasts that can headline showcases all over Chicago. Neither one of these monsters needs to be at some random open mic that takes place in the back room of a Packers bar populated with weird ass stuffed dead animals. (To be fair TDM is a great open mic). But there they were, giving it their all, doing the damn thing strong as hell.
Junior pulled no punches, mixing it up with new and old material. Fritz killed it as well doing a Norm Macdonald impression that was so funny I spit up on myself. The point is that even though they could just do strictly showcase gigs if they wanted to, they instead choose to stay on the grind and work hard, honing their skills at local open mics as much as possible.
Now some of you are probably like, so what? All that sounds like shit your supposed to do in the comedy game. Yeah, well you would be surprised how many emails I get from all kinds who want free press about this or that, but I never see them out, never see them getting their hustle on doing the real work it takes to be competitive.
You hear lots of excuses, though. "I've done my open mic years", or "I'm already big in Boston". Well, I believe stand up comedy is kind of like old school hip hop. Your the MC and you gotta rock the crowd, but better do your home work so the other MC doesn't hand your ass to you on that stage.
Like I said there's a lot of folks watching this scene right now. When brand new venues like Up and Laugh Factory look to book local talent, comedians like Stopka (check out latest podcast) and Fritz (follow on twitter) will be on that radar. The guy/gal who was big somewhere else (Memphis, Boston, Oakland, etc.) but wont work hard in the local scene.... not so much.
James Allen Kamp