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The CHI Hip Tip

Going for a drive | Photo by Johnny KnightIf you’ve been privy to the Ken Barnard Experience, the first question of this interview will totally make sense. The Experience has many parts that make the whole, and rare is it that they are all manifested in any one given place and time. Maybe you lightly sob while Ken, dressed in full merman regalia, belts out the weepiest version of Part of Your World this side of Triton’s castle, maybe you’re an audience member to a live reading of the great paperback Rocky III, or maybe you’re watching a live puppet show that goes horribly, horribly wrong. Whichever Experience you have, be forewarned that you will be grinning and guffawing in giggly, welcomed bemusement. Luckily for Chicago, the full Experience is coming to the Lakeshore Theater, TONIGHT and Saturday, Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m., where Ken will headline as part of the Art of Local Comedy series.

What's your favorite racist potato chip flavor?

KB: My favorite racist potato chip flavor is Muslim Curry.  Mainly because it is so ignorant.  I mean, curry is an Indian dish and over 80% of Indians are Hindu, not Muslim.  Also, it tastes like Chinese food.

Rocky I, II, or III, and why?

KB: Picking a favorite Rocky movie is hard.  I fell in love with Rocky III, but Rocky is the original and arguably the best stand-alone flick (it won an Oscar for Best Picture, for cripes sake.)  Even Rocky V, the worst one, has a kick-ass ending credit sequence with a badass Elton John song.  Regardless of which movie I’m watching, I always cheer Rock on during the fight just like if I was ringside and had money on him.

If you could get your ass kicked by one past or current Steelers player, who would you choose and why?

KB: If I could get my ass kicked by one Steelers player, who would I choose?  Somebody’s seen “Big Fan,” huh? That’s a tough question, a lot like the Rocky one.  Both Rocky and my beloved “Stillers” are so near and dear to my old aorta.  I’m going to have to pick two Steelers – one former and one current player.  Past Steeler has gotta be Jack Lambert.  He had no front teeth and wore a shirt that said “I’m a Fuckin’ Maniac.”  Needless to say, he was.  If a current Steeler were to kick my ass, I’d want it to be kicker Jeff Reed.  He’s got a history of ridiculous, drunken violence and I’d love to be a part of that legend.  The guy fought a paper towel dispenser once.  Who wouldn’t want to be punched by that moron?

As a background to The Ken Barnard, how long have you been performing comedy and in what forms?

KB: I’ve been performing comedy, in one way or another, since college – so about 10 years.  (By the way, I dropped out of college, so don’t go trying to figure out how old I am, kittens.)  I did all the theater-type stuff in earlier school though.  Show choir, plays, musicals, you name it, I did it.  I’m happy to focus solely on the funny stuff currently, though.  That’s dead-center in my wheelhouse.  Weird solo comedy is my main gig right now (performance comedy, if you will) but I’m also doing some improv and I always enjoy collaborating with talented people on video projects.

Please name some life-changing/affirming performance events in your past.

KB: My most life-affirming performance was my first time at the Andy Kaufman Award Contest in 2006.  It was surreal to fly back and forth from Chicago to New York twice to be able to make the finals.  It really was a dream come true and I’ve met so many awesome people because of it.  As far as life-changing performances, I’m not selfish.  I save my most epiphany-inducing energies for the audience, so that they leave happier and, ultimately, holier.

Have you performed other one-man shows?

KB: I did a one-man show in 2008 at the Lincoln Lodge called “Get Into It.”  It was the first time I attempted an hour plus of comedy on my own, so it was quite a challenge.  I learned a lot from it, so this time around should be as good as that but with more explosions.  Honestly though, my current show “Ken Barnard’s Greatest Bits,” is just that – my best material.  If you come to see the show and you don’t like it, you either have a really straight-laced sense of humor, or you hate me as a person.  (Either way, please say hi after the show!)  I’m also excited about the live camera backstage.  It’ll give the audience an idea of what goes on behind-the-scenes at a comedy show.

What are some upcoming projects on the radar for you?

KB: I’m excited to go to LA at the beginning of March to audition for “Last Comic Standing.”  I’ve been told that I’m attending an “invite-only” audition, so hopefully I won’t be standing in a cattle call line outside for five hours.  Even so, five hours outside in LA is the equivalent to all of the sunshine that we get here in five months, so it won’t be so bad.  I’ve also got some other shows lined up and I hope to go to Disneyland as Nicky Mouse.  Stick it to the man, you know?

OK, full details on Lakeshore tonight and tomorrow, plz.

KB: My one-man show – “Ken Barnard’s Greatest Bits!”  - is going down this Friday, February 19 and Saturday, February 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the fabulous Lakeshore Theater.  It costs $15, but is $5 off with the code word “LOCAL.”  It’s part of the “Art of Local Comedy” series at the Lakeshore which features the best comics in the city.  I know some people are upset that Chicago didn’t get the Olympics, but this show will be just like that, only with more singing and fake blood.

--Kristy Mangel (and special thanks to comedian Ricky Carmona for the first three warm-up/more fun questions)

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