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Entries in chicago (5)

Thursday
Jul292010

NYC HIP TIP: Chicago's Red Bar Comedy Coming to Manhattan

Red Bar Radio is bringing their comedy show to Manhattan's Stand Up NY Comedy Club Saturday, August 7. Hannibal Buress, one of Variety's Top Ten Comics to Watch in 2010, and whose new album just dropped yesterday, will headline what is shaping up to be a balls-out Chicago-based stand-up show in the heart of New York.

The Red Bar Comedy Show in Chicago has been selling out shows for the last seven months since its inception late last year, as well as being a featured venue in this past June's Just For Laughs Chicago Comedy Festival. They have since taken the show to Los Angeles, and now plan to defeat Manhattan.

Get your tickets sooner rather than later to see Chicago comedians Kyle Lane, Marty DeRosa, Drew Michael, and James Fritz, in addition to current New Yorkers Jared Logan (Live at Gotham, Last Comic Standing), David Angelo (writer for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), and Buress. Stick around after the show to party with the comedians until 6 a.m.; brunch when the daylight seeps in optional.

--Kristy Mangel

Monday
Jul192010

The 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival @ Union Park, Chicago - 7.16.10 

Michael Showalter | Photo by Clay Adamczyk

Festival-goers at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival were already ready to escape the 90 degree sun when comedy took the stage at 5:30 on Friday, the first day of the three day event. Kids with varying degrees of mustaches, baseball jerseys, feathers, and tattoos spread themselves out in the shaded, woodland area of Stage Balance, the smallest and furthest removed stage (yet situated closest to glorious beer). Tim Harrington, flamboyant lead singer of Les Savy Fav, 'hosted' the first ever comedy presentation at Pitchfork, mostly by throwing giveaways at kids sat closest to the stage and inviting contestants up to the stage for a marshmallow eating contest. The whole production ended up coming off as a hokey advertisement for Kraft, and ended with one contestant getting ‘sick’ (cue an absurd flood of multi-colored gag vomit). Harrington was amusing in and of himself, but his hosting didn’t do much to set up the showcase of some of the hottest comedians working right now.

Chicago’s own superstar Hannibal Buress opened as the first comedian to do Pitchfork, commanding the stage while also fighting the band playing simultaneously across the park. The opposing performers were dance punk trio The Liars, who at one point seemingly got louder at the exact time Buress was taking one of his signature pauses. This elicited one of the funnier quips about the perpetual sound bleed, as Buress asked the band, “What? You got a problem? That’s it! We got beef now. This is going to be one of most obscure beefs ever.” All in all, Buress commended the experience, saying, "I was really excited to be able to perform at Pitchfork; it was definitely fun to do a large outdoor event like that in my hometown."

Buress rumbles through his 45 minute set only slightly distracted from that point on, and the crowd is responding. However, their laughter kept drifting away in the wind, and the music across the way was sometimes the only answer the performer could hear. This was evident when Michael Showalter took the stage, first “competing” with his rock enemy, by faux-DJing on a laptop. He tried to get off some bits and stories, but soon was overcome with distractions, and became nearly hostile at suggestions from a few that he “do” some of his State characters. He attempted to address the situation of doing comedy in the out of doors at a music festival, saying you have to essentially be autistic to be able to perform in this setting, and luckily he has tendencies towards that condition. As he continued to meander and falter, the mostly supportive crowd began to drift, and at one point the singer on the opposing stage asked his crowd, “How we doing?” which elicited some cheers and whoops. It was getting increasingly surreal. Showalter mused, "All that’s missing is 400 people banging pots and pans together." He ended up leaving the stage approximately 15 minutes early.

Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac managed to smoothly incorporate his stories in a rhythmic overlap to Robyn’s sunny pop. More people were drifting over to the shaded area, spreading blankets and eating their festival dinners. Some napped.    

The wind picked up and the temperature began cooling off. Eugene Mirman was the comedy closer for Pitchfork 2010, and he handled his business downright professional. The sound bleed was acknowledged, as he remarked that it sounded like a musical spaceship was landing in the field, and then soldiered on. At one point he was having so much fun and so was the crowd, both with his material and his asides about the weirdness of the venue, that he exclaimed, “This is actually fine!” And it was fine. Sure, it wasn’t 100 percent optimal conditions for a stand-up comedy set, but it ended up feeling like everyone was in it together, and it was a blessed reprieve for festival attendees who needed to take a sit-down-and-laugh break. 

Mirman’s not a stranger to festivals, having performed in “ten or twenty” of them, he said. In reflecting on the Pitchfork experience the next day, Mirman said, “It went pretty good during my set. There were only a few moments that it was so loud that it was weird. With these things, often the audience is fine; the music is facing the comedians and the comedians can’t hear how loud they are through the sound… In general though this was fun; this is a very fun festival. The reason I come out is partially to see the bands and see friends and hang out.”

“I could see that people were laughing and that it was essentially going alright,” he added.  

--Kristy Mangel

Wednesday
Apr142010

Inside With: Mick Betancourt

Mick Betancourt | Photo by Hal Ardell

Former Chicagoan Mick Betancourt is a bit of a post-modern Renaissance Man. Perhaps known best for his myriad work on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, as writer, story editor, and co-producer, he is also a noted actor, director, and comedian. His most recent project in entertainment is a foray into Web 2.0, in the form of ActuallyFunny.com.

We had a chance to ask him about this newest addition to the Internet's ever-escalating comedic offerings, in addition to how a stand-up in Chicago went on to be a writer for one of the most popular television crime dramas of all time, and when, if ever, we will officially meet and consequently woo Mariska Hargitay.

On Comedy in Chicago...
I started doing stand-up in Chicago about thirteen years ago, I think. I went through Second City as well, and used to do the jams over at ImprovOlympic (iO). Around that time, the rooms were at the Birds Nest, on N. Southport Ave. Me and a Chicago comic now out in LA named John Roy walked in and tried to get on the list. Two comics, I won't say their names, wouldn't let us on the show. They acted like they were protecting a Broadway stage. That was my first exposure to stand-up comedy. The good and the shitty. Other rooms were the Monkey Bar, Zanies, the Elevated. I started a room at the Morseland Music Room in the Northside neighborhood of Rogers Park and eventually settled on a weekly show at Coyle's Tippling House that ran almost three years. It was a pretty great time to be doing comedy.

We never really shot a ton of stuff; it was all about performing live. I was asked to perform in the Chicago Comedy Festival in 2001 and consequently got discovered by a talent agency in Los Angeles. I didn't really want to move but I flew out to take some meetings and meet some people. On the morning of 9/11, I watched the second plane fly into the tower and had a realization. I live in the greatest country in the world and am playing it safe. I was raised by my grandfather who, as an immigrant, would always remind me about the American Dream and how you can do anything here as long as you work hard for it. As soon as flights were back up and running, I flew out and moved to LA.

ActuallyFunny contributor Doug Karo's take on Christmas Future.

On Writing for Television...
I'd done some stand-up on TV and was trying to book roles on half-hours. At that time, I was too old to play the young kid and not old enough to play the dad or the dad's friends. The WB and CW networks were huge and I looked like a blue collar guy so I couldn't get a role on any shows. I started booking roles on dramas in, oddly enough, blue collar roles. I would hang out with the writers on set and, through this, ended up befriending the guy who gave me my first real break. He had written a pilot I booked as an actor that was never picked up. After the network passed on it, I called and asked if I could take him to lunch and tell him an idea I had for a drama. He liked it and we ended up selling it to CBS. They never made it but that was my introduction to the world of TV drama writing. His name was Vince Ngo, a great guy who I feel very fortunate to have worked with.

Since then, I have written on a show called The Black Donnellys with Bobby Moresco and Paul Haggis and then onto Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I am coming to the end of my third season on that show. The people I've been able to work with have blown me away, personally and professionally. They really know their shit and were patient and kind enough to share their craft with me so I could raise my game up a little.

On Actually Funny...
Throughout my time writing dramas, I never stopped doing stand-up. Sometimes I would rent out a theater and just put up my own show, with comics I really liked. I love producing. I love watching the audience have a good time as much as I love performing. Which is why I launched ActuallyFunny.com -- I scooped up the domain a couple years ago and was waiting for the right time and concept to do something with it. The idea behind it is that there is no upload button. It's a group of handpicked writer/performers who create original content and post things they find funny. Ideally, a strong comedy community will develop where we will shoot each others' projects, act in them, direct them, etc., pushing each other to be prolific and challenge each other.

ActuallyFunny contributor Shannon Hatch goes on a waxing mission.

Right now we have some really strong Chicago people and LA people. Over the next month, I'll be reaching out to NYC and a couple other cities. I would love to have 6-10 new pieces coming out a day as well as videos the creators find funny. Here's who's on board so far: Ricky Carmona (Chicago), Danielle Stewart (LA), Guy Nicolucci (NYC now in LA), Dan Bialek (LA), John Roy (Chicago now in LA), Christina Pazsitzky  (LA), Andrew Santino (Chicago now in LA), and, most recently, Doug Karo, from the Conan camp. We're very happy to have him on board.

Eventually, I'd like to have an ActuallyFunny.com tour. I see that happening about eighteen months from now but right now I am excited about building the site out slowly, making sure only really funny stuff gets up.

We are looking for writers and people making shorts in all different parts of the country. People can contact me at mickbetancourt@gmail.com if they want to submit or be a part of ActuallyFunny.com.

On Mariska...?
If you are ever in NYC and I'm shooting, I'll bring you on set to check shizz out.

!!!!!!

--Kristy Mangel

Wednesday
Jan202010

Inside With: Jamie Kilstein

By: Matthew Filipowicz

Jamie Kilstein's list of fans is pretty impressive. Janeane Garafolo, Paul Provenza, Brian Eno, Noam Chomsky... Yes, you read that right. Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky called Citizen Radio, the political talk show Jamie hosts with Allison Kilkenny,

"An important political radio show that balances humor and unreported news. At a time when media conglomerates dominate the airwaves, independent media like Citizen Radio is vital to national discourse."

Not bad, considering Chomsky is one of the greatest political minds of our generation.

In addition to constantly touring the globe, Jamie’s been seen on Comedy Central, the BBC, and GritTV. He’s also a contributor to a little newspaper called the Onion.

I recently sat down with Jamie, via email, to ask him a few questions about his stand-up, his radio show, and his upcoming gig tomorrow, January 21, at the Lakeshore Theater in Chicago.

MATT: So, in addition to doing stand-up, you also co-host Citizen Radio. How'd you get started with that?

JAMIE: We started it because there were political topics that I couldn't really talk about on stage. I mean, I talk about them but I could not go into as much detail as I would like. It's hard enough what I do with out being like "So the military industrial complex teamed with private mercenaries are really perpetrating a myth of security while murdering innocent Muslims and escalating the conflicts, all the while using it as an excuse for the government to take away our civil liberties AM I RIGHT FELLAS?!

We started it really on the cheap. We did it from our cellphones in our studio apartment in Queens. We couldn't even be in the same room with each other because of feedback. It was so insane. Somehow the show got a really big following, though, cause we weren't talking down to people. I had lunch yesterday with Ralph Nader’s running mate, Matt Gonzalez, and finally confessed to him that when we had him and Ralph on the show, claiming to be professional, I was pacing around in my kitchen on my cell phone while doing it, occasionally running into the bedroom to give Allison the thumbs up.

Then we had a meeting with CNN and Breakthru Radio, an online station that plays free indie music, on the same day. CNN was such a fucking nightmare that we decided to make less money but stay closer to our roots so that's where we are now. I think I'll tell the CNN story this week on stage.

MATT: Was it an easy transition from stand-up to radio?

JAMIE: In terms of the transition, it is all improv. So it was really a new muscle for me but I think once I got used to it, they both started to compliment each other. So I'm really excited about that. The show is at wearecitizenradio.com.

MATT: Who've been your favorite interviews, so far?

JAMIE: Howard Zinn, by far. He invited Allison and I to his house, which was fucking nuts. I mean A Peoples History Of The United States has changed countless lives. This guy is a fucking hero. His home looks exactly how you would picture it. Old tucked away modest wrap around porch. It was like going to visit your grandfather. The second we walked in he offered us juice. It was fucking adorable. So we sit down with him and he is 6 inches away talking about the war, talking about history, making fun of himself. The dude had has laughing more then most comics. Just a genuine fucking hero.

MATT: You're well known for doing political standup. What topics can audiences expect in your Lakeshore show?

JAMIE: Old, out dated George Bush jokes. I'm kidding. I don't mention his name.

Without giving too much away, it's very political but I'm trying some new sorta risky things that so far have been getting the best reaction I think I have ever received.

MATT: The Democrats are in power... shit's as fucked up as ever. Go. (I know this isn't technically a question...)

JAMIE: Ha. I think it's disgusting that liberals are not willing to criticize their own team when they are in power. We are supposed to be the party of reason and of inquiry. I go after them hard.

MATT: Your latest CD, Zombie Jesus was actually recorded at the Lakeshore. Why’d you choose to record it here in Chicago?

JAMIE: Lakeshore is the only venue I would have done it at. No fucking drink minimum. No puppets. It's about comedy, not joke stealing hacks who want another shit balled sitcom. If you are reading this and you think I sound like a preachy cunt then go see someone else, some other time at Lakeshore. It's one of the only places that's going to save and keep comedy alive and we need to support it.

Matthew Filipowicz is a comedian, cartoonist and satirist whose work can be found at http://matthewf.net.

Wednesday
Nov252009

The CHI Hip Tip

Ben Lerman | Photo: Elizabeth McQuern

NYC ukulele comedian Ben Lerman (Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Feast of Fun) returns to Hamburger Mary’s for one night of music and comedy to celebrate the release of his new EP, Size Matters, featuring Chicago stand-up comics Cameron Esposito and Dan Telfer. Tickets are $12; click to purchase. 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 28, Hamburger Mary’s, 5400 N. Clark, Chicago.