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Entries in show recap (4)

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

Thursday
Jun242010

Just for Laughs Chicago Wrap-up – Day Four

Chicago native and The Mo'Nique Show's Rodney Perry guests on Breakout Performers at Jokes & Notes, to uproarious approval

Friday night’s JFL activities were nearly threatened out of oblivion when a storm of Apocalyptic proportions doused the city in near-flash flooding and 70 MPH winds that evening. Even Chicago’s own Sears Willis Tower fell victim to the powerful storm, when several of its windows blew out and shattered to the city streets. A few out-of-towners even took note of the atmospheric insanity, namely Patton Oswalt and Chris Hardwick. The comedy show must go on, however, and all events went along as planned. I made it to the Southside relatively unscathed, to take in the first two of four JFL shows scheduled at Chicago’s preeminent urban club, Jokes & Notes.

Chicago remains a mostly segregated city, in population and in comedy, and it is a rare treat for North and Southside factions to visit each other’s rooms. In fact, this was my first visit to Jokes & Notes, and afterwards sat incredulous, wondering why it had taken me so long to make the commute to 47th Street. The audience’s energy level matched and sometimes surpassed the high energy of all of the performers, as folks hooted and hollered and danced to the hip-hop and funk tracks played between every set. Pure joy enveloped the large yet comfortable room, while winds and thunder and lightning continued into the night.

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Wednesday
Jun232010

Just for Laughs Chicago Wrap-up – Day Three

Schadenfreude quips with Chicago furniture tycoon Tim Smithe | Photo by Erin Nekervis

After what became an extremely late Wednesday night, things were feeling a little sluggish for Day Three of the festival. On the slab for the evening was the music and sketch comedy of local institution Schadenfreude. The group welcomed several special guests for their “uber-local” jokings, including radio personalities Eddie and JoBo, furniture mogul Tim Smithe, comedians Brian Babylon and Joe Bill, soul band The Jordan Years, and Grammy-winning Chicago hip-hop artist Rhymefest. The audience was treated to esoteric observations on all things Chicago, coupled with an inspiring musical backdrop from The Jordan Years. Rhymefest helped close out the sketch portion of the evening, proving that he’s more than just a pretty face in the rap game, but also an astute comedian in his own right.

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Tuesday
Nov242009

Deck the Halls of Congress with Improv: WIT's Seasonal Disorder 2009

Cast members Catherine Deadman and Mike Bass | Photo: Washington Improv Theater

By: Aparna Nancherla

This past weekend marked the eighth annual premiere of Washington Improv Theater's Seasonal Disorder show, in which audience's own life-based suggestions are used to create a particular family's holiday experience. According to cast member Karin Hammerberg, the Friday show featured a family snowed into a church with Pastor Jay who carried a guitar but never played it, Uncle Roscoe (no relation to anyone) but the boy scout leader, two twentysomethings destined for love but from dysfunctional families, and 15-year-old Russell and his misguided parents. Sounds like a recipe for holiday magic!

In addition, WIT's many other troupes including Caveat, Jackie, Season Six, Jinx, and IMusical also presented shows running the gamut from monoscenes to tales with singing to exploring worlds within worlds to stories that are told backwards to a format cryptically entitled "The Slacker."

Full details on WIT's holiday run schedule (Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, now thru Jan. 2) are available here.

--Aparna Nancherla is a Washington D.C.-based comedian whose credits include NBC Stand Up for Diversity finalist and Last Comic Standing. More importantly, she is on Twitter and her stand up and improv performance schedule stays current here.