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i.O. Explores New Media

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMike Balzer tells us that some spiffy "new media" experiments are a'brewing at i.O.. Mike, or "Baz," if you feel so inclined, is soon to be heading production at IO's Del Close Theater, and says that in addition to the six i.O. blogs that now populate their site, and the occasional videos that they're putting online (check out the "Baby Wants Candy" promo), i.O. is also gearing up for regular weekly podcasts. Mike also hopes to use his new position to bring more national acts into the theater, and will be producing several national festival-type events over the next year.


The Smooth Sounds of Yacht Rock Will Invade Your Senses Tonight

Yacht Rock!They blew into town about a week or so ago, invading open mics and showcases from The Mix, to Chicago Underground Comedy, to The Playground Theater, and have been assaulting the airwaves as guests of the Visitors Locker Room. Tonight the invasion of the L.A. Contingent will culminate at the Empty Bottle for a FREE screening of the complete Channel 101 series, "Yacht Rock".

What the heck is "Yacht Rock?" To quote the Empty Bottle site, it's a serial that "examines the ‘soft rock’ era of the seventies, recreating it in all its dramatic, excessive glory, offering up a gripping, hilarious ‘behind the scenes’ narrative that exposes the intersections and motivations of the Doobie Brothers, Loggins & Messina, Steely Dan and others." Sounds like ironic nostalgia at its finest.

Lots of "Chicago boys gone L.A." have been in town this week, wearing The Bastion out - and many of them will be at the Empty Bottle tonight to cheer on their "Yacht Rock" pals - but it's been nothing short of magical having them all back in sweet home Chicago.


Inside With: TJ Miller, Comedian

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TJ Miller, an indelible fixture in the Chicago comedy scene, is a very busy boy. He's in a nationally-airing Quaker Oats commercial, several Cubs Radio spots, performs as part of the Second City Touring Company, and manages the web site, (shot with zgroupfilms, launching in August/September). He was on PBS' Standard Deviants and was recently featured in Chicago Magazine. He also improvises with the house team Bullet Lounge at IO, and has a two-man show called Practice Scaring a Bear with Thomas Middleditch at IO Chicago (formerly Improv Olympic) on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. He's a staff writer with He drives a Ford Focus with 17" chrome rims and a purple neon underbody kit. He lives hilariously, as evidenced by too many late nights at 1 a.m. open mics all over the city of Chicago, every night of the week.

What's up with you now, TJ? Anything special in the works? What regular spots are you doing?

I'm still performing 7 nights a week, often more than twice a night. I'm touring with Second City, I'm doing voice over projects, I am doing a lot of stand up, and my biggest project right now is It's a satirical porn website where the pornographer, Chelse Humboldt (me) is so bad at making porn that there is no sexual content and no nudity on the site. It's hopefully going to be awesome. I collaborated wth Kohl Norville on that; he is a director with zgroupfilms, and shot the Quaker thing and the KFC thing with me.

What work are you most proud of thus far in your career?

I have loved a lot of shows I've done. Last night Nick Vatterott and I walked into Pressure Cafe, killed, and left. The room was in dire straits when we walked in, and I was pretty proud of that. I really like any show I do with great people, of which there are a lot in Chicago. I love the improv I do with Chuckle Sandwich and Thomas Middleditch, I think our last Sketchfest show with heavyweight was good. The show I'm touring with Second City is getting really good. I guess what I'm saying is, I am proudest of the next set I'm going to do. And that I have never had a great show. Just ask the 10:30 IO slot with Bullet Lounge. But other shows we're doing are great. We have a showcase for Brillstein and Grey on Friday at 8pm. Come see it.

What does the rest of 2006 hold for you? 2007?

Some club dates, Practice Scaring a Bear, the Del Close Marathon with Chuckle Sandwich, more touring with Second City, specifically Atlantic City in July and August, and the launch. A functional relationship with a woman hopefully. My sister is coming into town and we're going to do a show. She's hilarious. Doing comedy every night for another two years. I am tired a lot. Sometimes I put cereal in peanut butter and eat it.

Where are you favorite places to perform with the Second City Touring Company?

Talequah, Oklahoma. Conway, Arkansas. Winona State University. You know, all the major American vacation spots.

You recently went to L.A. with Prescott Tolk to do Bombast at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater. How did that go? Do you have any West Coast adventure stories for us?

Yes. It went very well, good turn out and the people we wanted to see it saw it. I think Prescott is one of the best comedians I know right now. He's so different from me, yet he makes me laugh and I'm so impressed with his writing. I love that guy. He's my best friend but he gets mad because I'm late for everything. Everyone e-mail him and tell him to stop being mad about that. I have ADHD.

My laptop was stolen at a hostel that I stayed at because I thought (staying at a hostel) would be funny. By a Belgian guy, I think. That was pretty unbelievable. I wish I could have videotaped me getting up in the morning and realizing my laptop was stolen while I was sleeping. I was yelling a lot at international travelers. That was unique. I met a girl, became her boyfriend and broke up with her before ever kissing her or anything. That was pretty funny. L.A. is weird, but eating sushi with Prescott and searching for a cap gun and silly string on Hollywood Boulevard makes it easier. I feel like my life is so absurd that the deeper I fall into it the easier it is.

I'm going to do more with my website, and I'm excited about that. E-mail me with any ideas for ways to steal lighters from Crown Liquors on Clark Street.

Kristy Mangel


Amy Sedaris IS Jerri Blank IS Florrie Fisher

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingJerri Blank is practically a Chicagoan herself, what with her creator Amy Sedaris having been through the Second City program with "Strangers With Candy" co-creators Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello. But did you know that the 46-year old former prostitute and recovering drug addict Blank had a real-life inspiration? A 47-year old, yes, former prostitute and recovering drug addict. Her name was Florrie Fisher, and she toured high schools across America in the 1970's, verbally bludgeoning kids with her special brand of bombastic, wild-eyed anti-drug message. With the clips up at YouTube it's pretty clear than Amy nailed it - the hair, the grimacing facial expressions, the rambling intensity.

-Elizabeth McQuern


The Bastion Is Born

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAnd you thought the gyros at St. Andrew's Greek Festival were the hottest things going in Chicago this week.

Yes, kids, New York City's The Apiary had a baby in Chicago, and it's called the Bastion.

The Bastion will explore and promote the underground comedy scene in Chicago with listings, reviews, photos, and video clips, as well as interviews with notable and interesting comedy figures on the scene.

It's your source for comedy info in the Windy City. Standup, improv, sketch, and more. Got a tip? Want to suggest a link? Give us a shout. We're here for you.

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