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Friday Free-For-All

PhotobucketSpoofy musical group Lola Balatro has a four-night stand at The Playground (3209 N. Halsted) on Fridays, starting tonight, July 11 through August 1. The show is at 10:00 p.m. and tickets are $10. Tonight's opening comics are Prescott Tolk and Sean Flannery.

The Second City is kicking off "The Second City Improv All-Stars" on Saturday, July 12, 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. at The Apollo Theater Chicago (2540 N. Lincoln Avenue). The show is directed by Mick Napier and features a rotating cast including Alex Fendrich, Niki Lindgren, Rachael Mason, Craig Uhlir, Claudia Wallace and Steve Waltien. Call the Apollo Theater Box Office for tickets - 773-935-6100.

Speaking of Annoyance Theater founder and Chicago comedy legend Mick Napier, Time Out Chicago just published a fascinating interview with him, called "Mick in the Head," which explains his recent horrific experience with the smoking cessation prescription Chantix, and his determination to shake off its ill effects. Napier is slated to direct Second City’s 50th anniversary main stage show beginning in late 2009.

PhotobucketChicago improv comedy duo Cathcart & Olson will represent Chicago at The 5th Annual San Francisco Improv Festival, July 31 – August 2. "Cathcart & Olson perform rapid fire comedy that celebrates and analyzes current trends, human behavior, and the struggle to maintain balance in a chaotic world," according to the press release. Cathcart & Olson have performed at improv festivals in Toronto, Austin, Seattle, and Washington, DC; and at venues all over sweet home Chicago. They will stage a send-off show at The Playground Theater on Tuesday, July 29 at 8:00 p.m.


Big City Small World at Second City

PhotobucketBeing in the grocery store with my grandmother as a child was always a fascinating experience -- that woman seemed to know everyone, and wasn’t afraid to talk to them at length in the dairy aisle.

Though Neil Arsenty and Noelle Schmitt have only known each other since college as opposed to 50+ years, they have come to realize that all of their friends are interconnected somehow, and thus spawned Big City, Small World, playing Thursdays through July 17th at Donny’s Skybox.

"Noelle and I met eight years ago in college and have been good friends ever since," Arsenty told the Bastion. "Ever since I heard my first Mike Nichols and Elaine May album, I've been wanting to do two-person sketch and in December, our mutual friend (and my oft director of Skybox-shows-I've-performed-in) Jay Steigmann suggested we join forces to put together this show. We were both amused to discover how much everyone is really connected in our lives, like so-and-so went to high school with this person who is now the roommate of this person who is longtime friends with someone that I met years ago. That basically was the basis of the show."

Previously, the pair have made a few short films, including Super Happy Help Squad and the web-series Basil. Schmitt is writer and performer for SchmittHaus, a production company she is launching with her brothers Matthew and Jared. They are currently working on a video webseries. Arsenty has been in about ten sketch revues in Chicago (nine at the Skybox), he's a writer and performer for the video podcast Midwest Teen Sex Show, and a member of the sketch group Cell Camp. He's also performed improv and stand-up from time to time.

In this two-person show, Arsenty and Schmitt play a wide range of characters from angsty teen and cool mom, to video store clerk and customer, to recently-fired husband and menopausal wife.

Though each vignette is brief, each is endearing and, of course, funny. With only one show left, make it a priority to get to Second City and see this show before it’s too late.

Trapped opens at 10:30pm with Big City, Small World following. The final show is Thursday, July 17.

-Jen Bacher


Macho at the Lincoln Lodge

Chicago sweethearts Joselyn Hughes and Brooke Van Poppelen are going to be staging their brand-spankin' new sketch show, "Grow a Pair", this Thursday and Friday at the Lincoln Lodge (4008 N. Lincoln). The show is directed by Second City alum and Chicago ex-pat Deb Downing.

Joselyn and Brooke sum up the show thusly: "People like pretty, quiet ladies. We are loud, drunk, and obnoxious and decided we weren't fooling anybody by pretending we were petite flowers. Macho is a show that lets us express our machismo through ridiculous characters that are all powerful, animated, and opinionated. And definitely not quiet."

Asked about their collaborative efforts, both with this sketch and in their stand-up work, they said: "We spend a lot of time together; being that we are lady stand-ups and perform often. We decided to stop competing and decided to team up and wage war against the world together. We practically have collaborated ourselves into a life partnership. Our next project will probably involve adopting an Asian baby and opening a used book store/coffee shop. It's weird for sure."

Brooke, Joselyn, and Deb Downing will all be headed to the DC Comedy Fest in August to perform stand-up. After that, they are planning to take "Grow a Pair" back to NYC with them after polishing it "back home" this week.

--Kristy Mangel


New Video Wednesday

"Cubs/Sox (Three Strikes You're Out)" from the show "There's Plenty of Fish in the Sea and They're All Judging You":

Nick Vatterott's Conan O'Brien commercial submission:

Renee Gauthier, Mike Bridenstine, Nate Craig, and Mike Burns in, "What, Are You On Your Period?":

Kara Buller
is Like a Virgin:


O.I.N.K.! Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

PhotobucketIn late June 2007, a little bar in Edgewater called Kitty Moon became the home of a newly created comedy showcase. The creator of the show, Othy Schwering, had just finished his first level of improv classes at the Annoyance Theatre and was in search of additional stage time. Rather than slug around Chicago’s densely populated comedy scene in search of a coveted timeslot, Schwering decided to stage his own variety show and invite stand-ups, improvisers and sketch performers to fill up his bill.

One year later and a venue change to The Playground Theater, Schwering’s comedy showcase, known as Othy’s Improv Night Kabaret or O.I.N.K.!, is still going strong. He and his co-producer, Kannan Arumugam, just celebrated the show’s one-year anniversary last week with an all-star line-up that included the Chicago Reader’s choice for best Chicago stand-up, Michael Palascak; the Chicago Reader’s readers’ choice for best sketch group, Hey You Millionaires; and the one-man sketch stylings of Nick Vatterott.

PhotobucketThe Bastion sat down with Schwering to discuss the history of O.I.N.K.!, Robert Buscemi and why a pig in a spacesuit represents comedy.

Tell me about the beginnings of O.I.N.K.!

The first three shows were known as "Pallin' Around with Othy" and consisted of some former improv classmates and me as "The Johnny Come Earlies" and a few guest improv groups. So it was basically just an improv open mic. One classmate, Kannan Arumugam, was the only one to consistently show up to perform with the Johnnies, and we soon formed what is now the two-man house troupe of O.I.N.K!, Las Madres del Fútbol.

How did you go from an improv open mic to a pan-comedy showcase?

I met a brilliant comedian with a penchant for genius, one Robert Buscemi, who frequented the cafe that was, at the time, my employ. I asked him if he would do some stand-up to open up the show, warm up the audience, and generally spice things up a bit and he obliged. A comedy variety show was born. He would stop back by every once in awhile and suggest comic friends that would do sets when he couldn't make it.

If O.I.N.K.! had a mission statement, what would it be?

O.I.N.K!, from its inception, has always been about bringing together audience and artist in an unpretentious atmosphere where everyone can relax, feel respected and have a good laugh midweek. It's a chance for improvisers, musicians, and comedians to come together with like-minded artists and hone their craft in front of some great O.I.N.K! audiences.

You perform improv with Las Madres Del Fútbol and do some stand-up as O.I.N.K.!’s host. Tell me about your comedic beginnings.

PhotobucketI suffered with bouts of pretty severe depression in college until a friend turned me on to “Mr. Show” on DVD. It was such a flash point for me—and not just comedically. It was so brilliantly executed and it just looked like what they were doing was a lot of fun. I realized then and there that one has to choose to be happy and live for yourself. I had always been interested in comedy and performing, so I switched majors from political science to theatre, finished school, and moved to Chicago.

You use a pig in a spacesuit as your logo. Where did that come from?

One muggy summer night last year, as I was doodling in my daily-machinations/think-thought notepad and brainstorming ideas on how to market the show, I started drawing pigs, with the tie-in tag line of "ham it up" in mind. Eventually, I noticed that the onomatopoeic "oink" shared the same first letter as Othy, and in the true spirit of self-aggrandizement I workshopped a number of iterations of the acronymic moniker until I came up with Othy's Improv Night Kabaret. The show's start at the Kitty Moon helps explain the pig in a spacesuit logo. Plus, I thought "O.I.N.K! at the Moon" was funny, as it seemed that the act of "oinking at the moon" was a foolish, if foolhardy gesture.

Any future plans?

The addition of Jen Larson as our first "oinktern" has further freed up Kannan and me to put on a slicker, smoother, and higher quality show and her energy and enthusiasm has definitely helped to reinvigorate the show. If anyone is looking for an unpaid oinkternship, they will find them readily available! As far as plans for the future go, we are researching how to make the show better and better. Discounted tickets are now Photobucketavailable online at, a new stand-alone website is in the works and we've teamed up with Jones Soda to develop a line of O.I.N.K!-branded cream soda. Mind you, all these bells and whistles are only there to further our goal of creating great shows that bring together artists and audience in a rollicking comedic communion. Ham it up!

O.I.N.K.! is every Wednesday at 10 p.m. at The Playground Theater. Tickets are available online at , where you can also send a message to request more information about being part of the show. Also, if you say "porkchops" at the box office, your ticket is only $5.

Photos (of, top to bottom, Othy Schwering and Kannan Arumugam, Nick Vatterott, Hey You Millionaires' James Asmus and Jim Fath, and Michael Palascak) by Annie Lesser.

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