Unsung Genius: A Look Inside the Mind of Dan Shapiro

Unsung Genius: A Look Inside the Mind of Dan Shapiro

Every second Sunday of the month at Cole’s Bar in Logan Square one of the most original and brilliant comedians in Chicago takes the stage and performs stand-up for free. “Dan Shapiro’s Rigged Open Mic” is one of the best new reading series in Chicago you haven’t heard of yet.

The story of “Dan Shapiro’s Rigged Open Mic” begins in 2010, when Dan Shapiro and CBS content writer and literary curator, Mason Johnson, created the reading series, “P. Fanatics”. The series was an unfortunate casualty of low publicity, and a year later it closed its doors. However, Johnson championed for Shapiro and together the two collaborated on, “Dan Shapiro’s Rigged Open Mic”, a reading series that blends stand-up comedy with open mic readings.

“I want to infuse humor into more mediums,” Shapiro says as he sips his espresso. “A lot of people are under the suspicion that comedy is its own separate universe from other forms of entertainment, I want to show them that that isn’t always the case.”

Standing at 6’4”, Dan Shapiro is a gentle giant. Hailing from Wichita, Kansas, he is mild-mannered and shy and has an affinity for Prokofiev and other classical music. His idea of a perfect night includes Crunchy Cheetos and watching Conan on TBS in the company of his blonde Labrador Retriever, Punkin.

Influenced largely by “Firesign Theatre”, Dan Shapiro is a contributing writer for Robbie Q. Telfer and Shanney Jean Maney’s variety show/reading series, “The Encyclopedia Show”.

Ironically enough, Shapiro didn’t go to his alma mater (Columbia College Chicago) to study creative writing.

“I went to study TV production.” He says, citing “The Blues Brothers” director, John Landis, as a hero of his. “I stumbled into the (creative writing) program by complete accident,” he says. The accident proved serendipitous, and revealed to him his potential as a writer. It was there he met Mason Johnson, the man who would change his life.

“He is one of the greatest people you’ll ever meet,” he says. “Mason and I actually had a television writing class together at Columbia College Chicago, and we bonded over our shared sense of humor.” Toward the end of the semester, Johnson reached out to Shapiro.

“It was crazy,” he says, remembering when Johnson approached him about joining the Silver Tongue reading series. “He emailed me and was like, ‘I want you to read at this event, you show real promise.’” He says, smiling nostalgically.

The inaugural event that Shapiro read at was “The Encyclopedia Show Presents Bears”. Shapiro performed a humorous monologue he wrote dedicated to the history of the Chicago Bears, a performance that hurled him into mythical status in the Chicago literary community. From then on, Shapiro was a regular performer for the Silver Tongue reading series up until his graduation.

The book that changed his life is John Okada’s, No-No Boy. Of it he says, “Okada taught me the raw power of the narrative form.” His affinity for the novel says a lot about his own writing style: It is potent and un-diluted, raw and honest.

“I’m unafraid to take risks,” he says straightening his spine. Right now, he is hard at work on a novel, while also creating stories for his reading series. He has tenacity towards writing that is admirable. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work with the people I do, and to do what I love.”

Dan Shapiro is exactly the kind of person one wishes to meet: he is loyal and determined, positive and affable. He is a true original, and a gem in the crown of the Chicago Literary community.

Dan Shapiro in action

Dan Shapiro was raised in Wichita, Ks.  He is a writer/ comedian.  His short stories have appeared in the online magazines "Untoward" and "Hypertext".  He was co-host of the reading series "P. Fanatics".  He is currently a regular performer at "Write Club", "Ray's Tap Reading Series", and "The God, Sex, and Death Variety Hour".  He hosts "Dan Shapiro's Rigged Open Mic" every second Sunday of the month at Cole's at 8:30.  He graduated from Columbia College in 2011.  There he cut his teeth writing and performing with a loose collective of spoken word artists known as "Silver Tongues".  He is currently working on a few novels and writing jokes and stories for his upcoming shows.  He does standup at open mics when he feels like it.

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