Funny Valentine

Just a couple of quick reviews of some shows I got to see over the Valentine's Day weekend:

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Strange Bedfellows and Bootstraps.

Another week, another bunch of shows. This week saw me thinking about the marriage of comedy and erotica, and the importance of DIY  marketing...

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I, Podcast: Adventures in Internet Radio.

Increasingly these days, comedians are using the world of podcasts as a way to promulgate their own particular brand of hilarity. I've never met a bandwagon I didn't like, and thus have been fervently trying to join them. Especially this week...

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Open Mics, Fancy Pants Shows, and everything in between: A week in review.

Monday 18thShambles Open Mic. Mo Welch and Rasa Gierstikas run this rough and ready open mic on Division St. Usually this show is a lot of fun; this particular night the mostly comedian-filled audience was a little frosty. However, all it takes is a couple of smokin' hot bits from Adam Burke to thaw this crowd out, right? Actually not so much. I gamely tried a bunch of new material that tanked hard. Still, that's what open mics are for; they let you know if new stuff might work, and they kick you in the pants when you've got a whole bunch of nothing. 

Wednesday 20th: Wednesdays are busy for me; I host the Garret Ripley's (712 N. Clark) comedy showcase to an intimate crowd in the basement of this cool River North bar. Then I jet over to Cole's bar (2338 N. Milwaukee) to help Chilarious founder Cameron Esposito run our weekly open mic there. We usually get between 30-50 comics but still manage to keep it fun and high energy throughout (we also have an amazing cadre of diehard audience members who come back week after week). Between the two I get a lot of opportunity to hone my hosting chops, which is important for a newer comedian. 

Thursday 21st: Chicago comics get booked in just about any kind of space that can hold a mic and a speaker. Take for instance the show I did on Thursday, which was held in the party room of a high rise in River North. The shows are the brainchild of local promoter Andy Siegmann who books shows in a half dozen or so high rise buildings throughout various downtown neighborhoods. I asked Andy about his motives behind the show. "World domination," said Seigmann. But seriously folks: "We aim to provide a fun event for residents and a little marketing for each building." These shows can be a lot of fun, especially if crowd workers extraordinaire Marty DeRosa and Joe Kilgallon are also on the bill. 

Friday 22nd: Back at Cole's tonight to do a slot at a music show for my friend Roy Ivy. Doing comedy in between bands isn't always the easiest thing in the world so I was lucky that the crowd listened and even laughed during my set. 

Saturday 23rd: I got to pick up a nice hosting gig opening for the fantastic Brian Posehn at the  Lakeshore Theater. Adding to the sweetness of the situation was that the show also featured Mike Stanley and brilliant New York iconoclast Mr. Jamie Kilstein

The Mo Show

Chilarious Scene reporter Thunder Davis (aka Chris Condren) brought us the first of a series of show recommendations with this review of The Mo Show:

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34 not out: the first week (Adam Burke)

So, about a week ago, and through no fault of my own, I turned 34. While this has, as you can imagine, taken quite a psychic toll on as winsome and effete a soul as I, the transition has not been without its benefits. To whit, I got to spend it in the company of some of the most talented and all-round delectable souls in the Chicago comedy community. A brief recap of the past six or so days, you ask? Why, certainly:

Sunday 10th: I had the good fortune to spend part of my birthday over at the marvelous Entertaining Julia showcase at Town Hall Pub. The manifold pleasures of appearing on this delightful and always gangbusters show were topped by its being closed by Mr. Brady Novak, one of the most exquisitely hilarious people I've ever had the pleasure to meet. To sample just a soupcon of Mr. Novak's indefatigable wit please peruse this clip (absolutely NSFW, nor for the faint of heart), which he wrote and produced with members of the brilliant HeavyWeight sketch group (who happened to be in town for SketchFest).

Monday 11th: I was honored to be part of the inaugural line-up for the brand new Please Enjoy Yourself showcase at the Underground Lounge. I think this is going to be a solid showcase; it's in a great neighborhood and the venue is tailor-made for fun, intimate stand-up.

Wednesday 13th: Chicago stand-up got to kick its heels into some of the most hallowed performance turf in the city. Longtime Schuba's bartender and inchoate comedian Brad LaBree threw together (and hosted) an amazing show at the prestigious Southport music venue which looks to be a monthly staple of the scene. The first Laugh It Up Kid showcase -also part of the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival- featured myself alongside James Fritz, Mike Sheehan, Cameron Esposito, and Prescott Tolk.

Thursday 14th: The Three Graces of the Chicago comedy scene- that is, Lauren Vino, Renee Schultz, and Liza Treyger- host a marvelous show called Riot Comedy over at Chicago Joe''s every Thursday. I got to do a set here this night, and had the pleasure of seeing headliner  Brendan McGowan do the most effusive version of his famous "Steak Story" I'd ever seen.

Friday 15th; I closed out my week with a set at the Cakewalk extravaganza, a marvelous improv showcase curated by the eponymous Cakewalk group at the Playground Theater. The show begins at midnight, and as befits such a late show, the crowd was dutifully and correctly rowdy. Shows like this can be rough, or they can be as they were in this instance; an utter delight. Having a tipsy crowd lob non sequiturs at you can be a lot of fun- when you're in the right frame of mind- and this group were the exactly the right mix of playful and respectful. I had a lot of fun, and it was an excellent end to my first week of being 34.

Cheers, you lovable rogues.

Adam Burke

Prescott Tolk Kicks Off Lakeshore's Art of Local Comedy Series

In case you missed the show last night, Prescott Tolk headlines what is sure to be another amazing show at the Lakeshore Theater tonight.  His two show headliner gig is the first in the Lakeshore's new Art of Local Comedy Series.  Future installments will feature the likes of Ken Barnard and Dan Telfer.  The Lakeshore does an outstanding job of supporting local talent, and these shows are a great way to see some of Chicago's best comics do a full 45 minute set.

Prescott Tolk headlines the Lakeshore Theater at 7:30 PM tonight.

Brave the Blizzard for Novak and Vatterott

Tonight's Lincoln Lodge line-up includes former Chicagoans Brady Novak and Nick Vatterott, two of the most innovative and engaging performers I have ever seen.  You would rarely get a chance to see either of these guys on a Chicago show.  With both on one bill, you are almost required to put on your snow boots, wrap a scarf round your head, and get on over to Lincoln, Damen and Irving Park tonight.  As an added bonus, hop down the street to Chicago Joe's after the Lodge show to catch the end of Riot Comedy.  There.  I've planned an amazing evening for you.  You're welcome.

The Lincoln Lodge runs Thursday and Friday nights at 9 PM at the Lincoln Restaurant (4008 N. Lincoln).  Riot Comedy runs Thursdays at 9:30 PM at Chicago Joe's (2256 W. Irving Park).

Kevin McCaffrey Wakes Up to Letterman

My buddy Kevin McCaffrey is in town this week for holiday familytime, and I got the chance to perform with him last night.  Kevin is a great guy, very friendly, extremely funny, someone I struck up a conversation with doing shows in New York and with whom I have kept in touch.  He's also works for the Late Show with David Letterman, and spends his mornings emailing in possible jokes for Dave's monologue.  Kevin told me last night that his greatest dream career wise has always been to work for Letterman.  And I'm going to assume he always wanted to wear a bathrobe whilst doing so:

Kevin McCaffrey performs tonight at 9:30 PM at Chicago Underground Comedy.

Jordan Vogt-Roberts Gets to Sundance

During his few years as a Chicagoan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts revolutionized the interaction between standup comedy and short films.  As the filmmaker behind the now defunct, Jordan's videos worked out jokes for a collection of Chicago's top comics - many of whom, like TJ Miller and Kyle Kinane, have gone on to greater national success.  Jordan has since relocated to LA, and his short film Successful Alcoholics is an official selection of this year's Sundance Film Festival.  I caught up with JVR to ask a few questions about moving from Chicago's alternative standup scene to Sundance. 
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Mike Cody's Christmas Wrestling Showdown

Think manger scenes are boring?  Then please allow sometime Chicago (now Cincinnati) comic Mike Cody to kick your holidays up a notch. 

Heading through Cincinnati soon?  Mike runs Underbelly, "the strangest show in town," the first Tuesday of every month.  More details via StandupCincy.

Your Friday Internet Jokestorm...Tig Notaro

I am going crazy with joy just thinking about opening for Tig Notaro at the Lakeshore Theater tonight and tomorrow.  She is one of my favorite comics to watch, crazy dry and super subtle, and I've never had the chance to see her live.  I'll be doing fifteen minutes at the top of her shows if I can get my mind from melting into ecstatic goo.

Tig Notaro appears at the Lakeshore Theater on December 11 and 12 at 7:30 and 10:30 PM. List Spurs Two Night Industry Showcase


Rip rockin' Steve O. Harvey will be hosting my audition show. Have you seen the arm on that guy?

A few months back, released a list of the 20 Best Standups in Chicago.  Compiled by former Chicago (now LA) comic Mike Bridenstine, and based upon the input of bookers and comics currently involved in the Chicago scene, the list garnered a lot of attention, some of it negative; comics don't generally dig being ranked.  I say we owe Mike a debt of gratitude, because besides his intended fairness in talking with a wide range of Chicago folks before making the list, he also opened the door for a two day showcase event for huge talent management company New Wave Entertainment at the Lincoln Lodge.
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Welcome Back, Mr. Buscemi


Buscemi's hat is no joke.

Robert Buscemi's worldview will knock your socks clean off.  Often surrealistic and extremely dry, his style of jokeage made him one of Chicago's premier alternative comics until his departure for LA tore us apart with sadness.  Standup's king of slick, Buscemi returns to the windy city tonight to record his third album at the Lincoln Lodge (yep, the same spot I recorded mine last week...and his will be put out of Rooftop Comedy's label, too).  Chilarious contributor Adam Burke caught up with Robert in preparation for hosting tonight's show.

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Grab Them Aghast Hits the Blogosphere


Adam Burke's poster for my Grab Them Aghast recording.

The AV Club.  Gapers Block.  Punchline Magazine.  For a blog-reading nerdface like myself, these are routine web destinations.  So I'm pretty stoked to have received some coverage of this week's album recording from each of those sites.

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Chilarious on WGN's ChicagoNow Radio

Adam Burke and I crushed the airwaves with joy this past Saturday as guests of ChicagoNow Radio on WGN AM 720.  While both Adam and I have donned giant headphones and talked into mics before (as podcast guests), this was both of our first experience on mainstream radio.  Host Bill Leff could not have been easier to work with; he came up as a comic himself, and really understood the inner workings of a standup career.  And he's a super professional, genuinely nice guy.  Listen to our segments here and here.

Spend a Sick Day with Maria Bamford

I've got a cold, but just because I'm feeling under the weather, that doesn't mean I can't watch some sick (as in ill) comedy.  I asked Adam Burke, Elizabeth McQuern, and Bryan Bowden to suggest their favorite sick day videos.  Here are their prescriptions for a feel better Youtube adventure:

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Chilarious Live on WGN Radio This Saturday


This Saturday I will be making my radio debut as a guest on WGN's ChicagoNow Radio.   Listen for me chatting with Bill Leff on AM 720 from 10:30 to 11 AM.  As a vet of the podcast world (written while brushing off lapels), I know a bit about what it takes to create solid audio for the masses.  Raspy, easy-listening voice?  Check.  Ears ready for big ole headphones?  Check.  Sweatpsuit (because it's radio, folks)?  Check.  Take it away, Regina. 

Grab Them Aghast - Cameron Esposito's Live Standup Album Recording at the Lincoln Lodge!

grab them aghast fin(2).jpg

Eat your heart out, Cap'n Crunch!

On December 3rd and 4th I, little ole jokestress Cameron Esposito, will be recording my first album, Grab Them Aghast, for Rooftop Comedy Records! Please come out and support what promises to be a rockin show - Adam Burke hosts with glass-walking by Dizzy Lizzy Delicious, live jazz (smoooooth), the music of Chris Condren and other great surprises!

Both shows are at 9 PM the Lincoln Lodge (4008 N. Lincoln). Tickets are a very affordable $10 and can be purchased online - with no fees! - via Brown Paper Tickets here. See you there, stormtrooper!

Cole's Open Mic Poster Drawn by Comic Adam Burke


Local standup Adam Burke's star is getting ready to blow the roof off this town.  He is featured in Chicago Magazine this month (it's not online yet...go pick up ye olde hard copy), recently grabbed a very high ranking in's Top 20 Standups in Chicago article, and I happen to co-host the Wednesday night Cole's Open Mic with him.  In fact, Wednesdays have become just another day at our 2 AM office-in-a-bar.  It's always work, work, work.  In a bar.

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Werewolves on a Space Shuttle: The Gorgeously Weird Comedy of Chris Condren

Barely 22-years-old and armed with a Casio keyboard, young and wildly off-beat musical comic Chris Condren is steadily making a name for himself in the Chicago scene.  Chris has been a fixture at open mics in the last year, and recently parlayed those appearances into a string of showcase bookings.  The buzz about his act amongst comics has been immediate. Check out Elizabeth McQuern's vid of his delightfully odd set at Chicago Underground Comedy on October 6th:

I got in contact with Chris to find out more about the man behind the awesome:
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Mark Geary: Ten Seasons at the Lincoln Lodge


Standup producer Mark Geary gets his head together before a show on his Yankin' It UK tour.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, famed Chicago alt-comedy room The Lincoln Lodge has begun its 10th season.*  I checked in with producer Mark Geary to find out how the shows were rolling and what makes him so darn prolific.

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Impress These Apes: Mid-Competition Results

So far my good pal Chad Briggs is leading the charge over at Impress These Apes with 123 points.  Check out this example of his fine work, a horror film he cooked up in less than a week alongside fellow contestant Scott Whitehair
Impress These Apes runs Wednesdays at 8 PM at the ComedySportz Theater through November 4th.

Aloft Alog Circus Tour Blog and Dizzy Lizzy Delicious

My fall tour with El Circo Cheapo Cabaret ends this weekend with four shows at Versatile Arts in Seattle.  It's been an insane experience chock-full of cliffs and beaches, animal encounters, tequila shots, and underground circus performance.  Read more about the trip on fearless leader Shayna Swanson's tour blog, Aloft Alog, and tell your Seattle folks we're coming through.  In the meantime, here's a taste of what you can expect from Circo cast member Dizzy Lizzy Delicious

Two Spots Left for The Feminine Comique

Sooo...I teach an all-female standup class, The Feminine Comique, that is lovingly sponsored by the Lincoln Lodge.  In response to any questions about the all-female aspect, I believe many women falter in their pursuit of standup before creating their first five minutes of material.  Getting over that marker makes a male-dominated open mic scene much easier to navigate.  As an example, meet former student Kristin Clifford.  She is deadpan, hilarious, and ready to take on the world.  This is from one of her first booked gigs:


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I Hang With Women Who Hang From Their Necks...

But not in a bad way.  In an intentional, controlled, entirely crazy way.  Today El Circo Cheapo Cabaret has a day off from tour.  I am spending it eating French toast with my pal and fellow cast member Elena Brocade.  Perhaps you would like to meet her.  She hangs from her neck for a living.

Lincoln Lodge 10th Season Kicks Off October 1st and 2nd

There is a chance I'm a biased party concerning The Lincoln Lodge.  After all, the kitschy, diner-tastic alternative standup and variety showcase has been my home room the last two years.  And how excellent it has been to grow as a comic under the wing of one of Chicago's most dedicated comedy producers.  The Lincoln Restaurant's waffle fries and straight-talking waitresses haven't hurt the experience either.

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Marc Maron and the Art of Standup Comedy

Comics are artists. I truly believe that. I've said it onstage and off, and been greeted with a sort of, "Yeah, I guess so," response from quite a few people. Perhaps this is because comics are also a product used to peddle beer, and bring folks into over-the-top, big budget movies. A comic's work is their brand, and the stylings of a particular comic might even boill down to a compact, easy to recall tag line. Then there's Marc Maron's Scorching the Earth.

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Express Yourself at Impress These Apes

This is going to make your day:

This eve marks the start of a new eight-week season of Impress These Apes, a rowdy comedy talent show judged by a crew of apes from the future - yep, that's right - and put on by Chicago comedy production company Blewt

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Your Saturday Internet Jokestorm: Andrew DeWitt

Next week the circus heads to LA and I'm really hoping to meet up with comic friends doing their thing in Hollywoodtown. Among them will be Andrew DeWitt, one of the only comics I have ever seen kill onstage right out of the gates. Here's a clip of Andrew way back in 2008 when he used to live in Chicago:

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