Friday, April 30, 2010

Interview with Brendan Jennings

Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining us today. How are things going in the Windy City?
Brendan Jennings: Getting warmer everyday, so awesome.

DS: When did you decide to go into improv and sketch comedy? When did you have your “Second City” moment? Or IO moment?
BJ: I never did any acting until I went to college. My Sophomore year I did a bunch of shows and at the end of the year the theater department had an improv/sketch show and I joined. I was always told that I was funny and should do stand up, but was nervous about going up in front of an audience and bombing. The second I did improv in front of an audience I was hooked. I had someone to work off of, I could still be funny, and it was never the same twice. My Second City moment was with my same college theater group visiting Second City. We were all going to take a workshop with Martin DeMatt, so me and three of my improv nerd buddies drove down from Cincinnati early, whilst the rest flew. Snow storms delayed them so we showed up at SC to find no workshop happening. Martin was awesome and gave us a tour of the whole building, let us sit in on a class, it was amazing. Saw the mainstage show ,4.0 ,that night and was blown away. I made a vow that night to do everything I could to work there. Years later I finally went for the big Chicago move and had my first iO moment, which was seeing the Reckoning and paying to much for one of iO’s “pizzas” It was my first Harold experience and I got all the good and bad in one night. Two weird teams and then The Reckoning was great, this was in POB’s huge glasses days. He was real good.

DS: What's your first memory of Second City and what would be your favorite?
BJ: Oops, I may have covered that in my long winded first answer. I’ll never forget my first conservatory class, that was cool. I was so nervous looking back, I don’t know why it was just a class. I guess I thought you could get hired the same day. That class is where I met Greg Hess (fellow Cook County chap) and I changed his life forever.

DS: What was your improv training like? Is there any particular thing that an instructor said that has really stuck to you?
BJ: My first three years were self taught doing shows with a group my buddies and I started at Xavier. I then moved to Orlando and took a class with Sak Comedy Labs, a great improv theater there, and then worked for them for 3 years or so. I learned a ton doing shows for them every night and moved here feeling pretty polished. I took SC conservatory and iO’s training center at the same time and learned even more. It was exhausting taking both at the same time but worth it. I had great instructors through out, Tim O’Malley, Michael Gellman, TJ Jagadowski, Rachael Mason, and Al Samuels. I really loved how Al taught and he was the guy who settled me down and got me to just enjoy it for a bit. I was so obsessed with getting hired by Second City and he told me, you’re good, it may or may not happen, so why not enjoy where you’re at. It was a great wake up call.

DS: When did you join the Second City National Touring Company--and how long were you touring with them?
BJ: I can’t remember the date. It was right when Andy St Clair went to Vegas. I took his spot. I toured for just over 2 years. I loved it, but then my first son was born and I missed being home and hung up the ol’ touring pants.

DS: What was the Mainstage experience like?
BJ: Amazing. I loved that cast and that show was real fun to run. Canale gave me some fun things to do.

DS: When you came out as the polar bear, did you tend to get awkward experiences from the audience?
BJ: No. It was generally great. If you got an asshole I would do the opposite of Joe and just end it quicker. Joe would crush those cats for hours, I’m too non confrontational. I only had one truly awful person. Some rich couple who couldn’t be bothered or lighten up. We subtly would make fun of them through out the night, I think the woman caught on and left even more unhappy. Terrible people, damn them.

DS: What are some of your favorite characters to perform as during a show?
BJ: In those SC shows, polar bear was great and when I did a spell as Ithamar Enriquez’s understudy, Iggy the Jiffy Lube mechanic was a blast.

DS: How long have you been with the Cook County Social Club and how did you guys get started? Is the social club restrictive like most of these country clubs?
BJ: We’ve been together for five years maybe? I’m real bad with dates if you haven’t noticed. Greg, Bill Cochran and I were in a group called Show Pony together. It was my first squad and we had a blast performing together. We became friends with Mark Raterman who was in an equally great group called Chuckle Sandwich. A few years later Mark, Bill and I were working as secretaries at a law firm down town and Greg worked at the art institute near by. We would meet everyday for lunch, bit for hours and hours over email and eventually decided we should do a show. We wanted to do it at iO real bad, so we wanted it polished and worked for three months or so just rehearsing with Jeff Griggs. We never did a show until we were really happy with the form and we did a short Thursday night run at iO. Charna saw it and kept giving us new nights until we ended up taking the Tuesday night spot over. Last year while I was on Main, Tim Robinson played in my sot and we loved him so much we kept him on. Everyone is welcome to be a member of our club, so please come and join us on Tuesday nights. (Thanks for the plug)

DS: When you found out that you were going to be on ETC stage for the new revue, what was your initial reaction?
BJ: I was thrilled. I moved to this city with the intent of getting a stage at Second City and I did it. Real great phone call to get.

DS: For most people, isn’t it usually the other way around—going from ETC to mainstage? I’m not trying to be rude or anything but how often does it happen that one goes from Mainstage to ETC?
BJ: My Mainstage stints though very long and amazingly, amazingly well done were only in the capacity of understudying. I finished Joe’s and Ithamar’s contract and of course wanted to stay on for the next show, but a lot goes into the decision on who gets a stage there and both times the cards didn’t fall my way. In the end I’m in a great cast, for a great show, and I’m on a better schedule so victory for all.

DS: The Big Ten is talking about expanding their conference. One rumor has the Big East being scrapped to the basketball-only teams and having most of the Atlantic 10 joining them. Any thoughts on the idea of Xavier playing in the Big East?
BJ: I would looooovvvveeee this. In Cincy, UC still gets al the press in college sports. They endlessly rip XU for playing in a weaker conference and make a ton of excuses when we beat them head to head every year. I think X would do great in the big east, much better than UC any way. F those guys.

DS: Any comments on the Xavier recruits for the 2010-11 season?
BJ: We got four great players coming in again. We may lose Jordan Crawford to the NBA, but X always does an amazing job reloading talent. I think we can expect the same results from X next year, though I would love to break out of the elite 8 and get a final 4. I think the program is real close on doing that. This year would have been perfect, damn KSU.

DS: Do you have a Final Four for next year?
BJ: If the tourneys anything like this year I’ll say Xavier, Duke, the Golden Grifs of Canisus and Long Island University.

DS: World Series pick?
BJ: I would love to say the Mets but picking them would jinx them so I’ll say Phillies, Yanks again and hope I jinx them.

DS: What can you tell me about the new revue?
BJ: I can tell you it opens May 2nd and is a laugh riot.

DS: What's the process like when it comes to writing a new revue? How early do new scenes start joining the running order? For the new revue, The Absolute Best Friggin' Time of Your Life, when did this process start?
BJ: We started in February. Early on we’d bring scenes in or improv through ideas, soon the director would try things in the set, then move them into the ro. Billy Bungeroth is our director and he got things into the show real, real early on. It’s fun to slowly take the old show apart.

DS: What do you usually tell new improvisers when they are just starting out?
BJ: Perform baby! Stage time is the best learning tool. Take notes well in class and be a good person to play with and be able to play with anybody. When I say take notes I don’t mean write stuff out I mean when the teacher says something apply it rather than argue. If you disagree you can change it later but people feel notes sometimes are a personal slight, when the teacher is just trying to make you better.

DS: Andy was quoted in the AP about having to sign an autograph for an audience member and was flattered when they said they can't wait to see him on SNL. Has this ever happened to you?
BJ: Yeah, it’s exciting and weird. I then feel like I’m going to ruin this person’s life if I don’t make it. But in the moment it’s great. I also somehow get recognized when my family is around, so that’s cool. Especially if it’s a member of my wife’s family, I think it makes them feel I’m less of a bum.

DS: Remember that time you got to meet Kentucky Basketball Coach John Calipari? That was awesome! How did that happen? I heard it had something to do with Brad Morris, right?
BJ: It has everything to do with Brad Morris, that’s my answer to improv and all other questions in life. While Brad was in rehearsals for Taming of the Flu, I got to go out on the road with Uncle’s Brother (Brad, Joe Canale and Tim Meadows) We got to go to UK for a show, it was a pep rally that we did prov for at the end. Before hand Calipari was talking with Tim so Joe and I used that moment to go meet the new king in town. He was amazingly slick, I can see why he’s a good recruiter.

DS: Thanks again for joining Chitown Improv Celebrity News. Is there anything else you would like to add?
BJ: I’m thrilled to do an interview with improv’s leading news paper. Thanks Solzy.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Reckoning on May 4th

Word has it that Charna will be joining The Reckoning on stage next Tuesday. Don't miss it.

Tim Ryder profiled in Missouri paper

Tim Ryder was profiled by The Telegraph.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time Out talks with new cast members

Time Out Chicago profiled the new Mainstage and ETC cast members.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Interview with Joe Canale

Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining us today. How are things going in the Windy City? Or Los Angeles? Or wherever it is you call home these days?
Joe Canale: No problem. What day is it again? Where am I joining you? What is happening? Oh, LA is great, that is where I pay rent, though I am in Chicago as often as I can afford to be to see my daughter, Sofia Mia and my lover Charna Halpern.

DS: When did you decide to go into improv and sketch comedy? Did you have a “Second City” moment when you knew it was what you wanted to do?
JC: When I was in college, this dirty scummy theatre director named REDACTED told me that I should move to Chicago because they have this great theatre called The Second City. Basically he was moving to Chicago and needed to con someone into being his roommate, I was high enough to fall for the ruse. Once I got into classes I realized it was the only thing I was good at.

DS: What's your first memory of Second City and what would be your favorite?
JC: Second City classes? Or working there? I guess I’ll decide since this interview is really just you sending me a bunch of questions over e-mail. My first memory is being the first person to arrive for my first class at second city. I took a seat in the ETC theatre and judged everyone as they came in. I tried to pick the person I thought smoked as much weed as I did and be their friend. I turned out to be right with my guess and Bob Skupien and I did nearly every improv thing together for the next 5 years. My favorite memory of Second City is every minute I spent performing on the mainstage.

DS: What was your improv training like?
JC: Typical. Some teachers I liked, some I hated, didn't matter. Stage time was the key. My best training in improv was hosting the Jam at IO on Saturday nights. My best teachers were Susan Messing, Mick Napier, and Del, because in Del's class you didn't get much stage time and you really didn't fuck around, so you were really concentrated on being your best . I have since learned that fucking around is the only reason to do improv.

DS: When did you join the Second City National Touring Company--and how long were you with them?
JC: I was hired shortly after I returned from working at Boom! Chicago (early 2000). I spent 3 months in Green Co holding a spot for John Lutz, who was doing a show at IO at the time. I then understudied for about a year then got hired permanently into Blue Co where I worked for almost exactly one year.

DS: What was the Boom! Chicago experience like abroad?
JC: The Boom! Chicago experience was unbelievable. On par with my mainstage experience, I worked with some very talented performers, made lifelong friends and did shows for money in a country where smoking pot was legal. I also became a much better physical comedian, because no one in Holland was laughing at my Chicago White Sox jokes. I have since nearly completely abandoned physical comedy so that I can stand around and be clever. A real shame.

DS: What was your initial reaction when you first found out you would be on Mainstage prior to your first revue? And which show was it?
JC: At first, I asked Robin Hammond if I could do the ETC because they have a much better schedule. And I figured I could do more shows that way (do a couple on etc then a few main drainers), but I was pretty excited overall. This is going to make me sound like an arrogant asshole but by the time I got hired on the mainstage I felt like it was overdue. I knew who else was out there and I had performed with everyone and I think I more than held my own. I don't recommend this attitude however; because it seems like in "show business" merit is not always at the top of the list of reasons to get hired. Nor is being an entitled prick. But in Chicago, it worked out pretty good for me. Anyway my first show was called "WAR!! Now in it's 4th smash year!!" (which must have been a nightmare for the people in the box office selling the show over the phone). It's widely regarded as the 3rd best show ever in the history of The Second City right behind two of my other shows and in front of one of my other shows.

DS: What are some of your favorite characters to do?
JC: Well, when you ask me what my favorite "character" was I would say "joe canale" because i'm not a huge character guy. I enjoyed the art institute scene that I wrote, most likely because I am talking through the entire scene (however, without the bugged out eyes and masterful expressions of Brad Morris, the scene would not have been what it was). I also enjoyed any opportunities to improvise in the shows, which is a nice segue to your next question which I am reading right now.

DS: What is it about the polar bear? Is it true that Brendan does such a better job?
JC: The polar bear, for anyone who didn't see "America: all Better!" is a bit where I come out on stage with a giant polar bear head on and do some bullshit bits about global warming, but truly I am just interacting with the audience with very little scripting for about 6 (or if it's going well 11) minutes. Brendan Jennings (who understudied me when I left mainstage and is now on the ETC) was funny as well, pretty much anyone can get laughs with that head on. I have said that Brendan did some of my parts better than me, likely because he is a fun person to watch on stage and he was working with brilliantly constructed material. That's actually bullshit, I didn't write anything in the last show I did at Second City, though I didn't really let anyone else write anything I said either. By that point I pretty much knew how a process worked at second city, and I knew how Matt Hovde, our director worked. I knew that Matt would allow each person to make each part they were in their own. So I did. I brought in a few ideas that got in, but my main goal was to make every part I was in funny, while still serving the original idea of the scene. The polar bear idea came about only because that head was being stored in Kelly Leonard’s office, as soon as I saw it I knew it would be in the show.

DS: I want to talk about the roast at IO for a minute. Was there any roaster there that really surprised you?
JC: Again for context, before I moved to LA, there was a roast for me at IO. Bob Kulhan sent his roast in to Brad Morris, who chose to have Danielle Solzman read it. That was the biggest surprise and likely the highlight of the night.

DS: What are your thoughts on the process when it comes to writing a new revue? How early did new scenes start joining the running order?
JC: My thoughts on the process were outlined in my polar bear answer. Just do what the director assigns, and try to make everyone’s scene work, and try to avoid judgment of anyone's (including your own) ideas. Everything else should work itself out. Obviously, this is an incomplete answer, but at this point I’ve typed a lot.

DS: How did Uncle's Brother come about? With your move out west, how often do you think that there will be shows at iO?
JC: Uncle’s Brother came about because Tim Meadows did the set on the Main Stage a few times, liked Brad and I, asked if we wanted to do a run of shows at IO, we said yes, shows were funny= Uncle’s Brother. Until Brad moves to LA (summerish?), we will still do shows about once a month, as I come into Chicago a lot. We have two shows in May, one on May 2 and one on May 23. Come to the shows.

DS: What do you usually tell new improvisers when they are just starting out?
JC: Stage time, stage time, stage time. And watch good shows. Mine mostly.

DS: Around the time of the 50th anniversary weekend, Andy was quoted in the AP about having to sign an autograph for an audience member and was flattered when they said they can't wait to see him on SNL. Have you had any similar moments?
JC: Yes, people often say they can't wait to see people on the mainstage when they get on SNL. I tell them that I am 10 years too old to be on that show. I like to crush their dreams.

DS: Lazy Tuesday or Lazy Sunday?
JC: If you are truly lazy, you don't know or care what day it is.

DS: Thanks again for joining Chitown Improv Celebrity News. Is there anything else you would like to add?
JC: yes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Schnuffy is Jake Schneider and Kate Duffy.

You can come see them on Tuesdays at 8 PM at IO's Del Close Theater, starting May 4th. The run ends on June 15th.

Also on the bill are Margolis and Reisman.

Tickets are $12 but if you are an IO student or IO performer, tickets are free.

Stay for more fun and see The Reckoning at 10:30 PM for an additional $5.

Ruby Streak's Last Night is Tonight

Second City Mainstage Music Director Ruby Streak is stepping down.

Her final mainstage show is tonight at 7 PM.

Chicago Sun-Times:
Ruby Streak, who for more than three decades provided all manner of musical accompaniment for Second City shows at Piper's Alley on N. Wells and elsewhere, bows out after Sunday's 7 p.m. mainstage performance of "Taming of the Flu."

Having begun her long stint with the Chicago-based comedy institution's touring company in 1977, Streak was a founding member of the e.t.c. theater in the early 80s and eventually replaced the legendary Fred Kaz as mainstage music director.

Throughout her tenure, she worked with such future stars as Jim Belushi, Dan Castellaneta, Bonnie Hunt and many others. "Ruby represents all the best qualities of Second City," said Andrew Alexander, Second City's chief executive officer & executive producer.

"Smart, funny, and most of all, the quintessential ensemble player. She has made an enormous contribution to the work and will always be remembered as a Second City gem. She is a very hard act to follow."
During "Taming of the Flu," she had a solo spot.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Charity Jam at IO

This email was sent out via IO:
You are receiving this letter because we need your help. iO has designated April 30th - May 28th as All-Star Celebrity Jam for Charity month. All month in the Jam slot (Fridays at midnight) we will have the most talented improvisors in the city, as well as local celebrities, performing short-form games and Jam favorites--all in the name of charity. The success of this event is dependent upon the improv community and its friends all over Chicagoland donating their time and talent to pack the house.

Proceeds from the door as well as donations solicited during the show will go to Global Aid Network ( and will be used specifically to aid in relief efforts taking place in Haiti. Global Aid Network was chosen due to an iO performer's personal relationship to this organization. Kate Lambert performs on the team, You People. Her parents recently returned from Haiti on a relief mission and will return soon with Global Aid Network. The money we collect will help send doctors and nurses, like Kate's parents, back to Haiti with desperately needed medical supplies.
If you are able to help out, do not hesitate to get in touch with Colleen Doyle.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

ETC to open new review on May 2nd

Second City ETC will be opening The Absolute Best Friggin' Time of Your Life on May 2, 2010.
We finally elected our first black president and passed our first national health care bill. It should be the best time of our lives. What happened? The cast of The Second City e.t.c.'s new show, The Absolute Best Friggin' Time of Your Life takes you back to a time when we had a budget surplus and unemployment rates were at an all-time low. Grab your daisy dukes, enjoy those nachos and attend the prom of your 1990s dream - it's The Absolute Best Friggin' Time of Your Life.

Directed by Billy Bungeroth, the cast of The Absolute Best Friggin' Time of Your Life includes Christina Anthony, Tim Baltz, Tom Flanigan, Brendan Jennings, Beth Melewski and Mary Sohn. Jesse Case is Musical Director and Joseph Ruffner is Stage Manager. Stylist is Logan Vaughn. The producing team for The Absolute Best Friggin' Time of Your Life includes Chief Executive Officer & Executive Producer for The Second City, Andrew Alexander; Chief Operating Officer, Diana Martinez; Executive Vice President, Kelly Leonard; Producer, Alison Riley and Associate Producer, Monica Wilson.

CIF Awards Night

The CIF Awards will be presented tonight.
CIF Awards Night at The SecondCity ETC, 6:30pm, where awards will be given to The Improvised Shakespeare Company, Susan Messing, Dcik Schaal, Harold Ramis and posthumously to Severn Darden. After the awards ceremony there's a free party at Mullens Bar & Grill at 10pm.[...]

Charna Halpern will speak about Susan Messing; Steve Heisler will speak about The Improvised Shakespeare Company; Sheldon Patinkin will speak about Severn Darden; Bernie Sahlins will speak about Harold Ramis; and Jeffrey Sweet will speak about Dick Schaal.
You can get tickets here, assuming they are not yet sold out. I would think that they would be.

Mark Sutton will be roasted on April 25, 2010 on his last night as CIF Artistic Director. You can find show/ticket information here.

Uncle's Brother helped open things up.

On Thursday, if you aren't attending Anthony LeBlanc's last night, you should certainly check out Messing with a Friend [Susan's guest will be Tim Meadows). The cost is $20 and tickets are available on the day of the show.

Andy's last night

A friendly reminder that tonight is the last night you will be seeing Andy St. Clair on Mainstage at Second City.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Mainstage news

Allison Bills will be replacing Lauren Ash on Mainstage.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Anthony moves on...

Anthony LeBlanc is leaving mainstage and his last night will be April 22, 2010.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are you in Boston?

Second City has yet another limited engagement. This time in Boston.
We're coming to Boston! The Second City teams up with Improv Asylum for "One if by Land, Late if by T" for a limited run April 20th-May 9th, 2010, at The Virginia Wimberly Theatre. "One if by Land, Late if by T" casts a satirical eye towards all things Boston and what it means to live here in the hub of the universe.

Come join the party! On April 28th and Sunday, May 9th, there are VIP tickets for $99. Price includes the best available ticket for the performance, VIP cast party with food and open bar. Regular tickets are $45-$65.
Cast: Katie Caussin, Kiley Fitzgerald, Dana Quercioli, Micah Sherman, Tim Sniffen and Ric Walker. TJ Shanoff directs. The music director is Bryan Dunn.

Mainstage news

Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson have been promoted to the Second City Mainstage cast. Congratulations!

After School Matters

On Friday, April 16, 2010, teens from across the Chicago area will be performing on the Second City stages from 4:30 to 6 PM. It's a a part of the After School Matters Teen Improv Exchange at The Second City, presented by The Second City Diversity and Outreach.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Andy St. Clair sets last night on mainstage

This one is a shock mainly because it feels like it was just yesterday that he was promoted to Mainstage but Andy St. Clair's last night will be either April 25 or April 28.

This announcement comes one day before Lauren Ash has her last night on Mainstage.

EDIT:Okay, this is hopefully the last update: April 21st will be Andy's last night.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Still can't believe it...

I don't know about how others feel but I still can't believe that Lakeshore Theater closed its doors.

Check out this interview with Chris Ritter.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lakeshore Theater shutting down

Lakeshore Theater is shutting down. It's a sad loss for the comedy scene in Chicago.