Monday, May 24, 2010

For the movie lovers

I don't know how many within the improv community frequent Webster Place or City North 14 but as of May 25, 2010, those theaters will no longer accept the Keresotes Five Buck Club card for discounted movies. As you may recall, Keresotes sold all but two theaters to AMC. AMC has subsequently sold these particular theaters to Regal Cinemas.

Here's the email that Keresotes sent out:
Dear Five Buck Club Member of City North 14 and Webster Place,

I wrote you recently about AMC's acquisition of the Kerasotes Theatres. In a subsequent transaction, AMC has sold the City North 14 and Webster Place to Regal Cinemas. Regal will take over management of these two locations effective May 25, 2010.

We have been asked by Regal to inform you that they will not be honoring Five Buck Club cards after they assume operation of these locations on May 25, 2010.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview with Susan Messing

Danielle Solzman: Thank you for joining us today. How are things going in the Windy City?
Susan Messing: Besides the fact that the infrastructure of the Chicago Public School system is crumbling, great.

DS: Congrats again on winning Improviser of the Year at this year's Chicago Improv Festival. How does it feel?
SM: Awkward but very kind of Jonathan Pitts and the rest of the gang. It's strange to have that kind of acknowledgement when I know that any success I have is due to my friends making me look good and the simple fact that I wouldn't give up, even when I wanted to do just that.

DS: How did you discover improv and sketch comedy?
SM: I was a theatre major @ Northwestern University. There were auditions for the Meow Show, a campus revue with short form and sketch. It was directed by Dan Patterson (I think that was his name) the guy who ultimately created the original "Whose Line is it Anyway." Sophmore year. Didn't get cast. The next year I heard about some improv audition off campus and it was @ ImprovOlympic on Wilton Street in Chicago. Didn't get cast. Still, it must have stuck out in my mind after I graduated, because I started @ ImprovOlympic.
Sketch was always around- Monty Python, SNL, SCTV. Finally discovered SC when I was studying @ ImprovOlympic and took classes there too.

DS: When did you start performing Messing with a Friend?
SM: 2005? Ask Jack Farrell @ Second City because the opening night @ Second City's Unhinged Series was also the day that Jack almost died in my class. Since he's still alive, he's probably hep to that day. After that run, I did two runs @ iO and we're almost at the four year mark @ The Annoyance.

DS: What about Children of a Lesser G-d? When did that start? Any chance of a new run in the future?
SM: COALG was just a bunch of awesome lady friends who felt like playing together. Charna had nothing going on upstairs after student shows on Sundays and gave us the slot so Rachael, Kate, Emily and I grabbed it. It's a nice time slot. I'm bad with dates- 2007? 08? It ran for about a year and a half and then Rachael made a baby, Kate went on a SC boat, and Em moved to San Fransisco. We had a fun reunion during CIF this year and I'm sure we'll meet again onstage together in the future.

DS: How did Pleasant Valley start?
SM: Jet and Holly have done my show before and we missed each other so threw it together. Fun is winning.

DS: You created the level 2 curriculum at IO, right? How did that happen?
SM: After years of performing, I felt like I had enough experience to teach. Mick had me teach a class @ the Annoyance with Jodi Lennon and when I approached Charna, she told me that I had to coach first. I was annoyed because people who started years after me were already given teaching opportunities but I plowed ahead. For a year I coached three teams simultaneously and made up exercises that I thought would support them. Wrote it out on some yellow lined people, handed it to Charna, and thankfully, she liked my curriculum.

DS: You're one of the founding members of The Annoyance. How did that come about?
SM: Mick was one of the first three improvisors I met @ ImprovOlympic. He was working with some people creating new forms- it was called Nimbus under the banner of Metraform. He'd get someone like Noah to direct a bunch of newbies, give us a theme like "clown" and then walk away and have us figure it out. At the same time he was directing a show called "Splatter Theatre," which was hysterical. When he did "Splatter Theatre II" I auditioned. I think I had to walk into a room and scream. That show was a pain in the neck, too many people, money mismanagement, bad landlord, whatever. At the end there were about ten people who Mick could stomach and we created a musical called "Co-Ed Prison Sluts." We were still under the banner of Metraform, but when we got our own space on Broadway/Briar, it was renamed The Annoyance.

DS: What did you think of your Mainstage experience at Second City?
SM: It was great and humbling. Never thought that I'd have the opportunity to work there. I knew that it would be one of the hardest and best jobs that I would ever have- you walk into the building and you can feel the history. I don't think I did my best work there, which I regret, but I think I always feel that way- that I can still do better. That said, I learned an unbelievable much about myself and about the work. Invaluable. I am very grateful to Mick, who was my director, and everyone who produces and works for Second City for the experience.

DS: What were the 50th anniversary celebrations like?
SM: Surreal and lovely.

DS: What advice do you give to beginning improvisers?
SM: Don't give up. Learn table manners. Put your blinders on and take the hard note. Don't give up.

DS: Thanks again for speaking with the Chicago Improv Celebrity News? Is there anything else you would like to add?
SM: Thanks for having me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adam McKay pens op-ed

Former SNL head writer and Second City/IO alumnus Adam McKay wrote a letter to the editor. It was published in the Chicago Sun-Times.
So often we hear politicians talk about the "small business owners" and how we must protect "the little guy." But more often than not, we see corporations lining these same politicians' pockets with campaign money to give corporations tax breaks, preferential zoning and exemptions from a multitude of regulations. Well surprise, surprise, they're at it again.

Wrigleyville has been a neighborhood of small businesses that has thrived for decades with a vibrancy and personality that has come to symbolize Chicago for millions of visitors and residents. So the recent plans to mow down the street to create a mall for CVS, Best Buy and Apple can be viewed as nothing more than another in a long line of sellouts to corporate interests over the interests of the people who live and work in the community. This must end.

First and foremost, Ald. Tom Tunney must be made aware of the fact that if this continues, he will not be re-elected as we will spread the word and work together to make sure everyone knows what he has advocated.

Second, we will boycott these new stores, take out full-page ads in local papers and on websites and petition our congressman and senators to make this a line in the sand between corporate monied interests and the people.

These politicians and corporations rely on the fact that people are not informed by the corporate news, but we will make it our mission to spread the word about the destruction of Wrigleyville for corporations.

Adam McKay, People Against the Malling of Wrigleyville

Monday, May 17, 2010

Interview with Andy St. Clair

Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining us today. How are things going in the Windy City?
Andy St. Clair: Good. Ready for the summer to come. Don’t be a pussy summer. Get here. Summer in Chicago is really really great.

DS: When did you decide to go into improv and sketch comedy?
ASC: Um, I think in 1998. I moved up to Chicago to be a “real” actor and just kinda fell into sketch/improv. I’m glad I did.

DS: What was your improv training like? Is there any particular thing that an instructor said that has really stuck to you?
ASC: Well, I did all the things people do now in Chicago. Took class at IO/2nd city. I might have had one class at the Annoyance. Maybe. The best training I got was I was lucky enough to be apart of a team out of my level 1 class at IO and got to work with a lot of great people. That group became a group called “People of Earth”. So, every week in my first year of improv I was getting to do Class/Rehearsal for improv group at IO/Show at IO. I had been doing improv 2 months at that point. So, that was good for me. I had a lot of great teachers who all taught me something different. Peter Gwinn was a big influence in my improv life. He was the coach of my IO team and did that for 5 years.

DS: After several revues on ETC and being able to participate in the 50th anniversary Mainstage show, you decided to say retire so to speak. How did this decision come about?
ASC: Sometimes it’s just time to go in whatever it is you do. You do shows at 2nd city and after doing it for 3-4 years, not having any time to do whatever it is I wanted to do, it was just time to go and it’s for the best. It’s scary and fun but it’s the future (robot noise).

DS: When did you join the Second City National Touring Company--and how long were you with them? What did you do do to climb the ladder through the system?
ASC: I got hired in fall of 2003 but got on a tour company in January of 2004. I was with them till Feb 2006 when I then moved to Las Vegas and wrote a show in Vegas. To climb the ladder at 2nd city I fucked everyone I could. Kelly/Andrew/Monica/Robin/Beth/janitors/Lois Kaz/Ruby/Craig Taylor….it didn’t matter, I fucked them. Eventually they had to give me another job. I had seen them all naked. Or, I have no clue how the ladder climbing goes. Just do good work. Be funny. Hope for some luck. There are a lot of talented people at 2nd city and not everyone gets to do a stage.

DS: "Taming of the Flu" was your first revue on the Mainstage. What was your initial reaction when you found out you would be promoted to Mainstage?
ASC: I was in shock. I always wanted to do a mainstage show but after “Studs” opened up on the ETC I was kinda happy with just being an “ETC” guy. So, I didn’t see it coming and was blindsided.

DS: What are some of your favorite characters to do?
ASC: Funny ones. Are you asking in a 2nd city show or just in general? Honestly I don’t know but I’m sure if you asked 10 people that know me or have seen me 2 times will tell you I play this: Stupid Kid/Asshole boss/Asshole neighbor/Asshole Coach. I’m not an asshole….I don’t think. Maybe I am. Ah fuck it. Honestly, my favorite characters are funny ones. Go with your instincts kids.

DS: What's the process like when it comes to writing a new revue? How early do new scenes start joining the running order?
ASC: The process is long and fun. It’s getting to write a show with 6 performers who hopefully all want the show to be funny. You get to try out jokes and scenes for 10-13 weeks for 300 to 600 people a night. How cool is that? People pay to watch you act like an ass. Sometimes you don’t even know what is going on you just go out on stage and hope you don’t say “fuck” to many times in a scene.

The running order and new scenes all start and end with the director. He or She makes those decisions. Normally though about the 1st or 2nd week new scenes start appearing in the show.

DS: When did you join Carl and the Passions? Who is Carl anyway? What's it like to perform with such a great ensemble?
ASC: I joined CATP in 2004 or 2005. I think 2004. Carl is Paul Grondy. Actually I think CATP was a name The Beach Boys use to call themselves before they went with The Beach Boys. I could of just made that up as well. I’ve been very lucky to work with a lot of great ensembles. POE/3033/CATP/2nd city etc and mainstage. The people always have your back and believe in whatever it is your doing no matter what. That really is a freedom that is hard to explain but once you have it there is no going back.

DS: What do you usually tell new improvisers when they are just starting out?
ASC: I tell them a few things.

#1) Quit being better then me.

#2) Have fun. You’re playing make em ups. If you don’t like it or are going to get mad the entire time find something else to do.

#3) Listen to your fellow performers. Listening is how you get better.

#4) React. Make strong bold choices.

#5) Quit being better then me. I say it twice to really enforce the point.

DS: What's your first memory of Second City and what would be your favorite?
ASC: My first memory was watching the show “Psychopath Not Taken”. My favorite show ever at 2nd city. It’s so damn good. Also, the first thing I remember seeing at 2nd city. My theory is that the first show you see there is always your favorite. Turns out to be true for me. TJ was in it. Kevin Dorff. Stephanie Weir. Amazing. It was the moment I had to at least give this “improv comedy” thing an honest hard working try.

My favorite 2nd city memory for myself? So many. Hard to just choose one. I made Harold Ramis’s wife piss her pants. That was a proud moment. Probably my favorite is spending time with the casts and having serious conversations that go like this:

Andy: I think if I say “Let’s slip it in his butthole” that that is funnier.

Cast Member: I think you have to say “Let’s slip it in his asshole” it’s funnier.

Andy: Really?

Cast Member: Yup.

Andy: I’m going to say “butthole” this time and just hold on that word and see if it gets a laugh.

This isn’t an actual conversation (or is it) but you have serious discussions about the stupidest things and can’t believe you just said that in all seriousness.

DS: You were quoted in the AP about having to sign an autograph for an audience member and were flattered when they said they can't wait to see you on SNL. How often does this happen to you?
ASC: At 2nd city, that happens all the time. Which is a great assumption. Let’s keep that going. It’s just in the history of 2nd city. People think you do 2nd city and then go to SNL. Which is positive thinking. I’m glad Chicago people and the city of Chicago is so positive. Nowadays walking the streets like a bum it doesn’t happen as often. So, the next time you see me will you say it to me?

DS: You also said Second City was the Yankees of Improv? What does this make IO? The Annoyance?
ASC: 2nd city: Yankees of improv. Biggest team in town. Has the most money. Gets whoever they want. You always want to play for them. Glad when you do. Like being in the building. The best.

IO: The team you love and started out with. Has the craziest old Jewish lady running the team. You want to kill her but love her at the same time. Sometimes when she speaks you have to go and say “don’t listen to that”. She is a great lady and a great manager. Loves all or most of her ballplayers. She is also my friend so I can’t say to many bad things about her. But, she crazy. I love it. I’ll go with Chicago White Sox. Charna is Ozzie.

Annoyance: Fun ass team. Ran by a crazy man who would rather talk about fucking a goat then improv. Luckily this team has co-managers and the lady co-manager is the brains. She keeps it all together. Whew. These managers are fun and do some great magic. Magic. Like card tricks and shit. Hypnotism. Mind tricks. Amazing. Anyway, you can do anything at this theatre and to be honest it’s freeing. So, for this team I’ll go with the Colorado Rockies. Mainly cause I don’t know anything about the Rockies but I hope their clubhouse is like the Annoyance theatre.

DS: Lazy Tuesday or Lazy Sunday?
ASC: Lazy Tuesday. For a lot of reasons. Mostly good. Mostly.

DS: Thanks again for joining Chicago Improv Celebrity News. Is there anything else you would like to add?
ASC: Two dimes and a nickel is the same as a quarter.

The latest on this whole mess

Charna just posted the following to the facebook group:
Folks-I have great news. I was just contacted by an attorney who told me we were given erroneous information. Zoning on the Development HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED. First it goes to the planning commission meeting-and we will be there too. Ill get the date.
This is definitely great news for all those concerned.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Matt Besser shows his support

Even after comedians have moved from Chicago to New York or Los Angeles, they never forget where it happened in Chicago. Improvisers? We stand together in solidarity.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Jason Chin's blog has some information on last night's photo shoot and what all is going on. Unfortunately, I was unable to be there.

44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunnney is in favor of the $100 million project so that should tell you something and I'd prefer to keep politics off of this blog but it's so upsetting to the comedians in Chicago.

The Chicago Sun-Times has an article that was published this morning.
Bar, theater and restaurant owners lambasted Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) on Thursday for endorsing a $100 million mixed-use development across the street from Wrigley Field that will sweep them out of the "cool, hip neighborhood."

Roughly eight neighborhood businesses would be displaced to make way for "Addison Park on Clark," a project at Addison and Clark that includes a 137-room Hyatt Hotel, 135 residential units, 145,000 square feet of retail space and 399 underground parking spaces.[...]

On Thursday, displaced business owners fired back. They accused Tunney of selling out independent merchants who live in the neighborhood in favor of a mall that would "bring suburbia to Wrigleyville."

"It'll be the end of a very hip neighborhood," said Charna Halpern, owner and director of iO Theater.

A neighborhood haunt since 1995, the former ImprovOlympic is where Halpern and her business partner, the late comedy legend Del Close, taught improvisation to future stars, including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers and Jack McBrayer.

"People like being able to walk to iO, see a fun show for $14 and go dancing at Wild Hare afterward. It's a fun block that's good for the neighborhood. On a Saturday night, it's like Mardi Gras. It's not just about the Cubs. Now, there'll be nothing. It'll be Best Buy. How exciting is that on a Saturday night?"

Other business owners voiced similar complaints but declined to comment publicly.

Halpern directed her anger at Tunney, owner of Ann Sather's Restaurants.

"We're the people who elected him because we thought he was a man of the people -- that he wouldn't be bought out by big business," she said.

"If some business owner bought up his property and wanted to throw him out for a Friday's chain, we would have his back. That's how people feel here."

Tunney said nobody knows better than he does the trauma faced by a displaced business.

In the 1980s, he was forced to move Ann Sather's, 925 W. Belmont, to a former funeral home next door because his lease had expired and the landlord was converting the building to condos.

"I put my life savings into owning a piece of property so I didn't have to do it again," Tunney said.

Calling himself the City Council's most "pro-business and pro-small, independent business" member, Tunney promised to work with all of the displaced businesses to find new locations in Lake View.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interview with Tim Baltz

Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining us today. How are things going in the Windy City?
Tim Baltz: Pretty good! Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are playing SNL this Saturday and they have a new album coming out in June. First studio album for the band in 8 years, Daniel. 8 years. Set aside the knitting equipment you use when you listen to other bands on your iPod. And pick up something that rules.

DS: I don’t own an iPod. When did you decide to go into improv and sketch comedy? When did you have your “Second City” moment? Or IO moment?
TB: In '95 or '96, I was 15, and I went with a friend of mine and our parents to see a Harold show at iO. It blew my mind. It was hilarious, but it was also really poetic, and harmonious, and different. As junior high or high school kids, I think a lot of us rely on movie quotes and falling down to get laughs. I remember in 7th grade, a friend of mine came up to me and told me that another kid in our class was upset that I was getting laughs by quoting the same movie as him. One of the dumbest conversations of my life. Anyway, in contrast to stuff like that, iO just seemed so intricate and wide open. Anything was possible. I made a promise to myself to be in Chicago and try it, and eventually went to college at Loyola University. At first, I was really afraid to suck at it, though, so I took Second City's Beginning Levels (A-E), which were a lot of fun. And then started iO classes three days after I graduation. In 1999, right before college, my aunt and uncle got me tickets to see Second City's Touring Company in Aurora, too. That was cool. I saw Better Late Than Nader after prom once, too, and that left an impression. I didn't really understand what Second City was all about until I got hired, though. To me, it was this big thing that people went to after they honed their skills at iO. Turns out they're both great, I just knew more about iO first and really wanted to play there.

DS: What was your improv training like? Is there any particular thing that an instructor said that has really stuck to you?
TB: I did SC's Beginning Improv Levels in college, then iO's Training Center, then SC's Conservatory from 2005 to mid-2006 when I got hired as an understudy to the Touring Companies. I had some great teachers....I won't list them all, but TJ Jagadowski, Paul Grondy, Peter Grosz, Liz Allen, Jimmy Carrane, Joe Bill.... I've forgotten so many of the great things that they've said. Joe Bill once told me, right before a show, "I'll bet you like tall girls, right?" Starting out, probably the main note I got was about focusing on one thing at a time. Andy St. Clair told me in a rehearsal once that I was like a cat in a room full of toys, and I couldn't just play with one, I tried to play with all of them. So I pushed myself to play with one at a time for a while. Otherwise, one that stuck out was being real on stage. Not being afraid to play yourself, have actual opinions. Anyone can be fake on stage, but some of my early teachers challenged me to play characters either close to myself, or characters that my real opinions could channel through. That was a good one.

DS: When did you join the Second City National Touring Company--and how long were you touring with them?
TB: I got hired in April of 2006, was put into the mightiest RedCo in May of 2006, and toured with them until early January of 2009. It was a really, really great time. Northern Idaho and Pittsburgh are cooler than you think.

DS: When you were promoted to the ETC stage, what was your initial reaction?
TB: Oh man, I chunked my pants, Danielle! I was really excited. I'd been understudying Pat O'Brien's parts on the mainstage throughout 2009 until he went to SNL, so I'd never gotten to understudy the e.t.c stage. It was just really cool. They were running a show I really admired in Studs Terkel's Not Working, so I felt honored to step in. And I had toured with Brendan Jennings for a year and a half, and with Mary Sohn for two and a half years, so that took a lot of the nerves out of the process for me.

DS: What’s the experience been like to be performing on the ETC stage?
TB: Come on, Danielle! It kicks ass!

DS: How does it compare to touring the Big Ten colleges?
TB: Totally different. Do you like apples AND oranges?? Okay, you said yes. But does your mouth recognize that they're different?? It's like that, MAN! Big Ten was a lot of fun, and I learned so much from it. I couldn't have asked for better people to learn from in Steve Waltien, Jordan Klepper and Mike Hall, too.

DS: How did you get involved with the Big Ten Friday Night Tailgate? Now that you are on the ETC stage, will you not be returning in the fall?
TB: I've known Mike Hall, a commentator for Big Ten Network, for several years now. I performed with his sister, Molly, with pH Productions from 2003-2005, and now he shamelessly hits on my girlfriend in front of me. He had me audition the season before, and I had a good audition but Steve Waltien got the gig. So they brought me back this past year and I auditioned well enough to get the job. It was challenging, too, since it was a one-camera operation, but we were constantly improvising. That's a coverage nightmare for a cameraman. I learned so much about production from that job. Every angle of it, from the cameraman, to the sound, to the direction and production aspects. I'm really thankful for that experience. And, it's true, now that I'm on e.t.c I'm out of the running for that job. However, from what I hear, the format of the show is changing a great deal for this upcoming season, so I hadn't been counting on it.

DS: The Big Ten is talking about expanding their conference. Does this mean that IO is going to field an athletic team since they practically sponsor the network, right?
TB: They should've struck while the iron was hot! That's classic Joni Mitchell! (that's a thing I say a lot these days - "classic Joni Mitchell" - please help it catch on, but give me credit)

DS: What can you tell me about the new revue?
TB: I can't tell you too much because Second City is an EMPIRE that would CRUSH us. But the show begins and ends with a song, has a bunch of scenes in the middle, and we improvise in the third act.

DS: What are some of your favorite characters to perform as during a show?
TB: I play a spy with a clubbed foot at his dermatologist's office, a waiter who thinks he's dreaming but is actually serving people without pants, and a gay panda bear that's really picky about what eucalyptus leaves he eats.

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?
TB: The process started, in earnest, on February 9th. Old scenes get replaced with new ones as the director thinks they're ready. We pitch in a variety of ways, from fully-fleshed out scripts, to beat sheets for a scene idea, or just an idea to be improvised, in earnest. Eventually all the old stuff is out and you turn your attention to what the show needs, and all the little, transitional elements that make it feel whole. And you try to get a lot of sleep and do something that isn't comedy related every once in a while. Otherwise you go insane, earnestly.

DS: What do you usually tell new improvisers when they are just starting out?
TB: Stop thinking about trying to be funny and start thinking about how you and your scene partner are communicating on stage. Not just talking, but communicating with your body language and subtext. Once you're paying attention to that, you can lend it importance. When you lend importance to something your scene partner is doing, saying, or conveying, they feel safer. When they feel safer, they can take more risks, access their subtlety, and not just do broad, stand-by, run-of-the-mill improv. If you're both doing that for each other, the sky's the limit. In short, relax and react honestly to the last thing said.

DS: What's your first memory of Second City and what would be your favorite?
TB: My first memory of SC is going to see the Touring Company in 1999 in Aurora, IL. I saw them again after prom, I think in 2002 (I was dating a younger girl, Danielle). I'd also go see the mainstage improv sets while I was taking the A-E classes. Those were the casts for Thank Heaven It Wasn't 7/11, I believe. But, probably my favorite early memory of SC was when I interviewed Joyce Sloane, Producer Emeritus, for a radio documentary I was doing in college. I had called SC and they'd set it up for me. I knew very little about the building, so I didn't know that getting to talk to Joyce was a huge treat (she was SC's first-ever producer). I prepared only 5 questions. Through the first 4, Joyce talked for 40 minutes, which was awesome because it meant I had tons of material to edit. Oh, and the Cubs game was on mute on her TV behind her the entire time. My final question was a real softball, "Do you have a personal favorite anecdote about your time at Second City?" She turned and glanced at the TV, then back at me and said, "....I think you've had just about enough." And, in total silence, I packed up my things and left. It still makes me laugh so hard. She and I have joked about it many times since I've actually gotten to know her.

DS: How did the Family Tree House Boat Accident come about? By accident?
TB: Well, first off, Family Tree House Boat Accident is a show I do with Seth Weitberg and Jordan Klepper every Sunday night at iO, and we create a brand new improv form each week, based on the events of one of our lives that week (we rotate each week). And we've been doing that for at least the last 35 weeks. Before that, though, Seth and I did a two-person show together called Nogoodnicks for almost 5 years. We started it right after we met in Level 2 at iO, and Jordan coached us. We wanted to do a show with Jordan for a while, and this idea is what excited the three of us the most. Last week, we just had Steve Heisler, who reviews for all kinds of publications across Chicago and the country, do a live-review of our show, complete with audience comments on his reviews. It was a blast.

DS: Do you always post crazy personal ads on Craigslist like you did last October?
TB: Sometimes, it's fun. You'd be amazed how many people sent back legitimate responses to something entitled "Man With Tree For Penis Seeks Woman With Chainsaw Pussy." They honestly thought it was a real ad.

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?
TB: People tend to think my path to stardom lies in a Happy Days re-make, or an all-French re-make of Predator, so their post-show comments usually reflect that.

DS: Do you ever get recognized for your work with Sonic or the Friday Night Tailgate?
TB: I've only been recognized by strangers a few times for Sonic. You'd be surprised how many people recognize me from Friday Night Tailgate, though. At least it surprises me. That show was such a fun hybrid of sports, reality tv, improv and Chicago comedy. I think its format will be missed. A guy stopped me outside a shoe store the other day and told me that all of his brothers and his dad sat down each week to watch it. They all went to different Big Ten schools and loved the show.

DS: Thanks again for joining Chicago Improv Celebrity News. Is there anything else you would like to add?
TB: Hey, thank you, Danielle. Stop by and see the e.t.c show the next time you're in town.

Very short notice but...

The Chicago Sun-Times will be doing a photo shoot at IO at 6:30 pm but you need to be there by 6!

Please click here for more info.

Via Charna:
Help! The Sun-Times is coming by iO for a photo shoot tonight at 6:30 and we need EVERYONE who cares about our neighborhood to be there, standing together. I know it's short notice, but I'm begging you! Help us save Wrigleyville!

Two things...

First, join this facebook group: People Against the "Malling of Wrigleyville and the second thing is that there will be a community organization meeting on Sunday at 6 PM in iO's historic Del Close Theater. It seats up to around 120 people.

We cannot let a mall destroy this historic section of Clark street.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Interview with Beth Melewski

Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining us today. How are things going in the Windy City ?
Beth Melewski: Great! We just opened the new e.t.c. show and I've got my whole summer ahead of me! Woo hoo! Spring is also such a great time to be in Chicago so all is good.

DS: When did you decide to go into improv and sketch comedy? When did you have your “ Second City ” moment? Or IO moment?
BM: I did short form improv is high school and really never looked back. I've always loved performing but the improv bug really bit me that last year in high school. I remember being at iO and watching amazing teams like Valhalla and People of Earth and wanting to be a part of that community.

DS: What was your improv training like? Is there any particular thing that an instructor said that has really stuck to you?
BM: I had amazing teachers. Craig Cackowski, Jack McBrayer, TJ Jagadowski. They all had a part in forming my identity as an improvisational actor. I took classes and basically started performing as much as possible. Stage time is so important when you're first starting.

DS: When did you join the Second City National Touring Company--and how long were you touring with them?
BM: I started touring in the fall of 2003. I toured for about a year and a half before I went on one of the Norweigian Cruises with Second City for 8 months. Sort of like the touring company but on the water! I saw so many amazing places on tour and on the ship. It's truly a fantastic way to see the world.

DS: Was the show in Denver similar to what we are seeing in 2010 with limited runs in Laguna, Miami , Arizona , and Boston ?
BM: When we got to Denver we took an existing show from Second City, "Red Scare" out there and performed that for six months. Then once we got such an amazing response we were given the green light to write our own show and we ran that for another six months. It was a full year and we had such a fantastic time in Denver. So it was a little different in the way that it was a much longer run.

DS: When you were promoted to the ETC stage, what was your initial reaction?
BM: I was so surprised! I wasn't expecting it at all which was probably why it happened. I had been laid off as a copywriter a few months prior and was actually interviewing for ad jobs. They called me in to talk about "some projects" and then they asked. It was a real fun shock.

DS: What’s the experience been like to be performing on the ETC stage?
BM: It is truly the best job in the world. I remember Frank Caeti saying that it's the most creative freedom you'll ever be allowed and he wasn't lying. You can try anything up there. And the schedule can't be beat. It's truly a dream.

DS: Studs Terkel’s Not Working won a Jeff Award with a such a talented cast. Congratulations on that. How did the Mainstage cast members react when the ETC revue won? Was there a bet placed before the awards—similar to those of governors and senators before a huge sporting event?
BM: No bets. Hehe. Maybe St. Clair because he's a gamblin' man. The mainstage was awesome and gracious. We just had a ball that night drinking and partying. The awards were a ball too.

DS: What is Dual Exhaust? How do you find time between ETC and VD to perform with Dual Exhaust?
BM: Dual Exhaust is a two person show that I perform with the amazing Zach Ward. Zach moved to North Carolina about 5 years ago to start his own super successful theater so we haven't performed together in awhile! I miss him though and I hope we can reunite soon.

DS: What are some of your favorite characters to perform as during a show?
BM: I love playing the weirdos. I also tend to gravitate towards playing men.....probably in my desparate attempt to understand them. Hee.

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?
BM: The process for the current show started in Feb and we just opened 5/2! New scenes go in as soon as the director thinks they are ready and that's pretty fast. It was strange because I thought I would hold onto those old scenes much more, but I was fine with swapping out the new for the old. It's exciting to turn over an old show.

DS: On a related note, did it feel different to do the process without Andy St. Clair, Amanda Blake Davis, and Tim Mason?
BM: They were definitely missed, but it was so much fun to have three new cast members! The energy is just so different and I love that.

DS: What do you usually tell new improvisers when they are just starting out?
BM: Keep at it. It's NOT going to happen overnight. If you really care about this work, follow your gut, don't be afraid to bust your ass. And don't be entitled. People work years for this stuff and it's not going to happen right away.

DS: What's your first memory of Second City and what would be your favorite?
BM: My first memory is seeing the review Paradigm Lost. The theater seemed so big back then and now it's amazing to think that I work there. My 2 favorite memories are walking out of the building after I got hired for e.t.c. I remember what I was wearing and I remember who I called and I walked for a really long time. Hehe. My other memory is opening night for Studs Terkel. It was my first review and I was so giddily nervous the joyful feeling was amazing.

DS: Andy was quoted in the AP during the 50th anniversary celebrations 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?
BM: People say it a bunch, but dis' mama probably too old. Hehe. I just am so pleased when people enjoy the show and enjoy what we do on stage.

DS: Thanks again for joining Chicago Improv Celebrity News. Is there anything else you would like to add?
BM: Thanks Danielle! Hope to see you in Chi soon!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Support research and theater....

Next weekend, you have a chance to help support cancer research and the American Theater Company. For ticket information and details, click here.

May 15, 10:30 PM: Pudding Thank You (Adal Rifai, Louis Sanders, Jorin Garguilo, Ryan Dolan)-- featuring guests such as Paul Grondy, Noah Gregoropoulos, Mick Napier, etc. Tickets are $10 but you can pay $15 if you like free beer.

May 16, 8 PM: The headliner is John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. Robbie Fulks, Ron Lazzeretti & Naomi Ashley will open. $25 or $35 for beer and wine.

May 17, 8 PM: Virgin Daiquiri, 3033, and Messing with a Friend featuring Second City Mainstage Alumnus Brad Morris. $15 or $25