Monday, February 8, 2010

bet your bottom dollar you'll lose the blues in Chicago, Chicago...

I love Chicago. I really do. I love that it’s bigger than Boston, smaller than New York and more laid back than both. I love its drink specials ($1 drinks? Yes please!), late-night options, cheaper cabs, cool bars and places to go and obviously, its comedy.

This was my third year going – with an insanely large group of my friends – and that’s the best way to do it. Although, somehow, I always manage to spend a million dollars. I didn’t spend all that much on drinks and food. But coffee and cabs got the best of me. And the hotel room, because every year I think “I’ll put this on my card and everyone will pay me back.” But, that’s never the case! Last year, one person never paid me back. Unless they thought they were paying me back in other ways, in which case, they owe me more. And this year, nobody paid me back. I trust they will, but I’m still out $200 at this point.

I didn’t really have the money to go, because I have this drinking habit that has put me in debt, but it didn’t matter. Going to Chicago to see Seriously Bent perform is one of my favorite trips of the year. Plus, I think as a comedian it’s a good idea to check out the comedy in other cities – especially if it’s the city where it’s most renowned. And boy, was I blown away by shows.

I actually didn’t see a lot of improv, besides the tournament, but I saw the Second City E.T.CStud Turkel's Not Working, and I could have cried I was so happy and inspired. It was so well directed and the performers were incredibly talented, it was the best piece of comedy and theater I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of comedy over the years. I’m glad Jeremy saw it, too… because now all I’m thinking about is our next NXT show and how we can incorporate new ideas and some outside-the-box thinking.

Also, it was someone's last night (Amanda Blake Davis) so we got the chance to see her "last night" performance of a collection of her favorite sketches. Ugh, it was absolutely amazing. She's been in the show for the past three years I've gone - and she was always a favorite. Plus, it was so incredible to sit in that room and watch her final performance among improv LEGENDS. Mick Napier was sitting right behind me. But, that's the thing about Chicago and the improv world - these people are just regular ol' people. I've sat and talked in a bar with Susan Messing, TJ Jagadowski and Mick Napier like they were just anyone in the world yet inside there was a little Patty jumping up and down screaming "OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD". Or, well, that could have happened in real life... I don't know. I don't remember. Shut up.

We also saw American Buffalo at the Steppenwolf theater, and while it was not technically comedy or improv – it was still amazing. Tracy Letts was a cast member, and I’m a huge fan. He wrote “August Osage County” which was on Broadway, and is THE BEST PLAY I’ve ever seen. That means a lot coming from me – it’s a three act play. I have the attention span of a… well, I have a short attention span. And I also saw him improvise last year as a guest in TJ & Dave with TJ Jagadowski. He’s an amazing performer/improviser/writer. What would I do without Jeremy Brothers? Without him – I would never have known how much I love all this stuff.

The competition was great, as well! Seriously Bent won the first round and made it into the finals. They were up against two other Chicago teams – which I think is a huge deal. It proved that we had talent, even though we’re not from Chicago. (I say “we” as if I’m still on the team, but I think of Seriously Bent as a whole family… that I don’t perform with anymore… because I’m not allowed.) When the finals came around, Seriously Bent KILLED. I was so proud of them! They had good scene work, they did everything right, they were hilarious and ugh, I couldn’t believe it. The judges all loved them… and so did everyone involved with the production – but they lost by half a point. But, they were still very happy. They had an amazing show, and all the judges came up to them afterwards and said how amazing they were. That’s great – they represented very well! Groups outside of Chicago can also do great improv!

It was an incredibly fun trip – and the three gay uncles & one lesbian aunt missed the other gay uncles and one lesbian aunt very much. Wow, there are eight of us now. Eight people who refuse to grow up outside of college. Oh well, I’ll take it.

See you next year, Chicago. Or, well, maybe in like a couple of months.

P.s. If you're thinking of going to Chicago, here are other shows to check out: TJ & Dave, Messing with a Friend, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and all sorts of other shows at The Second City, iO Chicago, and The Annoyance. And those are only ones I've seen and know about - there are tons more!

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