Stand-up Comedy at the Second City Training Center

3220792013_2bcf949179Second City’s Training Center has cranked out some amazing comedy talent: Tina Fey, Mike Myers, and Stephen Colbert just to name a few. However, none of the luminary alumni are stand-up comics, and that is not what the theater or the training center is best known for creating.

Recently, though, the Second City training center has added stand-up comedy to its list of available classes. There is a teen program for ages 13-17 (which has a spring session beginning Saturday April 18), and an adult class taught by amazing Chicago comedian Dan Telfer.

The training center’s stage, Donny’s Skybox Theater, even has stand-up performances on Sundays. Comedy at the Don is a weekly showcase of local stand-up, sketch, and improv. You can check that out on Sundays at 9:30pm for only $5. Donny’s Skybox Theater is located on the fourth floor of Piper’s Alley, 1608 N. Wells.

Who knows? Maybe a current student will be the next big stand-up star.

(photo from Elizabeth McQuern)

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Job Finding (with sketch group Hey You Millionaires)

Fortune magazine has an article titled “How To Find a Job”. It has the usual job hunting tips so you can read it for that. I, however, am reading it to enjoy the antics of one of my favorite Chicago sketch groups Hey You Millionaires. The last page includes the comedy group demonstrating how NOT to answer interview questions.

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What Happens on the Clark Street, Stays on the Facebook


From the Lakewood Manor Players.

(Via Schadenfreude)

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Trust Us, This is All Made Up

TJ and Dave

Trust Us, This is All Made Up, a feature length documentary about Chicago improvisors TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi — stars of the long-running iO show TJ and Dave — will premiere in March at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. There is also a showing scheduled for April at the Independent Film Festival Boston. A little Chicago love, fellows?

(via Coudal)

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Twitter Track the Tamale Guy

187399963_d963dc8d6b_oOne of the best things about drinking in Chicago is the Tamale Guy. A hero to all good drinkers, so much so he has songs written about him. You’re a couple beers deep and getting hungry when in walks this guy with an igloo cooler filled with hot, tastey tamales of 5 for $5. I’ve had numerous conversations with fellow bar patrons expressing our desire to have a GPS tracker on the Tamale Guy. Well, now there’s a twitter page that aims to do just that. According to the page:

Tweet a reply to @tamaletracker when and where you saw the tamale guy and then users could be able to follow the progress by following

Genius. My weekends will now be filled with beer and tamales.

(photo by warm n’ fuzzy)

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Samuel Spade – Private Detective

Sam Spade Office Window

Most people believe, just because the novels and movies tell them so, that Sam Spade (and his late partner Miles Archer) lived and worked in San Francisco. But here’s photographic proof that their offices were in Chicago, on Wells Street in Old Town.

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Big Jones – Marvelous Southern Coastal Cuisine in Chicago

Raise your hand if you’re having employment and money woes. Oh, hello, most of America. Me, too! And if my boyfriend were here, he’d raise his hand, too. But he’s out chasing work, which makes it all the more important that his birthday dinner on Sunday be enjoyable and memorable.

Thanks to my half-Southern roommate, I had once been treated to the marvelousness that is Big Jones restaurant at 5347 North Clark Street. And since my boyfriend is a Southern boy at heart, and an adventurous foodie to boot, I thought a nice birthday dinner at Big Jones was the perfect choice.

From start to finish, our evening at Big Jones was delightful. Granted, we were there on a Sunday night, so we probably got more personal attention from our server than we may have otherwise, but honestly, from the complementary red pepper and cream cheese appetizer, to the crab cakes, to the super fancy bevvies and entrees, everything was just lovely.

Big Jones’ cocktail menu is an impressive array of specialty beers, carefully chosen wines, and mixed drinks that will have you feeling like sophisticated ladies and gentlemen even if you stumbled in the door exhausted from a video shoot in rumpled jeans and a hoodie (oops, maybe that was just me). I can vouch for the deliriously delicious The Original Sazerac, (Remy VS Cognac, Absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters, and a touch of cane syrup), as well as the True North Cherry Coke (True North Cherry Vodka and Coca-Cola).

My boyfriend tore through a generous plate of Shrimp and Grits (with savory house tasso gravy and organic white hominy grits) while I dug into a sandwich made of crisp Black Eye Pea Cakes dunked in Green Goddess dressing. Both were excellent.

How much did our waitress’ attentiveness add to our enjoyment of our meal? A lot. When she noticed I was nibbling my way through the cherries in my True North Cherry Coke, she brought me more, in a shot glass. Then she bought us each a birthday drink, and I’m pretty sure she gifted us the Mississippi Mud Pie (with a single candle) we had for dessert. Incidentally, the pie was encrusted with some freshly caramelized marshmallows, prompting me to remark (accurately) that I could easily do with a small plate of nothing but toasted marshmallows for dessert and be very happy.

The music selection is also a perfect match – B-side Motown charmers and very pleasing Southern-tinged classic pop. So check out Big Jones if you are planning a special evening out – you’ll be glad you did.

President Barack Obama (the Unrated Version)

Blogger April Winchell came to a brilliant realization that in Obama’s book Dreams For My Father there is a character with a colorful vocabulary named Ray. Obama read for the audio book, ergo there are MP3’s of Obama cursing. She posted some jewels on her blog. Please to enjoy.

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Poster for National Poetry Month

The Academy of American Poets has a really great poster for National Poetry Month which is in April. The quote, “Do I dare/ disturb the universe?”, comes from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot. The poster is available for FREE for schools, bookstores, libraries, or community centers. You can also get a copy for a mere $5. Here’s the web page with more information and other posters.

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Chicago Has Too Many Teachers

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Chicago has more teachers looking for work then it does teaching positions. Which is frustrating to me because I’m a teacher who is looking for a teaching position (check the resume). But finding out that there is little to no demand for my elementary/middle school teaching skills is only half the frustration.

I worked on the west side for a year and a half before leaving the school. It was too stressful to teach every subject to a room of 33-38 8th grade students. I worked hard and got some great results, but paid for it with my sanity and blood pressure.

This is the other half of my frustration. I’m hearing that there are no teaching jobs available in Chicago, but I substitute teach in classrooms that can have 30+ kids in it. With all these eager, young, qualified teaching candidates wandering about the city, why are classrooms still over crowded? Why not work to drop class size to 20, and/or hire teaching assistants? I know, I know. Money. But can you imagine the future graduates of Chicago public schools if the students were in a classroom where a teacher could spend tons of time and attention on their learning?

So teachers, what are we doing for work these days? Those teach English in [insert foreign country here] ads are looking alluring, and McHammer, and Ed McMahon seem eager to give me cash 4 gold (don’t tell them I have no gold). Anybody want to go in on a teacher squatter commune?

(photo from Dequella Manera)

No Reservations

The new episode of Anthony Bourdain‘s food travel show No Reservations was set in Chicago tonight (they obviously filmed sometime in the summer). He did a good job of covering the wide range of food in Chicago — from gut-busting street food to adventurous-but-not-fancy like Hot Doug‘s to high-end places like Blackbird and L2O. At first I was disappointed that they seemed to be doing a lousy job of telling you where exactly in the city these restaurants are, but that is, I suppose, the job of websites, and there’s a very complete list, including a map. The only thing missing from their list is The Publican (837 W Fulton Market), which at the time of the filming was just a concept and some dishes in Paul Kahan’s backyard, but is now open. And maybe somebody is going there for his birthday tomorrow (me, it’s me, I’m going tomorrow).

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A Tough Break for a Chicago Theater Favorite

According to Ron Kuzava, Will Schutz is one of Chicago’s two greatest living character actors. The other, according to Ron, is Ron himself. Apparently they pass the title back and forth. Ron is a very silly man. However, I cannot argue with the idea that Will is indeed one of the finest actors in the city, and simply an awesome guy. I first saw him in Defiant Theatre’s Action Movie: The Play as one of the most over-the-top ridiculous Blofeldian villains I have ever seen on stage.

I finally met Will (and Ron, for that matter) in 2004 while working on Defiant’s production of A Clockwork Orange. Will had a small role in the show, but it was the kind of part that you loved to watch from the wings because it was so damned hilarious every time.

I next worked with Will in The Hound of the Baskervilles in 2007. I could not help but admire his stamina as Watson. He never left the stage for the entire show and as the narrator carried at least three-quarters of the total load of dialogue. And his dialect was dead on.

A few weeks ago Will was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Like so many of us, Will does not have health insurance. He is keeping positive and has vowed to fight this with all he’s got. He could use, and certainly deserves, all the help he can get. A few events have been planned around the city to help out with expenses during this difficult time, including a benefit at Sofo Bar (4923 North Clark Street) on Sunday, February 7 and a one-night only concert reading of Robert Emmet Sherwood’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Abe Lincoln in Illinois at City Lit on Thursday, February 12th.

A fund has been started online for Will. If you have a few bucks to spare, please go to to help out.

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Are You Read for Some Football?!

Maybe, maybe not. But there is a Bears-less Super Bowl being played on Sunday, and I, for one, will drink and eat and feign interest. I like football, but I’m not into either of the teams this year. So I need to get caught up, and it better be funny. That’s why I’m super excited to see The Visitor’s Locker Room this Thursday and Friday at the Lincoln Lodge at 9pm.

The Visitor’s Locker Room is a very funny local sports radio show. It’s hosted by local comedians (and fervent sports fans) Sean Flannery and C.J. Sullivan. The two tear into all sports news like your favorite drinking buddy, but smarter and funnier. Also appearing for their live show will be: comedians Mark Vana, Emily Dorezas, and Cameron Esposito, as well as comedy group Cook County Social Club, and college football legend Joe Paterno. Yes, Joe Paterno will really be there.

I’ll definitely be there with my big ol’ beer, and plate of chili cheese fries.

Visitor’s Locker Room – Live!
Thursday January 29th and Friday January 30th
@ Lincoln Lodge
4008 N. Lincoln
Tickets: $10

(photo from George Eastman House)

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Arne Duncan Introduces Himself

David Kurtz at the Talking Points Memo blog gives us some insight into how former Chicago public school’s CEO Arne Duncan is settling in on his first days as Secretary of Education from the employees perspective:

I work at the Department of Education headquarters in DC. Today completed our 2-day introduction to Arne Duncan. Yesterday he had lunch in our cafeteria (Edibles, ha ha), with his wife and children. His wife wore jeans and a sweater and Arne looked like an average joe in khaki dress pants, white shirt and tie. They stood in all of the lines and talked to anyone who approached them. They probably stayed 90 minutes. It was definitely the highest cafeteria attendance ever.

Yesterday afternoon he visited every floor of our building and introduced himself to everyone. We all came out into the hall and he shook everyone’s hand with a “Hi, I’m Arne.”

By the end of the day yesterday, everyone was aglow, since this was already more attention than we’d received from Spellings or Paige. Today, however, was the all-staff meeting, and I can say that the morale in the building increased ten-fold by the end of it.

Our auditorium was beyond packed, with people standing in the aisles. I myself snagged a seat on the floor next to the stage kindergarten-style. Arne stood in front of a blue screen that read “Call me Arne!” in bright yellow letters. He insisted that we call him Arne, rather than Mr. Secretary or anything like that, saying his name was Arne before he got this job and it would be 8 years from now.

I know this isn’t anything earthshattering, but the change in the atmosphere at the Department over the last week has been really astounding. In the past, we all knew that the Secretary had an agenda that she was going to follow, and that we were only there to affirm that her way was best. We really feel that Arne wants to know the truth, whether it fits with his agenda or not.

(photo from Obama-Biden Transition Project)

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Foraging in Chicago

One of my favorite blogs is the Homegrown Evolution blog. It’s about growing your own food in an urban area, and is the reason that I want egg laying chickens (which my neighbors and landlord would love to hear me say). Today they had this recent entry from the wonderful video podcast about Chicago food called Sky Full of Bacon done by Michael Gebert. The subject? Urban foragers Art Jackson and Nancy Klehm. That’s right, people who eat the plants we walk right by on the way to El, or that I have seen only the city rabbits eating. Turns out those rabbits are eating better then I am.


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