While the World Sleeps–Cole’s Open Mic

Cameron Esposito at Cole's open mic

The open mic—a comedic laboratory where new material is tested.  It’s a peek into the trial and error of the comedy realm.  Some material is very timely, like a joke that was scribbled down in a notepad just before the show.  Thoughts on the recent blizzard or the Chicago Bears are vocalized. Where the comforting confines of their minds give it a laugh, it is time for these humorous ideas to crawl out of their craniums to be spoken for the first time.

Does it work?

silence

‘Shit…what’s the next joke.’

Under neon layers of music, art, pints of beer, warm ambience and friendly bartenders lies the open mic at Cole’s.  Nestled in the diverse Logan Square area, Cole’s lures a hodgepodge of different guests.  Call them the scenesters, the hipsters, the artists, the young and scraggily, the old and peculiar—all gather to share an Old Style tall boy and a laugh.

Cole’s emits a downplayed, relaxed feel, and in between jokes and laughter, the passing rumble of the ‘El’ gives the environment a gritty impression.  In the back of the bar lies a small platform.  A converted stage greets the crowd of people already awaiting the popular Wednesday stand-up.

Welcoming the crowd was co-host and ball of energy, Cameron Esposito.  Friendly, personable and outrageous, Cameron has bigger balls then most comedians in attendance.  Her presence amped up the crowd, whom she purposefully set time aside to interact with.  By playing off reactions and random drunk comments her quick-witted audacity produced a strong stage presence.  Unexpectedly a comment about ‘blood lubricant’ was shouted from the crowd, Cameron took the comment, used it and spit it back out at the audience, without phasing her.  Yes…blood lubricant.

The 'wildly friendly' owner of Cole's, Mr. Coleman Brice

Cole’s open mic was created by Cameron and her bearded accomplice Adam Burke about two years ago.  For Cameron, the quirky comedy environments that Chicago had to offer became a familiar realm.  As she currently produces and teaches a standup class in the back of a pancake house (the Lincoln Lodge), Cole’s naturally became a proper fit for her.

She comments, “The bar’s owner, the wildly friendly Mr. Coleman Brice, is a pal of a pal and we’ve known one another for years.  When he was opening the place he was looking for events and the low-key and experimental Cole’s vibes has proved perfect for an open mic.”

One after another, the comics took their alone time with the mic.  Mr. Burke told his tale of battling against the 2011 blizzard, hoping for Charlton Heston’s arrival on LSD while parting cars out of the way, fighting his nasty cold with plenty of whiskey and the all-too relevant topic of threesomes.


One of the more memorable moments of the show was when Jason Folks took the stage.  The Cole’s regular elaborated on the struggles of being the minority, red-haired, white boy in school, and how he channeled his frustrations into his longtime dream of being a rapper.  Dressed as Elvis, a friend and fellow comedian beatboxed and jammed on the piano as Jason began to take the crowd on a lyrical journey about slinging rocks, shotgun robberies, shamrock shakes and dinosaurs.

Coming harder than Eminem—comedian and rapper Jason Folks

The material ranged from the absurd, the insightful, the rude and crude, the bluntly honest, and even the most personal details of a comic’s life.

As Cameron and Adam introduced comic after comic at a surprising pace, the variation amongst the comedians became more apparent.  From veteran comedians with obvious composure and grace to first-timers with skittish voices and awkward moments, the standups received a mixed bag of responses from the crowd.

Sure, the bit on slavery didn’t go over so well, but that’s what the open mic is about—test, observe and adapt.  Regardless if the comedian’s set was well recepted or flat out neglected, due respect and credit was given with a round of applause by comedians and fans alike.

Time and time again, with a discernable Aussie accent, Adam took the mic, “Make him feel welcome, like we do it here at Cole’s.”

Co-host of Cole's open mic--Adam Burke

Cameron elaborates on the environment, “We are very conscious of trying for a fun, supportive room.  Plenty of soul destroyingly rough mics exist—and they should, that helps a new comic cut her chops.  But both Adam and I want to put on a show that gets and maintains a real audience, so that mic’ers can have that experience as well.”

While over thirty comedians took the stage, new and experienced, the sense of community amongst the comics became ever-present, “Comics spend a ton of time together as co-workers and friends, kicking around sticky bars waiting for a set while the rest of the world sleeps.  It’s bonding.  At Cole’s about a third of our list will be comics that showcase all over town, a third will be newer but dedicated open mic’ers, and a third will be folks just starting out—perhaps even trying out their first set.”

There is acceptance.  Just for the simple fact that they’re trying.  Using the powerful effects of laughter—to engage complete strangers.  As a frequent viewer of comedy, these people need due credit.  It takes some balls.  It takes some balls to take your subconscious thoughts, your twisted reality, your cynical realism, your life triumphs and pitfalls and display it to a room of strangers.  Not only display it, but hope for a connection, an acceptance, to carry the viewer over the auditory threshold and create humor.  Create insight, create an environment where life’s absurdities are embraced, collected and showcased.  Create something that purposefully pushes the boundaries to receive a reaction.

Although the open mic at Cole’s was technically a performance, there was much truth and humanity in the standup comics’ words.  They are just people, elevating their sense of humor to stage level.  The funny people who take their licks on stage to get their B.A. in comedy.

As Cameron so graciously understands it, “Standups are wild, interpersonally funny folks.  Class clowns grow up to be improviser’s.  Standups were the kids doing extra reading for class or none at all.”

Get to know the real Cameron Esposito…

And come check out the popular and hilarious Cole’s open mic every Wednesday at 9pm!

The Runt writer, Joey Delisi

–Photos by Alan Rosenquist

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From Chicago to Denver and Back Again

Alex Orozco is one of the comedians that hosted the Latino Fest at UIC, which I wrote about. He was very funny and a good host.  When I approached him and told him about The Runt he was unhesitant to do an interview. We chatted about his comedy history and how his comedy is different from others. Here it is.

Olivia: Let’s cut to the chase. Want to give me a rundown on where you’re from and how you got started doing comedy?

Alex Orozco: I’m from Aurora, IL. I started doing comedy as a dare and got addicted. I went to an open mic when I lived in Denver. The guys trying jokes absolutely sucked ass. I hated them. I told my roommate that I could do better and he dared me to try, so next week I did.

How did it go?

My first joke was one about a cop asking me what kind of brown person I was and if I was “under the influence.” I told him that it depends on what scholarships were still available. I don’t really remember the exact joke, but it worked. I did really well and found the love of my life.

So how long did you do it in Denver?

One year.

Then back to Chicago?

I needed to be in a bigger training city, and I missed my family.  Chicago to comedians is like Philadelphia to boxers.

We’ve been gathering that from a lot of people lately. So did you go into some sort of training program when you got here?

No, I did an official training in Denver. I had a comedy coach but in Chicago my training was all street justice.

 

Alex Orozco

Can you tell me more about your comedy coach?

His name was David Gray. He was all about pushing the way you presented yourself. He said that the audience believes what you do more than what you say. So, if you come up with confidence you’re halfway there. We just sort of fell into it

How did he become your coach?

He cornered me and told me he loved my confidence. I guess I was just lucky. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, I was both. I know it’s egotistical, but that’s what comedians are.

So then you came back to Chicago. What did you do from there?

The more open mics I did, the more showcases I got booked for. That’s how it works.  You just go out on a weekday, show your A game, then hope somebody invites you to do the weekend. I realized, and this is still true, that my comedy is immature. I tried to get away from the sexual, alcoholic jokes.

So what did you try to get into from there if you were trying to steer away from the immature jokes?

I ended up doing a lot of racial stuff which is the same old song. I feel like mine was smarter than most, but still not where I wanted it to be.

So are you still trying to find your maturity?

Yes, but at the same time it has to be you. It’s hard to be funny and mature. People don’t go to a comedy show to be “grown up,” but teaching your audience something valuable is what separates you from the rest.

So if you’re not happy with your “immature” style, is it hard to try to transform yourself?

That’s just the thing; I’ve realized that comedy is being yourself. You are funny, not the shit you write.

So what if you are immature and can only work with dick and fart jokes? Is it worth trying to change yourself to be different?

No, that’s my point. I can look at film from 5 years ago and really see a difference. Not even with the jokes, just the way they’re presented. I found a way to be classy and crude.

So why try to put an end to your immature style if that’s what you’re good at? Or is it just finding a different way to be immature?

Because I’m not proud of that. It’s not exactly the legacy I want to leave my children. Eddie Murphy went through the same thing, on a much bigger success scale. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

So what have you been up to lately?

Building a board game.

Really? How did that come about?

I think it’s great. It’s difficult to explain and I need a name for it. I used to do “toss-ups” at the bar I was working at. It’d be a toss-up between something like Lance Armstrong and Michael Phelps for better American athlete. People would be arguing for hours on some of them,  I started writing them down.

And you’re turning that into a board game somehow?

Yes. The problem is I need more topics. I have around 90. I need like 300.

Sounds like a lot of work.

It is. I don’t know if it’s even a good idea, but I’m doing it.

Is this a project that you just picked up on your own?

Yes. That’s how random my brain can be.

But you’re going for it. So what else are you up to?

I’m always writing and doing shows, trying to kill that stage fright. No matter how long you’ve done it, the bugs are still there. Nerve-wrecking is the right term.

Are you anywhere near as nervous on stage now as you were when you first started though?

No way! The first time I was literally shaking. As soon as I get a laugh, it’s over, I’m fine. It helps me with life. Talking to girls. Doing interviews. I can think faster than my mouth can talk now. Memory is a big thing too, the more you write the more you have to remember. Taking notes on stage is for amateurs.

But you still get a little nervous?

Oh yeah, especially if you like someone in the audience. You want to do well for them. I’d be a little bit nervous if you were in the audience, to be honest. You write a comedy blog. To me, you’re not exactly a civilian.

(Laughs) No need to be nervous with me.

You know more than the average person about joke-telling. It’s not as bad as if my mom was there, but still.

(Laughs) Has your mom come to any of your shows?

Yeah, lots. She produces shows sometimes.

So she’s a fan of yours?

Of course!

That must feel pretty good.

She thinks it’s smart comedy – go figure.

Lots of comedians talk about their parents being disappointed in their decisions to become comics. Did she support you from the beginning?

Yeah, My parents were always supportive one thing you should know though, I’m one to change my material to cater to the audience. That’s one of the oldest arguments in comedy. Do you stick to the set, or roll with punches and change things to do well?

So do you change it when Mom is around?

No! I try not to let one person determine the audience’s demeanor. I treat them as a whole, if they like sports, I’ll do Michael Vick jokes.

So it’s more about how the audience is reacting than who is in the audience?

Yeah. The audience is number one.

So what do you do when it’s a tough crowd?

Focus. Confidence comes from proven material. I know these jokes work. I’ve done them over and over again for many different types of people.

So you just keep trying and try harder?

Sort of. It’s almost like making love. You can’t exactly try too hard, there has to be some finesse.

Oh boy, can’t wait to hear this analogy (laughs).

Well if you try too hard, it’s pathetic, right?

Right.

So you need a comedian with confidence. I haven’t bombed for years, though – knock on wood.

Well, that’s good.

I like hecklers, too.

Are you good at working the hecklers?

Yes. When people try to fuck with me, I usually have the last laugh. I’m quick on my feet.

So do you do anything other than comedy, or is it enough to pay the bills?

I have a day job. It’s never enough.

Do you have any big shows coming up?

Detroit Comedy Festival. Last year Lewis Black hosted. I’m the 2nd funniest person in Kentucky.

How did you become the 2nd funniest person in Kentucky?

By driving there three times and coming damn close to winning the contest. I should’ve won. The order does a lot.

Have you done any other contests like that?

Yes. At the Edge Comedy Club I won 1st place. He always has contests though.

It’s still good to win! So are there any other comics in the area that you’re a big fan of right now? Anyone people should keep an eye out for?

Yeah. The ones I brought to the show I hosted at UIC. Emily Lake is clever as hell. I love her, she’s funny. Drew Michael is like nobody’s business.

[On hosting the show at UIC] I feel like I have a much better grip on reading the audience than almost anyone in Chicago – which is why I’m such a good host.

Well, that’s confidence.

(Laughs) It’s sort of like a teacher being anal – a comic has to be confident.

Not to be confused with a teacher doing anal, of course. Which I’d say is equally as important. But I digress.

Most do.

Here’s your chance for free reign, is there anything you want to end it with? Final words, of sorts? Alex Orozco’s words of wisdom.

My favorite lyrics are from Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer.” He really nails it. It makes me emotional.

I am the entertainer and I know just where I stand. Another serenader and another long haired band. Today I am your champion. I may have won your hearts. But I know that game, and you’ll forget my name. Oh, I won’t be here in another year if I don’t stay on the charts.

It’s so true. Keep spillin’ the hits. The day I stop writing is the day I’m dead. Also – don’t be over confident (laughs).

So the top of the charts better watch out for you, eh?

Yes Ma’am!

Alex can be contacted at alexdeoro@gmail.com

Interview by Olivia, The Runt staff

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It Gets Better

Hey kids! Life is rough. That’s why we’re here. Here at The Runt, we care about your well-being, so we’ve made this video so you know you’re not alone.

Feel free to make your own “It Gets Better” video for all those troubled teens out there. Email a link to theruntchicago@gmail.com when you do!

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No Such Thing as Clown College? The Joke’s on You.

Courtesy of Columbia College

Let’s be honest, the main reason people study abroad is to have a good time, take fun classes in a foreign country, meet that cutie whose only English word is “yes,” and to come back home with an experience that will wow your peers and enhance your résumé. But with times being tough, who has the money for lodging, food, or a plane ticket out of Chicago? If you’ve ever considered going abroad, but are a fan the staycation price, Columbia College has your answer.

Enter the Comedy Studies Program. Combining forces with the world-renowned Second City (now we mention Tina Fey, Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert), Columbia has created a one-of-a-kind experience for college students wishing to study comedy in depth for an entire semester.

You read right: a full course load, for college credit, strictly on how to improve your comedic chops.

Sound too good to be true? Not to Anne Libera, Program Head and Instructor for the program, who called the coming together of the two schools a “natural” partnership. Libera explains, “There has been a longstanding relationship between Second City and Columbia College Chicago. Sheldon Patinkin was one of the earliest directors for The Second City and still serves as Artistic Consultant for the theatre. Over the years there has been a sizeable overlap between the Columbia College improvisation faculty and that of the Second City Training Center. I have worked for Second City since 1987 and taught for Columbia since 1998.”

It was a “somewhat casual” conversation, Libera says, between Patinkin, Andrew Alexander (Second City’s CEO), and herself that got the wheels turning. The result? Sixteen credit hours that include learning comedy writing, improvisation, history of comedy, and physical comedy work. Launched spring 2007, the program has 10-15 students per class to make up an ensemble. The students take classes and rehearse four days a week, their dedication furthered by extracurricular writing sessions and rehearsals outside of class time.

“We looked at the skills that made Second City actors like Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey so successful in the professional comedy world,” Libera said. “It became clear that it was their combined background in improvisation, acting, writing, an understanding of collaboration, [and] the ability to analyze and look at their own work critically. The program was constructed on that foundation, and then developed collaboratively by teaching artists at Second City with academic help from Columbia College.”

The reception of the program by parents and students, Libera said, has been “overwhelmingly positive.” There are so many college students for whom improvisation and comedy is their passion and they are thrilled to be able to study those subjects in depth. I’m also really pleasantly surprised by the positive reactions of the parents—not an easy thing to have your son or daughter say ‘I want you to pay college tuition so that I can go to Chicago and study comedy’. ”

All classes are taught at the Second City Training Center

One of those students was Chelsea Devantez, who took on the program in spring 2008 while studying acting at NYU. “I would have travelled anywhere to be a part of a program so specific to the comedic art form,” Devantez said. “Comedy Studies offered everything I was looking to study – Improv, Comedic Writing, History of Comedy, etc. I got my BFA from a conservatory, which was phenomenal training, but they didn’t come close to offering me the training in comedy that I craved.

In addition to the full course load, students accepted into Comedy Studies spend time seeing comedy around the city, networking with Chicago performers, and developing their own comedic voice. Current student Zachary Rebich, who flew in from Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, says the program has given him more than he had bargained for. “It covers a very wide breadth of material in a pretty concise way.” Said Rebich “One of the classes we have is ‘Context for Comedy.’ It’s mostly about the creative process and figuring out what you’re going to put together if you’re given the opportunity to put a show on. That goes into the business of comedy side, as well as how to be funny on stage. I didn’t expect to get that kind of training.”

How do you get in, you ask? There are requirements, of course: 60 credit hours or more, completion of beginning courses in improv, acting, and basic English courses. But what the program is really looking for are students with an obvious passion for pursuing comedy on a deeper level. “I’m less stringent about pre-requisites and more interested in what draws the students to the world of comedy and why they have a passion to study, write, and perform,” Libera said. “Ultimately, that demonstrated passion trumps everything else.”

Interestingly enough, one obvious pre-requisite doesn’t make the list: being funny. “Ideally, they spend the semester digging into themselves and finding their own comedic voice,” Libera said. “I want our students to look at the whole – whether that’s a sketch, a work project, or their community and see what their part is and how that part supports and fits into the whole. That’s the essence of a successful Second City ensemble and a strong part of a successful career, whatever you choose to go into.”

The YouTube Video below, made by students from the Class of 2009, agrees with this insight:

As the semester comes to a close, current Comedy Studies students employ all of these skills when preparing for their finals: putting together a showcase for their friends, family, and growing fan base. While their studies in the world of comedy may be ending, the impact the program has had on them is far from being out of use.

“I seriously owe Comedy Studies so much. It completely changed my life.  I didn’t even know what improv was until I was a freshman in college. After studying at Second City I was enlightened to what kind of artist I could be, and then given the tools to work towards that. When you have the tools to create your own work, which Comedy Studies taught me, the possibilities that are available to you as an artist become limitless,” said Deventez, who has since graduated from NYU. She currently lives and works in the Windy City.

Rebich has also made plans to extend his stay, enrolling in classes at Columbia for his final semester of his college career. “It occurred to me that if I actually wanted to do comedy as a thing, coming here and then leaving right away wouldn’t make much sense.”

He offers these words of wisdom to those considering the program: “Anybody who wants to get into comedy and is serious about it should look into this program. It puts you in the world of professional entertainment. It gets you into the grind of it, which is great because the grind of comedy is so much better than the grind of [we’ll let you insert pretty much anything here].”

________________________________________________________

For full info on the program and to apply, check out the Comedy Studies home page. The Class of Fall 2010 will be holding their final performances on December 13th and 14th. Details coming soon, so stay put!

For another view on the program, check out Robert K. Edler’s article here.

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Drew Michael vs. Mary Fakhoury

Spoiler alert, Drew wins.

Check it out here.

I’ll sum it up for you, some crazy bitch talks throughout an entire show, Drew completely calls her out on it, they argue, she gets crazy, then she continues to be crazy. But seriously, click the link and see it for yourself. I just came across this while cruising around some Chicago comedy blogs and sites and had to share it with the rest of you.

Drew is a guy we’ve seen before and plan to see again. Fuck yes to him telling it like it is.

Enjoy.

-Brian

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You’re Funny, But Where Do You Start?

We’ve done a lot of talk lately about how Chicago is the place to be if you want to explore a career in comedy (as if you needed us to tell you that). Let’s say you’re new in town, or maybe you’ve lived here your whole life, either way, you want to try your hand at getting going in Chicago’s wild world of comedy. What do you do? Where do you go? There is one thing making these decisions tougher to make: options.

Are you the brave type? Want to jump right into stand-up? There are hundreds of open mics throughout Chicago every week of every month just begging for you to take your shot.

I spoke to Austin Sheaffer, who did just that, about his experience going feet first into comedy. “Becoming friends with Meredith Kachel is probably the best decision I ever made in my long list of life decisions,” Austin explained. “We’ve spent a lot of time over the past year or so talking about comedy and how we could be good at it. We think we’re hilarious and finally convinced one another to just do it. I can’t speak for her but I definitely leaned on her for the push to make it happen especially leading up to my first time on stage. She pushed me to the realization that maybe all this was a possibility and that I should go for it. I then scheduled my first trip to the open mic with my birthday party so that all my friends and family would be there leaving me no excuse to back down.” After dropping out of medical school and deciding to just go for it, Austin, scared shitless with the microphone pressed way too close to his lips, walked up in front of everyone at The Edge Comedy Club and gave it all he had.

Austin during his first open mic. Isn't he adorable??

If you’re a little more reserved than Austin and want to try to hone your craft before you get on stage, there’s another way. Chicago is the comedy Mecca, right? There’s bound to be people here who are willing to teach you how to make other people laugh.  Plenty of places around town offer an array of classes (for a fee, of course): Second City, Zanies, ComedySportz, The Annoyance Theatre, and the iO Theatre are just a few of the places you can register to get trained by people who most likely know more than you do.

Recent Chicago transplant Ted Vogel-Wilson (AKA Baby Gaga of Le Roy) has been bitten by the comedy bug recently as well. Aside from his gig as a dancer at Le Roy shows, Ted, being “scared shitless” to do an open mic, is taking a slower route into comedy. Being 25 and still not knowing what the hell he’s doing for the rest of his life, Ted decided to just go for it, even if it isn’t the type of education that guarantees job security after graduation (but what is, these days?).

“To this point, I am still scared shitless to do an open mic,” says Ted. “I am still doing the back-up dancer thing, which is still a lot of fun, and the guys in the group let me basically do whatever I want. I’ve taken a comedy writing class at Second City and plan on taking improv classes soon at either Second City or iO.”

Here kitty kitty. Ted in his Catwoman costume.

Another student of comedy happens to be a member of The Runt’s staff, Natalie Alvarado. Having taken improv classes at Second City and being very pleased with the experience, Natalie said, “Without my comedy education, I would be lost when it comes to knowing what makes good comedy, and how to pursue creating something on the spot that reaches the audience enough to make them laugh. Having such talented teachers and dedicated classmates completely took away anything I was afraid of.”

But it’s not exactly “us vs. them,” “classes vs. open mics.” Austin even plans to take classes when he has the chance. “I want to take classes, real hard,” Austin said. One form of beginning isn’t better than the other; it’s all about what’s best for you in your pursuit.

Austin, Ted, and Natalie each told me something similar when I asked them what they would suggest someone does to get started – just go for it. Whether you’re courageous like Austin, ready to just jump on stage and see what you can do, or you want to take it slow like Natalie and Ted, studying your way into the game, figure out what you want to do and attack. Write down things you think are funny. Turn them into jokes. Find a way to turn your life into a joke. ¤¤

Want to try an open mic? They’re all over, but here’s a link that lists open mics throughout Chicago every night of the week (but you might want to check first, open mics come and go).

Want to take a class? Here’s a few links to follow.

Enjoy your quest, and good luck!

-Brian Speer, The Runt

PS – Want to see everything Austin, Ted, and Natalie had to say? Check out the comments section for this post!

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Nerdy & Dirty: The Boys of Le Roy

Remember Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album? It was self-titled, but it had the explanation underneath on how to pronounce it. “(Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd)” was emblazoned smack dab underneath the band’s name, since no one could figure out how to say it on their own. The same thing happens with Chicago’s group of funny-boy rappers, Le Roy. I know what you just did. You just read that and in your head it sounded like “Lee-Roy,” didn’t it? Sorry, you got it wrong.

Maybe for their first official release they should take page out of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s book – (Pronounced ‘Lŭh ‘Rŏy).

But that’s not the point, is it? The point is Chicago has a group of funny, not-so-bad-boy rappers all up in its guts. Le Roy, the Chicago transplants from western Illinois, is here and they’re giving people a reason to shake their asses and laugh until they break their chairs (it’s happened).

Le Roy consists of Zilla, Nasty Nate, Bearclaw (AKA Seanye West), and their newest member, dancer extraordinaire, Baby Gaga. These guys have slowly but surely been making their way into the Chicago comedy scene for the past few years.

Le Roy performs in Davenport, IA. Clockwise from upper left - Zilla, Bearclaw, Baby Gaga, Nasty Nate // Photos by Brian Speer

So what’s their story, you ask? Bearclaw explains to me, “We’re from a few hours west of Chicago, a city called Moline. Me, Nasty Nate, and Zilla all used to work at this small sandwich shop together. It wasn’t a very busy place so we would pass the time by just writing stupid raps.” Bearclaw went on to say that writing rhymes eventually turned into a hobby outside of work. They started making beats to accompany their poetic lines of dick and fart jokes.

Soon after, Zilla’s bedroom became somewhat of a homemade recording studio. It was nothing fancy, but it was enough to upload to a MySpace page and make friends laugh from their computer chairs. From there, it was a bit of a slow crawl for the boys. Recording a new song every few months without any live shows got them a little anxious. Moline wasn’t exactly the place to play unless they wanted to only perform for their friends at every single show. In 2007 the original Le Roy boys decided to relocate to Chicago.

Two more years passed with Le Roy writing a slew of new songs but not really knowing what to do with them. “A good friend of ours, Siri,” explains Zilla, “was an intern for Vocalo.org and started telling Brian Babylon [radio show host] that he needed to hear us. She showed him some of our songs and he wanted us to play at one of his comedy shows.”

In August 2009, with the addition of their extra sexy dancing machine, Baby Gaga, they played their first live show to a south side Chicago crowd at the Bronzeville Coffee House.

Playing a few more shows throughout the city (Town Hall Pub, Jokes & Notes, Bronzeville Coffee House a few more times) Le Roy has made plenty of people laugh with their mix of nerdy and dirty. How often have you heard a rappers reference time travel, black holes, dark matter, oral sex, tiny dicks, and peeing in butts? Probably not too often, right? These guys take the high road with their college educations while simultaneously appealing to the inner 12 year old in all of us with the easy mention of boobs and butts to make us all giggle. Of course we’ve all seen or heard dirty raps before, but with Le Roy, it strikes a different chord.

Last week I followed the boys back to their home turf for a Blackout Wednesday, pre-Thanksgiving show. Dressed as pilgrims, they came out and impressed friends and strangers, making everyone laugh along the way. After the show, I talked to a few members of the audience to get an idea of how Le Roy was received. Derek Ahrens of Davenport, IA commented, “I really enjoyed it. I usually don’t dig on hip-hop, especially white guys doing hip-hop. But they were sincere white guys doing hip-hop. They weren’t trying to be gangster. You could tell ‘cause they referenced Star Trek – not just regular Star Trek – Star Trek the Next Generation, they referenced Full House, and they said something about ‘I’m gonna open your blouse like a china hutch.’ You’re not gonna hear that on a Gucci Mane album, and I support that.”

Zilla assists Bearclaw with his pilgrim hat before the Thanksgiving show // Photo by Brian Speer

When asked about their music-making process, Zilla seemed to make it clear that The Beastie Boys are one of his main influences for his rap style, while Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, is his most recent influence for making beats. Always on the lookout for new samples to use, Zilla acknowledges the difficulties of creating new beats, “It’s tough to use samples that Girl Talk hasn’t already done. I have a whole list of songs I plan to use and then he releases a new album and half of the samples on it are ones I wanted to use for Le Roy.” This doesn’t necessarily make it impossible to create new beats with old samples, but it seems like Zilla is more concerned with creating something new that people haven’t heard before. Bearclaw elaborates, “It doesn’t matter if we make a song and include some samples if Girl Talk uses the same ones a year later. His are the ones people are going to remember.”

But the boys don’t let anything like that slow them down or stop them from doing what they want to do. “We’ve been practicing and writing new songs a lot lately,” said Nasty Nate, “and we’ve got a few shows booked for December and January.” So keep an eye out for these perverted gentlemen across the Midwest. Whether you’re in Chicago or closer to Iowa, you’ll most likely get a chance to go see them sometime soon, and you should definitely do so.

Photo from Le Roy’s Facebook

Check out an interview with Le Roy from Vocalo.org: Part 1, Part 2

Contact Le Roy at
leroyrap@gmail.com
leroyrap.com
Twitter.com/leroyrap

-Brian Speer, The Runt

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