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.
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.”
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!