Co-producer, Joe Kilgallon, of hit showcase Comedians You Should Know, sits down across the virtual world of Skype to chat with Joonbug. Sarcastic, but down to earth, Kilgallon and his fellow comedians realized that they needed to revamp the comedy scene from boring to original in Chicago. This change formed a year and eight months ago into an independent showcase called 'Comedians You Should Know.' “The scene right now is all about originality. The biggest benefit is that people moved here, so it’s diverse. There’s no industry here, unlike NY and LA, and it makes you unafraid to do new things. In NY, there might be a Comedy Central scout so the comedians are sometimes scared to do something different.
So what is this weekly sellout about, you ask? “Well the beautiful thing about standup showcases, is that you can present a little bit of everything. There are two types of comedians. Say you’re in grade school; the guys in the back of the bus were the class clowns; the kids in the front were clever and quiet. That’s what I love about our group; we have a good mix of both."
"Even we six producers have a different style. For instance, I am like a story teller with an angry twist. Danny Kallas has got this Chicago Italian accent and sounds like Mo from the Simpsons. He’s got an observational, in-your-face style. Marty DeRosa is a fun-loving crowd-work master. I’ve worked with a lot of big comedians from Comedy Central and I haven’t seen anyone work with crowds like him. Drew Michael likes to push the limits. His style is dark but he’ll talk about everything. Michael Sanchez is the self-proclaimed weirdo of the group. He’s goofy and will talk about anything from being up by girls to having a foot fetish. He’s one of a kind, and is also the most talented guy of our group. He edits our video content. Mike Lebovitz, or Lebo, is this high energy, lovable guy and is also kind of in-your-face.”
And what made them want to start the show? “Well it all started because we (the producers) were unhappy with the limited comedy scene of Chicago. Unlike NY and LA, Chicago only has one big comedy spot and everything else is random showcases. Danny Kallas, the founder of our group, didn’t like that the scene was so selective, so he approached all of us to see if we’d like to start our own event. We were doing shows every night of the week at bars and music venues and agreed that we could do better if we just did it ourselves. We started at Fizz and then moved 2 blocks from Michigan Avenue to downtown hotspot, Timothy O’Tooles.”
Their certain success doesn’t just come from location. When they’re not hosting the show every Wednesday night, they’re finding new talent. “On the days that we’re not doing the show, we’re scouting. The comedy scene here is a tightknit group. There may be only 100 comedians, so we know who is funny and who is not. Based on that, we choose in our meetings who will come on. As far as booking the show, we’ll throw out names. We have a roster but it’s not set, unlike other comedy showcases with the same comedians and the same pattern. For instance, last night we had Chris Condren, a musical comedian who uses a keyboard in his skit to make him one of the most unique performers in the country.”
Not only do they choose the best, they also pick the freshest comedians Chicago (and the country) has to offer. “We like giving new comics a chance. The shows in Chicago are cliquish and although we put up the best, if we see a new comedian working hard, we’ll give them a shot.”
That’s not all these six comics do to ensure a great comedic experience. “When we first started, we wanted to do it differently than other comedians, who can sometimes ignore their fans. We knew that we didn’t have a fan base so we made it our jobs to meet the fans. That’s why, after every show, we have a party where we get to mingle with the crowd. We’re doing it for them so we want to make them happy and that’s the way we see it. Now, we have a regular fan base, and that’s what’s been amazing to me. Even if they have work Thursday morning they come.”
Any particular fans of note, you wonder? “We have this one fan, Fast Eddie, he’s 70 years old and will come every Wednesday from September to May and he has a special seat. One day, we had him come up on stage to read one of Marty’s jokes about masturbating to Rihanna. He played along with it too because we’re all friends with our fans. That’s why they keep coming back.”
To attend the best comedy show in Chicago, with new material and special guests each week, go to www.comediansyoushouldknow.com. Go check it out this Wednesday to see the best comedians available at the best price ($5 in advance, $10 at the door). If you want to hear more about Comedians You Should Know, their hit CD is still on iTunes (and it beat Tosh).