Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away named Lincoln Park… I was taking a lunch break and went to get a tasty bagel. I ordered my bagel from a girl, about my age, with curly reddish/brown hair. She walked up to the counter and looked down, putting on gloves, “What can I get for you?” she asked, not making eye-contact. As though I was interrupting her. I ordered, (I don’t remember what) and she made it. Half-way through assembling my bagel sandwich, she looked up and said, “I just moved here from Florida and this is the first bagel I’ve made. You should be honored.” I walked back to work with my bagel and thought, “Wow, what a bitch.” She didn’t ruin my day or anything, in fact I probably forgot about it a few minutes later.
A few months later, I was supporting one of my best friends at her first comedy club show. She had just started comedy and within a year, stopped doing stand-up. We always said our jokes to each other, conversationally, before a show to practice. I think at that point, I was writing half her material. (To this day, I’m afraid to start using the material I wrote for her because I’m afraid someone will think I’m stealing from her.) At the show, I saw this amazing comedienne with curly reddish brown hair. She was one of the funniest people I’d ever seen live. I approached her after the show, with my friend, and asked her to do my show, The Sarcastic Squadron at a dive bar in Roger’s Park. This was well before I had a reputation for booking comedy or producing shows so I felt like sort of a creeper approaching her. Nonetheless, she gracefully thanked me and gave me her email so we could plan the show.
The show had a huge turn-out, we packed that little dive bar. It was one of the first shows, if not the second or third, I had ever produced. I put this comedienne that I scouted as the headliner and told all my friends about her. I hosted the show and my friend and my gal pal who I wrote jokes for did a set too as well as a lunatic-and-a-half musical improviser named Eric Lutz. People loved it.
I had a strange suspicion about this new comedienne. During her set, she had a series of jokes about the bagel place she worked–she wasn’t just passionate about her job, she was an advocate, openly telling the audience to come to see her and buy bagels. I couldn’t imagine that she was the same girl although I didn’t remember her well enough–it’s much different seeing someone on stage than seeing them behind a bagel counter. And she was much nicer; so sweet to work with and so polite about my “Wanna be in my show? Please? I’ll be your best friend” enthusiasm.
“Hey, Beth?” I asked while she was being mobbed by friends of her who came to see the show and my friends who wanted to just bask in her hilarity. “Did you just move here from Florida?” I braved. “Yeah, how’d you know that?” she asked. And I told her the story, leaving out the part where I thought she was in a terrible mood. “Yeah, that was me, I only ever said that once,” she said, laughing.
I did another show with her, and another, all at the same dive bar. Beth, myself and our crazy music improviser Eric Lutz. We added people to the show, both Beth and I suggesting people–some of these names that played this dive bar with us became the biggest names in Chicago comedy including Matt Drufke, Cameron Esposito, The Puterbaugh Sisterz, Joe Fernandez and Bill Cruz and even one amazing New York ukulele playing comedian Ben Lerman. During one of these shows, Beth and I stood backstage and looked at our audience and saw a girl with short red hair. “Who is she?” I asked them. “I don’t know, she’s not here with me, is she here with you? No?” We were perplexed. After the show, we went up to her and asked who she was and she said she heard about our show and came to check it out. We were floored. I can’t speak for the others but this was probably the same feeling I felt when I got the first feature article or radio interview. ‘You… HEARD about my show,’ I thought. I’ve made it!
Then, I thought it would be a great idea to take our show and move it to Boystown. I’d rent out a theater and we’d have a weekly multimedia comedy show with stand-up, sketch, improv and movies. The cast members, Beth Stelling, Eric Lutz, Matt Drufke and myself would take turns hosting. We shortened the name of the show to The Sarcastic Squad and to this day, those are some of my most cherished comedy memories. I hand-drew each of the programs and spent way too much money on rent and booze–in other words, the show was my heart and soul.
The show did well enough that we moved to Berlin nightclub down the street for Sarcastic Squad’s The Pre After-Party Show and starred in my multimedia full-length play Mattress Matters.
Not quite a year later, I began doing a weekly comedy show at Sidetrack called Laugh Track and, (no surprise here,) Beth was a fan-favorite. We brought her back as often as possible, she’d headline, she’d host, she’d judge our comedy contest and she even hosted our Holiday show as Mrs. Clause.
Her name is Beth Stelling. In addition to being a cast member Chicago Underground Comedy, she has been on the cover of the Redeye, won Best Stand Up from the Chicago Reader and been featured in the New Faces of Comedy in Montreal as part of the Just For Laughs tour.
Well, many years after she started doing comedy, Beth is taking the move she has worked so hard for: LA. I’m so happy and proud (and mad!) that she is leaving us but thankfully I get to do one last show with her. Even though we are off-season, Sidetrack is letting us do a one-time Laugh Track at Sidetrack show to say farewell to Beth. Join Laugh Track house MC Bradley Thomas (Night of 100 Drag Queens, Only At Brunch) as he hosts the event with Beth Stelling themed caption games and featuring myself and Jason Ryan (Edge Comedy Club) with a headlining set by Beth.
This is Beth’s last show in Chicago, she moves a day later so be sure to come early and find a seat because all of Chicago is going to be there to say goodbye. Laugh Track at Sidetrack presents… Farewell to Beth Stelling! Thursday August 11th, 7pm (an hour earlier than usual) at Sidetrack 3349 N Halsted. Admission is free, attendees must be 21 or over.
OutLoud Chicago presents Queer Comedy at Zanies, Tuesday July 26th at 9:30pm at Zanies Comedy Club 1548 N Wells. ‘Queer Comedy will be headlined by NYC comedian and Snub Fest Chicago 2011 winner, Chris Doucette and hosted by Bill Cruz featuring comedians Sapna Kumar and Bradley Thomas.
OutLoud Chicago is a series from Adam Guerino to find safe spaces for queer stories, storytellers and audiences. With the words “out,” “loud” and “Chicago,” the name combines the concepts of proudly queer and Chicagoan. ‘OutLoud premiers this Summer with a series of shows from music to comedy at such legendary Chicago venues as The Hideout and Zanies. Bringing such historic venues and amazing talent together, OutLoud hopes to make “Chicago” and “Queer” a welcome harmony.
Chris Doucette (www.chrisdoucette.com) is a NYC based comedian that represents the next generation of gay comedians which are open about their sexuality but resist cliches. In June 2011, Chris won 1st place at the Snubfest Comedy Festival in Chicago. He has performed for colleges all over the country and recently received a standing ovation from the students at Florida Tech. Chris was selected as a feature comic at the Charleston Comedy Festival, Baltimore Comedy Festival, Baltimore Artscape Festival, and headlined the Ganymede Arts Festival. Chris has shared the stage with Hal Sparks, Tony Woods, Judy Gold and more. He has performed on FOX, NPR, The Joey Reynolds Show on WOR 710AM, and Comedy Nonsense on WJFK 106.7 FM. He has appeared in The Washington Post Express, Miami Sun-Sentinel, Metro Weekly, Time Out New York, Next Magazine, New York Post, and the Village Voice. The blogs love him: he’s been featured in brightestyoungthings.com, thenewgay.net, and thegayplaces.com.
Bill Cruz is a fixture with the wildly successful Lincoln Lodge, as well as appearing at Zanies, Chicago Underground Comedy, The Elevated, and numerous Mikey-O comedy Shows. Outside of Chicago, Bill has performed in New York City and Los Angeles, at colleges and universities across the Midwest, and was a featured performer in the OUTLAUGH 2005! Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Comedy Festival and has been featured in the book Out On The Edge: America’s Rebel Comics.
Sapna Kumar has been seen on LOGO TV’s “One Night Stand Up 9″ and as a Regional Finalist on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing 4.” She is in the 2011 independent feature films “Promise Land” and “Jamie and Jesse Are Not Together.” Sapna has been called “Chicago’s answer to Margaret Cho.” Her act promises vivid characterizations of her immigrant Indian parents, brash openness about her sexuality, and witty commentary about our crap-onomy (economy).
Bradley Thomas (www.bradleythomascomic.com) is a comedian, Activist, Teacher, Drag Queen, Leatherman, Bartender, Actor, Model, Bottom. Bradley Thomas does it all. Whether for his weekly show Laugh Track at Sidetrack, Night of 100 Drag Queens, International Mister Leather, or other performances Bradley has been performing as a comedian and emcee for over a decade. His quick wit, and sardonic view help him create stand-up performances that are both relevant and irreverent. Bradley does not shy away from incorporating equality, sexuality, and social justice into his art. Of course, he is quickest to laugh at himself, if you don’t beat him to the punch. If laughter is medicine, Bradley hopes his audiences OD every night.
Zanies is the best of the Midwest, you’ll find no finer comedy club outisde of NYC. It is known world-wide for its incredible comedy and has been Chicago’s premier comedy club since 1978 (and now the only stand-up comedy club on the North Side.) Zanies regularly brings in top names. Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Chelsea Handler and Tim Allen were featured regularly well before you ever heard of them. For the greatest comedy and for the ability to say, “I saw them live” before comedians get movies and television shows, Zanies is your best bet.
OutLoud Chicago presents Queer Comedy at Zanies, Tuesday July 26th at 9:30pm at Zanies Comedy Club 1548 N Wells. The series will continue through the summer featuring different artists, mediums and genres. Admission is $10 tickets available online or available at the door. RSVP on Facebook. Audience members must be ages 21 or over. For questions, hi res images or a saved seat, email email@example.com.
Whole lot O’ Adam this May.
May 5th–Laugh Track. Adam produces and books this show. On Thursday May 5th Laugh Track at Sidetrack will be hosted by guest MC Megan Gailey (Your Funniest Friends, Red Bar Comedy,) and headlined by Cameron Esposito (Just For Laughs, Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival) and featuring Mike Lebovitz (Comedians You Should Know Show,) and a feature set from regular MC Bradley Thomas (Gays Got Talent, Night of 100 Drag Queens.) 8pm at Sidetrack 3349 N Halsted, no cover.
May 11th–The Liquid Burning of Apocalyptic Bard Letters #11. Adam reads a story at this show. Just your usual apocalyptic/dynostopian reading series. Black Rock Pub and Kitchen 3614 N Damen.
May 12th–Laugh Track. Adam produces and books this show. On Thursday May 12th Laugh Track at Sidetrack will be hosted by house MC MC Bradley Thomas (Gays Got Talent, Night of 100 Drag Queens,) and headlined by Bill Cruz (Zanies, Lincoln Lodge) and featuring Renee Shultz (Riot Comedy) and Meredith Kachel! 8pm at Sidetrack 3349 N Halsted, no cover.
May 19th–Laugh Track. Adam produces and books this show. On Thursday May 19th Laugh Track at Sidetrack will be hosted by house MC MC Bradley Thomas (Gays Got Talent, Night of 100 Drag Queens,) and featuring winners from our Casting Couch comedy contest, Matt Riggs (winner of the headliner award, Andrew Halter (winner of the mid award) and Stephanie Dykes (winner of the opener award.) And headliner, contributor to the Casting Couch, Brian Babylon (Wait-Wait Don’t Tell Me, Vocalo Radio.) 8pm at Sidetrack 3349 N Halsted, no cover.
May 26th–Laugh Track. Adam produces and books this show. If not the best, then without a doubt the biggest, show Laugh Track has ever put on. Returning NY comic Brad Loekle (TruTv’s World’s Dumbest, Sirius XM radio’s “Morning Jolt”) is flying to Chicago for IML and is being joined by host Bradley Thomas (Gays Got Talent, Night of 100 Drag Queens) and Beth Stelling (TBS Just For Laughs, Entertaining Julia.) 8pm at Sidetrack 3349 N Halsted, no cover.
May 28th–2 Hour Comedy Hour. Adam performs stand-up comedy at this show. A great free Saturday show run by amazing comedienne Emily Lake. “Cream of the crop in Chicago” says Metromix. The Gallery Cabaret (2020 N Oakley Ave) at 7pm.
Hey, thanks Timeout Chicago! I am flattered that they chose one of my jokes for “joke of the week.”
The funniest thing is, the joke they chose is kind of what is going through my head every time I’m on stage. If I tell a story about a date, my job or my parents and people laugh, I’m always thinking “I’m glad they’re laughing but is it a bad sign that my life is so hilarious?” Whenever people ask me about inspiration for jokes, I tell them to tell the truth. They try to grab jokes from the ether like imagination is this butterfly net but the best way to excite an audience is telling them the unique things that happen in your life. I think of 3 things with every joke I write: 1–Is this funny or is it just funny to me? 2–Can anyone else tell this joke but me? 3–What’s the best way to tell this joke?
We have a great show this week with Laugh Track at Sidetrack. On Thursday February 17th Laugh Track at Sidetrack will be hosted by guest host Cameron Esposito (Just for Laughs Tour, Aspen Rooftop Festival and Women in Comedy Festival,) with headliner Cynthia Levin (Comedy Central, BET,) and featuring Bradley Thomas and Joe Fernandez (Your Funniest Friends, Zanies.) I say this with the utmost honesty and pleasure, each comedian in this week’s show is world-class and they’re all friends of mine. What a coincidence!