In 2005, I really tried my hand at stand-up comedy. I had tried it a couple years prior, but I didn’t care enough to put effort into it. My first stage, in Chicago, was my friend’s bar, the Tonic Room. It was an open mic, and I ate it, hard. I continued to eat it in the city doing shitty stand-up and shittier improv, until I moved to the burbs in 2008. I did my open mic time without ever really realizing what I was doing wrong on stage (because I’m an idiot, obviously). However, when I got to the suburbs and started hitting open mics, things drastically changed. I made friends, and they helped me with my comedy, until I had grown up enough on my own where I didn’t need that support system. To me, there was and is a great support system in the suburbs, and there are people willing to help out.
This is just a very brief version of my story, and it’s just that, “mine.” It in no way really reflects my current views of the suburban or Chicago comedy scene or what the scene is actually like. The lack of community I felt during my time in Chicago was probably because I was really shitty at comedy, maybe a bit cocky, and probably because I was a huge douchebag. I understand that. Sometimes, if I see a really shitty comedian at an open mic who thinks he/she is the “cock of the walk,” I won’t talk to them. My views have changed since I started taking comedy seriously, and by that, I mean just having fun. I don’t drive my out to the city to hit up open mics because I’m not looking to get booked at city shows, and frankly, I just don’t like being away from my house. However, when I do make it out there, I get disappointed with how some city comedians feel about the suburban scene.
When you tell some Chicago comedians, mainly people at open mics, many of which you’ve never heard of, that you’re from the suburbs, you get this look of disappointment. The first time I met Mike Joyce was at Shambles open mic a two or three years back. We talked after the show, and he saw the Chicago flag tattoo on my arm (yep, I’m that douchebag) and asked me where I was from. After explaining I left the busy streets of the city I love, for the world of white picket fences and mortgage payments of the suburbs, his smile faded briefly, and an obvious, fake smile replaced it. The conversation quickly ended. Now, Mike Joyce is a fabulous man and comedian. I like him a lot. He’s very funny, and I love having him at A O.K. I don’t take this first meeting personal because this has happened at every Chicago open mic I’ve been to from a vast majority of comedians I’ve met.
I treat open mic like a band practice. I go there, try new material, and I like to hang out for hours afterwords with other people in “the band.” I’m a social creature, so when this started happening in the city, I wondered if once again I was that shitty comedian no one wanted to talk to. It was a strong possibility in my mind, until I started hearing the same stories from other suburban comedians.
I got the same story from other, extremely funny, suburban comedians. I heard that a few Chicago comedians, no one whose name I could remember, considered all suburban comedy to be hacky and downright terrible. Mainly, the people saying this are new to comedy as a whole, but occasionally, you’ll catch a real talented person spouting out that shit. I can assume many people have this mindset because the suburbs are a prison to them: they grew up here, they were under the rule of their parents, and they never want to return. They live in the city now. They’re adults. I had this same mindset when I lived there, just not about stand-up comedy.
The city and suburban scenes are extremely different. There is no doubt. There are a lot more comedians and shows in the city at any given night of the week. The burbs is a lot more spread out. The amount of people in the audience is usually about the same: great during the fall, winter, and spring, and a struggling hole filled with death in the summer. However, the average age of the audience is the biggest difference. Many shows in the city have an average age of early to mid-twenties. Many suburban shows’ audiences are filled with married couple, mothers, fathers, and the average age is closer to 30. That age difference changes everything. Younger audiences relate more to the edgier comedy you’ll see in the city. Suburban audiences have the 9-5er and family, so humor is a bit more catered to that. Maybe that is where the hatred comes from, for some people? They may see writing jokes about that as some dumb form of oppression, but it’s not.
What probably bugs me the most are the few comedians who will talk shit about the burbs but have no problem doing the suburban shows. Seems a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Suburban comics do it too, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t hear it as often. Shit, I’m technically a part of the problem since this whole post has been one long rant crying about “no one likes suburban comedy. boo fucking hoo.” That’s not the case though. Chicago is a great place to do stand-up comedy, as long as you’re talented and have a great work ethic. Most of my favorite comedians are from the city. However, these are the same guys who like the suburbs and the comedians contained within just as much as everything in the city.
Each side has their positives and negatives. Both sides have great stand-up comedy. I’m not going to turn this blog into some compare and contrast paper. I’d rather have both sides be supportive of each other, but let’s be honest, that’s probably not going to happen. Let’s just focus on the fact there’s a lot of great talent here and instead of arguing, we should be celebrating.
In an effort to show everyone that this “feud” is retarded, here’s a bunch of comedy things, some from the city and some from the burbs you should check out. Chicagoland is booming with great comedy, and frankly, I’m just happy about that.
A O.K. Comedy (Of course I’m going to put my own show on this list)
Creative Things Done by Comedians:
The Barely Watchable Network (Of course I’m going to put my own show on this list)