At a Wicker Park block party in 2013, Dave Helem recognized Felonious Munk from Twitter. It was a simple meeting: “I was like, ‘Hey, you’re Felonious Munk,’ and he said, ‘I am,’ ” Helem says. The local comics became fast friends, performing at open mikes together, and eventually created Blipster Life, a podcast that’s also the name under which the duo produces comedy shows filled with the details of their “black hipster” lives. Between discussions of Kanye West and #OscarsSo White, the pair have talked about recent trips to Whole Foods and playing the tuba in the college marching band.
“I think my humor is very nerd-centered, but also from the voice of someone who loves being black,” Helem says. “I love our culture. I’m just trying to get people to see that there are so many experiences within that culture.”
For the past three years they’ve been hosting and performing in shows such as Afro- Futurism at Second City and Blipsters on Broadway at the Laugh Factory. Their latest, The Green Room, is based at the eight-month-old Hyde Park theater the Revival, which comes with an impressive comedy pedigree: it happens to be next door to what was the original home of Second City predecessors the Compass Players. And with the closing of Bronzeville’s Jokes and Notes earlier this month, the Revival is one of the only comedy-devoted theaters remaining on the south side.
As new and shiny as the Revival’s stage may be, the concept for Helem and Munk’s show is rooted in what happens behind the scenes. “Comedians are always funnier in the green room,” Munk says. “The green room is always where we relax and cut up.” The hosts are encouraging comedians and musicians to embrace the off-the-cuff spirit of the Compass Players in the hope of treating audiences to less rigid, more laid-back sets. Upcoming performers include comics Lara Beitz, Bobby Hill, and Jillian Ebanks, as well as guitarist/comedian/child star Becca Brown (she appeared alongside Jack Black in School of Rock).
Despite having created a show focused on kicking back, Helem and Munk seem to be doing anything but. Helem is in the middle of creating a TV pilot based on Afro-Futurism and has been traveling the country performing stand-up, while Munk is jumping between Chicago and New York for regular performances and spots as “Resident Black Egghead” on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, on which he’s given wry takes on everything from the connotations of the word “thug” to Georgetown University’s legacy of slavery. He’s also two months from becoming a father. “I’m trying to do as much as I can today,” Munk says, “because who knows what I’ll be able to do tomorrow.” v