Our five picks for comedy
Hollywood Said No! Orphaned Film Scripts, Bastard Scenes, and Abandoned Darlings from the Creators of Mr. Show
It’s been 15 years since Mr. Show With Bob and David aired its last episode, but Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have kept busy. Both have gone mainstream, with roles in Breaking Bad and Arrested Development, respectively, but their new book of rejected work and accompanying tour suggests they’ve kept up the alt-comedy practices that first garnered them a cult following. Along with frequent collaborator Brian Posehn, Odenkirk and Cross are bringing unseen sketches, excerpts from screenplays, and stand-up to only six cities, Chicago being among the lucky bunch.
Stand-up sets in this show will highlight the comedians’ ranges outside of their non sequitur sketch style and TV-character quirks. Rumor has it that this is a dry run for a larger 2015 tour; things could prove unusually playful as the trio tries bits out before getting the whole gang back together. Whether characters like Ronnie Dobbs or companies like Globochem will make an appearance remains to be seen, but if their history is any indication, even Cross and Odenkirk’s rejected work will be hilarious. —Brianna Wellen
Sat 9/21, 1 PM, Up Comedy Club, 230 W. North, upcomedyclub.com, $22.
Comedy Bang! Bang! Live!
Scott Aukerman has proven himself a modern-day triple threat, mastering the stage show, podcast, and TV show with various incarnations of Comedy Bang! Bang! Begun more than a decade ago as an LA stand-up showcase called Comedy Death-Ray Radio, Aukerman’s project evolved into a unique opportunity for comedians (podcast regulars include Paul F. Tompkins, Jessica St. Clair, Harris Wittels, and Nick Kroll) to play with sketch, improv, stand-up, and character work in a long-form setting. Part of the joy of listening to the podcast every week is not knowing what to expect: interviews get interrupted, small improv bits explode into elaborate scenes—or the episode could have minutes of dead air as everyone in the studio gets caught up in a fit of silent laughter.
As delightful as this dynamic is through a pair of ear buds, it’s best in front of an audience. Literally anything can happen—recently Aukerman sprained his ankle and broke his heel onstage, instantly renaming himself “Broke Ankleman.” The live LA component dissolved last year, so this tour is a rare chance to experience Aukerman in the flesh. Tompkins joins him as a special guest; sketch group the Birthday Boys open. —Brianna Wellen
Tue 10/8, 8 PM, Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield, jamusa.com, $30.
One of the funniest scenes in recent cinema (says me and maybe only me) takes place near the end of the 2001 cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer. In a flurry of mock drama, summer camp employees Beth and Neil—played by Janeane Garofalo and Joe Lo Truglio—search wildly through the camp infirmary for a phone, destroying the place in the process. Lo Truglio tips over metal cabinets and puts his elbow through a floor lamp. Garofalo moans helplessly as she smashes jars of cotton balls and tongue depressors on the floor. It’s ridiculous and ridiculously drawn out. Like the rest of the movie, it succeeds because the actors are so completely dedicated to making it as over-the-top as possible.
It’s fun to watch Garofalo in a moment of slapstick abandon because she so often plays characters who play it cool (a favorite example: vituperative outcast Heather Mooney in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion). That aloof comic aesthetic extends to her stand-up as well as her appearances in the talk show realm, where she’s become known as an outspoken opponent of conservative bullshit, much like David Cross. For some reason, Garofalo has managed to provoke a lot more conservative ire than Cross. (By “some reason” I mean the reason is that she’s a woman.) Luckily she’s too cool to care. —Gwynedd Stuart
Fri-Sat 10/18-10/19, 8 and 10:30 PM, Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse, maynestage.com, $30-$40.
Margaret Cho: Mother
Margaret Cho has always made her life a central part of her act. Her brazen honesty can be obnoxious, but it’s also what stirs up devotion in her fans: she has been to some really low places in her life. Following a few years of struggle with eating disorders and addiction in the 90s, Cho now thrives off the radical love she showers on her curvy, bisexual, Korean self and on anyone else who feels awkward and unwanted in the world.
With this new tour, Cho is finally giving a whole act to the topic that’s made an appearance—through impressions—in almost every single one of her previous stand-up specials: her mother, Young-hie Cho. Though it veers at times into dragon-lady stereotypes, Cho’s version of her mom is still painfully funny. This ur-mother is disapproving, judgmental—even more unfiltered than her daughter. She’s also grown over the years, becoming more understanding of her expectation-defying daughter. Young-hie Cho appeared as her (much more reserved) self in Cho’s short-lived reality show, The Cho Show, sweetly telling the New York Times in 2008 that she did it only to spend more time with her daughter.
Cho debuted Mother at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival last spring to mixed reviews, one accusing her of being lazy and incoherent on opening night. But her act’s supposedly undergone some major overhauls; she’ll be landing in Chicago with almost two months on the road behind her. —Molly Adams
Sat 10/19, 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, thechicagotheatre.com, $29.50-$59.50.
It’s been nearly two years since Beth Stelling split for the west coast, but you’ll learn from her debut album—as well as from a 2012 appearance on Conan—that the city remains woven into her stand-up act. Sweet Beth (Rooftop Comedy) is a mishmash of well-traveled jokes she worked out here—smartly taking advantage of the endless material a year-round cyclist is privy to, for instance—and fresh observations sparkling with that California sheen (also an easy target). The sharper wit and better joke construction on the album are undoubtedly benefits she’s reaped from slogging through the west coast’s more competitive comics’ circuit.
During sets, Stelling establishes a cozy, family-room type atmosphere—not just because she leans on the idiosyncrasies of her colorful, raccoon-loving father and overdramatic mother, but also because her delivery is never abrasive or in your face. Unafraid to note, tongue in cheek, how badly the audience probably wants to see her naked, she nonetheless serves self-deprecating humor with a warm mug of cocoa and wry smirk as she takes shots at her uncontrollable sweet tooth and tilted uterus (“So what you’re telling me is even my uterus is like, ‘Unh-unh”‘). Returning home for this string of dates likely means the performances will be even looser and more communal than usual. —Kevin Warwick
Stelling headlines the Queer Comedy showcase, Tue 10/22, 8:30 PM, Zanies, 1548 N. Wells, chicago.zanies.com, $10-$15; she also performs stand-up sets coheadlining with Drew Michael, 10/23-10/27, Zanies, $25 plus two-drink minimum.