Every time I walk to Humboldt Park, which is a weekly occurrence that has kept me sane and outside during the pandemic, I’m reminded of a patch of grass that was full of laughter and community during summer 2020: It was comedy in a pickup truck. When entertainment venues shuttered in the early half of the year, artists all over the city struggled. As the summer months brought much-needed brightness, the local comedy scene got creative. Eager to get in front of a crowd again and connect over some laughs, comedians hosted outdoor, socially distant open mikes.
And the one that was the most innovative—and that wouldn’t have existed without the pandemic—was Comedy Pickup, a traveling stand-up show in the bed of a big blue pickup truck created by local comics Donovan Strong-O’Donnell and Ryder Olle. The duo traveled all over Chicago and several U.S. big cities, bringing relief to not only comedy fans, but also those who ordinarily wouldn’t go see comedy, thanks to the accessibility of being outside. The duo produced more than 50 shows and put more than 2,000 miles on Olle’s pickup. One show was on that small Humboldt Park patch of grass in September. This memory is a constant reminder that it’s OK to laugh and that there’s always something to smile about. Here’s to hoping the Comedy Pickup will come back for summer—preferably with an end to the pandemic.