If you’re not listening, you’re going to miss the joke.

Tim Baltz

After months of trying to nail down both of our schedules after Tim left Second City’s Mainstage, I was finally able to meet up with him to talk life and comedy. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim last Fall at Jimmy Carrane’s Improv Nerd and for obvious reasons, I was dead set on interviewing him. Tim is extremely passionate about a lot of things, but aside from his passion, he is one of the most talented performers in Chicago. Some may argue he is the most talented and versatile performer Chicago has to offer right now. Aside from talking about the ups and downs of the Chicago comedy community, we talked about the greatest lessons he’s learned thus far, how he met his girlfriend on the set of SHRINK, 38 Special and so much more!

Is there anything from your childhood that you would say lent itself or foreshadowed a career in comedy?
Yeah, my dad was a professional actor for about 15 years in the late 60s to the early 80s. I didn’t get to see him act a lot, but I’d hear a lot of stories. So that was in my mind, but my parents are both teachers, so I thought about being a teacher too.

Aside from that, in my childhood, my mom is French and I grew up in Joliet, Illinois, which is a place that is pretty opposed to the French culture. I think that probably made me feel different and I think when people feel different, they develop a sense of humor as a defense mechanism.

Ok, so you think that’s kind of where it came from?
Maybe. I saw an iO show when I was 14 or 15.

Really? How were you exposed to that at that age?
This stand-up, Dan Telfer, his brother Rob is my mom’s godson. Rob runs the Encyclopedia Show which plays at the Chopin theatre, which is a variety, slam-poetry, living magazine type of show. Their step-brother, my friend Keith, told me about Improv Olympic and that Dan was on a team there, so we checked it out and my mind was just blown. I loved joking around with my friends, but it didn’t always make sense. When you’re a kid, you quote movies and TV shows to get laughs from your friends. It seemed like that, but everyone was making it up. We still quote the first improv show we saw at iO. So that got me really excited about improv.

Ok, so that sparked your interest in improv. What else happened that made you pursue comedy? You went to Loyola University, what did you major in?
I double majored in French and communication.

So, not theatre or drama or anything. Was there something else you thought you might pursue initially?
Yeah, I did 10 plays in high school and then I did summer Shakespeare during college at Lewis University about 20 minutes from my house. So I had done, mainly, dramatic acting until I started improv and I really liked improv. I was probably more inclined at that time in my life.

I still like dramatic acting. I knew I wanted to be in Chicago, so I went to Loyola, because I knew I wanted to try improv. For the first semester I was a Theatre major and I just hated it.

Yeah, I hated it. I didn’t really click with the people there. The teachers were great, but there was a seniority system, so everyone kind of had to wait their turn and I had done so much theatre and I didn’t want to wait to do stuff. I wanted to do it now. So I started doing improv because you could do stuff, even in rehearsal you got to do scenes.

So I did A-E at Second City and then went to iO. Prior to that, I was interested in history and psychology and I thought about being a speech teacher. I almost went to grad school for French. I wanted to teach French in college at the university level.

Is there a big comedy scene in France?
No, it’s structured very differently. Very differently.

It blows my mind that Chicago is the comedy central of the world.
Kind of. You can try a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of plurality here of different styles. I wish they would get along better and use one another more. Sometimes you get a feeling like this theatre is an echo chamber for that style and this one is an echo chamber for that style. People kind of turn into Sharks…

And Jets?
…and Jets. I never sat through that whole thing. I like Oklahoma.

But, you get a sense of a little bit of a Sharks and Jets vibe between theatres and that’s just stupid. Once you leave Chicago and are exposed to the part of the industry that pays you more and gives you more of an opportunity to showcase to a national audience, you realize it’s a totally different game. Some of those things might matter. Some places in LA or New York might connect more with the echo chamber of one theatre, but for the most part, I’ve always been more impressed by multi-disciplinary theatres or performers and less impressed by people who seem to do the same thing over and over again. Not that I’m not impressed, but less impressed.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you started to get noticed as you got involved with the Big 10 Network, right?
My roommate is a sportscaster for the Big 10 Network and he’s downstairs right now, so I hesitate to say this, but I don’t think I got noticed very much for that Big 10 Network show.

That’s not true! I know a lot of college sports fans who maybe don’t know anything about improv but they know you from that show!
Really, no way! Those are my people, the recent graduates of Big 10 schools.

Those are your people, there ya go. So that was you and Steve Waltien.
Yeah, that was a really great experience for all the things that went right and all the things that frustratingly did not go right. There were like five producers on that show, so a lot of people can attest to that. There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen and when comedy has to go through that many channels it’s always dangerous. It needs to go through one or two at most. With an editor that really understands what you’re going for. If the editor doesn’t understand what you’re going for in comedy, you’re sunk. I got a lot of experience from that and maybe it raised my profile? If I’m looking back and being critical of myself, there isn’t a ton from that show that I personally did that I would want on my reel.

Where did you take all those learnings from all your failures after the Big 10 Network?
There were many more failures after that. That’s so much of comedy, you’re figuring out what your voice is and then even if you figure it out, you have to put it into practice. There’s an Ira Glass quote that was floating around Facebook, something about always trying to improve and refine your taste.

Ultimately, you want to have good taste. But when you start to actually execute upon your taste, your taste exceeds your ability and you’re always coming up short. But with every failure, you’re getting closer and closer to meeting your level of taste. It’s a great quote and I’m not doing it justice. But all that failure helps you get closer to your taste. Your ceiling very slowly gets higher as you’re working to be better, but hopefully, your basement rises quicker. So that the worst you’re capable of, people still think “pretty good man” and hopefully you start to see that the worst show you’re capable of now is better than the best show you were capable of years ago. That’s what I’m hoping for.

That makes sense. It’s a good place to be. You went on to Second City. You were on Etc and then promoted to Mainstage, correct?
Yes, but before the Big 10 show, I toured with Second City for about two and a half years with RedCo. Got hired for that in April of 2006, understudied a couple of times and got plugged into RedCo in May of 2006. I toured with the best people; I got so lucky. I didn’t have much sketch writing experience and I got put with people who are amazing sketch writers and I learned a lot from them by just watching them crush it.

Who did you tour with?
When I came in, it was Hans Holsen, Brendan Jennings, Shelly Gosman, Dana Quercioli and Rebecca Hanson. Dina Facklis was our director. Joe Grazulis was our musical director and Josh Miller was our stage manager. Kyle Anderson became our stage manager. Bryan Dunn became our musical director after about a year/year and a half. Shelly left, Mary Sohn took her place. I did almost everything in that building with Mary Sohn. She was my best friend in that building.

Then Rebecca got replaced with Megan Hovde. Hans Holsen got replaced with Mark Raterman. Brendan Jennings got replaced with Michael Patrick O’Brian, who in turn got replaced with Tim Robinson.

Wow, you did work with some great people.
They’re the best. I got incredibly lucky. Looking back now, I’ve been gone from the stage for four months and I can text those people and ask what they think of ideas. It’s great.

Do you have a lot of writing experience?
Now I do. During TourCo, I got to write the stage shows. I got to write Second City regional shows in Louisville with Ed Furman- that was huge. Ed Furman is one of my Second City heroes. He’s one of the greatest sketch writers alive, I think. A lot of my peers share that same perspective. He’s just incredibly gifted with writing. We’d be bouncing ideas back and forth and a few days later he’d wind up with this perfect script. That gave me more confidence to voice my ideas more. Even if they weren’t worked out all the way, I learned you can build it after you get your idea out there.

I learned so many lessons in that building, every step of the way. The stages were a super cool experience. That was something I’d wanted to do since high school.

If there was one main lesson you learned from say, Mainstage, what would it be?
I wouldn’t be able to pick one.

DifferentYou can pick a couple if you’d like.
Haha, ok. Know yourself. Be patient. Every group is different. Every person is going to bring out something different in you and embrace that. Those are kind of general things. I learned a lot about myself.

In what ways?
Well, I came from a very disciplined acting background. I had directors that were very hard-nosed disciplinarians and would not let you break on stage. You’d get chewed out in an embarrassing fashion. I got to Second City and some people don’t mind breaking and some people like keeping things looser. Learning a lot about when to say when we should discuss something and when to just let it go was important. Personally, I always want to discuss. I think it’s healthy. I think people should always be observant and analytical. Some people disagree and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s all still so fresh in the rear view mirror that I don’t know everything I’ve learned from Second City. Hopefully it will come back in a few years and I’ll be able to recognize it.

In the meantime, laugh at your peers, because if you don’t, they’ll think you don’t like them. Don’t be underhanded. Support them. Play each others’ straight men. I think there’s a current in American comedy where people are trying to get the last word. No one wants to be the straight man, because that won’t get you hired. Rejoice in the fact that your friend and coworker is crushing it. Be happy you helped them get that laugh by being a straight man and they will repay you.


When you’re handed a new script for sketch, is there a specific process you go through when reviewing it? Outside of rehearsal, any tips forcharacter development or anything like that?
Yeah, first I look at it and I try to understand what they want me to execute. Do they want me to play a specific character, a straight man, etc? The second layer is where are the laughs coming from? What character? Is there a chance for me to add additional humor in without corrupting the original idea they have? So if they’re asking me to play a janitor, but I can come in with a lisp, would that help or hurt this idea? They could love it or hate it. It’s important to understand if you’re adding or changing someone’s idea, which is why I think discussion is good. It just helps to understand and I think it helps with transparency.

You said you enjoy a variety of different skills to keep in your back pocket: sketch, improv, dramatic acting and the list goes on. You recently worked with Ted Tremper on SHRINK, a completely improvised TV pilot. Can you tell me a little about that experience?
It was great and Ted had a really good eye for letting people improvise on film and then finding what was good about that and either going over it again or building off of it. It was always fun. He was the perfect blend of hands off and hands on.

He approached me with this idea about this character and how we could get all these people we think are hilarious together and improvise with them. The specific sessions each started in a different way. Sometimes they would know a lot about their characters and sometimes they knew very little. We ended up creating these backstories that evolved over a few different sessions. Ted wanted to make something more out of it, but I went from ETC to Mainstage after we filmed about 11 or 12 of them.

How many were filmed?
I think 11 were released, but we filmed two more sessions that haven’t been released yet. Some of the footage is in the pilot. But after I opened the Mainstage show, Ted said he wanted to create a pilot to submit for the New York Television Festival. So we needed to film some connective tissue scenes. We knew what we were going into and knew the sticking points, but everything else was improvised. It was really fun, we got to go out to New York. People really liked it and the feedback was great.

Yea it was great, you got two awards- The Critics Choice and Best TV Comedy Pilot. How was that? Have you ever experienced anything like that before?
No, it was really cool. It made me want to do that festival every year. You get to watch everyone’s stuff. You start to think differently and think about camera angles. It’s a different thing moving from stage to film. There isn’t a ton in Chicago that helps you bridge that gap.

Yeah, I think Ted’s onto something brilliant. He’s talking about wanting to make a huge movement on improvised video and bringing improv from the stage to the web community.
The web community is probably the most interesting and fertile ground. Whether it’s shows online or streaming video. There’s a movement called mumblecore…

Called what?
Mumblecore. There are a handful of directors in Chicago that I don’t know if they like it being referred to as mumblecore, but they make films with structured plots that then use improvisation. All the dialogue and action are improvised. Lena Dunham was a big fan of their work and created Tiny Furniture and then Girls. There are people that use improv in film. It’s not overt yet and one of Ted’s main points is how do you incorporate improv into the marketing aspect to generate interest.

It’s also a matter of trust. People want to know they aren’t being lied to and when you do things on camera you can really do whatever you want. You can make whatever reality look like whatever you want. Everyone knows “reality” TV shows are the furthest thing from real life…
It’s just shitty acting.

It’s terrible. Working in digital marketing, this is something we come across all the time. I think it’s fascinating to think about the truth that happens on stage as people improvise and capturing that and bringing it on camera in a way that people will still trust that it’s real. I think Ted’s doing big things. It’s hard to believe that SHRINK is completely improvised.
I wondering how many other shows out there do it. Once you have the shots set up and you know where you’re going with a specific shot, you need a lot of coordination with the editor, but ultimately you can create a pretty cool story if you work hand in hand with the editor.

When you work off of a script, you can easily transition from one thing to another. When everything is improvised, it’s very difficult to do that, because the transition isn’t always smooth. When we went back to shoot the connecting scenes these natural edit points just popped up. Then we starting wondering if we could put in plot points and have everything else just improvised. If you did that, then you’d have a model that you wouldn’t have to worry about in post-production, because you’d always know you were improvising to a point. It’s exciting.

With that being said, you can spend all this time writing scripts and putting together a sketch show or you can put together this whole scenic show through improv.
Well, it’s still really tough. The whole process of learning to re-improvise at Second City, feels dirty at first.

What do you mean?
You’re doing something again. You’re improvising it and then re-improvising it. So technically, you’re reacting again. So it’s not purely improvised. They use improvisation as a means to an end and it feels like you’re driving stick, always starting and stopping and missing the clutch. But then you get used to it and recognize each part you need to hit and which parts are open for interpretation.

So you dissect it a little bit?
Yeah, but usually when you’re improvising long form, you’re not thinking about that sort of stuff. You’re moving really quickly and not second-guessing yourself. Learning that skill at Second City, at best, is unsettling at first and at worst it makes you feel gross and uncomfortable, but it’s a very good skill to learn.

I never thought of it that way, but that makes sense.
Because if you change too much, then the idea might not work anymore. But if you do it the same, it might feel stale. Even once it’s scripted, do you do it the same way every time? It’s a case by case basis.

As you guys were filming SHRINK, were there any big blooper-type moments that were never released?
Yes. I pride myself on not breaking. But Hans Holsen is my kryptonite when it comes to that. No one breaks me like that guy does. The first five or ten minutes of us sitting down, we could not keep a straight face. We kept apologizing to Ted, but we just kept laughing. The Greg Hollimon one, which hasn’t been released as a webisode yet, I had to fight breaking a lot. There was a good 20-25 minute chunk where I was surprised neither one of us broke. Everything was killing me inside.

My girlfriend is in one of them, but she wasn’t my girlfriend at the time. She’s the girl I kiss at the end of the pilot episode. She’s a Neo-Futurist and isn’t part of the iO/Second City community which was what we wanted. We kept getting interrupted by trains going by every few minutes, but at one point it built to this tension between us that seems to be somewhat romantic. We barely knew each other and there was this pause and Ted whispers, “Alright, if you guys feel comfortable, I’d just like you to lean in and kiss each other.” Ted and I had not talked about that prior to this. Even if I had been thinking that, I definitely didn’t want him to say that. I was trying not to turn red and I could see the look in her face like “Am I getting set up? What the hell is going on?” and then a train goes by and the moment was gone. It was ruined. But it kind of naturally built up to it again and it ended up happening again. That was definitely an uncomfortable moment. I wouldn’t mind seeing that on tape.

Haha, so Ted had mentioned that you guys had met on set. So you didn’t know each other at all?
I’d met her once before. She was producing the Encyclopedia show with that guy I mentioned earlier. So I’d seen her in rehearsal and then I saw her at the Neo-Futurist show in early November, but she was dating someone.

So, Ted kind of set you guys up?
No, I mean, Ted had suggested we get someone who gives a different feeling that the iO/Second City crowd. I had been seeing a lot of Neo-Futurists and always came away so impressed with how liberated and free they seemed. They were so unshackled by not trying to get laughs and they were just mining for meaning. So, I knew I kind of had a crush on this girl and I suggested her, without telling Ted any of the things I felt or thought in my head. Because I knew if he put the two of us in a room just staring at each other, I was at least going to feel a lot. Respect. Intimidation. A bit of a crush. Nervous. That would create a very different episode than the ones we’d filmed before.

So I kind of set it up…with Ted’s help. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I thought she had a boyfriend during the shoot, so I was going to be very respectful. When Ted suggested we kiss, I was like, “No man, I’m not trying to kiss a girl with a boyfriend. I don’t want to be that guy. I just want to hang out with this girl, because I think she’s cool and kind of intimidating.” It always reminds me of Old School, when Luke Wilson is talking to the girl he has a crush on and she says, “I still have that jean jacket” and he says “I’m still of kind of intimidated.”

So after that, you went on a date…?
Yeah, she made me wait like 10 days to go on a date with her and later told me she had nothing to do, she was just making me wait.

Ahhh, nice work.
Yeah. Then I went into writing a show and had almost no time to hang out with her, so it was very slow and developing, which is usually good. It’s hard for impatient people, but it’s usually good.

That’s probably true. So how do you go about maintaining a relationship in this career where there’s so much travel and back and forth?
A lot of understanding. Communication. That was one of my majors, so I enjoy communicating. I know when I’m not communicating well- artistically, personally and professionally. A lot of understanding of what this business is and what it could be and a lot of looking at schedules. Honestly, that’s ok, because professionally, the more you have stuff to do, the less time you have personally, but then the more it means to spend time personally with a busy schedule.

Yeah, that’s a hard schedule. It’s just a little time consuming sometimes.
Yeah, I definitely have approached projects obsessively in the past. Not all, but a lot. The majority probably. There are times where it’s daunting to think about taking a chunk away from my passion projects and replacing it with personal time or even shows. There was a time when I was touring that I had the opportunity to do a show at iO seven nights a week for five or six months.

That’s a lot.
I was probably doing shows five to six nights a week. There was a time where I was literally on the schedule in a different show every night. So the relationship I was in at the time, did not grow from that, unfortunately. It’s taken me a few relationships to realize that.

It’s a hard balance. I’m brand new to this and I have a bit of an obsessive personality when it comes to this stuff too and I’ve found amongst all the projects and classes and work I’m doing, I don’t have time for a relationship, I barely have time for friendships and that’s not healthy.
No, but you make those mistakes and then you figure it out. A lot of friendships get sacrificed and it’s not fair. I’ve found myself doing a poor job of maintaining and growing friendships and now I’m trying to get back to those relationships because ultimately, that grows you. Some of the best advice I ever got was from Liz Allen, who is one of the greatest improv teachers that’s ever lived. She said, “You’ve got to feed yourself. It’s just as important to go see a movie and talk about it after than it is to do a show or go to a class.” You have to create a space in your schedule for that. If you don’t, a part of you is regressing.

That’s absolutely true.
It’s really scary, do you live around here [Lincoln Park]?

Yeah, just a few blocks north.
The Landmark Theatre- there is nothing better than going and watching a movie there. Going up those escalators. I get so excited about going to see movies. I love seeing movies.

My first job was working at a movie theatre for four and a half years and I love movies, but I hate scary movies.
Yeah, me too.

I saw almost every other movie that came out for four and a half years, for free. So it’s hard for me to pay to go to a movie now, but outside of the last year and seeing really great improv, nothing else feeds my soul like seeing a good movie.
[Insert 10 minute banter on how many movies we’ve seen lately that we love including Rust and Bone, Lincoln, Argo and Brooklyn Castle.]

So we talked a lot about the difficulty in balancing everything and you expressed that you love movies, what other interests do you have?
I like abstract drawing.

Yup, I like to draw abstractly. I’m not very good at drawing faces and things like that, so I just like to start doodling and grow that pattern. Similar to improv. Gives me a strong sense of satisfaction, I don’t do that enough.

I love basketball. That should be number one. I love playing basketball. I love basketball, man, it’s the best. Anything NBA related. College is all right, but I feel like almost every college game follows the same two or three scripts. I love college, I just think in the pros, you’re watching individuals create stakes for themselves a lot of the times. I think that’s pretty cool. That’s where I’m at now. That’s ultimately a question in the Chicago community once you get to a certain level, you have to ask yourself, “Well, what now?”

LevelAboveYouThis is totally unrelated, but it’s relevant. At almost every level in the Chicago community, no matter where you’re at, you know very little about the level above you. Very little. It’s kind of shrouded in mystery. You think the problems you have now won’t exist at the next level. Well guess what, you still have the same problems, but they’re magnified and the stakes are greater. The egos are bigger. There’s more desperation in the air. The people you trust, you’ll trust even more. Then you leave even though you may love Chicago. While I love this city, I’ve climbed the mountains I wanted to climb. I climbed mountains I never thought I’d even get a chance to climb. So, what do I do? There’s no one there to explain it. For the community, I wish there was more transparency. I didn’t even know what a home show was before I started touring.

What’s a home show?
The Mainstage cast has Mondays off, that’s their only night off during the week. So one of the three touring companies performs their best of show on that stage on Monday night. I didn’t know what it was until I was told I was doing one.

In general in Chicago, there isn’t a lot of transparency. The writing process at Second City, for example, is shrouded in mystery-people don’t want to talk about it.

Why do you think people keep everything such a mystery?
Knowledge is power. If you have that knowledge and someone else doesn’t, you have power. That’s a cynical way of looking at it. In another way, it’s also like, who has time to share that knowledge? I don’t know.

I think it would help Chicago move beyond where it’s at, if there were more transparency. The more things move online, the more opportunities will be created. The more opportunities there are, the more you have to choose between opportunities. The more you have to choose between opportunities, the more knowledge like that would be helpful in choosing between those opportunities.

Is it a good idea to go on a boat? Is it? For some people it’s not. For some it is. Why? Let’s talk about it. Is it a good idea to be an understudy for a touring company for six months to a year? Maybe. Maybe not. What are the pros and cons at all these levels? What are the pitfalls? What are the drawbacks? What are the positives? What are the things you stand to gain? What are the things you stand to lose? Second City is great, but you dedicate so much time to those stages and this might be an unpopular thing to say, but in a way, once you leave, and you have to leave, you’re going to need to learn and develop other skills and make other connections. But it’s such a time consuming job that in a way, you’re kind of stalling the time you’re going to need to learn those things.

Because you just don’t have time while you’re on the Mainstage?
No, you don’t.

What does the Mainstage schedule look like?
Tuesday to Sunday. You quickly learn that it’s hard to go to bed before two or three am during the week and three or four am on the weekends. It’s not a wide-open schedule.

ChicagoComedyIt goes back to the transparency issue. How do people manage that?
The selling point is that I think Chicago is still probably the best place to learn comedy. At the very least, you make a bunch of great friends in Chicago and you learn a ton. There are lower stakes and things maybe feel a little more pure. You learn without the cloud of the industry over you.

Is the transparency what frustrates you the most about this industry or is it something else?
Yeah. I would also love for there to be more industry in Chicago so that really talented people don’t feel like they have to move to the coasts. I think that’s ideal but I don’t know if that will ever happen. We’d need more feature films and TV shows shot here. Maybe once the online market develops even more then there’ll be more opportunities here. We’d also need more production companies. I think a lot of people move because they are no longer being challenged.

What is your greatest fear right now?
That I’ll never find my voice.

You still don’t feel like you’ve found your voice?
I get paranoid about that because I know I can do many things and I enjoy doing many things…maybe, comedically, my voice is where it needs to be more than I think. But maybe my fear isn’t in comedy at all, because I’ll try anything.

I think more personally. I’ve spent a lot of time creating who I am comedically and I believe many things off-stage that have been rattled a little bit by going through all these comedic gauntlets in Chicago. You can’t help but be tested like that. I’m a very fair person and I believe in teamwork and there are times where that has been very rattled and I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to become cynical. That’s probably my biggest fear- I don’t want to become cynical.

What advice would you impart on your younger self as an improviser and actor?
Sit down and write more even if nothing comes from it. Write anything just to feel more comfortable on the page. Go see shows of different disciplines. Go see things that seem risky and challenge yourself to take risks. I like to do things that are risky like that because they scare me and then once I do them, I try to find ways to do more things influenced by them.

What do you believe is one of the greatest beauties of improv comedy?
The coolest thing to me is making eye contact with someone that really connects you to the moment. I love that. When someone avoids eye contact, or they’re looking at the crowd and not you, you trust them less. They’re breeding distrust if they don’t make eye contact with you. If you don’t make eye contact, then you’re robots.

That makes sense. So you mentioned you’re heading out to LA for six weeks, what’s in LA?
Pilot season. Pilot season is from late January to mid-March.

So you’re just going to camp out for six weeks?
Yeah, basically. Rent a car, drive all over the place and go to a bunch of auditions. I’ve only auditioned a few times in LA and New York, so I’m kind of looking forward to it. I’m excited to be scared again. I’m excited to be a new kid on the block again. I like being a student and there are times, in Chicago, where I’ve been my most frustrated when I haven’t been a student and I wanted to be.

Do you still get nervous auditioning?
Oh yeah, sure.

Do you have any big ones lined up that you can talk about?

Haha, no they’re not lined up or no you can’t talk about them?

haha, fair enough. Well I hope that works out for you.
That’d be fun.

What’s next for Tim Baltz right now?
Right now, Ted and I are working with a production company on SHRINK, trying to get it ready for a network pitch. That’s really cool, going through that process. Hans Holsen and I are shooting a sizzle reel of a show idea that we want to eventually pitch and develop.

Like a TV show?
We don’t know exactly who we’d be marketing it to. It may be more online developers than network, because it’s a little bit of a weirder idea. When Hans and I get together, it gets to be a little weird. I really enjoy it. He’s one of the greatest improvisers alive and one of the most unique comedic minds, at least in Chicago. Working with him is really fun.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5-10 years?
Be more comfortable on camera. Be more comfortable when I’m writing ideas.

Do you have any desire to do more film or are you looking to stick to the stage?
I’d love to do more film. I like film. I like small, subtle comedy. I like bigger comedy too, but I don’t like huge comedy as much or as frequently as small comedy. So, film and TV maybe. I want to work the muscles that are the weakest. My stage muscles are probably the strongest right now, so working the film muscles. Trusting myself more on film. Doing commercials is kind of a fun practice for that.

You’ve done a couple commercials.
Yeah, US Cellular stuff has been fun to do. I’ve gotten to do a lot of web commercials too. It’s great experience.

MissTheJokeWhat is the greatest insight you’ve discovered about life and comedy?
If you’re not listening, you’re going to miss the joke. There’s so many ways to not listen. When you’re not listening, you’re not in the moment, on and off stage. You’re missing so many opportunities when you’re not listening or when you’re only listening to one part of whatever. If you’re only listening for certain things, those are the only things you’re going to hear.

Listening is really just being open to different things. Know yourself and be open to different things. If you know yourself, then you know what you’re good at and when you’re open you can learn from other things.

I feel like listening is kind of an easy answer…what was the question again?

What is the greatest insight you’ve discovered about life and comedy?
Oh right, that. Haha, I don’t know. Just like 38 Special said, “You got to hold on loosely.” [Raises arms and places hands behind head, in laid-back fashion.]

I don’t have armpit stains, do I?

Tim Baltz Shoes

Tim’s shoes by the front door of his apartment.

No, haha.
Yeah. Hold on loosely…but don’t let go because if you cling too tightly, you’re going to lose control.

I feel like we’re shooting a commercial right now.
Yeah, for 38 Special.

That’d better be the name of that band. Haha. I think that’s totally true though. That’s such a tough question to answer. It’s an important question, but it’s so hard to answer. I could be like, “footwear.” You know, keep your footwear tight.

Yeah. You should get a shot of all my shoes over there.

I noticed them when I came in.
Those are all mine. There might be one bunk-ass pair of my roommates over there, but I’m not going to claim that. Make sure your shoes are right and tight.

Haha, alright, last question is, do you have any final comments?
Be nice to people. When you don’t want people to succeed, those people can tell. It breeds distrust and animosity. So few of us are actually competing against one another in what we do that there’s no harm in wanting someone else to succeed to the fullest of their potential. If you’re nice to them, they’re going to put you in stuff. They’ll think about you and mention you to other people. If you’re mean to them, if you show them you’re jealous and don’t qualify it, if you’re negative to them and show them you’re someone they can’t trust, they’re not going to stick up for you later. You’ll make an enemy. Don’t make an enemy. Stay challenged. If you think you’re part of an echo chamber, go learn something else. Don’t be so convinced that you and your friends have figured it out. You may have for now, but you’ll be challenged later and you’ll have some serious questions for yourself. Life is very long…uh, it’s just so long.

It’s funny to hear that because no one says life is long.
It’s so super long. Be bored.

Yeah, be bored.

I hate when people say they’re bored.
No BE bored.

Don’t say you’re bored. BE bored. When you’re bored you actually look around for different things, new stuff. When you’re bored you actually question yourself. You get uncomfortable and restless. When you’re never restless, you sometimes get into a routine.

Be nice. Be bored. Help other people. Laugh at your friends. Don’t lose sight of the fact that we’re all risking all this stuff. Whether some people are further along or not, don’t try to bump them down a peg by being snide or jealous or showing your insecurities to them. Separate the fact that they risked something and you should reward them and the fact that maybe you didn’t like it or it wasn’t your cup of tea. Is it really being so sophisticated to separate those things? It’s not.

Oh man, wait, what’s this from, it’s such good advice. The quote is, “Do you know why nothing surprises you? Because you’re not a surprising person.” If you’re not surprised by other people, you don’t open yourself up to being surprised by other people, you’re going to fall into a routine and you’re going to be that guy or that girl. People get comfortable with “their thing” and think it’s pretty cool.

I don’t believe in “cool” at all. It’s just a countdown until the rude awakening. Don’t create cliques. I mean, it’s a super hard idealistic struggle, but if we’re not struggling for something idealistic, then we’re not struggling, we’re just pushing people out of the way so we can have our way. That’s subjective and boring and kind of cruel.

I’m out of water, I should stop talking.

Alright, we’re all set.


Tim Baltz was born in Joliet, IL, graduated from Loyola University-Chicago, and is currently an actor/improviser in Chicago.  He toured with Second City, performed in two revues with the Second City e.t.c, won the 2011 Jeff Award for Best Actor in a Revue, and performed in one Second City Mainstage revue. He has performed regularly at the iO Theater and the Annoyance Theater.  Some other credits include Big Ten Network’s Friday Night Tailgate, Shrink (, Sonic and US Cellular commercials, Chicago Just For Laughs Festival (2010, 2011), and Montreal Just For Laughs Festival (2012).  He performs most regularly with Family Tree House Boat Accident at iO Theater on Sunday nights.  Shout-outs to YOP, Roubaix, les Puppinck.

Interview conducted on January 8, 2013.

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posted on by Kiley Peters posted in Chatter, Interviews

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