REVIEW: Four Star Comedy Fest @ Navy Pier

Baby Wants Candy, Cook County, Shakespeare & Tim Meadows


I spent my Saturday at Chicago School of Comedy’s “Four Star Comedy Fest” at Navy Pier. They advertised free workshops during the day, along with a free live podcast with Charna Halpern and sold tickets to a show with three of the best improv acts in Chicago along with Uncle’s Brother, (Tim Meadow’s improv group) hosted by Tim Kazurinsky. In short, I will say the following: when there are free improv workshops open to the public, do not assume to learn anything from them. In fact, skip them and go get a drink and discuss the beauties of life, improv and comedy with a good friend. (Thank you, Ayala.) Baby Wants Candy, Cook County Social Club and Improvised Shakespeare are incredible. This is not news, but it needs to be said once again; they are all mind blowing and all for different reasons.

Baby Wants Candy is a mesmerizing spectacle to witness. They come on stage toting that an original Broadway Musical will be improvised right before your eyes, which sounds crazy, right? It does. But that’s exactly the kind of madness and sheer brillance they bring to the stage. The title of the musical was “Honest Politics,” which of course spun into the entire first half of the show focused around how politics are a bunch of lies. Then it twists into a warped love story between two competing parties, the devil is thrown in there, along with a high school boy losing his virginity and in the end they realize they don’t have to lie. No words could do this group justice. They are simply incredible.

Cook County Social Club is one of my favorite acts in the city. As Tim Robinson‘s former improv team, the four remaining manage quite well on their own. Now, I will say that Sunday, Cook County’s posted to Facebook some feedback they received about how inappropriate their show was in terms of excessive dick jokes. But I gotta tell ya, insights and witty banter is not Cook County’s selling point- it’s their raw, lose, wildly inappropriate, ballsy stage show where anything goes. And it’s hilarious. When you get four grown men on stage, (some ranging upwards of 6 foot or so) and not only do you watch them climb on top of one another as children hiding underneath a trenchcoat, but you watch them greet each other at at Dick Doctor convention by grabbing each other’s crotches numerous times, accidentally rendering one of them “down for the count” for a few scenes, it’s funny. I don’t care who you are. If nothing else, it’s the shock factor. It’s also just fun watching these four guys, who have been playing together for so long, just mess with each other on stage. Greg Hess was put in the situation where he was to “penetrate enemy territory” as soldiers from 13 different countries with 13 different dialects, which he clearly struggled with, but it was all in good fun. After Brendan Jennings was the bottom in the child tower and got hit in the balls, the guys challenged him to do 50 push ups on stage, which ultimately he whined about and those pushups did not happen. It’s just a fun show and no one should go see this show unless they just want to laugh and be entertained. If you have higher expectations, go see Improvised Shakespeare.

For those who have read my reviews of Improvised Shakespeare, you know I love them. This group of men are some of the most talented improvisers in Chicago and I might venture to say the country, maybe even the world. To improvise an entire play in Elizabethan dialect while balancing numerous characters is not an easy feat. I will say that some of my favorite moments of this show included Mr. Ross Bryant. Not only did he manage to portray a seemingly accurate gothic butler, but he also managed to get stabbed in the throat, get sutured up and then win me over in an improvised rap battle where the last line he proclaimed he would “woo all these bitches, coming from the guy with these stitches.” It might just be me, but hot damn. I loved it. As always, the guys were a force to be reckoned with. Saturday’s cast included Ross Bryant, Tim Sniffen, Greg Hess, Andy Carey and Martin Wilson.

Last up for the evening was the one and only Tim Meadows, from Saturday Night Live. It was a bit surreal to see him standing there on stage when I’ve only ever seen him on SNL with some of the funniest cast members I can recall. However, that surrealism quickly faded when I realized he lives in Lincoln Park and goes to the same gym I do. It really is a small world. So Tim came on stage and spit some stand up pieces, mostly about middle class white people and how his sons were so great and looked like Puerto Rican gangsters. From there he brought out his two partners in crime to complete Uncle’s Brother, the improvised trio. I think it might have been more fun for them than the audience, but to be fair I was so tired, I ended up leaving in the middle of it.

I did get to meet Jimmy Carrane, which was pretty cool for me. After all, this blog is modeled after his. If you’d like to check out his interview with Charna, keep your eye on Improv Nerd to wait for it to get posted.

All in all, it was a fun day. I wish I hadn’t paid quite as much for my ticket, but hey, I was excited. No harm done. It’s always a pleasure to get to see great improv and with a lineup like that, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. And I was right.

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posted on by Kiley Peters posted in Chatter, Reviews

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