In my first piece for the Third Coast Review, the newly created arts and culture site from several former Gapers Block writers and editors, I reviewed the film Pride And Prejudice And Zombies.
Over his roughly seven years as a part of Chicago’s comedy circles Dave Maher had gained a reputation for many reasons: as the smartly unhinged, wildly funny comedian with a big heart and warm smile, he was an evergreen fixture on the scene. Notably though Maher was also regarded as something of a world-class contrarian in conversation, routinely contesting various individuals’ opinions, often vehemently. This was done, however, not as a show of supposed self-superiority but more to put himself in a position where he could possibly be convinced by their counter-arguments. Music, movies, books, poetry, everything was fair game.
But that was then, before the night of Oct. 22, 2014 when Maher fell into a diabetic coma—one which held him in its grasp for nearly a month, threatening to take his life in the process. It was in this moment that the universe apparently saw an opportunity to prod him further. Fully embracing its trickster nature, it slipped on an Arlecchino mask and tacitly suggested to Maher that there were bigger questions to be asked; questions about life, and fate, responsibility, and absolution.
A review of a 12 hour piece of theater, experienced—and written about—by myself and my colleague Mike Ewing
Can we talk kind of seriously about comedy for a moment? Please understand that this question is posed in full recognition of how stupid an idea this is: since time immemorial it has been understood that comedy is a topic preternaturally averse to being examined in such a manner, ideologically like a thigmonasticplant, shrinking away in response to interrogative stimuli. Often though the harder a topic is to delve into, the more rewarding it is to explore.
The aforementioned topic hangs thick in the air because this weekend will see our fair city play host to some of the best stand-up comedy talent in the country at the second annual Comedy Exposition—recently named Best New Comedy Festival on the 2015 Reader Best Of Chicago list—which kicks off this Friday, July 10. The festivities run through Sunday night when the festival ends with a closing ceremony performance at the UP Comedy Club by the fantastic Todd Glass. In between the fest will feature some 75 comedians, with roughly half of that talent pool drawn exclusively from the local stand-up scene.
To what end does one seek to be edgy and experimental in comedy today, in this age of abandon? It is a question recently posed, albeit indirectly, by sketch comedy group Hijinks when they attempted to pull off the herculean effort that was HIJINKSfest: 12 hours of original sketch comedy shows, performed by a cast of five, in ceaseless succession with minimal breaks in between.
It might come as a surprise to hear that each show making up the behemoth was a worthy piece of comedy — some transcendent, others raw, with moments interspersed that were at times playful, disgusting, inspiring, shocking, and even touching.