If you’re in the Chicago area, and love sketch comedy, your options used to be limited. Very limited. Like, say, Second City and the occasional group that had found an empty stage to play on. That’s changed over the years. Now, the newest theatre has opened their second revue, and you do not want to miss it.
Sorry I’ve been so frightening busy that I haven’t had time to post lately, so here’s a catch-up on a couple of fun things.
I spent last Sunday with a gaggle of my Python Process students at the iO Chicago, filming one of the sketches written during the last session. I’ll be posting the link here as soon as we get it edited. From left to right in the photo, it was written by Iris Kohler (with Justin Sikes), and features Sarah Wisterman, Vickie Eisenstein, and Matthew Ephraim, with camerawork by Adam Kurschat. This is the kind of silliness we’ve been up to in the class, and I can’t wait to show it to you, and tell you why we filmed it! BTW, sorry about all the moss in the writing room…
And last night, I was proud to host a panel celebrating the book release of a terrific volume by David Pasquesi and TJ Jagodowski, with Pam Victor. Improvisation at the Speed of Life tells how they do the incredible improvisation they do every week, for years, and years, and years. Personally, I think their secret is mental telepathy, but they’re so good it doesn’t matter. I’m not saying this because I’ve known Dave since his first improvisation class with Del Close (I haven;’t known TJ nearly as long–it just feels that way). Great guys, great book. Order it. You will not regret it.
Yes, it’s the day no one thought would ever come, least of all the Pythons. And releasing it on April 1st didn’t make it any easier to believe. But it’s true–the Pythons are being featured in their own postage stamp! It’s only being released in Britain, though you may be able to order them here.
I’ve known about this for a while but I was sworn to secrecy. I’m also peripherally involved in this project, but I’m sworn to secrecy about this as well (at least for the time being). Stay tuned but be patient.
In case you haven’t heard, the five Pythons are appearing together at the Tribeca Film Festival in April in New York. There will be screenings of their films, and the US premiere of a nifty new documentary that chronicles the 2014 reunion shows at the O2 in London. Tickets for the various screenings go on sale March 23 at tribecafilm.com. If you’re in New York, or even close to New York, you’ll want to be there. Here’s more info.
Last night was the staged reading for my Python Process class at the iO Chicago, and it’s hard to imagine how it could have gone better. This group of students has been one of the highlights of my year so far, and anyone who saw the show last night will understand why.
It’s always sad when a group like this ends, but it may not be over yet. I’m looking at developing a second level of this class that will be just as exciting as the first level has proven to be. And, I’ll be teaching the first level more regularly than the previous annual rate. Stay tuned, and I’ll let you know.
And by the way–sometimes bacon just has bones…
Del Close left us for Whatever Comes next on March 4, 1999, leaving behind a theatre (the iO), a partner (Charna), and countless friends and improvisers. He is no longer a living legend, but he’ll never be forgotten by those of us who were lucky enough to know him and study with him. His life and career are way too long to do them justice in this post, but it isn’t hard to discover him via Google (or even in my own book “The Funniest One in the Room: the Lives and Legends of Del Close”). There are few people who have improvised in the past few decades who don’t owe him a debt of gratitude. He was one of my best friends, and I was lucky enough to know him for 16 years. It’s now been 16 years since Del has been gone, but his legend hasn’t diminished one iota.
…Here’s an oddity–I had forgotten this even existed. In 1995, Del Close, Amy Poehler, and Matt Dwyer shot a pilot written by Tom Gianis and Adam McKay (whatever happened to him, anyway?). Like most pilots, it didn’t go anywhere, but it’s nice to see just a little bit more of Del…
This seems like a good time to write a little more about George.
We shared one brief moment years ago that he I’m sure meant nothing to him, but has stuck with me ever since.
The first time I met him was in the Sidi Mansour while we were filming Monty Python’s Life of Brian; George had just arrived as we were all watching rushes. At some point, as the group exited and was milling around in the lobby, I introduced myself and gave him a copy of one of my Python fanzines. He began looking through it as Eric Idle approached and asked what he was doing. He showed Eric the zine. “This gentleman just gave me one of his Python magazines,” he told him.
This gentleman. George Harrison called me a gentleman! This was particularly amazing to me because at that moment, I looked like anything but a gentleman. I had gone to the hotel directly from the hot, dusty, dry set, I was wearing a tank top and shorts. My hair looked like it was cut in a way that it would all fit under a Roman soldier helmet without any of it sticking out, that being the purpose. I may have looked like many things, but a gentleman would not have been high on the list.
But none of that mattered to George. He was all about respect, even to one odd, enthusiastic young stranger. This gentleman…
I was lucky enough to hang with him after that, but to this day, I never forgot that first moment. And in part because of his example, I learned to treat others with respect, despite how they may have appeared, and to me, they are a gentleman (or a lady) unless or until they prove otherwise. It has served me well over the years. And it’s just one more gift from George.
[BTW, I only recently learned there is apparently a little controversy over his actual birthdate. It was long thought he was born at 12:10 am on February 25, but he gave other interviews where he said it was 11:40 pm on February 24. If you’re more interested in this than I am, google it and you’ll see what I mean.)
Today was the final regular session of my Python Process class at the iO Chicago. We’re having too much fun to quit, though, so we’ve got one more rehearsal, and then we’re doing a staged reading of some of our best stuff at the Chris Farley Cabaret at the iO on Friday, October 6th at 7 pm. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you again.
I’m going to be genuinely sad to see this class end, it’s a great group of people and very talented, funny writers (the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive).
We’re missing a few, like Stevie and Ashley and Ross, but this will show you what a presentable group they are. If you want to find out how funny they are–well, you’ll have to come to the iO October 6th.
Best four words of the winter: pitchers and catchers report.