Founding Member Tim Chidester reveals the secrets of "Chicago's Dirtiest Improv Show"
Interview by Alonso Cisneros
June 11th will mark the fourteen year anniversary of The Hot Karl, Chicago’s dirtiest improv show. Since 1999, every Saturday at midnight, some of Chicago’s best improvisers and eager audience members pack into The ComedySportz Theatre for a night of unpredictable and unadulterated fun. The Hot Karl, named The Chicago Reader’s best improv group a few years back, has built up a first class reputation among theater critics in the city. They have also garnered a large following, thanks to their consistently bold brand of humor. Chidester, a founding member, calls the show, “Dirty twisted improv” and says that, “Some people are ready for it. Some aren’t.” Chidester explains that show is witty and that when they go blue, “it’s like dirty sprinkles on top.” This helps separate The Hot Karl from some other comedy shows, as its humor doesn’t rely on common tropes and easy jokes. Chidester explained that the show is like a cross between “Monty Python and Don Rickles,” making it both a surreal and off color performance. “It has some truth and heart to it…It can be nasty, but it has a lot of heart to it.”
The audience continues to flock back to their shows, which are never the same twice, as the cast members of The Hot Karl have forged a connection with them. The cast members have long been devoted to their audience, always keeping them in mind. “We come out of the show and talk to people,” Chidester explains. “We love our audience. We want them to have a good time.” Chidester and the other cast members keep their audiences laughing and playing along with them, and they’ve only gotten better at this over the show’s run at ComedySportz. “We know when to stretch something out or to quit when it’s great,” a trick that they’ve picked up over years of experience.
The cast members tend to riff on pop culture and relationships, a source of many of the show’s premises. “We take weird things and put them in normal situations. We also take normal things and put them in weird situations,” Chidester explains.” For example, in a recent show, the ensemble riffed on unicorns, three ways, and tacos, demonstrating their aptitude for juggling bizarre premises. “For some people who haven’t seen it, it’s a magic trick,” Chidester explains. The show leads the audience down a path with sharp twists and turns, as even the cast members are unsure of where it’ll lead to. “It’s definitely where the sidewalk ends,” Chidester explains. “Then we go beyond it. We follow the inspiration.” The Hot Karl keeps managing to pull off an impressive blend of “raunchy sophomoric” humor every Saturday night, and there’s no sign that they’re going to slow down any time soon. .The current cast members include Tim Chidester, Randy Smock, Kat Gotsick, Eric Lindberg, Zach Thompson, Nathan Jansen, and regular guest Bethany Remely.
Improv games to celebrate Irish culture, drink specials from the Emerald Isle and free souvenir photos to memorialize the nights.
The Irish are best known for…. their sense of humor? Well, maybe that’s their second-best known quality, but it will be celebrated in the six ComedySportz shows leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. ComedySportz’s celebrated improv artists, with the help of audience suggestions, will add their own brand new contributions to Irish art forms like folk songs or limericks.
As to the best-known characteristic of the Irish (or at least of many St. Patrick’s Day revelers), ComedySportz will offer Irish drink specials - $5 cans of Guinness and $5 shots of Jameson. Whiskey.
An added bonus will be the opportunity for show goers to get a free photograph of themselves in the ComedySportz Club Room.
These extra activities will happen at all six performances St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, beginning on Thursday, March 14th and continuing through shows on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16 and tickets are $22-$24. For reservations, call 773-549-8080.
$5 for Fresh, Unexpected Comedy on Sunday Nights
The ComedySportz Theatre and Chicago Improv Productions present
The TV Show and Chicago Improv League
Two improv companies with long histories in the city have partnered to create an affordable evening of new comedy. At 7p, The TV Show features an evening of improvised television. Performers provide two new improvised “shows” every week. Audiences might see a forensic cop drama in the first half and an old school game show in the second. Commercial breaks, PSAs and other standards of the TV milieu will be lampooned in this creation by the performers of two long-standing improv troupes from The ComedySportz Theatre: Battle-prov and The Legacy. Tickets: $5
Guests of The TV Show are then invited to stay for free for the Chicago Improv Productions presentation of The Chicago Improv League. CIP calls these performers “the next generation of improv.” Featuring alumni from CIP’s national competition of new talent, the College Improv Tournament, The Chicago Improv League promises an off-the-wall party atmosphere for their brand of fresh and unexpected comedy. Tickets: $5
Touting the evening as “The Sunday Double Scoop”, The ComedySportz Theatre and Chicago Improv Productions are hoping the $5 price, fresh content, and party atmosphere will not only showcase the next generation of improv talent, but attract the next generation of improv audiences. “Our new line-up will be fun for everyone, but we were especially thinking of the younger, value conscious audiences who want to pack one more fun experience into their weekend before returning to work on Monday,” said Matt Elwell, President and CEO of The ComedySportz Theatre. In keeping with the party atmosphere, performers of the Chicago Improv League will host an after-party for guests of both shows in The ComedySportz Theatre’s Club Room to cap off the evening.
"Hay--man! It's Purim!"
And it’s one of our favorite holidays at ComedySportz. Former ensemble member Josh Breit describes this Jewish holiday as a “combination of Halloween and Mardi Gras.” It celebrates the story of Purim from the Book of Esther, one of the books of the Tanakh. In that story, Esther saves the Jews from the King’s evil, anti-Semitic henchman Hamen, who plans to annihilate all the Jews in the land, but ends up himself hanging from the gallows he had built for the Jews!”
“The religious service is a rowdy one where everyone cheers and boos in response to the story and uses noisemakers called “graggers” whenever Hamen’s name is spoken. We eat triangular cookies called Hamentashen, modeled after Hamen’s triangular hat. Many people go to temple dressed up as characters from the story, and there is usually a festival outside the temple following the service.” These festivals frequently include carnival games, and Josh says he won many a live goldfish at these events due to his skill at ring toss.
To make ticket reservations for groups of fewer than 15, call 773-549-8080 or visit www.ticketmaster.com