Press & Reviews

BLURBS
Red Eye/Metromix.com May 7th 2007

Does telling a dirty joke bring the unpleasant tang of Irish Spring rushing back to your taste buds? Mom might never be comfortable hearing vile words rolling off her baby's tongue, but she might not mind if you leave the cussing to the professionals. The Edge Stand-Up Squeeze Comedy Showcase (8:30 p.m. Saturdays; $5-$10) at prides itself on working as blue as needed to get a laugh. With a slogan of "It's not funny until someone gets hurt," it's the type of show that would have many mothers squirming in their seats--but more freewheeling moms are more likely to be rolling in the aisles.
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Red Eye/ Metromix.com Dec 28th 2006

BEST BETS



Crowd Work Pressure Billiards & Cafe 6318 N. Clark St.

Open End Fridays : 11:30 p.m. Price: $5-$10 Produced by: Edge Comedy Phone: 773-743-7665

Since the Michael Richards debacle, the phrase "audience interaction" makes us pretty uncomfortable. But here's a show where disruption is encouraged for the sake of humor, not horror: Edge Comedy's "Crowd Work" features a rotating lineup of comedians who have to deal with heckling from the audience--on purpose.
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Jeer pressure
Based on the success of its stand-up and improv comedy nights, Pressure Billiards and Café is opting to up the ante a bit. Now being promoted as Pressure Comedy Café, the Rogers Park hangout has expanded its show slate to include additional Friday- and Saturday-night stand-up shindigs. “We tried music, but people’s enjoyment is very relative to what kind of band is playing,” says James Tillapaugh, manager of Pressure. “Everyone enjoys comedy. If you’re funny, they’ll laugh at you. It’s as simple as that.”

Friday’s Crowd Work, a Dave Odd–produced affair, finds comedians at odds (hey-o!) with the audience themselves. Heckling is not only allowed, it’s the concept of the show. Future jerks be warned: The “Ethics of Heckling,” spelled out at the top of the show, cannot be broken. It’s for your own good, though, as we wouldn’t want anyone to go all Michael Richards on your ass.—Steve Heisler

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Metromix.com

Take your wife -- please -- to any of these places around town that take their comedy seriously:

PRESSURE OPEN MIC

Fast becoming a must-see spot for new and established comics -- think of it as a comedy jam session at 6318 N. Clark St. 773-743-7665.

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Red Eye Best Bets/Metromix.com February 2006 

BEST BETS


6318 N. Clark St.

Thursdays : 8:30 p.m.

Am I famous yet?
The Omarosas of the world seem to be going for second- and third-helpings of their allotted 15 minutes, while you sit on the sidelines cursing all things Hollywood. Get off your duff, and perform that comedy act, song or variety shtick you've been working on at the Pressure Open Mic Night, hosted by local funnyman Dave Odd. Who knows? You could be the next big thing, or at least the thing to knock the C-listers out of rotation for a spell.

      ARTICLES



is a Chicago-based stand-up comic and the producer of The Edge Comedy Shows. He does a lot of road work, which he believes is important for a comic's development in many ways, and is starting a new series of Edge Comedy classes as a way to help new performers learn the ropes.

When did you start playing around in the Chicago comedy scene? What prompted you to begin?

At the tail end of 1997 I had dropped out of community college the year before and was waiting tables. The only class I ever really liked was creative writing, so I decided at some point that I would like to be a screenwriter. I saw that a lot of big names in Hollywood came from a comedy background, Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Adam Sandler etc. etc. I decided that comedy would be a good start, I was always a funny guy, why not? So I went to Io's late night Improv Jam, where any old jackass could get up and perform in the games. I began to lose my stage fright quickly and would just burst into outlandishly loud and obnoxious characters within sketches, which made the audience laugh, but pissed off all the other improvisers on stage. It was shortly thereafter I decided to try my hand at stand-up, it was the week before Christmas 1997 and I went up at The Morseland Music Room open mic. That first time wasn't so great, but after a few weeks I was hooked and abandoned and hopes of ever being a screenwriter to do stand-up. Now, 9 1/2 years later I am a full time working comic and produce 25-35 comedy shows a month in Chicago and the Midwest.

You've seen a lot of comedy talent evolve over the past few years. Any observations of patterns, missteps, or good strategies that you'd like to share?

Well one thing I have noticed for sure is that if comics are good off the bat, and they completely sidestep the boys club mentality of the Chicago scene (hanging out in the back of rooms, schmoozing, getting too cozy within a particular group or room, etc.) they seem to make huge leaps and bounds within just a couple years. A majority of the touring feature comics I know have only been doing stand-up for a couple years, some have already acquired TV credits, and none of them ever stuck around long enough to be noticed or even care about the local showcase rooms. On the other hand, some of the funniest people I have ever seen, seemed to have performing in the same rooms for years without ever doing much more. Even when they are doing bigger and better things they are still doing it within a group, it a very pack mentality, like high school cheerleaders. I know a a lot of people are going to read this and get upset, but it's the absolute truth, thats part of the reason I take so much flack from the Chicago scene, I am very vocal about the problems I see in it. I am very passionate about comedy, it is my life's work and I want to see other people go as far as they can go with it, and take it seriously.

One of the principles I will be teaching in my class on day one is NEVER get too comfortable with where you are at, because no matter how you feel or how many pats you get on the back, the ceiling is nearly unlimited in this business. There is always room for advancement and improvement, no matter how good you, your audience, or your comedy buddies think you are. It is important to have your friends in comedy, and your favorite rooms, but don't make that your entire existence or you are only shooting yourself in the foot. I encourage new comics to seek out rooms and open mics where nobody knows them, even poetry and music open mics, after all the business of comedy is about making strangers laugh, not your buddies. If you want to do stand-up as more than just a hobby, you have to get comfortable, with being uncomfortable. 9 out of 10 paid comedy gigs you get, you are going to have no idea what to expect on the other side of that door when you walk in 30 minutes before you are supposed to get up on stage.

The Edge Comedy Classes sound very comprehensive for someone wanting to learn a lot about the art and business of stand-up. How did that idea evolve, and what can participants hope to gain from the experience?

Well I have been giving new comics advice and stages for years and years now. It has always been my passion to help out other people and get them on the right track, frankly because no other producer or comic in Chicago will and it is something I find rewarding. So I almost feel like I am a necessary part of the framework in Chicago stand-up.

Quite frankly I am tired of seeing a new comic show up in town, kick ass in my rooms for 8 or 10 months, and then settle into the same comfort zone everyone else does and never have the drive to go beyond that. I am running a full time stand-up comedy agency, and I book at least 20 local showcase rooms and at least 5-6 road gigs, private gigs, and bigger shows a month. The amount of shows, and consequently the amount of money I am paying out for shows is growing exponentially every week and there are legally binding contracts that come along with those that I am responsible for. But because many of the better comics in Chicago don't seem to look at comedy as an actual career, they are very likely to drop out of shows last minute, show up late, forget about shows, or not even show or call at all.

So what I am doing with my class is guiding people into looking at stand-up as a viable career choice, not just a weekend hobby you do when you are filing papers at a law firm or an insurance company. I want people to stop treating stand-up like a hobby, and start treating it like a career and be professional. I want to build a literal army of solid performers that I can send all over the Midwest to wow audiences at shows I set up not to mention countless other shows they will be able to do.

I want to help mold comics that speak from their hearts and are absolutely true to themselves when they are on that stage, I want them to have passion and conviction behind everything they say, I want every audience member walking away from their shows saying "Man, that comic was hilarious....and he made an excellent point." Comedy like it or not, is an art form, and in any kind of art, it should be an expression of the artist, and I don't think enough performers realize that.

I hear the scenester comics complaining about mainstream comedy all the time and how trite and hack it is, which they also site as a reason why they don't want to do the road (along with excuses like no car, day job, etc. etc.) But I keep telling people, the only way to change the public perception of stand-up comedy is by getting out there and bumping all the hack road dogs out of the rotation.

These ideas and about a thousand more are what I want to convey to my students. It's actually called Stand-Up Boot Camp, and there is a reason for that.

How is the The Edge $3500 Comedy Competition going?

It's going really well, I have about half of the comics in place for the semi-finals from all corners of the Chicago comedy scene and we still have 8 prelims left. Last week a woman came up from Cincinnati with a busload of 41 friends to be in the competition. The semi finals start on Sundays at 7:30 at the Garv Inn 6546 Windsor Avenue in Berwyn. I can't say for 100% certain, but I believe this is the largest cash comedy competition that Chicagoland has ever seen.

Did you grow up in a funny family? Where did your sense of humor come from?

I grew up in a very casual Jewish family in Skokie IL (Passover and Hanukkah, that was about it). I guess both of my parents have a pretty good sense of humor. I came home from school one day and my Dad told me there was a pie in the microwave, when I opened it up there was a puppy in it. A live, non-cooked puppy. That probbaly explains a lot for people who know me.

I realize much of my humor comes from a dark place, I attribute that to watching way too much Tom and Jerry as a kid, the rough psychologically volley I was constantly in with my father, and the fact that I was always kind of runty and getting picked on. I think originally my humor came to me as a survival mechanism, when bullies would pick on me, the only thing I could do was make them laugh. For instance if I saw one of my antagonists coming down the hall, I would turn and run into a locker head first (which if you hit it in the center doesn't really hurt, but makes a loud noise). I guess I was a weird kid, I opted to go to the pond and catch frogs instead of going to the park to shoot hoops.


I read somewhere that you were considering a move to one of the coasts. Are you still thinking about that? What is the ultimate destination for you, careerwise?

I think that is basically in inevitability. One of the goals I have set is that I want to be headlining before I decide to move anywhere (probably LA). I rather have people know who I am before I go to a bigger scene, I know for a lot of people that move it's sometimes months before they can even get on an open mic. I feel like if I have some solid street cred it will be a lot easier for me. Thats at least a couple years down the road for me, plus I just incorporated Dave Odd Productions Entertainment, so I have an official licensed Illinois comedy agency now.

Ultimately I think I'd like to achieve some level of comedy success (like at a Paul F. Tompkins, or a Greg Fitzsimmons type of level) and then come back to Chicago and open a full time club. I don't think I will ever stop performing though. That's part of the beauty of doing the type of comedy I do, I am always trying to get a point or an opinion across, and I never get tired of trying to get an opinion across.

We're jealous that you got to meet Todd Barry. What's it like to meet and work with some of your favorite comics? Any fun stories you'd like to share?

Todd is a very cool and laid back guy, he said I was one of his favorite emcees, because I don't bullshit around and talk to the audience, I just launch into my material. He said he hates it when the emcee talks to the audience, because then they think they can talk to him, and he isn't the interactive type. I hung out with him for a couple hours after the show, just talking shop, he was very down to earth. A lot of comics are a lot more normal and un-intimidating when you meet them than you would think.

I worked with Mitch Hedberg a few weeks before he died and when I went up to close out the show on the Friday night, Mitch kept me up on stage and did a "joke off" with me. It was a lot of fun.

Kevin Meaney asked me and Robert Buscemi if we had any pot when we worked with him at Zanies in Vernon Hills. Dave Chappelle told me to "Keep on doing my thing." Doug Stanhope told me to stop trying to guilt people into buying my book after they bought his CD. Emo Philips recorded my outgoing voicemail message for me, twice.

This is one of the main reasons I think everyone should try to get in with the clubs and do roadwork. You meet some awesome people and have some great stories to tell. Comedy is one of the few professions where you actually get to meet and hang out with your heroes.

You spend a lot of time on the road. What are some of the pros and cons of roadwork?

I would say 80% of it is truly positive, in just the experience of sizing up and audience and figuring them out, not to mention going to some ridiculous town you've never heard of. I for one love traveling, roadtripping, seeing new places, meeting new people, and seeing what kind of snakes and beasties I can find in those places (I'm a wildlife buff). Even if the show itself is a total bust, you still get a pay check and a place to sleep at the end of the night. I've always said I'd be happiest in life if I could just travel the country and see places I have never seen. Of course Burlington Iowa, Portage Wisconsin, Wolcottville Indiana (where I had one of the bets roadshows ever at a place called Coody Brown's), and Mankato Minnesota were never on the top of the list of places I wanted to visit, but sometimes you have to compromise.

Regardless of all of that, roadshows are a necessity to anyone who wants to do stand-up professionally. There is no better example of out of the frying pan and into the fire than performing for a room full of truckers and born again Christians in Kansas. When I started doing the road it was like learning how to do stand-up all over again. You have to size up and read your audience, cut out huge chunks of your act, and change profane words to something more benign. You cannot truly achieve greatness as a comic until you have mastered the art of bringing your viewpoints and humor to the level of the most unlikely crowds. If you are saying "I don't want to have to come down to the level of those people.", then who do you want to perform for? 32 twentysomethings in the back room of a bar for the rest of your life? Hope you enjoy waiting tables.

When you tell people you're a stand-up comedian, what are the top three annoying things they respond with?

"Oh with Second City?" (request the Second City/Al Queda bit next time you see me.)

"Tell me a joke." (Yeah I know, hack response to this question but it's true)

"Oh like Jerry Seinfeld." (Yeah, exactly like Jerry Seinfeld)

Do you think we're heading into the era of a new comedy boom? What do you foresee happening in the next five years or so, for yourself, and for comedy in general?

I am fairly certain that comedy will never again reach the level it was at in the late 80's and early 90's. There are too many forms of competing entertainment out there, and clubs like Zanies and The Improv are constantly giving out free tickets to fill seats. I do believe however stand-up comedy is moving in a new direction. A few comedy clubs out there realize that and are embracing the younger generation of comics and audiences, but far too many clubs are set in their ways (the ways of the 80's and early 90's).

In the next five years I see many more young comics breaking into the club and national scene and the old road dogs that all the young punks like to complain about retiring and making room. I see the old club owners slowly but surely catching on to new trends and embracing them. I see puppies, and flowers, and rainbows, and hugs.

Dane Cook is the biggest comic in the US right now, not because he is the best comic or even the funniest comic, but because he saw a demographic that was being completely ignored by the mainstream comedy scene and attacked it.

For me, I will continue to do the road, and my own shows, and hopefully get the shows at the Chicago Center for The Performing Arts kick started to be running like an actual full time comedy club. I will start headlining, doing colleges, and of course my Blue Stater Tour with Tom Simmons and Steve Hofstetter (debuting on October 18th 8pm at The Chicago Center for the Performing Arts). I am also working with an agent to get on Live at Gotham and I have a few other things in the pipeline. So long as I can continue performing, and make a decent living at it, I'll be happy. For every day that goes by, every gig I do, every headliner I work with, every show I headline, every interview I do, I am one step closer to the next rung on the ladder. And if you keep focusing on the next rung, you shouldn't have to worry about where that ladder leads, because it can only go up.

Edge Comedy Classes will be starting Wednesday May 9th 2007 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm and will be held at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts at Halsted and Chicago Ave. in downtown Chicago.



Luminomagazine.com
Friday, 15 December 2006
  
Written by DUSTIN WHITE   

You cannot be a comedian or a fan of the Chicago comedy scene and not know the name Dave Odd. Love him or hate him, he is a force to be reckoned with in Chicago comedy. He is the comedian/producer many comedians love to hate. Some think he is egotistical and cocky, and that his method of giving all comics in the city a chance and place to perform, while well intended, could hurt the scene when bad comedians are encouraged. However, many other comedians applaud the way Dave offers up places to perform in a city that is sadly lacking in stand-up comedy venues. Either way Dave Odd is one of the most known names on the Chicago comedy scene.

Dave Odd
Find out more about Dave Odd and his shows at and www.edgecomedyshow.com

Dave Odd has been performing stand-up comedy in Chicago since 1997 and has been producing rooms since 2001. He has produced over 1,000 shows. He started Dave Odd Productions Entertainment, and his shows are under the label of Edge Comedy. Recently, Odd has taken over the North side by creating two venues that are putting up nearly 5 shows every weekend. Pressure Comedy Café and Kitty Moon have given Dave Odd and other Chicago comedians new homes where they can perform and hone their craft. The two venues are across the street from each other; Pressure is located at 6318 N. Clark and Kitty Moon is located at 6237 N. Clark. These are also two of the only places you can catch comedy on the weekends without going to a major comedy club.

Every Friday night at 8:30, Pressure Comedy Café offers an interactive improv show called Under Pressure Imrov. Next at 11:30 p.m. comes the Crowd Work Show where audiences are encouraged to heckle the comedians. I was on the scene for the first Crowd Work show, and it is a fun way for audiences to participate and for comedians to learn how to handle unruly audience members. Also, every Saturday at Pressure there is The Stand-up Comedy Squeeze at 8:30 and 11 p.m., which showcases some of the best talent in Chicago.

The shows at Kitty Moon take place every Friday night at 8 and 10:30. At the first of the month, audiences can catch The New Faces Show, which spotlights the newest arrivals to the Chicago comedy scene. I attended recently and it was fun to see bright new talent in its early stages. The last Friday of every month is a contest in which some of the best Chicago comedians compete for a cash prize. The weeks in between are filled with a variety of themed shows such as Storytellers or Alter Egos. In two nights at two venues, audiences see 5 different shows, and Chicago comedians have 5 opportunities to perform weekend shows.

Tickets to all showcases are $10, $5 for students. Chicagoans can see great comedy for half the price of going to Zanies or another nationally known club. The comedians aren’t household names (yet), but are some of the freshest talent in the city.

Dave Odd lives and breathes the Chicago comedy scene and is proud to boast, “There are a lot of places where comics can develop and grow as performers.” Dave Odd recognizes the buzzing scene has its problems as well, “There is some infighting and separation that isn’t necessary. Some of the new comics find the Chicago scene to be too cliquey, while the comics inside the cliques think new comics are too needy and whiney. Dave says that some Chicago comics are too arrogant, but some comedians would say the same thing about Dave. They would say he takes too much credit for the scene and comedians who have become successful after starting with him. Dave admits that he is a controversial character in the scene because, “I am very outspoken about the cliques, and I call people out when they are being ridiculous.”

Like him or not, Dave Odd is an undeniable force on the Chicago comedy scene. If you are an up and coming comedian, he is a man you should get to know, especially if you want to get stage time in this city without having to kiss ass. His fans sing the praises of his rooms as places to enjoy cheap, solid stand-up comedy.

 


REVIEWS
from actual audience members

Sundays at Mullen’s on Clark, Chicago (no longer running)
January 19, 2004 Paul H Chicago , IL  4 stars
Good show good drinks. Real fun and funny. Host was hilarious…. Silly Sunday night basically. I am not, not going back! Paul :-0)

Saturdays at Chase Café, Chicago (no longer running)
June 05, 2004 Matt J Chicago , IL  4 stars
There are a lot of talented unknowns who show up to make this coffee house outburst with laughter. If you want a fun, inexpensive night, you can't lose with these comics.

March 28, 2004 T. H. Chicago , IL  4 stars
The show is a deal at $5. There's something for everyone to laugh at. It's a different thing to do for a Saturday, and you walk out realizing that you've laughed for two hours straight.

March 10, 2004 Kelly M. Chicago , IL  4 stars
All ages! No worrying about fake ID's and such, cute little coffee shop in Rogers Park with great comedy shows that make you pee your pants! Great date or friends outing.

November 03, 2003 Joe Bob Chicago , IL  4 stars
Come see some great local up and coming comics for very little money, see them before they get big.

Fridays at Café Amante (no longer running)
January 20, 2005 Bob Hansen Crystal Lake, IL 4 stars
Cafe Amante was a great setting for a very enjoyable evening of comedy. The five comedians that performed were all very talented. Each comedian had a unique style that made the evening even more enjoyable.

January 20, 2005 Sean Quinn Crystal Lake, IL 3 stars
An overall solid comedy show. Two or three notably standout comics with a couple gems springing from the remaining few, a close-knit location with great food that makes for a solid Friday night chill spot afterwards. No cover makes this a no-brainer for people strapped for weekend spending cash.

Saturdays at Fusion (no longer running)
March 20, 2005 Bob Crystal Lake, IL
The four comics that performed were outstanding. The setting is perfect for being up close and personal with the performers. The food is OK and prices were average. I think they could make some improvements to the facility to give the comics a little more room to perform. Overall it was a great evening of entertainment.

Sundays at Raw Bar (no longer running)
December 7, 2005 Dee Miller Chicago, IL 3 stars 
So much fun. Highly recommended!

Saturdays at Pressure (current)
March 14, 2006 Jay Rigler Chicago, IL 4 stars
A great way to spend a Saturday night! The cafe is not very large, so you get up-close and personal with the comics! Tickets are $10 or $5 with a student ID... SERIOUSLY UNDERPRICED. Someday they will realize that these shows are worth so much more! Go now, so you can say "I saw that show for $10 at a little coffee shop!" AWESOME! 

 

   ARTICLES

Comedy competition hopes to revive declining stand-up
By Dana Nelson- Columbia Chronicle 4-17-2007

In the 1980s, Chicago hosted popular comics in the stand-up boom of the century. Swarms of people jumped from club to club, hoping to see famous stand-up comedians such as Billy Crystal and Bill Hicks. More than a dozen comedy clubs operated throughout the week, hosting open mics and showcasing famous stars like Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams, who would later be broadcast to televisions across the nation.

However, the scene didn’t last long into the 1990s, as too many competing clubs and too few good comedians took the stage. This disheartened many audience members who turned to other venues and modes of comedy, such as improv, according to Bert Haas, the general manager of Zanies, a comedy club with locations in Chicago, St. Charles and Vernon Hills, Ill., as well as one in Nashville, Tenn.

Local comedian, Dave Odd, who has worked to improve stand-up since the crash, has started a comedy competition that promises $3,500 to the top three comedians in Chicago. He started it to bring more attention to stand-up comedy as well as change the way comedians look at performing.

“There’s just a mentality that comics in Chicago don’t take comedy seriously, they don’t look at it like a career choice; it’s just a hobby for them,” Odd said. “So when opportunities arrive, they don’t get around to it.”

The contest involves six weeks of preliminary rounds at Pressure Billiards and Comedy Cafe, 6318 N. Clark St., Kitty Moon, 6237 N. Clark St., and Jokes and Notes, 4641 S. King Drive. The preliminary rounds started March 16 and will end April 21.

There will be 64 comedians selected from the preliminary rounds, who will then go on to perform in eight weeks of semi-finals, with eight comedians performing each week. For this part of the contest, winning comedians will win small cash prizes and headline subsequent shows for $75. The top eight comedians will then perform in a final round on June 17, with the top three winning $2,000, $1,000 and $500, respectively.

“Contests are one of the easiest shows to get people to, because the audience is judging the show, so the comics are trying to get as many people as possible to come out,” Odd said.

Chicago has largely been known for its improv-based comedy due to the popularity of clubs like Second City and Improv Olympics, now called the iO Theater.

“This is not a stand-up town,” said Kelly Leonard, vice president of Second City. “The whole art form took a huge dip and all those clubs closed. That whole stand-up comedy boom trailed off and it’s never really recovered in the city.”

He said Second City and iO Theater are successful because they continued to put out good comedians, whereas the stand-up scene fell short when it came to continuous quality.

“[Second City] built a whole improv and sketch comedy scene that has really flourished and is really big, and there’s one club in the city, Zanies, that’s full time,” Leonard said.

Haas attributes Zanies’ longevity to its reputation.

“People will come in, they may not remember who they saw, but they remember they saw a great stand-up show, and they’ll come back because they saw a great show,” Haas said. He said he didn’t host open mics for this reason; most new comedians have raw talent that isn’t developed yet.

Odd agreed that many new comedians didn’t attract business, but he said venues such as Zanies only used the same comedians whose acts got old after time.

“For the most part open mics don’t have much of an audience because a good 70 percent of it is going to be terrible,” Odd said. “But there are so many good comics in the city who don’t get attention from local showcase rooms, simply because they’re not hanging out with the right people or at the right open mics.”

Because major venues such as Zanies and Second City don’t offer opportunities for new stand-up comedians to enter the scene, Odd started promoting open mics in bars and clubs all over the city.

“Zanies is milking their reputation, but not doing much for the local scene,” Odd said. He said he was trying to create a comedy club environment that catered to the demographic that other clubs such as the Lincoln Lodge and Zanies neglected, such as those in the 18 to 25 age bracket.

“There are way too many closed doors where they don’t need to be,” Odd said. “Comedy is going in a different direction and clubs don’t seem to want to keep up with that.”

In order to adapt to the changes of the comedy scene, Odd is putting on what he said is the biggest cash comedy contest to ever occur in Chicago.

One of the rules of the semi-finals is that the comedians have to bring at least 10 people to the show, which will be held at Garv Inn, 6546 Windsor Ave., in Berwyn. This is due to the dwindling audiences that have been present at previous shows, where most of the people in attendance are also comedians.

“It’s sort of dangerous,” Odd said. “Comics get used to performing for other comics and doing things that only other comics would find funny, which sometimes works for hipster crowds, but at the same time when you want to go beyond that to real audiences, that’s not going to fly.”

In order to keep the contest fair, voting audience members are required to tell who they came to see, as well as vote for two people, rather than one. Odd said there may be the possibility of people voting for their friend and the worst comedian on stage, but he said everyone else in the audience may be thinking the same thing and thus cause the worst person to win.

There is also going to be a panel of judges to critique the comedians who also have voting power. The judges cannot overrule the audience, but their votes will be worth more.

Odd said he hoped people took the contest seriously and came out, bringing friends and family as audience members.

“I think that’s going to give us a lot more credibility as far as the comedy event mentality goes,” Odd said.

Odd man out
Do Dave Odd’s stand-up contributions help our scene, or just make one?

Time Out Chicago / Issue 91: Nov 23–Nov 29, 2006
By Steve Heisler

New comics worship him or use him as a stepping stone. Audiences pack his rooms or cringe at his haphazard productions. Established comics despise him or hail him as the scene’s tragic hero. Regardless of your involvement with Chicago stand-up, you’ll inevitably run into Dave Odd. “I’ve done more for the Chicago comedy scene than anyone,” claims Odd, who’s performed stand-up for eight years himself. “I’ve put up over 1,000 shows since 2001. This year alone, I’ve put up over 200 comics at Pressure [Billiards & Café], which, I think, is more than other rooms have done in their entire history.”

There’s no denying Odd’s a workhorse. When he’s not on the road, Odd spends his hours e-mailing, following up on bookings, taking the stage at open mikes, putting together-slash-hosting comedy showcases and flyering the holy hell out of college campuses. He’s currently running three shows, and next month will add a bunch at Pressure and Kitty Moon. After spending so much time involved in the local scene, Odd’s developed a set of beliefs as to how it operates. “The Chicago comedy scene is like the high-school cafeteria, where everyone has found their little clique,” he says, the first thing out of his mouth when we meet. “The reason I put up shows now is because those cliques wouldn’t give me stage time when I started out.”

That’s all well and good for some; others see Odd’s actions causing more harm than good. “Dave Odd breathes this attitude of entitlement to stage time just by virtue of being a comic, and it sticks with [young comedians] throughout their careers,” says Mark Geary, coproducer of the vaunted Lincoln Lodge. “To get ahead, you have to work your nuts off, self-promote and prove you deserve stage time.” The Lincoln Lodge, Chicago Underground Comedy and the Elevated are widely accepted as the most consistent alternative stand-up rooms in the city. The Lodge’s booking philosophy has an eye toward the top of the top. As a result, the room gives off a vibe of exclusivity. While Odd’s shows are intentionally more inclusive, Geary feels they’re nonetheless detrimental. “Adding more showcase rooms doesn’t do anything other than thin the pool, like having eight McDonald’s on the same block,” he says. “The community needs to consolidate and produce more open mikes.”

The trouble is that, outside of Odd’s shows and a handful of open mikes, there are few opportunities in Chicago’s comedy landscape for new performers to work out their kinks. As such, he’s the first to give these comics a showcase slot—a huge source of pride for Odd. “All these guys you see on the scene now started with me,” he says, “and it’s because, one, I don’t hold incredibly high standards for what I put in my show and, two, I give everyone a chance. They shouldn’t not be able to perform just because they’re not friends with the right people.”

One such comic is Mike Bridenstine, now a Lincoln Lodge staple. A few years ago, Bridenstine started touring the open-mike circuit. His first paid showcases were booked through Odd. At the time, Odd had shows at the Holiday Club, where there was no spotlight or stage, and the Chase Café, where the stage was a coffee table. While he’s grateful for the opportunities Odd provided, Bridenstine feels his responsibility to Odd ends there. “Other people gave me stage time back then, but they don’t go out of their way to remind me,” he says.

Geary and Odd have their stark differences, openly shared on Chicago’s stand-up message board (groups.yahoo.com/group/chichahahago). In fact, neither can make a comment, however innocuous, without the other jumping in. Geary might be the most vocal, but he’s not the only one. “People tell new comics, ‘Don’t work with Dave Odd. He runs crappy shows, kills rooms and exploits comics,’?” Odd says. “But they also say, ‘Oh no, you can’t perform at the Lincoln Lodge yet.’ Well, my stage time gets them to that level.”

For the time being, Odd remains a constant presence in Chicago: New comics get stage time, audiences get shows of varying quality. While his outspoken nature might rub his peers the wrong way, the scene as a whole is learning to accept Odd as a necessary part of Chicago stand-up. “Like him or not, he’s doing what he loves and he’s a funny, prolific joke writer,” Bridenstine says. “The thing is, if Dave Odd weren’t the first person to tell you how great he was, he might be the most respected comedian in Chicago.”

Dave Odd opens for Frank Townsend at The Improv Friday 24.


Stand up and deliver
Thriving underground scene puts the edge back in comedy
[Chicago Final Edition] Chicago Tribune - Chicago, Ill.
 
Allan Johnson, Tribune staff reporter
Apr 8, 2005
(Copyright 2005 by the Chicago Tribune)


Your typical comedy club consists of a stage, microphone and curtain or brick wall as a backdrop.

But there's another comedy club in Chicagoland where there might not be a stage at all or even a microphone--an underground spot where the club might be in the back of a restaurant or bar.

This comedy scene gives emerging talent and more daring stand- ups a chance to try out a twisted punch line, or even get booed off the stage, at shows such as "The Elevated" at Cherry Red on North Sheffield Avenue or "Da Comedy Corner" at Amelia's on West Grand Avenue.

"Pretty much every single night of the week there's some kind of show going on somewhere in the city," says comic and producer Dave Odd.

The underground scene may not be as prosperous as the so-called comedy boom of the late 1980s and early '90s, when national chains such as Catch a Rising Star and the Improv brought the Jerry Seinfelds and Ellen DeGenereses to the area. But this new scene may be more vital, as it is developing the next Seinfeld and DeGeneres . . . if not the next Maron and Garofalo--Marc and Janeane, respectively, two players in the so-called "alternative" style, a quirky, non-traditional, sometimes bizarre comedy that turns stand- up on its ear.

And that "alternative" style is what's on view at many underground venues.

"What is successful with underground comedy is it pushes the form," says Cayne Collier, who runs The Elevated, a weekly showcase that has been running for more than eight years.

More than 10 years after the alternative scene was launched at New York's Luna Lounge and Los Angeles Un-Cabaret by Maron, Garofalo, Dave Attell, Kathy Griffin and others, the off-kilter comedy offshoot has found a niche in Chicago's underground community. It is thriving here because the alternative form is more acceptable in these venues than in mainstream clubs looking to entertain more general audiences.

"I've had performers who were very much set-up/punch [line] as far as the structure," says Collier, 32, "but what they chose to do [with the material] and the way they chose to do it was not mainstream."

The comedy is unconventional. It sometimes uses long stories with odd punch lines, jokes where the endings are unexpected, premises that are either aggressively social or political, or pushes the boundaries of taste and decorum.

Robert Buscemi, a comedian in Chicago who works underground rooms, feels a freedom in Chicago underground spots. "I don't feel stagnant artistically, either," says Buscemi, 35. "I feel more and more on my game. I feel that my writing gets tighter and tighter."

Amy Danzer (the name as published has been corrected here and in a subsequent reference in this text), 30, of Rogers Park has seen Buscemi at various haunts around the city, and finds him "bizarro and disturbingly gritty at times, but it's good stuff."

Yet as much as Buscemi's career is blossoming, the underground scene will never replace Chicago stand-up institution Zanies on Wells Street. But while Zanies, which also has rooms in St. Charles and Vernon Hills (and a location in Nashville), is the most popular comedy club in the area, many of the comedians playing the underground rooms can't get work there. Because many of them lack the experience to handle crowds expecting a higher, more polished caliber of comedy. There are so few full time comedy clubs, and so many acts needing stage time to work out their material, that the underground scene blossomed.

"When I came back to comedy, I saw myself and a lot of other comics that were very promising and smart and funny not getting stage time, and not having a place where they could go do their act other than open mics," says Odd (a stage name), 28, a comic off and on since 1997. To give comics such as himself a voice, Odd devised the Edge, a comedy and variety showcase he's been producing for four years at several bars and clubs in the city and suburbs.

"I think there's such a lack of opportunities for guys to work in Chicago," the Skokie native says. "There's not that many clubs around, and it's hard to get into clubs that do exist."

One such outlet, the Red Lion Pub at Lincoln and Fullerton Avenues, provided open-mic comedy in a smoky, cramped room. In 2000, promoter Thomas Lawler, wanting to expand the Lion's scope, approached comic Mark Geary. The Lincoln Lodge was born that September in a back room of the Lincoln Restaurant on North Lincoln Avenue. It evolved into a mix of mainstream and alternative comedy, sketch and improv, live video bits, audience participation, and variety and music acts.

"Part of our business imperative was to add that little bit of structure to their [comedians'] proceedings," says Geary, 36. "Create more like an improv/sketch structure to a show where people are really invested in it and committed to it."

"It's a great time," Danzer says of the Lodge's loose ambience, willingness to embrace more adventurous comics, non-traditional comedy, including such familiar features as "Man on the Street" interviews with perplexed passers-by, conducted by a seemingly bored comic.

"What I also like about it is its non-pretentious environment. For the most part, everybody-- from emcees to hosts to wait staff to comics--is pretty down-to-earth."

There are no signs that the thriving underground comedy scene in Chicago is going away. As long as these multipurpose venues have drinks, music, food and other areas to fall back on (along with cheaper ticket prices--if they charge for admission at all), there will always be comedians prepared to add an extra dimension.

"For some of these alternative venues, all you need is a microphone, some chairs, and that's basically it," says Lawler, 33. "In San Francisco, you have people doing shows at Laundromats or luggage stores or wherever someone lets them set up a show.

"And that will happen anywhere you have ambitious comedians trying to make something happen for themselves."

-- Allan Johnson