Chicago Improv Festival – My Trip, Day 1 (Part II)

I’m writing this post about Thursday on Friday, hence references to “last night” and such, even though this is “Day 1, Part II.” Just go with it. 🙂

Google Maps was absolutely right, my trip took just over seven hours, including a bit more that’s all my fault. I got a late start between packing and getting the apartment ready for the weekend so I was rewarded with Twin Cities rush hour to kick off the trip. I listen to audiobooks on my road trips and this trip had me listening to “Birth of the Bomb” from NPR’s The Story and I’m halfway through From a Buick 8 by Stephen King. I listened to this book on audio a few years ago and I’m remembering why I enjoy it so much. King touches on writing this just a bit in On Writing, by the way.

I missed the 9:00pm White Jazz show (bummer, I wanted to see that one) and I pulled in to town just in time for the 10:30pm Messing with a Friend show. Susan Messing was the first teacher I had at my first CIF outing back in 2001 and she was amazing. Got me to be physical in my improv, relax and have fun. She paired herself up with her longtime collaborator, Mick Napier, who I’ve also taken some tremendous CIF workshops from back in the day. I want to say I’ve seen them perform together before, but I can’t remember. What really matters is last night’s show.

Two improvisers having fun. That’s what it boils down to. Susan and Mick showed their audience what a show can be like when the only concern to the performers is to have fun together. The show had a lot of audience interaction, with Susan and Mick coming out into the audience several times. A woman felt Susan’s “pregnant” belly during one scene, and Susan took Minneapolis improviser Aric McKeown’s gum from his mouth (Aric was in the audience and got a nice shout-out from CIF Producer Mark Sutton for The Moustache Rangers who appear at the Annoyance at midnight on Saturday). A slew of scenes depicted the most dysfunctional marriages in the world and at one point the audience were labeled the worst middle school class in the world as teacher Susan berated us for a good ten minutes. I hope her voice holds out for the rest of the festival. Line of the night: “If I had a nickel for every time I was told, ‘Take the lobster bib…'”

The party at the Annoyance was okay, but I was too tired to get involved. Spoke with Joe Bill for a while and, always the diplomat, he introduced me to a few improvisers. I caught a few minutes of the new TJ Jagodowski & Dave Pasquesi improvised documentary, Trust Us, This Is All Made Up in the theater – fun stuff, but again I think I was too tired to appreciate it. Readers in the Twin Cities should go see it at the St. Anthony Main this weekend, however. The TJ & Dave Show is some of the best improv I’ve ever seen (they take no suggestion; the title of the documentary is traditionally the last thing they say before diving into an improv set) and if you can’t see them in-person in Chicago, the documentary may be the next best thing (I rank the film high above their Sonic commercials). When my host for the weekend, Paul, showed up, I was more than ready to leave the party and make my way to a fold-out couch.

A note on parking in Chicago: I love the challenge. Last time I drove to CIF (2005), I had a lot of luck with parking for venues and parties but not-so-much with the friend’s place where I was crashing. One night, I drove around for over an hour looking for a parking space in the neighborhood. That maybe wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the particular hour spent trying to park falling between 2:00am-3:00am. This year, I think it will be a mixed bag, too, though luck has been good so far. I found a spot only one block from the Annoyance for the show. Heading up to Evanston, Paul and I parked a few blocks from his and Susie’s apartment building (a beautiful old brick building that tastes of boarding house even before you’re told it is a former abbey). Will my luck hold out? Stay tuned…


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