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Crying Doves


One of my closest friends, Jason Chin, passed away on Thursday, January 8th, 2015.

I can't even believe it.

He was only 46.

I've had a lot of death in my life. Several friends and aquaintances over the years. Oodles of family. Even super close family--my dad. Jason was my closest non-family death. But really, Jason was family. I loved him so so much.

I don't really even have anything cohesive to say, but I want to get some of these things out of my head, so forgive the randomness.

Jason was my very first friend in Chicago. I met him in April of 1999--almost 16 years ago. We met at the CIF that year, and performed together with 2 others from my MS group and 4 others in Chicago. Charna put us all together. When we got back to town, I found Jason's blog review of our show, and he mentioned that it was my birthday that weekend and he only said great things about us. I reached out to him, and our epic friendship was created. We emailed tons, and talked on the phone nearly every night for a while. I had decided after that festival weekend that I was moving to Chicago in 2000, so I visited several times to get a feel for it and interview for jobs, etc. I always stayed with Jason. He introduced me to all his people and teammates and went with me to job interviews.


The first pic of us together, after the CIF 99 show in the upstairs IO Greenroom, where I will later take several more photos with him. Jason, Sara, Mulhern, Cindy and me.

He came to Jackson and stayed with Christopher and I one weekend.

He hosted Erica, Sara and me for CIF 2000, and I have a million photos of us in his apartment and pics that he took from that weekend. When the 3 of us all lived together, we hung out with Jason a lot.


Sara, Erica, Mulhern, me, Jason at Nookies on Halsted.

I have a memory of me having to rush out to get to my CCI call time at The Living Room in downtown Jackson, and Parker had gotten out. I was running late cause of having to chase her down, and Jason was going to go to the show with Christopher, who wasn't yet home. Jason hated cats, but I remember him awkwardly and begrudgingly holding her under the arms as I looked back while rushing out the door. It was hilarious.  Last January, when Parker died, I texted him to tell him the news. He said she and I were always a good team.


Piero, Mulhern, Parker, Jason, Erica and me.

Jason was such a mainstay in the improv community that I can't believe I met him only FOUR YEARS after his arrival in Chicago. Insane. Talking with Rich Sohn the other night, I told him that the Pat Shay Dancers were my very first friends in Chicago due to Jason, and he said "you've been here that long?" Yeah. 15 and 16 years is a freaking long time. Insane.


Jason showing Mom the Del Close wall at the old IO.

Jason found me my first apartment. The sister building to the one he lived in. I was 739 W Belmont, he was 711 W. Belmont. I spent a lot of time at his place, and he at mine.

Jason introduced me to Jeff Gandy this way: "you are both from Mississippi, you should be friends." And so we did, and we've worked together choreographing shows and things for years.


Jason and me with salt shaker, lipstick, and Dad's baseball cap.

Before I moved here, there was a documentary that was being made by some improvisors that was to follow around 4 improvisors in different stages of their careers. The people were Rachael Mason, Jason Sudeikis, Jason Chin, and myself. Jason recommended me to be the newcomer. I interviewed on the phone with one of the filmmakers, and we hit it off immediately, bonding over our love of Waiting for Guffman. That person was Steve Gadlin, the person I've worked the most with in the last 10 years. Crazy.


I used to accidentally double expose my film all the time. Here is Jason Chin over Jason Sudeikis.

The constant refrain last week when we found out the news was "Jason introduced us" or "Jason introduced me to____."

Jason essentially kickstarted my career.


Memaw Reid, me, Mom, Sara, Christopher and Jason, from a time that my whole family came up for a visit. Dad took the photo.

Jason was my emergency contact in Chicago for the longest time. He took me to the ER when my throat swelled shut. He took care of me after I had my surgery.

John Ostendorf reminded me the other night about his helping me move shortly after he moved to Chicago. Jason, John O and John Mulhern were a trio of college pals, and I hung with them a LOT back in the day. They helped Sara and I move from the studio to our 2 bedroom across from IO on Clark. When he said this, I remembered this awesome story: I have this singing chicken alarm clock that I love. My brother HATES it. I got it in high school or something and it broke once, but dad fixed it and added a lever so you could just turn it on and leave it singing its little song forever. So Jason and the Johns were helping me move. I rented a Uhaul--one that had the gate thing behind the drivers seats so you could load stuff safely without it spilling to the front. Jason had apparently found the chicken, flipped the switch, put it in a box and loaded it FIRST into the truck. And of course, boxes were quickly placed around it blocking it in. I noticed that it was playing and was like "WHO DID THIS?" Jason was giggling. So it played the ENTIRE move. RIGHT behind the drivers seat. First box in, last box out. FOREVER. Amazing.

I found a program of the Thriller Theater from 1999. I saw a rehearsal of it. Jason autographed my program. Guess who was in that show? Fuzzy Gerdes. Beautiful.

I did 3 Thriller Theaters with Jason, performing in the first 2 (or all 3?) and choreographing the last 2. I also choreographed 2 other Halloween shows after that--Free Candy (I think it was called) and Friday the Halloweenth. I choreographed the Stir Friday Night show he directed (Horry Cow, That's Lacist) and his Breakfast Club the musical--the last 3 of those with Jeff. Our friends Seth and Michele were the musicians for the Breakfast Club musical. I was in a REALLY bad place when we did that show, so I really bit it with my choreography. I phoned it in, fought with the cast, barely rehearsed them and never saw the show. A few years later, I was finally at a place where I could recognize that and properly confess it and apologize to Jason about it (at Salt & Pepper, where we went all the time back in the day). He was so great about it and essentially was like "that's ok, the show wasn't that good" or "no one came to see it." or something. But it took a huge weight off my shoulders.


Jason at Salt & Pepper. I have a lot of photos from the bleached hair days.

Our song was "When Doves Cry."

Jason and I sort of fell out of constant communication when I started dating Fuzzy. This is to be expected--it happens with any friends when one is in a new relationship, and especially considering Jason and Fuzzy were both men, there was potential for things to be weird. I always hung out with Jason's girlfriends when he had them, and he knew about the people that I was dating when I did (which was very rarely.) But things with Fuzzy were so perfect and so right from the get-go, that I think we both sensed that and started only seeing each other or talking every few months. Plus, I wasn't at IO all the time and my career was taking a different turn, and then of course all the dad health stuff. So our friendship sort of took a hit. He was supportive, but didn't come to our wedding (he rarely went to weddings) and wasn't around a whole lot but neither was I. In the last couple of years, we made an effort to connect periodically, and when we did, it was amazing. We could sit and talk for hours, just like old times.

He mentioned me in his blog twice last summer. Here and here.


Pics from the night we bleached his and Piero's hair, as referenced in his blog post above. We did it at the theatre. Note that Jason's drip apron is an old WCHS T-shirt of mine. Go Vikes.

He lived on Belmont, then above the L&L (he took headshots of me in my Belmont Apt and also on the balcony of the L&L apartment), then above Mia Francescas, then on Sheffield (I never saw that place), then last summer he moved near me at Bryn Mawr and Winthrop. I was excited to have him in the neighborhood and we met at a diner nearby and I told him about all the good shops and restaurants in the area. We reminisced about old shows and I laughed my ass off.

And then he just fucking died.

IO moved from the old Clark Street building to a new shiny place off North Avenue last summer. I am so grateful that I can't go into the old building ever again--that building WAS Jason.

He LOVED the new IO. He was so excited about it. On Friday evening, there was a gathering for Jason--a toast in his memory. I was so nervous going--there were going to be so many new improvisors there and I had never been there and I didn't know what to expect. At first, it was so crowded, people were spilling out the door. But it dispersed, and the people remaining were all our old friends. People I hadn't seen in 10 years. It was wonderful and amazing. We all just hugged and kissed and held each other and cried. And laughed. I was amazed at how many people remembered me, and I heard over and over "I haven't seen you in YEARS!" It was magical.

Saturday, I went over with a small group of close friends and helped clean out his apartment. More old friends, more tears.

So many tears.

I gathered a handful of things that I feel that I needed. On this upcoming Sunday, Piero and I are sorting through all of his old scripts, show posters and photos to divvy up and scan and mail to the people that would want them.


Seth, Jason & another Chicago Comics employee at C2E2 in 2013.

Monday night was a memorial roast in Jason's honor. I laughed a lot more than I cried, and I cried a lot. More old friends. So many happy and wonderful memories.

Yesterday I picked up a box of some of his old props from John O's house. In it were some old headshots (some of him and some of friends--there were 2 of me) and scripts and this red corduroy jacket from Halloween 2000. I think I will keep that for myself.



On Wednesday last week, I listened to this old CD of our friends (Seth and Michele--as mentioned before) punk band. It was SO nostalgic. Jason and I would see them frequently, including once at the Fireside Bowl and once at this bar that had free baskets of bacon. I thought about texting him. I didn't. I really wish I had.

I don't really know what else to say about it. I don't think it has completely sunk in, even with all the crying and not being able to do anything. I don't really know if it ever will.

Jason was so loved in the community, and this past week has been an outpouring of stories and photos and ways that Jason has touched people's lives. He was an amazing man, that I am SO blessed to have known. He meant more to me than I could ever really say.

Things will never be the same.


Press about Jason's Death:
Chicago Tribune
Chicago Suntimes
The Comic's Comic

This amazing video is the epitome of everything wonderful about Improv. He was the best.

Happy Holidays from (some of) the KOKOS!

KOKOS 2.jpg

Back Row: Erica, Rebecca, Andrea
Front Row: Megan

Photo by Fotio

Comedy. Life.


In April of 1999, I decided to move to Chicago to pursue comedy. My move date was going to be May 2000. I spent that year hustling--I visited several times, lined up 2 jobs, registered for classes, found an apartment, made friends. Somewhere in there, my friend Jason Chin recommended me for a documentary that was being produced about 4 improvisors in various portions of their careers. Jason was one of them, as well as the lovely Rachael Mason and some guy named Jason Sudekis. And I was person #4--the newcomer. Since I didn't live in Chicago at the time, I conducted my casting interview over the phone. One of the producers, a guy named Steve, called me, and we had a hilarious chat about comedy, art, life and our shared love of the movie Waiting for Guffman.

Sadly, the project fell through a few months after my arrival, but I stayed in touch with Steve. He invited me to sit in with an improv group he was putting together. I did. That group (The RIngmasters) performed for just a little while, and then turned into a different group at the Playground Theater (Pastor of Muppets, which I didn't join at the beginning, but would later on).  Steve was a brilliant thinker and would often put together a night of spectacle. One night, he put together a mystery improv team, Shuddupyaface--we were each given codename (of African American actors--I was Agent Jackson) and we were to show up to the theatre but not mention to anyone that we were performing. He called us one by one to the stage where we performed together for the first and last time. The only kicker was that there was almost no audience at the theatre that night, so if you weren't in one of the other 2 established teams performing, it was correctly assumed you were in the mystery team. It was a super fun night.

There were video projects and other one-offs here and there. Along the way, I met some other guys that Steve went to college with--other comedians with the same sensibilities. In October 2004, Pastor of Muppets famously signed up for a sketch show slot for 4 weeks, and then didn't write one. Steve and his buddy Paul threw together a concept for a gameshow that they would host along with another friend Bryan as timekeeper. They posted auditions for weirdo variety act style comedians, and I of course signed up. Shortly before auditions were to be held, Steve emailed me saying that all but 3 people canceled their audition slots and asked what my bits were going to be. I described them to him, and was cast. And just like that, we put on Don't Spit the Water. After a few limited run engagements, the show ran weekly for years, and took us to SC, NYC, LA and even on TV with our own half hour pilot.

With the start of that show, the official comedy group of Blewt! was formed. Among many other things, we've produced a prank web series (Silly Funny Goof Gang), a standup showcase (Blewtenanny), a weird conceptual show starting Jared Logan and Kumail (The Demon Who Never Appeared), a Kenyan-penned melodrama (The Nairobi Project), a call-in cable access talk show (Talkin' Funny), 8 seasons of a super amazing hit talent competition judged by hyper-intelligent apes from the future (Impress These Apes--season 8 just wrapped last night--crazy) and a performance showcase television show (Steve Gadlin's Star Makers). On the side, Steve launched a stick figure cat drawing company called I Want to Draw a Cat for You and went on to score a deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on the show Shark Tank. We've had numerous members of Blewt! over the years, all awesome. Some have moved onto LA, some have moved on to their own creative projects. At the core, though, is Steve, Paul, Bryan, Fuzzy and myself.  We're a great team. We are constantly creating and putting more and more weird out into the world. TimeOut Chicago once called the creation of Blewt! one of the top 10 best moments in Chicago comedy in the 2000-2010 decade. Being in one of the biggest comedy cities in the world, that is a huge compliment.

With our 10 year DSTW anniversary approaching and the last season of Apes behind us, I've been thinking a lot about life and comedy and my life in the performing arts world. I have my hand in a lot of projects--I dance, I choreograph, I write, I perform, I direct. I am often full of anxiety and self-doubt. But these last 9 weeks of Apes has been something else--comforting. Being back with Steve, Paul, Bryan & of course Fuzzy is like going to a reunion of family or old friends. It's like going home. It is easy, and it is fun. I laugh so hard with those guys. Working with the same group of people is really a gift--we know how each other works and how to get the best product. We've laughed a lot lately with taking on this last Apes--we used to fight and argue over the smallest details, but now when someone makes a suggestion, the rest of us are like "yeah, that sounds good." As Steve said "We're all so old and agreeable now." Steve, Paul and Bryan are all fathers, and we all have different priorities in life, but we all love to create something stupid for the enjoyment of others--"Comedy to Delight and Confuse," as the Blewt! tagline says.

Sitting on the panel with the other Apes is one of my favorite things. There's no pressure to be stand-out funny up there--we just inhabit these characters and riff off of each other. A spectator last night told me that while the show is focused on the contestants and their performances, one of the joys of watching the show is watching the Apes interact with each other, because of our comfort level and camaraderie. I love that.

Every moment in our lives helps make us who we are today. We are a summation of experiences, and each person we meet enhances our lives in some way. I realize how amazing it is, when talking to people about Blewt! and our shows, to say "I've been working with Steve for over 14 years." I am grateful for all the crazy ideas he has come up with over the years and for all the opportunities I've had to work with him on those projects. I'm lucky to be able to say that he is one of my closest friends.

The world needs to laugh, and it's a gift that I get to help make that happen. I can't wait for what's next.


Summer Phishing!*

A few weekends ago, I got to rock out 2 nights in a row with Rebecca at the 2014 Summer Phish tour! These were concerts 6 & 7 for me! With the release of their new album, Fuego, it was especially exciting to hear those songs for the first time! We had a total blast, and tour has become a highlight of my summers--something to look forward to! Here are some pics from the weekend!

We are classy dames.

I love Rebecca's tradition of taking your photo with your concert ticket!

We're actors. We know how to face the product.

Sunset with skyline. Can't beat it!

The next day, we "shared a Coke" with KOKO! Couldn't find a Megan, so "Friends" had to do.

Sunday, we found my friend and fellow Modet dancer Amy (right) and her friend Diva, which we were NOT able to do the night before. We also sadly weren't able to find Claire and Tracy Saturday night, but we tried. That's what counts.

We also found our friend Lauren! It was so fun to hang with everyone!

It was a great weekend. The music is incredible and the people are all so nice. Phish shows are all about love and friendship, and it's such a positive place to be. And getting to rock out with your best friend is the best thing ever!

Thanks, Rebecca! Already looking forward to next time!

*I hope this title doesn't get me lots of spam & scams.

Earth Day Birth Day


Happy amazing birthday to my best friend Rebecca!!! YAYAYAY! I am so happy you were born and that you are here. I can't wait to Rage with you this summer!!!

Traditions: KOKO Christmas

In July of 2002, the world's best improv team, KOKO, was formed. The following December, we held the first annual KOKO Christmas gift exhange. The group went through many changes over the years, such as 3 people leaving the team, but the 5 of us that remained went on to be stronger and better than ever. The core group of KOKO is an amazing group--my best friends and the most talented people I know. Though it is rare that we perform (we didn't perform together for about 5 years, but had a brief reunion show in the middle of a snowstorm earlier in 2013), the tradition of KOKO Christmas is an important one. We've never missed a year. It's also the one time in the year we get to see Jane Menendez, RN, so it's a tradition we have to continue til the end of time.

This year's KOKO Christmas was amazing, and the gifts exchanged were thoughtful, sweet, and special--just like the KOKOs.

I love you guys!
(Front row: Megan Hovde, Andrea Strening Back row: Jane Menendez, RN, yours truly, Rebecca Hanson)

And for funsies, here's 2 throwback photos from our famous pool shoot from February 2005 (photos by Fuzzy!)

My Rebeccas

I got some R&R time last weekend--literally--with Rebecca and Rebecca! Look at these beautiful ladies!


Feeling the Love

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It's been an awesome week of confidence building around the Reid Gerdes household lately. Here's a brief wrap up of why:

Today I am the featured Interviewee on the awesome blog of my awesome friend Claire Zulkey! Check it out, won't you? I love it! Thanks, Claire!

Also this week, Claire interviewed Fuzzy about his experience in the Iron Man!

Also also on, last month she interviewed Steve Gadlin, who gave me a very lovely shout-out. Thank you, Steve!

Over on Margaret's blog, she talks about Sweetie Maude, and also says some very kind words about yours truly. Thank you, Margaret! You are amazing, too!

Gee whiz, guys! Thank you so much!

Gloria Slimem & The Electric Slime

This Friday, Gloria Slimem (2012 SLUG Queen runner-up, and public persona of the darling Shannon Rose) will be once again competing for the title of SLUG Queen in Eugene, Oregon. This is her year. She is going to knock out the competition and slop them up with her slime trail.

I am proud to have choreographed her new signature dance, the Electric Slime. See a video of Gloria teaching it here! She even references the dance in this interview:

During the competition, Rose will debut "The Electric Slime," a choreographed dance number that, with any luck, will have her supporters and the rest of the crowd grooving to the beat, as well.

"I kind of want it to be a flash mob," Rose said, laughing. "That's my vision, anyway - we'll see what actually happens."

I will be cheering her on from Chicago!


(photo by Dan Pennington and Micha Elizabeth)


Fun With Photoshop 3

Eiberger's Response.

I love a good photoshop throwdown


I am enjoying this so much.

(I learned that the pic is supposed to be upside-down.)