Back Row: Erica, Rebecca, Andrea
Front Row: Megan
Photo by Fotio
Back Row: Erica, Rebecca, Andrea
Front Row: Megan
Photo by Fotio
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.
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.
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!)
It's been an awesome week of confidence building around the Reid Gerdes household lately. Here's a brief wrap up of why:
Also this week, Claire interviewed Fuzzy about his experience in the Iron Man!
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.
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)
GO GLORIA GO!!
I love a good photoshop throwdown
I am enjoying this so much.
(I learned that the pic is supposed to be upside-down.)
So today I get an email from my friend Noah Ginex that said:
Eiberger's looked ok...I guess
but it needed more early 90s hip-hop flair.
And included this photo:
YES!! Let the games begin!!!