The regular use of the most racially and socially divisive words usually has no place in a polite society that is said to embrace its diversity. This is especially true in the entertainment industry where many times the politically correct overreactions of the "suits" can impede on the artistic expressions of the material's creator
Attending the newly opened Up Comedy Club this week, I was elated to see that, for a few hours, you can check your politically correct attitude at the door and have a great time making fun of other races and cultures. For stand-up comedy is the last bastion of expression and commonality of free speech that allows us to tell the truth of what is going on in the world in the most uncomfortable of ways.
Case in point is the Sullivan & Son Comedy Tour which played last week at the Up Comedy Club. The tour was launched to promote the TBS comedy series of the same name and features Chicago native Steve Bryne as its co-creator and star. All the acts of the comedy tour contained material that took the archetypal stereotype and forced it upon the crowd at a relentless rate to great comic effect.
Each comedian had their own spin on how they view the world based on their ethnic backgrounds. Roy Wood, Jr., who Mr. Bryne refers to as the "black guy"; Egyptian born Ahmed Ahmed whose routine shines the light on "Islamophobia", Owen Benjamin, a 6' 7" white guy who orgasms over the Chicago weather forecast; and Mr. Bryne who seems more comfortable when he has other prey to play off of then doing solo stand-up.
Each of the comedians enters into that zone of unease, usually based on experiences they have gone through in their own lives. It is no secret that the best comedians usually have a very dark, depressive side which they drawn on. It is this unique perspective and talent of a comedian to identify that pain and present it as a universal truth to the audience. However, when the material moves from the comedian's personal experiences to going for a cheap laugh the quality of the comedy gets called into question.
In the Sullivan & Son Comedy Tour, all four of main acts used the gay community as their default safety zone to get laughs. When their gay-focused comedy was in the context of how the comedians had to deal with it in their own lives, via friends or the community as a whole, it was funny. Mr. Wood, Jr., hit it brilliantly when discussing how to stop people from using the "N" word. But when the homo-based humor was not based on anything else but the need to get a laugh without any type of context or personal story behind it, the lines fell flat.
As an observer and as a member of the LGBT community it was interesting to notice how acceptable it was to use the community time after time in their acts without using other minority communities to that same extent. Going for the cheap laugh may be easy and work in a high school setting, but in the grown up world of professional comedy, one should expect more.
The television show itself being new is definitely a work in progress but from the episode viewed, quite mediocre. It certainly has a lot going for it both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, including the magnificent Christine Ebersole who elevates any project she is involved in as well as Vince Vaughn who is one of the executive producers.
As a venue, the Up Comedy Club is among the best in Chicago. The staff is friendly and attentive while the menu is extensive with amazing food that can rival any of the restaurants in the Old Town area.
For more information on upcoming shows, please visit www.upcomedyclub.com; or call (312) 662-4562