More Impress These Apes Press!

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More press for Apes! This time from The Real Chicago. Enjoy!

A couple of folks have told me that they weren't able to load the trib review for Apes, so here is the full thing. Enjoy!

'Apes' remains slightly bonkers, little known and incredibly hilarious

COMEDY REVIEW: "Impress These Apes" at ComedySportz ★★★★

Nina Metz Chicago Closeup

5:23 p.m. CDT, July 15, 2014

I have no idea why "Impress These Apes," the hugely funny comedy competition now in its eighth season, remains such a niche event that's known pretty much only within comedy nerd circles.

But that's fine. Really! Because bigger buzz would inevitably lead to slicker execution and a larger venue. That would not be good, not for a show like this, where so much of its appeal lies in the fact that it's still something of an underground phenomenon.

And so the show remains small in scale and cozy (if slightly bonkers) in temperament. Want that delicious feeling of discovery? This is your show, led by four interstellar apes from the future who have corralled eight performers -- each year a new mix of stand-up comedians and improvisers -- who go head-to-head Monday nights in a quest to impress these apes.

This season has a cruise ship theme, and I realize writing about this show can sometimes look like an exercise in non sequiturs. Why apes? Why a cruise ship? Why the future?

I don't know. But it works. All of it. Even in its shaggier moments. Every piece works, and I don't know that I can say that about any other theatrical offering in town, comedy or not.

So, the basics: Competitors are given one week to prepare for their assignment, which is just loopy enough to push everyone onstage out of their comfort zone. That, I think, is why performers want to be a part of the show. It forces them to broaden the concept of who they are, or what they're capable of onstage. It all feels terribly personal, and there's something almost noble in the attempt to strive for something deeper than the status quo.

These are precisely the sort of circumstances highly creative funny people thrive under -- egos are on the line, but there's a real spirit of camaraderie, handcrafted prop-making, juvenile laughs and striving to do something out of the ordinary -- resulting in strange, vulnerable moments that are also startlingly funny.

The first challenge, performed this week, was a "get to know you" bit: They were asked to build puppet versions of themselves, which were used to reveal a little bit about who they are.

John Leadley's ode to bars and his love of the drink was just the kind of sardonic, unexpectedly brilliant interpretation that is emblematic of "Impress These Apes." His puppet was crafted out of the top half of an empty bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Leadley's puppet emerged from an assemblage of booze in a marvel of visual creativity. But the bar stories he told were just as important and winning for their tenderness.

(You can watch clips from every show at impresstheseapes.com; also worth watching are those from Trevor Martin, Steven King and top-scorer Tiff Svitko.)

The individual performances are prepped ahead of time, but the apes sitting in judgment are engaged in full-throttle improv, offering sharp jokes but even sharper critiques. This is key. The show has to genuinely push these competitors to bring their A-game. And the judges do it with a real sense of off-the-cuff wit: "I've always wanted to see a Tinder date in a psyche ward," went one observation after a competitor finished his puppet rendition of picking up a woman in Wrigleyville.

The crack panel is comprised of Bryan Bowden (playing a good ol' boy named Bushmeat who began his assessment of Leadley's puppet with: "First off, excellent use of garbage ..."), Steve Gadlin (whose ascot-wearing Barry Shirley is a latter day Charles Nelson Reilly), Paul Luikart (as Captain Apehab) and Erica Reid (maternal but biting as April May).

On Monday the challenge will be as follows: "You have been randomly assigned a theme song to a popular movie that one might watch on a cruise ship. You must choreograph and perform an original dance to this song. Your dance is to be inspired by the movie it is from, but remember that dance is the focal point of the piece." The assigned songs range from "Fame" to "Space Jam" to "Ghostbusters."

nmetz@tribune.com

Twitter @NinaMetzNews

When: 8 p.m. Mondays through Sept. 1

Where: ComedySportz, 929 W. Belmont Ave.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Tickets: $12 at 773-549-8080 or comedysportzchicago.com

We got a great review today from Nina Metz in the Chicago Tribune!

Some nice quotes:

Every piece works, and I don't know that I can say that about any other theatrical offering in town, comedy or not.

And

The individual performances are prepped ahead of time, but the apes sitting in judgment are engaged in full-throttle improv, offering sharp jokes but even sharper critiques. This is key. The show has to genuinely push these competitors to bring their A-game. And the judges do it with a real sense of off-the-cuff wit: "I've always wanted to see a Tinder date in a psyche ward," went one observation after a competitor finished his puppet rendition of picking up a woman in Wrigleyville.

The crack panel is comprised of Bryan Bowden (playing a good ol' boy named Bushmeat who began his assessment of Leadley's puppet with: "First off, excellent use of garbage ..."), Steve Gadlin (whose ascot-wearing Barry Shirley is a latter day Charles Nelson Reilly), Paul Luikart (as Captain Apehab) and Erica Reid (maternal but biting as April May).

 

It really is going to be a great season.

Check it out!

Meat Hand

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This year, Fuzzy and I have signed up to swim the Point to LaPointe, a 2.1 mile open water swim in Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin on August 2nd. We've been talking about doing it for years, and for some reason, this year--the coldest on record in forever--seemed like the right year to do it.

Because of the polar vortex-y winter, Lake Michigan has been intimidating in it's ice water-ness, but I am sure it is a hot tub compared to Lake Superior. We did some pool swims and then decided last week that it was time to take the plunge into the lake.

On the 4th of July, we had a leisurely morning, and then in the heat of the sun decided to get decked out in our neoprene wetsuits, socks and gloves and take the plunge. 

The socks were great, but the gloves felt clunky and like I wasn't able to pull myself through the water. I took them off and Fuzzy tucked them into the back of my wetsuit. I swam only about three-quarters of a mile, but it went ok.

We had friends in town for the 4th, so we cooked up a bunch of meat and I whipped up some margaritas. We sat in our "front yard" (ie: square of grass) and I noticed that my right hand was really red and sore. "Huh, I guess I sunburned my hand." I said, and noticed that the left one was also kind of pink. "Bizarre." I've done many a lake swim before and this has never been an issue, but I figured something was off kilter that day. I felt a little woozy, but chalked it up to tequila and over eating.  I was worn out the next day, but pushed through to play with She's Crafty for the Dark Matter block party, watched Space Jam and went to bed.

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Sunday, we decided to try the lake again. We said goodbye to our guests, ate some lunch, then schlepped back downtown to where we train. (The beach where we train has marked distances and runs along a concrete wall, so it is very safe and easy. All the triathletes train there, and yes, there are lifeguards.) I made sure to sunscreen my hand. The water on Sunday was painfully cold--it was a shock to the face. I corrected an error I was making (swimming too fast--I was getting out of breath easily), swam a half mile, and then stopped. I should have kept going, but I couldn't for some reason. We grabbed some lunch and ran a few errands on the awesomely super hot day. I noticed that my right had started forming blisters--giant painful ones--and they got bigger as the day progressed. It looked gross and hurt like hell. We stopped at Walgreens and got some high-tech bandages to keep it covered and moist. I had a hard time sleeping because it was so painful and irritated.

(I don't have photos of the blisters. You're welcome.)

Monday was a busy day. I had rehearsal in the morning and the live Apes callback show that night. I didn't want a bunch of people to try to shake my hand, so I covered it in a big white bandage. Of course, a lot of people asked what was wrong, and I shrugged it off saying that I must have gotten a bad 3rd degree burn or sun poisoning of some sort.

The show was a huge success and we cast 8 amazing performers. We got home, exhausted, and fell into bed. Fuzzy looked at my hand. Then he felt my hand. It was swollen, hot, and red. He suggested that we go to the ER, because it reminded him of how my foot looked when I had that crazy bad infection. I shrugged it off and said if it wasn't better in the morning, we could go to the new Immediate Care Clinic that opened in our neighborhood a few weeks ago.

We woke up super early the next morning to see how it was doing. It looked fine! It wasn't swollen, and I was exhausted, so Fuzzy went for a run and I slept a bit more to get rested before my rehearsal and show. About an hour later, I got up, and within 10 minutes, my hand was this huge swollen red chunk of meat. Meat hand. It was freaky, and we decided that we needed to go to the doctor.

Because the urgent care clinic was new, there was no one there, so we were able to see a doctor right away. They put a burn cream on it, gave me a tetanus shot (the droll male nurse said "I got the biggest needle I could find" which made me laugh), and put me on this hard core antibiotic that I have to take 4 times a day for a week. They said "no sun, no swimming, no alcohol" while it was healing. But I had a gig that night at City Winery! (Droll male nurse: "You'll have plenty more times to drink alcohol.") I laugh cried at my rotten luck at the yet another freak ailment that I can now add to my list (kidney stones, staph infection, foot infection, shingles, possible gout...)  I was 45 minutes late for my rehearsal, which I hate, and I did a little stress crying, but I pushed through.

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Meat hand in action.

My hand, though painful, was still functional, so I found a lace glove made by one of the Modet dancers for our show, and I wore it in the gig. It looked like a choice and not a neccessity!

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The gig was amazing, by the way. (More photos and things to come soon.)

It's now Friday. The swelling has gone down. The blisters are all dried up. Now instead of looking like a swollen piece of meat, it looks like ground beef. 

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I HATE taking medicine for things, and this antibiotic is no exception--it has drained all of my energy and made me REALLY spacey and loopy. I am continuing to use the cream and wrap the hand, and I have a few more days of the pills.  Plus, I have a cold and a million things and rehearsal and meetings and shows, so I feel like a shell of a person, but I am keeping on keeping on.

Sigh.

Impress These Apes SEASon 8!

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After a year hiatus, the Apes are back for another season of hard hitting talent competition. And this time, we're going on a CRUISE!

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Tonight is the LIVE CALLBACK SHOW hosted by STEVE GADLIN of STEVE GADLIN'S STAR MAKERS. 16 hopefuls will be performing 16 different assigned talents, and at the end of the night, 8 contestants will be announced and given their first week's challenge.

This season is going to be a blast! Hope to see you there!

Future Perfect Tension Photos

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The amazing Greg Inda photographed Modet & LRP's Future Perfect Tension last week. The photos are all so amazing, I could post every single one here, but here are a select few (with incredible lighting by Henry Bateman):

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With Living Room Playmakers!

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A sincere thank you to all!

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I am guessing, if you know Fuzzy, then you know how amazing he is.

But here are a few specific reasons:

He recently started a new job that has been a lot of hard work, and he is doing it with a smile on his face. It's so nice to see him happy and accomplishing great things.

This fall, he is going to be teaching a course at Columbia College. Professor Gerdes!

This weekend, he will be running Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN. This will be his 3rd full marathon (New Orleans Feb 2013, the Iron Man 2013) and he is running the Chicago Marathon this October. He will also be doing the Chicago Triathlon Triple Challenge in August again.

He's been killing it at stand-up open mics lately, he upstaged & out-performed me in The Plucky Show the last 2 months, and he is hosting Season 8 of Impress These Apes (starting soon!)

For some reason, he likes ME, so that proves that he is super patient and awesome, cause I am batshit CRAZY.

He's awesome.

Modet: We Did It!

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Thank you to everyone who came out to Future Perfect Tension last night! The show was incredible, and I feel like a million bucks. Well, I am sore and exhausted, but it is a good kind of sore and exhausted. :)  I will post more on this soon, but please enjoy these photos of before and after the show!!

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Nerds.

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Life and things and stuff!

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Eek! Sorry my blog has become all show promos and things, and that I've turned my Twitter into a place where everything funny goes. (hey! feel free to check out and ready my twitter! It's the place where all the thoughts in my brain go in allllll the time I spend alone in the house.) But let me just say that everything is awesome and shows are great and Chicago is SO FREAKING COLD ALL THE TIME that I am wanting to move but we aren't going to move at least not anytime soon. Fuzzy posted some funny and nice things yesterday, so check those out. He has a cool new job, Latte is awesome and is super snuggly although she currently has a bladder infection. Fuzzy is running a marathon next weekend in Duluth, MN and I am looking forward to the trip. The other day we made homemade donuts. They take a long time to make.

MY BIG DANCE SHOW IS SUNDAY!! Oh my gosh, I am so excited. All the pieces are amazing, and I am really proud of my contributions. We've all been working so hard and the dancers are incredible, and the plays that the Living Room Playmakers are bringing are hilarious and sad and scary and wonderful and the show is going to be EPIC. If you are planning on coming, please note that the content is not suitable for children. Lots-o-cursing. Anyways, Modet, 8pm, Stage 773 $12.

Also, She's Crafty is performing at City Winery on July 8! How cool is that? I've been to a ton of shows there, and now I get to do one! If you've not yet seen She's Crafty, you are missing out! It's crazy the amount of fun I have with these guys.

So, yeah!

Sunday is also Father's Day. I was going to write this sappy letter to dad about all the things he would be proud of and love (Christopher & Katie's work, Jeremy's wedding, my shows, etc etc etc) but then I realized that he knows all of that stuff already, so why put myself through that emotional wringer? It will likely be a hard day--it always is whether I want it to be or not--but I think that it is really nice that I will be dancing, which was my whole life growing up, on a day meant to honor and memorialize our dads. I'll dedicate my performance to him.

Wheee! Life!!

Field Notes

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This week, super cool notebook brand Field Notes released their limited edition "Arts and Sciences" edition. To tease the release, the company released a series of videos melding the arts and sciences together. I had the pleasure of being a part of this amazing ad campaign.

Check out the other videos here!

Special thanks to the always amazing Steve Delahoyde for bringing me on board.

Keep reading! The next most recent entry was Modet! or you can visit the Archives

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