Best Stand-up Comedian

Critics' Picks



Beth Stelling

tiny.cc/stelling

Junior Stopka

myspace.com/junior_stopka

A tie: Chicago stand-up has always favored the off-kilter, and this year two comics found their eccentric voices at the same time. In a kind of warm deadpan, Beth Stelling—who hosts the Entertaining Julia showcase (open run: Sundays, 8:30 PM, Town Hall Pub, 3340 N. Halsted, 773-525-1668, free)—twists stories about her childhood until their oddest, most embarrassing features are on full display. Junior Stopka is, let’s face it, just plain odd. Shoulder-length tresses flopping around, he uses a commanding stage presence to impress upon audiences the importance of each harebrained joke about torturing Jehovah’s Witnesses or romancing a mannequin.

Neither comic is shy about being unconventional, and both seem disturbingly comfortable with pauses, even long silences, in their acts. And they both bring their A game to every show, even though they perform multiple times a week.