Rebecca O'Neal hosts Chicago's One Night Stand-Up at Zanies in Rosemont.
WCIU, the channel best known for airing daytime court television and reruns of The King of Queens, is kicking off the New Year with something a little different. Instead of relying on a 2 Broke Girls marathon to bring in viewers before midnight, the local station will air Chicago's One Night Stand-Up, a showcase of local comics hosted by one of the city's most visible stand-ups, Rebecca O'Neal.
Surprisingly, it's one of the first local TV programs focused on Chicago comedians. "I've been doing this five years now," O'Neal says, "before that I was writing about comedy, and in the time nothing like this has existed."
Open submissions for clean material from local comics were held throughout this past November, the pilot was filmed on December 12 at Zanies in Rosemont, and the special airs on December 31 at 9 PM and midnight. The final lineup includes ten local stand-ups: Schmitty B., Steven Haas, Kellye Howard, Michael Issac, Alex Kumin, Michael Larimer, Kristen Lundberg, Pat McGann, Martin Morrow, and T. Murph.
O'Neal was offered the gig after bombing at an audition for one of WCIU's bumpers. Even though she doesn't have a talent for reading cue cards, the channel's programmers were fans of her stand-up, and a couple weeks later she got the call to be the face of One Night Stand-Up. As submissions rolled in, O'Neal was frequently consulted to make sure the show accurately resembled the comedy that goes up in bars and clubs around the city every night.
"I'm really happy that the lineup for the pilot episode was good, so that people can see what the Chicago comedy scene has to offer," O'Neal says. "And they were really reflective of the entirety of the city too. It's not just a north-side comedy show or a south-side comedy show."
While each performer is used to going onstage in front of a live audience every night, things run a little differently when taping for television. O'Neal acted as her own warm-up comic, greeting the audience barefoot to give herself a break from her show heels. Audience members had to keep their energy up for four hours straight, allowing for breaks between comics when cameras needed to reset. And sets were stopped and restarted to account for audio and visual interference in the theater. Still, O'Neal says that the comics killed, and the small hiccups were a minor inconvenience.
Even though O'Neal will be out partying on New Year's Eve, she's going to make sure that Chicago's One Night Stand-Up is on in the background no matter where she happens to be that night. The success of the pilot will determine whether or not the show becomes a recurring program on WCIU.
"I am hoping that it becomes permanent so that the Chicago comedy scene can have a larger platform, because it is one of the best in the world," O'Neal says. "There are very few opportunities to showcase that on TV here. Just the fact that this exists even the one time is incredible."
Chicago's One Night Stand-Up Sat 12/31, 8 PM, and Sun 1/1, midnight, on WCIU