Comedy Bar interns Anthony Walker, Colleen Patterson, Daniel Faulkner, Anthony Lovett, and Laura Maynard
There aren't college courses on how to put together a stand-up show. Even at famed Chicago institutions such the Second City and iO or within Columbia College's comedy studies program, the lessons are much more about what's happening onstage rather than what's happening behind the scenes. So how does anyone learn the ropes when it seems like the most common training available to an aspiring comedy producer is taking tickets at a box office?
For the last eight years, up-and-comers have been attending an internship program at the Comedy Bar in River North. Created and led by manager Sahar Chavoshi, who's been booking the club since 2009, the program culminates in the Fancy Show, a stand-up showcase produced by the interns. The next takes place on March 6.
"These are real stakes," current Comedy Bar intern Colleen Patterson says. "These are paying customers and a venue with a reputation, and we have to uphold certain standards." The 24-year-old says her previous experience organizing shows typically involved creating a Facebook event for a performance in a friend's living room that would be attended only by other comics.
Over the course of the 12-week program, interns collectively watch more than 300 comics. Chavoshi walks her apprentices through the process of booking a diverse
group of local comedians (both in terms of demographics and content), arranging them in a lineup that flows, deciding how much to charge for tickets, and incorporating twists on the format when necessary to make, say, an open mike night stand out.
Chavoshi also gives those who have no experience performing a chance to get stage time. In addition to producing, the Comedy Bar interns will perform in the Fancy Show, which is headlined by Toler Wolfe and comedy duo Steve and Ben. One of the trainees making her onstage debut will be Maria Granados, 24, a Kendall College hospitality student by day. "I've learned a lot about stage presence," she says of Chavoshi's tutelage, "and not just getting up there and talking, but saying something."
Four of the current ten interns are women, a dramatic gender shift from when Chavoshi started the program—for years it was all men. By encouraging diversity on the production side of comedy through opportunities like the internship, she hopes to affect diversity across Chicago's stages.
"The Chicago comedy scene has a lot of really great female performers, but when it comes to management and booking, it's kind of a rarity," Chavoshi says. "Especially now, in this political climate and this moment of female empowerment, it's really exciting to be a part of this and feel like we're on the forefront of a new era in entertainment. Having this internship program and having the stage time to offer sends the message that, 'Hey, don't be afraid. Come out. We're here to support you.'"
The Fancy Show Mon 3/6, 8 PM, the Comedy Bar, 500 N. LaSalle, comedybarchicago.com, $5.