Ian Belknap lives on the border between two performing worlds. His act has a stand-up structure: he gets behind a microphone and spews funny shit. But his material is meaner, smarter, and more subversive than what your average Seinfeld-Leno wannabe spouts. And his ironic hipster (or is it faux hipster?) demeanor is closer to the realm of performance art. Fortunately the two sides of Belknap's personality feed each other: his inner performance artist keeps his material and point of view fresh--I've never heard him joke about airline food, TV, or socks getting lost in the laundry--and his inner stand-up keeps his material funny. Belknap's weekly late-night variety show also bridges the gap between comedy and performance, culling acts from Chicago's performance, poetry, and emerging stand-up scenes. His only stipulation to the artists: the material must make people laugh. The night I caught the show the bill included performance poet Sheila Donahue playing a very dour postpunk German artist, stand-up Deb Downing trying out some daring material, Beau O'Reilly telling a story about a hippie friend, and Belknap reading a killing parody of a Penthouse "Forum" letter so grotesque and perverse even Bob Guccione would never publish it. Most amazing was how well these very different performers complemented one another: Donahue's hip cerebral jab at the art scene was nicely balanced by Downing's flat-out silliness, and O'Reilly's carefully crafted story by Belknap's flip wit. Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln, 773-327-6666. Through December 11: Saturdays, 10 PM. $10 or "pay what you can." --Jack Helbig
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bill Ward.