Surprise Party | Lilly's | Stand-Up | Chicago Reader

Surprise Party Free Recommended The Short List (Theater) Image

When: Wednesdays. Continues through July 20 2017

As we took a couple of bar seats near the stage at Lilly's, on Lincoln, my friend whispered to me, "This isn't going to be an open-mike thing, is it?" I don't necessarily have a problem with open-mike nights—hey, comedians gotta learn how to comedy somewhere—but I could tell from his tone he does, so I told him no and crossed my fingers. I was basically telling the truth. Surprise Party, which had its inaugural show just last week, is more like a variety-show/open-mike hybrid that benefits from some structure and curation—and a bologna sandwich. As emcee Jamie Campbell explained, the show operates thusly: each week five walk-in open-mike spots are drawn from a beer pitcher. In between the stand-up, comics perform prepared bits, including a character piece, a demonstration, and a rant. It culminates in a joke-off in which two comedians take the same audience suggestion and write a three-minute routine on the fly. The evening's highlight was Ali Clayton's character piece, a hilariously physical bit in which she played a sexy bologna sandwich—a sultry rendition of the Oscar Mayer bologna song and some tasteful air humping included. Cody Melcher delivered an impassioned demonstration about how not to be a horrible human being. And Tyler Snodgrass shared confessions about a certain sexual act Southern Baptists can perform with limited guilt. Kelsie Huff, who is just great, wrapped up the night with a story about coming face-to-face with her dad's penis during a house fire. "This is gonna be a real dumb show. It's gonna be stupid as shit," Campbell said during his opening monologue, the understanding being that that's a good thing. Which it was. —Gwynedd Stuart

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