True to its name, Wet Cash culminates with one lucky audience member being presented with a wad of bills that have been stewing in a fishbowl during the hourlong stand-up show. It's a decent amount of money—something in the realm of 30 bucks—that comes out of the producers' pockets, with the wee downside that it's too waterlogged to carry home in a purse or wallet.
Making it rain (to an extent literally) isn't merely a gimmick to draw crowds to the weekly showcase, which takes place on Fridays in a shadowy corner of Dark Tower Comics in Lincoln Square. It's illustrative of the kind of eyebrow-raising humor encouraged by the show's producers: Peter Kemme, Jacob Lowrey, Dan Muller, and Noah Rocklin. The quartet attempts to preempt audience confusion by explaining, at the top of the show, that the venue is, as Lowrey puts it, "a fuck-around room."
Wet Cash has run for 18 months, but mostly escaped attention until recently, when news of its startling acts and modest but loyal following started circulating by word of mouth. I arrived early, and each producer was eager to shake my hand and ask where I grew up and how I came to live in Chicago. In the rear of the room, they set up a tech booth, cordoned off with a bedsheet. The comics shop can accommodate only about two dozen people, seated on folding chairs that face a microphone between two bookshelves.
Absurdist comics like Steve Gerard, who has a decade of experience, have found a happy home at Wet Cash. When I swung by, Gerard's friend Ben stormed the stage demanding an explanation for why Gerard had slept with Ben's wife. When Ben discovered his wife and Gerard had done the nasty on a boat, Ben enthusiastically pulled down his pants to reveal the word "boats" scrawled across his butt cheeks. He and Gerard hugged it out and all seemed to be forgiven. Three seconds later, Ben was back. "Wait, I forgot . . . you slept with my wife!"
Audiences root for the comics at Wet Cash, and it shows. Stand-up Melody Kamali felt comfortable sharing personal details about her journey across the sexuality spectrum as if she were catching up with an old friend. Her act wasn't as overtly iconoclastic as Gerard's, but was a refreshing break from the setup-punchline convention.
"There's a wealth of talent in Chicago—people of different sexual orientations, countries of origin, and race," Lowrey says of the producers' efforts to diversify the show. "We don't want four white dudes talking about their dicks and drinking beer."
There'll be plenty to talk about when, around Thanksgiving, Lowrey makes good on his plan to toss the giveaway cash in a bowl of gravy. v