Chicago Wrap Up

I went to Chicago. It was cold.

And I had a wonderful time! I was surprised how much I liked the city itself. I didn’t know how many parks there were. I love millennium Park. Especially the Cloud Gate Sculpture.

I really enjoyed the architecture, the beautiful holiday decorations, and the excellent pizza.

I got a chance to see some shows there, too. Wednesday night I went to see Comedysportz, Thursday Second City, Friday Improv Olympic (IO) and Saturday, New Year’s Eve, I saw Jim Gaffigan do stand up at Zanies Comedy Club.

I have to say that the best stuff I saw was scripted. Second City put on a great show in Iraqtile Dysfunction They had strong characters: a hurricane Katrina victim called “Snake Lady,” a horny old lady harassing a anti-war petitioner, and a security clerk with a hilarious Latin-American accent. The cast was well put together–well dressed, professional actors with great stage skills–voice, movement, presence, etc. There’s an intangible quality to a great ensemble that they and several other troupes have. It’s as if you wish you could be friends with them. Or that they seem to know just a little more than you do about what’s going on. Its part of what makes you feel like paying $20 to be with them for a couple of hours is a pretty good deal.

Jim Gaffigan’s stand up comedy was excellent. He made it look easy. He had this great trick of meta-commentary throughout his show. He had this midwestern lady voice he would use to comment on his performance. “He went to far with that one. That’s not nice.” “Why does he keep talking about food. I think he has food problems.” It made me want to start trying out some stand up again. He has a special coming up on Comedy Central on January 29th.

I saw the Whirled News Tonight Show at Improv Olympic with special interest because I’m in a production of that show coming up this April. As the audience comes in, the audience members clip out articles from the paper and stick them on a cork board on the backstage walls. When the show starts the improvisers take an article off the wall, read some of it, and then do some scenes inspired by the articles. The scene work was pretty strong and the articles inspired some interesting situations. Like an article about the War on Christmas led to a scene at T?IF–a multidenominational family restaurant. From the title, I was expecting a little more of a news-show parody. I think a little more genre features might make it even snappier–some intro music, a news desk, some news co-host type banter. I’m interested to see what happens with the show here in Austin, if we are taking our own spin on it or if it’s going to be pretty much like the original, which has had a very successfully run in Chicago.

I had a great time overall, but I felt like I didn’t have enough time to see everything I would want to see. Hopefully I’ll be back with GGG some time this year. I want to see more shows and also explore some of the funkier neighborhoods. I can’t wait to go back.

Next on the list of big cities I still haven’t been to yet: Los Angeles. Or is it Portland?

About Shana Merlin

Merlin Works is the brainchild of Shana Merlin: improviser, teacher, and performer. Since 1996, she’s been leading classes that stretch people’s imaginations, push them out of their comfort zones, and make them laugh out loud for hours at a time.
Replies: 4


  1. Sara said:

    I have been twice now, and missed out on going to see a Second City show both times. I will have to get my friend Mark to meet me there (which is what I tried to do when I was last in Chick-car-go). I’m glad you had fun. When you are ready to go to LA, let me know. I’ve lived there and go back frequently to see friends (and in fact was planning to go back this Spring Break to visit). I know my way around pretty well. My one piec of advice would be, “rent a car” — the public transportation SUCKS!!!!!!!!!

  2. Anonymous said:

    Sounds like fun! I love the pics.

  3. Louis Merlin said:

    Can I have a slice of pizza too??

  4. Marilyn said:

    Sounds like you had a good intro to the charms of Chicagoland. Chicago has a lot of personalities and neighborhoods. Makes it fun and accessible.
    Hope your next trip is even better than the first.

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