Chicago comedy writers make strides in TV and film

These five Chicago-trained comedy writers are invading airwaves with Windy City wit



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It’s a neat feeling, watching something like Comedy Central’s Workaholics and recognizing Maribeth Monroe from her great work at Second City, or knowing Sonic’s slush cup runneth over with the improvised talents of TJ Jagodowski and Peter Grosz in its commercials. We’re understandably proud of our hometown talent and like seeing them excel beyond Chicago’s urban sprawl. A recent wave of hires, originating from both coasts, has put the attention behind the camera as well: These five Chicago-trained comedy writers are making a name for themselves in bylines and executive producer credits, ensuring we’re one step closer to taking over all of Hollywood.

Katie Rich

Katie Rich

Katie Rich is always the smartest person in the room. Not the kind of smart where she’d rub it in anyone’s face by saying things like “Did you read that article in the Times?” But the kind of smart where she’ll perfectly articulate something that’s been bothering you for days, and be glad to have helped. Once for Write Club, a literary bout in which two writers are given broad topics (life vs. death, etc.) to defend, Rich found a way to spin “rock” into a shameful admission of loneliness and a complicated push-pull between her desires to either spit in the face of wedding culture or conform, all in like, six-and-a-half minutes. That kind of smart.

It’s no surprise, then, that Rich was plucked off of Second City Mainstage in late November 2013, in the middle of her third revue, to work on Saturday Night Live as one of the “Weekend Update” writers. It’s exactly the kind of job that requires political savviness (which Rich exhibited in newsy pieces for The Paper Machete) and the ability to make complicated ideas seem simple. Their moving target is Rich’s sweet spot.

Still, it’s a lotta work. Rich is required to write 30 jokes a day, and in the end she and the rest of the posse cut it down from 600 jokes to 12. This is where her training kicks in. “At Second City, you take material you wrote that day, put it up in front of an audience that night, and the feedback is immediate and you can't argue with it,” she says. (You know, like “You suck!” or whatever.) “So I've been able to come into SNL and write quickly and often without becoming too precious and attached to my writing.”

She’s also in good company: SNL boasts the additional hometown pride of Aidy Bryant, Vanessa Bayer, Michael Patrick O’Brien, Tim Robinson and “Update” coanchor Cecily Strong. It’s nice to score another one in the “win” column, especially someone who’s exactly the kind of smart Katie Rich is.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this piece incorrectly stated that Rich had been a castmember of Whirled News Tonight. We regret the error.

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