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How to be a Chicago comedy 'super fan'

Written by
James Kamp

Ultimately, the Chicago stand-up scene is only as good as its audiences. Lame crowds equal lame shows. Nothing sucks harder than trying to motivate apathetic creeps to clap for a show they just don't support. Fortunately, the Chicago scene has an awesome fan base, and if you go to enough shows you will start to notice a very interesting phenomenon: "The Super Fan."

A comedy super fan is a person who not only loves stand-up comedy, but actively goes to as many shows as possible, supports the the bar/venue, is a perfect audience member and helps spread the good word of local humor. Chicago seems to breed them like no other city. I interviewed three such people to get their take on being a Chicago super fan.

James Webb, who started as a fan and is now a co-producer of Stand Up Stand Up, one of the best independent showcases in Chicago: "Sit in the front, switch your phone to silent, laugh heartily and don't talk (whispering is talking) or heckle unless you want a room full of producers, comedians and everyone else in the audience to straight-up murder you. Respect the room, the comedians and your bartender. And be a regular somewhere. If you like a certain show, bring some friends and go support it. Find out if the comics on that show you love do their own shows, and go to those shows, too. An overwhelming percentage of the best comics in the country cut their chops at bar shows in Chicago first, and there's nothing cooler than being able to watch these people figure it all out before moving on to conquer their dreams on bigger screens and in bigger venues. Odds are really good you've already seen the next Hannibal Buress at a weekly showcase, so go out and find them again."

Sam Ash McHale, a stalwart of the Chicago scene and a co-producer of the biweekly Best Night Ever, another solid independent showcase: "From stand-up to sketch to improv, this city is full of hardworking people, locals and transplants, who all want to entertain you. Keep your eyes and ears open to what’s in front of you. Not liking every performer or comedic subgenre won’t make you any less of a super fan, but if you hold all comics to a certain standard, you might miss something great that you didn't know you were looking for. If you don’t like what you saw, there’s plenty more to see. So tell your friends about someone who made you laugh at a showcase, check out a show you haven’t been to yet, skip a club show one night for one at a bookstore or coffee house (and vice versa) or sit in the audience at an open mic (comedians definitely appreciate that one). Plus, one of the best parts about this scene is once these folks make it big, you can be proud to say that you know them."

Young, supportive and social-media savvy, Julie Anne of Arlington Heights is a comedian's dream fan: "As a 'comedy super fan,' I love going to comedy shows, but could never imagine getting up and doing it myself. I appreciate what these comedians do, but I know I am much better as an audience member. I have always used 'the scene' as a way to break from my real life. I work roughly 60 hours a week. Being able to sit down, have a drink and laugh at a comedy show is my relaxation. Comedy has been there to comfort me and cheer me up. I started going to comedy shows after a bad break-up and it was therapeutic for me to be around people who can make light of their daily life. I go to roughly two or three shows a week. Comedy is an outlet for many comedians, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that it is an outlet for many super fans." 

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