Chicago comedians Mark Raterman and Tim Robinson both remember their favorite moments shooting the Comedy Central pilot for My Mans in Los Angeles in October. For Robinson, it was having a professional dog actor on set. For Raterman, it was filming a sex scene. “I got three quarters of a boner,” Raterman says. Adds Robinson, “I got a boner when the dog was there.”
From the back of a touring van to a Los Angeles backlot, sketch troupe My Mans has come a long way. It was formed on the road in 2009 by Raterman and Robinson (two-fifths of the beloved iO improvising quintet Cook County Social Club) along with their Second City TourCo director Andy Miara. “Tim and I would just goof off and do bits,” says Raterman. “One day all three of us got together with the intention of really pushing a sketch group.”
Cut to 2010, when the trio picked up a camera and got serious by filming a 17-minute pilot using equipment and crew largely borrowed from Northwestern, where Miara was enrolled in a writing program. The aim was to create something they could shop to Adult Swim. The trio felt confident. “You’re only a degree or move from wherever you want to go,” Raterman says. “At the same time, it wasn’t as easy as that. We knew it was going to take some time.”
None of these guys are slouches. Not only is Cook County Social Club a recklessly funny weekly display of grounded scenework, seamless transitions and group mind, but both have helped pushsketch comedy to its limits; think of Robinson’s recent work at the Second City Mainstage and Raterman’s appearances with Heavyweight, a troupe that includes T.J. Miller, Nick Vatterott and Brady Novak. Miara, meanwhile, teaches at both the Second City and Columbia College.
In January, the guys were able to land a meeting with Comedy Central through Bob Odenkirk’s wife, Naomi, who represents Robinson. The network liked the self-made pilot so the trio hammered out a narrowed-down concept in which Raterman and Robinson would play fictionalized versions of themselves, a guy who runs a food truck and his deadbeat buddy.
Comedy Central green-lighted production and the trio spent the summer writing and workshopping scenes in Chicago for a non-airing pilot that filmed in October and included bit roles for many Chicago-bred comedians, including Brad Morris, Mort Burke and Emily Wilson. Comedy Central has six months to decide whether it wants to buy episodes. “We’re really happy with it,” Raterman says. “We have a product that we all stand behind and worked really well incorporating Comedy Central’s notes.”
Meanwhile, the trio is back in Chicago, and Cook County Social Club, missing two players for most of October, is a quintet once again. But for how long? “I don’t think it will ever disappear,” Robinson says. “If we all end up in L.A., we will just keep doing stuff out there. The plan is for us to always work together.”
As for the story of three Chicago comedians who wound up with a knock on the door from Comedy Central, Miara says it wasn’t dumb luck. “We got together two and a half years ago with the exact intention of, how can we get a TV show within two years and made a game plan. That more than anything really pushed it forward.” And now they wait…and so do we.
My Mans plays Schubas December 31. Cook County Social Club improvises Tuesdays at iO.