THE SET UP:
First of all, here is who the hell I am…really no one. I am a mom of two amazing kids (a teen and a 9-year-old). I live in Chicago and I work at The Second City, or I did before lockdown. I mean I still work there, but there is no work to be had right now. Plus Second City is looking to be acquired, so our future like everyone’s is unknown. In May a bunch of comedy friends of mine and I started a weekly internet live streaming comedy game show called Wisecrackin’ . It was a show out of necessity that I didn’t know I needed. See I don’t really perform much anymore. I opened four different storefront theater’s in Chicago over my 20-year adventures. The last one I owned, and it nearly killed me. I sold it in 2017 and vowed I would never produce a show again. I would do drop-in shows if asked, interviews, podcasts, and direct my students at Second City. I am no spring chicken, I am by no means old unless you mean in the world of Hollywood, and my life has lead me here. To this moment, this weird F-up’d moment for all of us. I wasn’t supposed to be producing a show, not now, not like this. But after pitching the idea to a few different people no one was interested I felt compelled to make it happen. So my full-throated need to have a project took over. I started doing the show. Now obviously it is not a very big show. We get between 100–300 audience members per show. But it has strangely become very important to this time. My friends who are working road comics have had life halt as they scramble to try to get drive-in movie theater gigs or beer gardens. Plus I have an uncanny way of talking people into doing stuff. It is my only superpower, and it has gotten me in trouble more than once. Somehow I have talked 22 strangers into writing me a brand new show every week for free. I have talked about 15 of my acquaintances and very close friends to show up and perform for free. I would like the show to become something huge and wonderful for all of us. But if it never becomes anything more than that thing that got us through this moment I will be satisfied with that.
I had thought if I could get some bigger names on the show we could grow the audience. Growing an online audience is NOT my strength or you would know who the hell I am. So I am going to an OLD playbook of how to get butts in seats and it doesn’t exactly translate to this time. So I was looking around on Cameo. It is a site where you can connect with famous people and ask them to wish you Happy Birthday, or say Sorry You Have Cancer, or whatever people want to hear from celebrities. You do this all to a tune of anything from $50-Big $$$ depending on how famous someone is. I only really got hip to Cameo because one of our regular castmates Steve Gadlin was using it to get cheap celebrities to do endorsements for HIS internet show. Cameo launched a new feature where you could text message a celebrity for $1. No promise they will write back. If they do and you want to reply it is another $1. So I was like F’it I am gonna spend $20 and text a bunch of comics that I would love to hang out with. That was really all I went into this thinking…1. Would I love to hang out with them 2. How likely are they to do something so low rent for free
The people I contacted I would love to hang out with ANY of them for 5 min. But it was for sure varying on who I thought would reply. In some cases, I swam pretty shallowly (so I thought) and in some cases I took a big swing. Here is the list of people I contacted. You can decide for yourself If I swang to big or wasted money.
In no particular order: Andy Dick, Chevy Chase, Gilbert Gottfried, Michael Ian Black, Bob Saget, Paul Rubens, D.L. Hugley (this one I was like…big swing and a miss. He never replied but I think I would die on the spot if he did), Jamie Kennedy, Judy Gold, Chris Gethard, Anthony Michael Hall, Danny Bonaduce, Marsha Warfield, Laraine Newman, Paula Poundstone, and Jay Mohr.
The pitch was simple. “Me and some no-name comedians from Chicago do a live stream comedy game show Friday’s 8pm CST wanna sit in? Wisecrackin.com we would love to hang out. Comedians are pitted in a head to head contest to write a punchline to a set up they have never seen.”
The first person to reply to was Marsha Warfield. God, I love her. Not only fondly remember her on Night Court, but she was one of the only women (and the only WOC) along with Elayne Boosler to be a part of the historic Comedy Store strike that opened the doors for comedians to be paid. I teach comedy, after all, so I am a geek for deep dives like this. Here is what she replied:
“Hello, how are you? Interesting concept! As a native Chicagoan, I recognize the flavor of the city in that project. I’ll try to check it out. Keep smiling!”
I was over the moon. I didn’t want to spend another $1 to tell her how much I loved her. I figured she knew that was why I messaged her.
The next person to reply was Laraine Newman. One of the first women to be on Saturday Night Live. Holy shit I am in Comedy Dork’s heaven. She said:
“Awww guys. Thanks for asking me. I’m busy that day and writing punch lines isn’t actually my skill set. It’s a great premise though and I’ll definitely watch it. “
Well I defiantly needed to spend another dollar to tell her how much I dig her. Hands down. So I replied: “Thanks for responding, I adore you and hope you are staying safe.”
Just getting this acknowledgment from people I look up to was a very cool feeling. I have met and even in very very few cases worked with some celebrities. But it’s a weird time and people keep saying “get a celebrity, they aren’t doing shit” so it feels strangely possible. Anyway.
The next person to reply was Paula Poundstone. Since Wait Wait Don’t Tell me records in Chicago she is doubly loved as a local favorite and a national treasure. She said: “I might be able to do it.”
I started to shake with excitement when I read that. Yup ‘nother $1 to you miss Poundstone. I said “Amazing you name the date, can we take this to email?” she responded with her email.
Holy shit. This might actually work? What a dumb idea I had and it might actually get a really cool comic on my tiny internet show. I was gobsmacked.
I sent her three emails before I figured, she either isn’t seeing these or the novelty wore off fast and she has moved onto another shiny object. Cool Cool, still nice that she replied.
WEDNESDAY OCT 7, 2020
I had woken up with terrible news. My artistic home was on the selling block. The hard part was we didn’t find out via our company, department heads, or HR. We found out from a Variety Article Kelly Leonard RT’d. This can’t be. This can’t F’ing be. A 60 year old comedy institution could be bought by the likes of Walmart. I felt sick. On top of that my cast was starting to get outdoor gigs. They were getting them last min and I was really stuck for two spots this week. See Quiplash 2 (the version we were using for the game at the time) required I have 8 players before I can open it up to the audience. It is a long story that maybe I will return and link sometime. But just know I needed 8 comics. I only had 6 out of my roster of 15. Getting regular club rats to do the show is no big deal. I know plenty of them. Plus all the Improvisers that are doing nothing. So I wasn’t too worried about it, but it was one more thing on my plate. Death by a thousand cuts. My girls are home doing remote school these days but my husband is back at work. I have always been a remote worker since I sold my club. Freelance writing mostly, social media, that kind of stuff. So I told the girls I would walk over to the sub shop and get sandwiches for lunch. As I was walking back I got a ping from my Cameo. It was Jay Mohr. He said: “fuck yes! respect the email bro” Then he gave me his email. My stomach dropped. I stopped what I was doing in my tracks. What if I don’t respond fast enough…after all it had been two weeks since I sent out those first rounds of Cameo requests. I dropped that $1 and said “Love it, I will send an email now, I actually really need someone this week too. Email on its way”.
I stumbled my way upstairs. Threw sandwiches and chips at my kid and rushed to the computer. Here is the email I sent with the subject line Cameo/Show/No Name Comics:
Thanks a BUNCH for being interested in the show. I actually need one more person for this Fridays show Oct 9 at 8pm CST but we would love to have you ANYTIME you want.
Here is one of the shows so you can see kind of what it is all about: RECENT SHOW
Basically, we are playing Quiplash by Jackbox Games, but we are customizing it with our own prompts. I have 22 writers who write the prompts and intermission game each week.
What questions do you have, and when would you like to jump in?
He replied immediately: “I can do this Friday no problem gimme a call.” and gave me his number.
WTF? Seriously. This is the start of a Lifetime movie, but I become the stalker in the end and kill the celebrity because I have gone mad. That is the first thought I had in my head. “Don’t get crazy, just be cool”
I call the number. “Um, hi is Jay there?”
The other line is a familiar voice, but almost as if they are on a prank call about to ask me about my refrigerator running.
“Yes, who is calling?” “Um, Angie” I replied. “What is your name? You didn’t say it was Angie, did you? Did you sign your name Angie?” “Yes that is my name,” I thought I was failing my first quiz. “Oh son of a bitch I am looking and you did sign it Angie. Well, Angie from Chicago how are you?” “Not great, Second City is being sold.” “Hey, no Second City is important. But it is just a building. If it goes away, and that would be terrible, but if it goes away it doesn't take away your experiences. It doesn't’ take away your relationships, the bonds you have built while in this building. It doesn't take away you and who you are.”
Holy shit, now I am going to start crying because I am having a therapy session with Jay Mohr and this is not how I thought my day was going to go. I choked back my tears. “Well, shit Jay Mohr you really are a life coach.” “And a fucking good one too,” he said without missing a beat.
What is happening right now? How is this how this story starts? Will I end up hiring Jay Mohr as my life coach because…why not. I feel a little dizzy. So I stop pacing (something I do a lot when on the phone or writing bits) and sit. I try to focus.
“So, I have this show.” “Yeah,” he interrupts “What’s your deal. You got kids?” “Yeah I have two, a teen and a 9 year old” i replied. “Me too, teen and 10 year old. You had a couple of marriages in there?” “No, just the one. Still together” I stammered. “Oh, not me I’ve been married twice” he offered off the cuff. I replied “Oh, well we didn’t think we wanted the second one. And by the time we decided we did it took a while to stick.” “Oh not me, I would have had five if I could make them,” he said.
I realized I don't’ actually know anything about Jay Mohr. I mean I know the casual fan stuff. He was on SNL, he was a constant centerfold to all my teen magazines, he is Stand Up royalty, he as done RomComs. That is it. If you asked me at that moment to say a Jay Mohr quote I don’t think I could have. Up until this moment, I didn’t think of him, or frankly anyone, who I came into puberty humping pillows to the thought of them in my teenage room, as people. But here is the person, in front of me with the whole life he lived. I wondered if he talked so openly with everyone or if I caught him at a weird time. We did end up talking about the show and he seemed excited. He told me a few jokes, or really bits, off the cuff that were…risky. Not risky for him, but for anyone else. I felt like he wanted to make sure I wasn’t looking to cancel him…I am not. He is flirty, very flirty. Almost like it is a tick. (TOTAL PROJECTION COMING) It is like he doesn’t feel like he is getting a laugh so he goes back to the cute centerfold guy. I think that is his superpower. He ends the call by saying he will send me his assistant's info. Then the last thing he says to me is “Your fun”. He also texted me that. I would live off those words for the rest of the day. A comedy legend just told me and texted me I was fun. I got to work promoting the show and getting the writers ready for what would happen in the next three days. It was exciting. I was excited.