It has been said that comedy isn’t pretty, but what if it were? What if there were an elegant bar where you could order a craft cocktail, then retreat to a handsomely appointed backroom where half a dozen of the city’s best merry pranksters would amuse you with their sparkling wit? Credit producers Adam Burke, Matty Ryan, and Jeff Steinbrunner for creating a showcase that is comfortable for audiences and comics alike. But never fear: The comedy remains unfiltered, unfettered, and unadulterated. Sets are Thursdays at 9 p.m.
February 03, 2014 | By Jason Heidemann | Special to the Tribune
By the time “Parlour Car” reaches the end of its epic, three-hour anniversary show at Bar Deville in the Ukrainian Village last Thursday, nearly 20 of Chicago’s best comics have taken turns slinging their finest jokes to a packed house, bite-size pieces of Twix and Milky Way have whizzed across the room multiple times and headliner Mike Lebovitz has stripped down to his underwear and is on the verge of flashing us. Sometimes, an unsuspecting audience is privy to that rare treat where the lineup includes a whose who of local superstars like Martin Morrow, Bill Cruz, Ricky Gonzales and the Puterbaugh Sisters. This is one of those occasions.
“Parlour Car” is the brainchild of Chicago comedians Matty Ryan, Adam Burke and Kenny DeForest (now based in New York) and is co-produced with Jeff Steinbrunner. Barely one year old, it’s hard to believe it’s as slick and polished as any room in this city. Credit the handcrafted cocktails being served at the bar, the intimate room — small, but furnished with enough vintage chaise lounges and plush chairs to offer plenty of lounging and elbow room for all seated — and high production values from Ryan, Burke and Steinbrunner. It’s a great night out.
Ryan hosts the first half of tonight’s show. His voice is flinty and authoritative and sounds like it is right out of the Golden Age of Radio. “I recently found out that baby carrots don’t grow that way,” he says in a bit meant to point out how dumb he is. “They cut them out of the inside of old, disgusting, nasty adult carrots. I thought they just let them grow for a couple days and plucked them out of the ground all cute, delicious and glistening.” It’s funny and hits a nerve because clearly most of us in the room are laboring under the same misunderstanding.
The energy level in the room begins to ramp up when Natalie Jose hits the stage. With her cropped curls and sultry voice, Jose owns the room like she’s the star of her own cabaret show during the Jazz Age, but with more verbal brash: “Ladies, have you ever slept with a guy for the first time just because you need to go to sleep?” she asks.
Texas law gets between Chad Briggs and his beer during his brief set, Nate Simmons wishes that all DVD commentaries were delivered by sassy black women and Nick Rouley talks about trying to surprise his wife by handing her a dart and a map and telling her, “Take this dart and throw it anywhere on that map, that’s where we’re going.” The punchline? “What she didn’t know was that I’d changed the name of every single city to Pound Town.”
“Thanks, that’s my time,” says Candy Lawrence right at the top of a set that is full of wonderful and weird non-sequiturs like, “It’s a special night tonight so I flew all the way in from Skokie to be here.” She plays a cheeky round of drinking game of “Never Have I Ever” with the crowd, including, “Never have I ever been broken up with because I farted on someone during ‘The Notebook’,” and “Never have I ever chipped my tooth on a strawberry daiquiri wine cooler bottle at a rave.” It prompts comedian Danny Kallas to say, “How about a round of applause for all the comedians and whatever Candy Lawrence just did.” His is the first of many barbs the comics will trade with each other at this very insider night of comedy.
There is a surprise guest in the house. Comic Mike Lawrence is at the beginning of a long stint headlining Zanies but manages to squeeze in 10 minutes of comic tomfoolery tonight. He killed it a couple years back at a nerd-themed show at Just for Laughs. I love the specificity in his comedy and many pop culture references: “Everybody on a Greyhound bus looks like they’re from the waiting room in Beetlejuice” he says. This one also kills: “Having a stepdad is like watching a movie with David Spade and knowing that Chris Farley will never show up.”
The energy in the room is now approaching thrill-ride levels. The crowd is feeling the buzz of killer jokes and copious amounts of booze as Liza Treyger, in her deadpan delivery, wonders aloud why it’s OK for men to trash the rare movie with a female lead as yet another repetitive “Sex and the City” knockoff, meanwhile there are umpteen “Batman,” “Superman” and “Iron Man” films. Zing.Brian Babylon, meanwhile, is full of hot one liners like, “Mumford and Sons is black people Kryptonite,” and “I’m scared of black people wearing contacts because they look like Thundercats.”Marty DeRosa looks dapper as usual in his suit and talks candidly about how he frequently gets harassed for wearing it, including a recent incident with a pack of dudes at the Belmont “L” stop. “This is a suit,” he says to his bullies. “You’ll wear it one day when one of your frat brothers fall off a roof.”
By the time Stephanie Hasz delivers a rant, in character, as the son of co-host Adam Burke, we are nearing the three-hour mark and not only have many audience members scattered, but the ones who remain have long ago said farewell to sobriety. “At this point you’re just being held hostage,” says headliner Lebowitz. When the screams — from both genders — taunting Lebowitz to get naked onstage reach a deafening roar, I realize we’ve officially devolved into shrieking bachelorette party territory. But oh, what a memorable night it is.
I know this is not the most groundbreaking observation, but for a culturally engaged human living in an urban area, it is advisable to have a calendar of free or cheap regular events. That way, when friends or family come to visit, you can suddenly look like the culturally engaged urban-dwelling human you aspire to be, instead of the vaguely sad-feeling, Netflix-bingeing worm that you really are.
Anyway, I have a new thing to add to the roster, and you should think of doing this instead of queuing up Orange Is the New Black. Parlour Car is a weekly stand-up show at Bar DeVille produced by an experienced trio of comedians: the charming bros Matty Ryan and Kenny DeForest, and Adam Burke, the longtime host of Cole’s open mike. Like the velvet-accented back-room saloon where the show takes place, it is classy, comfortable, and totally affordable since it’s free. Now in its sixth month, Parlour Car is reliably curated, with at least one of the amiable hosts making an appearance.
The comedians who will hit the stage this week include out-of-towners and some of the best in the city: Chicago’s unnerving Junior Stopka and adorable Will Miles, and LA’s Brendan McGowan, who’s returning home to perform with Brandie Posey, cohost of the Lady to Lady podcast. Be sure to check out Parlour Car’s past events on Facebook if you want to see a sweet photo collection of eagles attacking each other and other animals.
1/29/2014 – Parlour Car – One Year Anniversary Show!
1/29/2013 – Debut of Parlour Car (Comedy of Chicago)
January 2013 – Press Release:
A new comedy showcase makes Bar DeVille even cooler