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Friday, January 11, 2019

Zanies executive director says he would book Louis C.K.

Posted By on 01.11.19 at 03:03 PM

Keep your hands where we can see them, Louis. - FLOWIZM
  • Flowizm
  • Keep your hands where we can see them, Louis.

The two-drink minimum is a standard at old-school comedy clubs, a subtle reminder that making money is priority number one. A glance at the menu at the Rosemont Zanies makes the already unpleasant proposition even worse: a drink called the "Louis C.K." is still prominently featured on a list of specialty cocktails. By the way, it's a combination of coconut vodka, creme de cacao, and hazelnut liqueur that would surely give me a hangover that rivals the queasy feeling I get whenever I think about C.K. these days.

Louis C.K.'s comeback tour that no one asked for has ignited a conversation in the comedy community about how clubs should handle performers accused of sexual misconduct, what redemption for those performers could look like, and whether art can be separated from the artist. On Tuesday, January 8, Vulture published "17 Comedy Bookers on Whether They'd Put Louis C.K. Onstage." Reporter Dan Reilly reached out to 70 club owners, managers, and talent bookers across the country; 40 never responded, 13 declined comment, and five said that, yes, they would book C.K. All of those last five were men, and all were enthusiastic in their responses. Among them was Zanies executive director Bert Haas.

"From a booker's point of view, I would say absolutely you should book him," Haas responded.

I would book him in a heartbeat for a couple of reasons. Number one, stand-ups are supposed to be controversial. They're the people that poke the buttons of people. Number two, he was never charged with a crime, so where do you draw the line? Would we not have booked Richard Pryor after his accident or when he talked about taking shots at his ex-wife?

I'm going to draw a line, because I don't want anyone to say, "Bert would book a rapist." Absolutely not. You don't invite a predator into your home. But as a business, absolutely I would book Louis C.K. He's a brilliant comedian. Any comedy-club booker that worries about a comedian hurting their business is in the wrong business. Louis hasn't been charged with any crime. I haven't heard of any formal complaints or criminal charges. I separate the art from the artist. As far as people protesting, they have every right to do that. Like every stand-up comedian says, "If you don't like my material and you're offended, leave."

I used to be a fan of C.K., so I understand how he got to be so popular in the first place. I even favorably reviewed his TV show, Louie, here at the Reader. (FX severed its relationship with C.K. in 2017 in the wake of the allegations.) But I don't see anything he's done as valuable enough to justify forgiving his behavior. I gave Zanies publicist Rick Geiser a call to see if Haas had anything else to say for himself, or if, after the article ran, he had reconsidered his comments (Haas himself is not granting interviews at this time). Geiser confirmed that Haas would indeed still book C.K. And before I even asked, Geiser volunteered that the club can neither confirm nor deny that C.K. is scheduled for a future show at one of the four Zanies venues, three of which are in the Chicago area. I had not considered that C.K. might be still be booked in Chicago or drop in at any moment here—as he did last August in New York, when he first returned to the scene at the Comedy Cellar. Maybe people have forgotten that two Chicago comics were among the women who told their C.K. stories in the New York Times report that brought him down.

Even if C.K. doesn't repeat his past behavior of forcing others to watch him masturbate without consent (something he has since admitted to), he will at the very least be given a platform to continue to mock Parkland shooting survivors and nonbinary people the way he did in a set last month at the comedy club Governor's on Long Island. Free speech is one thing: C.K. can say whatever he wants. And yes, his initial renown was due in part to his offensive behavior onstage. But when bookers use status as an excuse to give stage time to known predators whose punch lines come at the expense of traumatized and marginalized groups, it signifies to lesser-known comedians that such behavior is OK. That standard creates an unsafe and unwelcoming environment for women and queer people and other underrepresented voices in comedy—the people who should be given more opportunities to perform, not fewer. No one seems to think anything C.K. is doing right now is funny.

While there seems to be very little public pushback against Haas's comments so far, I have seen plenty of praise on Twitter for the response LA comedy producer Mike Mulloy gave in the same Vulture piece: "Louis C.K. can toss my salad and peel my potatoes. He's not sorry. He's sorry he got caught. He's sorry for himself. . . . He should have to sit out twice as long as the women whose careers he's directly impacted. Any comic who disagrees can kiss my ass."

It doesn't seem like a difficult or controversial stance for venue owners to take. Plenty of diverse voices with undeniable talent deserve stage time over people like C.K. And it can't be hard to find a better person to name a cocktail after.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Chicago rockers share their Mutiny memories, foggy and otherwise

Posted By on 12.12.18 at 06:00 AM

The Indignants bomb the Mutiny with bags of flour on December 14, 2001. - CHRIS ANDERSON
  • Chris Anderson
  • The Indignants bomb the Mutiny with bags of flour on December 14, 2001.

"Once one of my door guys said, 'The greatest thing about the Mutiny is that anyone can play here,'" says Mutiny owner Ed Mroz. "'The worst thing about the Mutiny is that anyone can play here.'"

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Rahm's mopless privatization deal has left the schools filthier than ever

Posted By on 04.10.18 at 06:00 AM

Drake Elementary, at 2710 S. Dearborn, failed pest and bathroom categories during a 2017 "blitz" inspection. - CPS
  • CPS
  • Drake Elementary, at 2710 S. Dearborn, failed pest and bathroom categories during a 2017 "blitz" inspection.

As I was reading the latest Sun-Times exposé on filthy Chicago Public Schools, my mind flashed back to a conversation I had in 2014 with Lenny, an old pal who’s worked as a CPS janitor for years.

“You wouldn’t believe this bullshit,” he told me. “They took away our mops.”

It was part of one of Mayor Rahm's privatization schemes. In this case, CPS let a bunch of janitors go and farmed out janitorial contracts to a couple of well-connected firms.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Smashing Pumpkins announce a tour with most of their original lineup, but they’re still the Billy Corgan show

Posted By on 02.15.18 at 12:42 PM

Billy Corgan at Glastonbury in 2013, which shouldn't be any different from Billy Corgan in Chicago in 2018 - COURTESY OF SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Courtesy of Sun-Times Media
  • Billy Corgan at Glastonbury in 2013, which shouldn't be any different from Billy Corgan in Chicago in 2018

Today Billy Corgan's Smashing Pumpkins announced that three-fourths of their original lineup would reunite for a summer tour, a moment that Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, and guitarist James Iha have been moving toward for a couple years. Corgan resuscitated the Pumpkins brand in 2007, after roughly seven years of dormancy, and since then he and a revolving-door crew of musicians (including Chamberlin on occasion) have released four albums of new material and toured extensively. In March 2016, on the LA stop of the band's acoustic tour with Liz Phair, Iha joined Corgan and Chamberlin for several songs, mostly from 1993's Siamese Dream. Soon after that show, Corgan began teasing a proper Pumpkins reunion—perhaps the closest he'll come to acknowledging that he can't reproduce the band's early-90s cachet on his own.

Since then Iha has contributed to Corgan's second solo album, October's Ogilala, and last month Corgan posted an Instagram shot of himself, Iha, and Chamberlin in front of a studio mixer. A couple weeks later he clarified in another Instagram caption: "We are currently in the studio with Rick Rubin." On Saturday, the Pumpkins' site debuted a countdown clock, which the band's Instagram feed promptly rendered pointless by hinting at performances in Chicago, LA, and New York. Of course, lots of us could tell the Pumpkins were trying to get the old band back together just from the public feuding this past week between Corgan and original bassist D'arcy Wretzky.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Friend Dahmer is a portrait of the mass murderer as a young man

Posted By on 11.14.17 at 01:21 PM

Ross Lynch (center) in My Friend Dahmer
  • Ross Lynch (center) in My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer
(which is now playing at Webster Place) takes place in 1978, and the movie evokes a certain type of filmmaking that flourished in the U.S. around that time—an improbable mixture of art house sensibilities and exploitation-movie content. Dahmer draws viewers in with a provocative title, which promises to reveal intimate secrets about serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, then refuses to deliver any details about his crimes. Rather, it's a portrait of the killer as a young man—the movie depicts Dahmer's senior year of high school and the events leading up to his first murder. Director Marc Meyers, adapting a graphic novel by Derf Backderf, exploits viewers' curiosity about Dahmer's gruesome actions to raise open-ended questions about what turns a human being into a monster.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

The still-shocking Seven Beauties dares to look for humor in the atrocities of World War II

Posted By on 05.04.17 at 04:20 PM

Seven Beauties
  • Seven Beauties

This weekend the Gene Siskel Film Center kicks off a monthlong retrospective devoted to Italian writer-director Lina Wertmüller with the 1975 black comedy Seven Beauties. One of the most contentious films of its decade, Beauties is a picaresque tale of one man's survival through World War II; its most controversial passages take place in a realistically rendered Nazi concentration camp. Wertmüller gained her reputation as a provocateur with such international hits as Love & Anarchy and Swept Away, and Beauties is perhaps her most provocative film. It presents the protagonist's survival as a sick joke, and it invokes the commedia dell'arte tradition in its presentations of fascism, murder, and genocide. Remarkably the movie was one of Wertmüller's biggest successes, particularly in the U.S., where it was nominated for four Oscars, including best director. (Wertmüller was in fact the first woman to receive this distinction.) Seen today Beauties remains a problematic work, a compelling and offensive movie that invites viewers to laugh at some of the most troubling subjects.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Groupon's goofy 'clip-in man bun' goes viral

Posted By on 11.19.15 at 01:30 PM

Groupon's "Clip-in Man Bun"
  • Groupon's "Clip-in Man Bun"

Ashley Hamer expected the "clip-in man bun" to receive a few scattered guffaws when she wrote a Groupon ad for it last week.

Instead the puffy attachable-hairpiece sale went viral, inspiring a #Manbun hashtag on Twitter and countless memes, many of which involved photoshopping faux man buns on celebrities (Obama, Donald Trump, and NBA commentator Ernie Johnson, for example). Hundreds of media outlets—from CNN to GQ to the New York Post—quickly hopped on the bandwagon with incredulous "Can you believe this is a thing?" coverage.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The great Chicago Reader potato-chip-eating challenge, 2015 edition

Posted By on 10.08.15 at 12:30 PM

BRIANNA WELLEN
  • Brianna Wellen

If art is all about subverting the expected, then the people at Lay's are some of our most popular and profitable contemporary artists. Forget Jeff Koons: you can find Lay's experimental flavors in every goddamned grocery and convenience store in our fair nation. Every year, they give us the opportunity to appreciate their genius even more when they turn over new-potato-chip-flavor-devising duties to their loyal customers. Coming up with a new potato chip flavor isn't easy, y'all! If you have any doubts, just try it yourself.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Hard to Be a God—the bigger, demented brother of Mad Max: Fury Road—plays Chicago for one more night

Posted By on 06.08.15 at 01:00 PM

Hard to Be a God
  • Hard to Be a God
Tonight at 6:30 PM the Siskel Film Center presents the last Chicago screening of Aleksei German's Hard to Be a God (2013). It's perhaps the most important movie in town—an epic, philosophical work by one of Russia's most venerated directors, who worked on the film for over a decade and died during postproduction. In God every image—every sound effect, practically—reflects years of serious thought, although the filmmaking itself feels spontaneous. As in his previous features My Friend Ivan Lapshin (1984) and Khroustaliov, My Car! (1998), German's camera is almost always roving the scene (the Wellesian camera movements are breathtaking), creating the impression that the filmmaker is first discovering the setting—an alien planet that resembles medieval Europe—along with the audience. And given how densely realized the setting is, he achieves the effect with extraordinary ease. The narrative of God can be difficult to follow, since so many stray details are vying for one's attention, but the film's opacity is deliberate. Not only that, it's essential to German's artistic achievement: God is a meditation on humankind's propensity for barbarism, and German made this horrible aspect of our nature indigestible.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Horrible Bosses 2 has a lot to say about degradation—and almost none of it's funny

Posted By on 12.01.14 at 01:30 PM

Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses 2
  • Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses 2
Warning: This post contains spoilers.

In a pivotal sequence in Horrible Bosses 2, which opened commercially this week, Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day)—a sort of white-collar Three Stooges—are plotting to kidnap the grown son of the ruthless CEO who has bankrupted their independent manufacturing business. Dale proposes they go to the dentist's office where he used to work and steal some laughing gas, which they'll use to knock their victim unconscious. They break into the office after hours, only to be interrupted by the dentist (Jennifer Aniston), who's about to use the waiting room for a session of her sex addicts' support group. Nick, unable to get away in time, gets mistaken for a new member while his friends hide in the bathroom. At first he thinks he's at an AA meeting, and when pressured to share his history (something that would never happen at a real support group), he delivers a vaguely worded "confession" that makes him sound like a gay S&M freak. (As far as we know, the straitlaced Nick is nothing of the sort, which makes the situation that much more embarrassing for him.) The dentist declares she likes trying to "turn" gay men, then promptly kicks out the rest of the group so she can bully Nick into sex. The dentist now preoccupied, Kurt and Dale fetch some laughing gas, then wait in the car and ponder whether Nick's confession was true.

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