The train from Milwaukee was nice and easy. After this trip I am decidedly in favor of trains and buses over airplanes. Except in the case of long distances where the train or bus is impractical due to time constraints. It's not a fear of flight issue, it's an annoyance with the entire airport and boarding process. What is it about an airplane that makes people so stupid and move so slow.
Long lines of jagaloons, half of them in their pajamas, all dragging the ridiculously oversized and overpacked roller bags. How much shit do people think they're going to need? Those bags hold more shit than most folks will deal with in a month at home so why does it suddenly become necessary for a week long trip? It then takes forever to board the plane because the overhead bin space is running out and there's always a few people struggling to lift their mammoth bag into the fucking thing. If you can't lift the bag you packed over your head then it needs to be checked. It's not a carry-on if you can't carry the damn thing.
I've found that sitting at the gate and working on my computer or reading while zones one through whatever sluggishly board the plane then getting on right at the last minute with just my backpack not only buys me more time to get something useful done but also cuts down on my seething rage for incompetent and selfish travelers. Of course once you're on the plane there's a whole new gauntlet of bullshit. People's bare stinky feet that they don't seem to mind putting all over everything; folks who cannot keep their limbs and items in their area; and if I ever end up next to an emotional support bird I'll flight 93 the plane into the dirt.
But the train to Chicago had none of that bullshit. I walked right on with a sane and savvy gaggle of people, tossed my bag on the empty seat next to me and got comfortable enough to take a quick nap on the way down. Also, smoother than the friendly skies on top of all that.
I only had one show in the Windy City, Chicago Underground Comedy at The Beat Kitchen. Friend and fellow comedic misanthrope, James Fritz, went out of his way to help hook that up. What a sweetie boy! I'd also met one of the producers at a little comedy festival in Toronto last year. Everyone else involved with the show was so nice that I could hardly believe it.
The stand-up world has a funny way of bouncing you between cagey and guarded personalities rife with insecurities that they readily manifest into disdain or stand-offish behavior, and easy going folks who realize that the point is to have a good time and seem to operate on the idea that one good turn will in fact yield another. While I try to be like the later, I'll admit that I've been guilty of the former at times.
The show was great. Good venue, well run, solid lineup and a sizable audience of at least moderate intelligence. Aside from one drunk woman who made a few interruptions before being removed and one set that seemed a little phoned in, it was a near perfect night of bullshitting into microphones.
L.A. has dozens of little shows like that in the backs of bars, or comic book shops, or outside of any business that will still tolerate the concept. Most of them are only attended by other comedians and maybe the occasional unwitting customer. Nobody ever brings anyone out to see them. Probably because they've got nobody to come see them. A lot of young comics don't have co-workers to invite out because they're either being financially supported by wealthy parents and don't have jobs or they work in the "app-based economy" and only ever deal with customers, their cars and their phone. So a show, outside of a comedy club, with any sort of audience is always a nice surprise. Outside of L.A. that is a little easier to take for granted.
I never want to be caught phoning anything in, although I'm sure there have been times where my enthusiasm was clearly waning. Anytime someone with no ties to the entertainment world comes to a show as an audience member I feel compelled to make it worth their while. I won't pander but I'll give them the best version of what I do that I can muster. Not just for the audience but also for the other comedians on the show that night, for myself in the future should those people remember me, and for stand-up as a whole. Every time someone sits through a poorly produced, terribly performed night of comedy, free or not, they are less inclined to ever go out and see stand-up again and will probably let anyone they see the next day know how bad of an idea it is to go to one of these cheap or free comedy nights. All that makes me appreciate a well run night and the people responsible for it as much as I wish any half-assers would start caring or give it up.