Never Been to Paris
Every Thursday through March 8
The Comedy Bar,
157 W. Ontario St., Chicago
Every Monday at 8 p.m.
Stanley's Kitchen and Tap,
1970 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Second City E.T.C.,
Every Thursday-Sunday, 8 p.m.
1616 N. Wells St., Chicago
Zanies Comedy Club,
1548 N. Wells St., Chicago
Call for dates and times
If you try to picture the comedy scene Chicago is so famous for,
you'd likely picture a group of 20-something hipsters, with a high
bar bill and no responsibility. And, for the most part, you'd be
But there's another group of people out there making the funny.
This group mostly works a day job, pays its bills and-wait for
it-has children. Yes, there are a handful of folks pursuing comedy,
often heading out to clubs and gigs after the day's last diaper has
been changed, bedtime stories read and spouses attended to.
Now, lest you think this is some suburban mom a la Sally Field
in "Punchline," let this be known-these folks are serious about not
Take Jeanie Doogan, for example. Doogan, who has four children,
spends her days crafting the minds of ninth-graders. And, as you
may expect, that takes a toll.
"It had always been a dream and I was looking for something
because I was having a really tough time teaching and I needed
something to do that I enjoyed," she says.
For Doogan, stand-up also was an outlet from the strenuous
adoption process she faced in adopting her youngest from China.
She started slowly and now does several shows per week. She's
careful to keep her two personas separate, though.
"A lot of my material isn't based on my kids," she says. "I
don't share a lot about it. It's private. It might change the way
you're seen for gigs and shows being thought of as a mom."
While Doogan started her career after giving birth, others
simply rolled parenthood into their unconventional lives.
Patti Vasquez is mom of two boys, 6 and 8. But 12 years ago, she
was just a stand-up comic hoping to strike it big. By 2001 she was
plagued by doubt and trying to figure out what was next. She even
took the Chicago police officer exam. Then, in 2003, while
pregnant, she was hired to be the opening act for a popular touring
group called "Puppetry of the Penis."
"That changed everything because the audiences were 90 percent
female. And I started adding material about being pregnant, about
going to the doctor's office-mostly female things," she says. "It
was the biggest confidence-builder of my career and from then on, I
became a headliner. For me it was liberating. I didn't feel like
there were any restrictions and I could say anything. I just had a
blast with it."
Her act became based on motherhood-becoming a parent helped her
hone her voice as a stand-up and launched her career into
overdrive. Less of her act is now family-focused, but it's still a
big part of what her fans come to hear.
"My comedy reflects my life. It always has," she says. "I have a
child with a disability. My younger son has special needs. People
come out to hear how things are going."
Sketch and improv comedian Brendan Jennings just welcomed his
third little one into the world.
"Comedy isn't paying a ton of riches. I'm not like I'm Scrooge
McDuck in a giant vault somewhere. It's just not feasible to pay a
babysitter, which is the most expensive thing ever to get your kids
covered for four hours."
In fact, for most of these comedians, it's figuring out the
balance of bills, babies and bits that is most difficult.
Sean Flannery, father of two, has been performing for more than
nine years. Becoming a dad four years ago didn't change his act
much, but it did change everything else.
Flannery hangs onto his day job-despite being lauded as one of
the best stand-ups in Chicago-to make sure there's health insurance
for the family. But he finds the few sacrifices he's had to make
have been worth it in the long run.
"I probably have more in common with the crowds than most
stand-ups do. Single white males are overrepresented in stand-up
and most talk about getting drunk-and that's funny, of course-but
that's not always the situation for the crowd," he says.
While a comic like Vasquez has a pretty clear and stable path,
the others are still pursuing their dreams. Doogan hopes someday to
do comedy full-time.
"When I have to miss something of (the kids') for a show or I
feel like I'm not around enough, I hope what they get from that is
that I'm pursuing a dream and that that's passed on to them,"
While it's hard to say where everyone will end up, one thing is
clear-there will be some funny kids coming out of these houses.
"The only thing I sometimes worry about is that Colin (4) is
always telling jokes to me and is always trying to get me to laugh.
And Jessica and I don't want him to feel the pressure that he has
to be the class clown," Flannery says. "He says, 'I go to school
and I tell everyone jokes.' So we've been trying to sort of explain
when are good times to joke around and when are not."
Jennings, on the other hand, encourages his sons' attempts at a
"I think being a parent lends itself to being loosey-goosey
goofy for the most part. I'm definitely the jump-around and play-on
parent," he says. "Not surprisingly, I think it's fun to play with
the kids because they think the same way I do. We find the same
things humorous. Ingi might be mad because I'm the one who
introduced fart jokes into the family."
Christy Bonstell spends most of her time making people laugh. The best laughs are the ones she gets from her son, Keagan.
See more of Christy's stories here.
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