Last week, a beloved comedy institution passed away, slipping unpeacefully into the night. Although, its demise could be attributed to a myriad of reasons (Covid-19, sexual predators, lack of diversity, institutional blocking of unionizing, refusal to pay performers, etc.) — it is difficult to pinpoint any exact one. Some might say it swept edited itself with one last whoosh.
Born decades ago, when a group of artists banded together to realize their true passion, making shit up on stage with no preparation, the theater created a safe and inviting space for its primary demographic: young, middle class flannel wearers.
It’s passing saw an outpouring of fond memories like Thomas L. who on Facebook posted “I have many fond memories of performing there at midnight for 3 people on a Tuesday, being paid in leftover fries we found beneath the couch.”
“Sure, the house teams were almost always exclusively white, and always naming themselves puns like ‘Oo Pear It Is’ — but they knew what was really funny” says former student Nehra P. She also described her own glowing experience as “after 8 years, and several auditions, I finally made a team. And yea I did get the feedback that I had great energy, but that I, a 5’1’’ poc, intimidated my classmate Katie. And, sure, I did eventually have to quit my house team after a slew of microaggressions — but honestly I’m tearing up just thinking of that place.”
Despite years of attempts at reforming the theater, it continued to march forward to the sound of its own yes and. One intern — tears brimming in their eyes — described themselves “proud” to have “joined the long list of people who were never paid by a comedy theater.” They followed up with “well, I guess that depends on if you count vouchers that only worked towards the theater as payment. Which the government does not, but what do I know — I only got an econ degree from U. Chicago. I tried to show the owners my spreadsheet and powerpoint, but they were at their wine cave again.”
It’s true that some of the female students complained about teachers who approached their classes the way Pepe Le Pew approached a crate of kittens, but Jenny C. looks back fondly saying “so what if my married 45 year old teacher kept sliding into my DMs? Where else could I learn how to perform a 10 minute long organic opening?”
The beloved institution leaves behind several famous alumni, and summer intensive students who are not being refunded. The close family of the institution — its unpaid intern and performers, barely paid wait staff, unflappable bartenders, and two chefs who made exceptional chicken fingers — will mourn its loss.