Getting to Yes, And

Chicago-Style Comedy: “The Perfect Amount of Wrong”


Mike Bridenstine

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Kelly reminisces with Chicago-bred comedian and author Mike Bridenstine whose new book is called  “The Perfect Amount of Wrong: The Rise of Alt Comedy on Chicago’s North Side.”

Help us set the stage for comedy in the 1990’s in America.

“The nineties exploded with urban comedy and def comedy jam and that sort of thing. But for the observational white baby boomer, early Gen. X. America, that bottomed out in the early nineties. And so stand up - to a national mainstream audience – was lame. This kind of comedy was to be made fun of. When I was growing up, I would watch shows that were for Gen. X like Beavis and Butthead, they made fun of stand up and made fun of observational comedy. So, on top of Chicago being the home of Second City, stand up and comedy nationally, was completely lame.”

So, this alt-comedy community started popping up in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Can you name some of these folks?

"I walked into an open mic in 2004, and I saw Kumail Nanjiani with his unibrow performing with like no muscles. Kelly, there were no muscles.

You could just walk into shows like that and see these unknown talents pre-social media pre-everybody blowing up. That was kind of the magic of it is you didn't know who you were going to see, but you were going to see somebody that was going to blow your mind. Like T.J. Miller. The first time I saw him I was like, I don't know who this kid is, He's 21, and he's the best comedian I've ever seen. Pete Holmes was great, great, great, great, great. And Hannibal Burris was someone who I thought was fascinating.”

I was so glad you highlight Dwayne Kennedy, who was the absolute best comedian at that time and had actually moved back to Chicago at a time when he probably would have been better served being in NYC or LA.

“Chris Rock said there was nobody in the scene as funny as Dwayne Kennedy. He was the best. Yeah. And people who were around in the late eighties at the clubs, you know, have said there is nobody as funny or as smart as Dwayne Kennedy. So now he's back in this scene in Chicago doing shows with all of the young comedians. See, this guy who could have been the best comedian in New York or the best comedian in Los Angeles, he’s now back at that same level, doing these shows with children in the backs of bars, so they obviously and rightfully idolize this guy, and they see his skill level doing things that they will never be able to do.”

Photo Credit: Kelly Dwyer

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