One of the best places to see comedy in Chicago is kind of a secret. Inside a restaurant named after the famous president born and raised in Illinois, the Lincoln Lodge plays host to some of the city’s greatest stand-up performers. It also happens to be one of the most female-friendly and the gayest.
Out comedians Candy Lawrence and Cameron Esposito (Cameron Esposito: Homo Genius) are two of the regular members of the Lodge’s cast and also help bring in visiting comics, including their season premiere this Thursday with Fortune Feimster. Tickets are still available to see Fortune (Sept. 29, 9 p.m.) at the Lodge’s website.
Photos by Julie Rondeau
The Lodge is also home to the Feminine Comique, a women-only stand-up comedy course that Cameron heads up, teaching aspiring female comics how to develop material and perform in front of a crowd. Candy and Cameron answered a few questions for us on their work with the Lodge, why it’s so good to lesbians and how psyched they are to have Fortune grace their stage this Thursday.
AfterEllen.com: How did you get started with The Lincoln Lodge?
Candy Lawrence: I did a few shows at The Lincoln Lodge with my sketch comedy duo, $The Money Kids$, and I fell in love with the place. When I heard that they were looking for new cast members, I immediately applied for the position. I was actually out of town when they were holding the interviews, but they were nice enough to hold a phone interview with me. I took a break from enjoying the summer breeze and slip n’ slides, for the conference call — little did they know I was wearing a bathing suit during the entire interview. In my defense, it was business casual swimwear, so basically it was a spandex pantsuit with ruffles. I believe my full title is "swimsuit model/one of the newest cast members of The Lincoln Lodge."
Cameron Esposito: I joined the Lodge cast in ’07, about a year after moving to Chicago. I am the most senior cast member/producer, and creator of the standup training program.
AE: How would you describe what kind of comedy you do or that the Lodge likes to promote?
CL: The Lodge likes to promote a wide range of comics and variety performers alike — new comics, local comics, out-of-towners, sketch groups, videos, bands and character work are all equally welcomed, as long as they are comedic. Aside from that, the only requirement is that you are performing fresh material and that you are enthusiastic about performing at the ol’ Lodge.
As for myself, I would say, I cannot be defined or at least I try to avoid it as much as possible (so dramatic!). Honestly, I just completely enjoy whatever it is I’m doing on stage — I think that shows and it helps me engage the audience. My background in sketch and improv has had a large influence on my stand-up. I can say this for sure — I am a lesbian so i will mainly be discussing things like dreamcatchers, french braiding my cat’s hair, and switchblades. No big deal.
CE: The Lodge is the longest running alternative showcase in Chicago (we’re starting our 11th season), and offers an opportunity to see standup outside of the traditional brick-walled comedy club environment. Our shows feature top-notch comics and variety acts making waves on the national scene, as well as experimental new acts just breaking out in Chicago.
My comedy? Think effervescent personal storytelling.
AE: Would you say the Lodge is one of the most female-friendly in Chicago’s scene?
CL: Um, yes and we work together to make it so. There are three women on the cast this season, that is a rarity in a community where most comics are men. We all make it a priority to actively look for and encourage female talent. That is one of the reasons we have a women’s comedy class.
CE: Executive producer Mark Geary makes it a point to seek out female talent and hire female cast members. I believe this encourages a wider vision of comedy than an all-male cast membership could.
Why does the Lodge put on the women’s comedy class?
CL: I am going to let Cameron field this one because she teaches the class and has been instrumental in its creation. I will say that I took Cameron’s class, Feminine Comique, and I think I got an A+. Right Ms. Esposito?
But in all seriousness, it was a great way to meet other female comics. It creates a supportive and unique environment for women to create and try out new material. You can go to open mics and hold writing workshops with your cats, like i do, but if you are looking for a way to jumpstart your stand-up career, this is the place to do it.
CE: I have a theory that newer male comics are more likely to become emmersed in stand-up — watching Comedy Central with their buddies, hanging out at male dominated open mics, checking out live shows in a male dominated audience — and that this helps to buoy their desire to continue with standup early on.
To begin a stand-up career as a woman is extremely isolating. I aim to create an environment wherein women can create their first five minutes of material, meet other like minded lady comics, or, for the more experienced performer, hone their voices and recognize their viewpoints. It’s about getting women to make a strong, confidant start. There will be plenty of time for demoralizing later.
How involved are you with the booking?
CL: We each have a say in who we would like to see on the Lincoln Lodge stage — it’s definitely a group effort. You have to come out and see us for our opening weekend celebrations. We are extremely lucky to have Fortune Feimster headlining. If you like hamsters and embroidery, you’ll love her.
I’m not sure why I said that. What I meant to say was buy your tickets ahead of time — it will sell out.
CE: The booking is done by committee amongst all the cast members. This year we’ve got five men and three women on the cast (that’s a high ratio in this field!), so you’ll see ladies in frequent rotation. We’ve got Fortune and Candy Lawrence and I will be gay all year!
For more on the Lodge, or to get tickets to see Fortune, visit thelincolnlodge.com.