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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.