Lyndsay Hailey is one of Chicago's most accomplished performers. She performed with The Second City Touring Company. She is one of the most beloved improvisers and teachers at iO. She's created catchy viral videos. And she's written and performed for countless groups and shows around the city.
When I heard Lyndsay was doing a show at UP Comedy Club I naturally figured it would be a showcase of her incredible talent. So I was surprised, and delighted, to see that the show was actually a showcase of her friends' incredible talent.
Don't misunderstand, you'll definitely see Lyndsay, and it's worth going just for that. But the Lyndsay Hailey Variety Hour features a recurring cast of four, a musical director, special guests and a new show every single week.
I was intrigued by the format, which Lyndsay's describing as "a throw-back variety hour with a fresh new comedic twist," so I got in touch with her to find out why she chose to do an old-school variety show and what her personal touch would bring.
What do you love about creating your own show that you can't get from being in someone else's?
In creating my own show I can take creative liberties that a director answering to a producer may advise against. In my opinion this makes the overall product a bit more raw and accessible, which is something that makes my heart beat. I like being able to produce risky and less censored content and really challenging the cast and the audiences comfort levels.
What drew you to the variety show format?
I love the variety show format because it creates a structure that audiences can follow while giving you an excuse umbrella in every type of comedy. I can never sit comfortably through anything that feels like too much of one thing. I have to imagine I am not alone. I never listen to one album all the way through, I always shuffle. I want my comedy show to feel like a good shuffle. I feel like this format enables me to showcase guests who have different skill sets than I do. A typical Lyndsay Hailey Variety Hour may jump back and forth between one woman sketch, videos, group generated sketch, improv, stand up from a guest, silent scenes to musical comedy. I want the whole experience to be fresh for the audience at all times.
I think the Lyndsay Hailey Variety Hour is different because of the UP Comedy Club space for one. It really gives it a gorgeous throw-back feel. Merge that elegance with the raw and quirky comedic styles of Chicago's rawest underground comedians and you have something different. Plus my musical director, Michael Malarkey is the bomb. He keeps it elegant and dirty. OH and each show is generated in one week's time - to keep things raw and fresh. Every show is totally different and created around the feel of the guest.
What is your responsibility as a variety show host, and how is it different from a regular performing?
My biggest responsibility as the Variety Hour host is to shed some light on the hilarious talent of Chicago and bring it to an audience in its rawest form. I want audiences to see these comedians as they want to be seen, not fitting into someone else's show. The guests are selected because of being incredible at what they do and I try to heighten that and give them tons of artistic license with their time.
What do you look for in a guest?
The answer to this one is easy. People who inspire me and comedians I can learn from. I picked people I've always wanted to work with for this run. Gregory Hollimon and Marz Timms because they bring a black perspective to my white perspective and it is invaluable. Jet Eveleth because she raises the female comedy to a higher standard and taught me most of what I know through example. And Mark Raterman who gets pigeon-holed as the best straight man in the city (because he is) while having the ability to unload the opposite at the drop of a hat. I want to give him that opportunity.
The Lyndsay Hailey Variety Hour runs Oct 25 at 9:30pm and Nov 1 & 8 at 10:30pm at UP Comedy Club.