Chicago Comedy Scene

It's that time of year again - Saturday Night Live auditions are taking place, people are tightening up their "5 minutes" and putting up some of the best work of the year. Over the past 18 months, I've watched dozens of improvisers and hand picked nine that I think you should keep your eye out for this year and beyond. Take a look, there's a good chance a future SNL cast member or comedy show writer might come out of this list. So now it's in writing...I called it.

Gary Richardson

Gary Richardson

Gary is so refreshing to watch improvise. He is comfortable and relaxed on stage and has a very natural comedic rhythm in his delivery. He's one of those guys who just "looks like a funny guy," which rings true every time he performs. He's a great follower but a very strong leader and I hope to see much more of Gary Richardson in upcoming productions.

Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Moved to Chicago: Summer 2007
Years in Comedy: 6 years
Current Projects/Shows:

  • Hunkz R Us (Upstairs Gallery)
  • Attica (iO Harold Team)
  • Holy F*ck Comedy Hour (Annoyance Theatre)
  • 3Peat

Upcoming Projects/Shows: Nothing new right now.
Major Past Productions:

  • Fart City (improv team inspired by the play "The Academy")
  • Sports Team at iO

Fun/Little Known Fact: Gary was training to become a black belt and attend the national sparring competition in Tae Kwon Do in 6th grade, but stopped so that he could go on a cruise with his family and never returned to training.

Punam Patel

Punam Patel

Punam is an unexpected delight. In real-life she is sweet and polite. However, when she gets on stage, she can transform into the most convincing mean old women, thug-life gangster chicks and that b*tch from your office. Her character work is one of her best strengths and I can't wait to see what she is up to next.

Hometown: Vero Beach, FL
Moved to Chicago:
Years in Comedy:
7 years
Current Projects/Shows:

Upcoming Projects/Shows: New original sketch show with Sarah Shook.
Major Past Productions:

  • "Les Emotions" (original sketch show with Sarah Shook)
  • "We're All In This Room Together" (Second City's e.t.c. - understudy)

Fun/Little Known Fact: Each member of her family was born on a different continent. Her dad was born in Africa, her mom in India, her sister in London and she was born in Florida.

Casey Whitaker

Casey Whitaker

Casey does it all. This lady takes on everything and manages to keep all the balls she juggles in the air. Her dry sense of humor and delivery is one of my favorite things about watching her perform. From stand-up to sketch to improv, Casey shines in all areas of comedy and she is destined to skyrocket up the comedy chain.

Hometown: Beavercreek, OH
Year Moved to Chicago:
January 2009
Years in Comedy:
4 years
Current Projects/Shows:

  • The Second City Touring Company (understudy)
  • Middle Child (Playground house team)
  • Stand-up (Zanies)
  • WILDCARD (sketch and improv team)
  • Laforce & Whitaker (two woman show)
  • "5 Stages" (one woman show)

Upcoming Projects/Shows: She hosts the couples improv show, "Couples Skate" with improviser boyfriend, Bill Letz, that will be put up at iO in the Fall for our 4th run in the city.
Major Past Productions:

  • "A Raisin in the Sun" (theater production at University of Kentucky)
  • "Take of Pigling Bland" (children's musical at Stage 773)

Fun/Little Known Fact: When she was little, she was afraid of stranger danger. So if Casey heard any kind of car noise while she was at the bus stop, she'd hide behind a big tree and miss the bus. She missed the bus almost everyday.

Sarah Shook

Sarah Shook

Sarah takes flight in character work. While she is stunning, she can pull off the dirtiest tomboy just as easily as the mean popular girl at school. Her solo work is one of her greatest strengths and one that I feel will take her far in the Chicago comedy scene and beyond.

Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Moved to Chicago: 2009
Years in Comedy:
3.5 years
Current Projects/Shows:

Upcoming Projects/Shows: Another show with Punam Patel, solo work and FANNY.
Major Past Productions:

  • "Les Emotions" (original sketch show with Punam Patel)
  • Just For Laughs (JFL) Alone (solo show)
  • "Generation Sext"(sketch show)

Fun/Little Known Fact: She bakes pies and has two lovely cats.

Stacey Smith

Stacey Smith

Stacey is a jack-of-all-trades. This New Yorker never stops coaching, learning, performing, writing, producing, singing or improvising. She played a large part in the organization and production of the 12th Annual Chicago Sketchfest as well as the 2nd Annual Chicago Women's Funny Festival this year. She can be found performing on stages all over Chicago numerous nights every week. Aside from her raw talent, Stacey has the drive and dedication that you don't see from as many comedians as you would like. It's the combination of commitment and talent that I think will continue moving her along in her comedy career.

Hometown: Patchogue, NY (Long Island)
Moved to Chicago: October 2009
Years in Comedy: 4 years

Current Projects/Shows:

  • Brouhaha: An Improvised Puppet Musical
  • Smith & I (two person impov show)
  • Stacked: All-Female Musical Improv
  • Snooty Pageant
  • Big Dumb Sleepy Bears (iO Harold Team)
  • The Deltones (improvised musical)

Upcoming Projects/Shows: Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Breakaway ship with The Second City.
Major Past Productions:

  • Infinite Sundaes (Second City's Musical House Ensemble)
  • Miami Nice: A Golden Girls Musical (as Sophia)
  • One Way Ticket to Dumbtown
  • Blender Ensemble at Second City
  • Confessions of a Chubby Tomboy (one-woman show)
  • Comedy festival circuit

Fun/Little Known Fact: In middle school, Stacey won 3rd place in a Magnetic Levitation Vehicle competition.

Nnamdi Ngwe

Nnamdi Ngwe

You may have seen Nnamdi in print advertising or commercials for some of your favorite retailers, but what you may not know is this charming man is one of the most humble people in the community. If Nnamdi is not performing in one of his many shows throughout the week, he might just stop into iO or The Playground or wherever just to see who else is performing and offer his support. He is one of the hardest working and talented individuals in this community. Nnamdi has set high goals for himself and I'm confident he will find no problem in achieving all of them.

Hometown: Houston, TX
Moved to Chicago: 2010
Years in Comedy:
7 years
Current Projects/Shows:

Upcoming Projects/Shows: 3Peat at iO and The Second City Network sketches.
Major Past Productions:

  • TV commercials/Print Advertising (Dove Men's Body Wash, Harley Davidson and Sports Authority)
  • Delusions of Grandeur (improvised sketch TV show)

Fun/Little Known Fact: He played soccer at University of Alabama at Birmingham with his twin brother.

Katie Rich

Katie Rich

As a Chicago native, Katie is no stranger to the comedy scene. She has performed on stages all over the city and currently finds herself at The Second City's Mainstage, which many consider the highest mountain you can climb in Chicago. Katie has a smart, quick-witted charm about her, which somehow also manages to stay sweet and modest. There's not much this lady can't do and I'm excited to see where she decides to go next.

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Moved to Chicago: I only left for like two years.
Years in Comedy: 10 years
Current Projects/Shows:

Upcoming Projects/Shows: Kaite, Kate Duffy and Irene Marquette are filming their series "15 Minutes to Obscurity" with WitTV. She is also continuing to cross dress as her favorite athletes for The Second City Network videos.
Major Past Productions:

  • Mary Kay Letourneau Players (two woman sketch show with Kate Duffy)
  • Carl & The Passions (iO Harold Team)
  • Women Aren't Funny (improv team)

Fun/Little Known Fact: Katie never learned how to drive.

Ted Tremper

Ted Tremper

Ted is a genius. He is one of the brightest individuals I have ever met. I hope he becomes wildly famous because I truly believe the world will be a better place for seeing his work. He commands attention whenever on stage, but one of the greatest assets he has to offer is his brilliance behind a script or a camera. He has mastered the delicate balance of melancholy comedy and has won national and international awards for SHRINK and Break-ups. Keep an eye on Ted Tremper, he's going to do big things.

Hometown: Seattle, WA
Moved to Chicago:
Years in Comedy: 30 (perhaps?)
Current Projects/Shows:

  • SHRINK (improvised web series)
  • Break-ups: La Série (Adaptation Suisse) (French improvised web series)
  • Challenger (improv show)
  • Dog Dads (sketch group)
  • Second City Touring Company

Upcoming Projects/Shows: Learning to draw, TSC, TMP, FE, M, H: SD and other super-secret projects.
Past Productions:

  • Just for Laughs (JFL) Chicago
  • Break-ups: The Series (improvised web series)
  • Shark City (improv team)
  • Almost ATLANTA (improvised play)
  • The General Slocum (improv team)

Fun/Little Known Fact: More than anything Ted wants to meet Lil Wayne before one of them dies. 

Ross Bryant

Ross Bryant

Ross is a force to be reckoned with and I will be surprised if he is not added to this fall's SNL cast. With a childhood that forced him to explore his imagination, a wide-range of skillsets, including freestyle rap and an Elizabethan tongue, and a grounded approach to every scene, Ross is a smart, versatile and dynamite performer and I often name him as my favorite Chicago improviser. If Ross is not picked up for SNL this season, I have no doubt that he will be plucked from Chicago sooner rather than later, so catch him while you can.

Hometown: Manteo, NC
Moved to Chicago: 2003
Years in Comedy: 9 years
Current Projects/Shows:

Upcoming Projects/Shows: Mainstage and Shakespeare for now.
Major Past Productions:

  • "Second City's Guide to the Opera"(A Second City Theatrical Production at Lyric Opera.)
  • HATERADE (host of freestyle rap battle show)
  • Baby Wants Candy (improvised musical)

Fun/Little Known Fact: Right after moving to Chicago, Ross answered an ad in the paper and auditioned to be the vocalist of a noise-punk band...he did not get in. 

Help us keep the lights on by subscribing to Chicago Like a Local. For your efforts, we'll deliver awesome stories (like this one) to your inbox. Do we have a deal?