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Cole's Chicago Cabaret Review Aims To Be A Glam Sullivan Show

By Allison Kelley in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 10, 2014 8:30PM

Comic Calvin Evans performs at Cole's Chicago Cabaret Sunday night. (Photo credit: Miguel Guzman)

Everyone knows Chicago has a thriving comedy scene, and most people are hip to the city’s live lit, music and general fine arts domination, but it’s not often the worlds collides. Cole’s Chicago Cabaret is a new variety show that aims to showcase these art forms and others in a style similar to The Ed Sullivan Show but with more glam and poignant filth.

The host for Sunday night’s show was Peter-John Byrnes, who produces the show along with fellow comics Alex Kumin, Bill Bullock and Jason Earl Folkes. Byrnes, standing in front of a curtain of glittering gold streamers, wore a suit and tie and talked into one of those Golden Age microphones the old radio guys would speak into. This was a nod to Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk and a long dismissed notion of theatrical civility. Then, in the blink of an eye, Byrnes offered up a self-assessed “world’s most elaborate dick joke” wherein his son comes to the realization that wiener hotdogs are named after male wieners and not vice-versa. At this point in the show, the ghost of Ed Sullivan nearly rolled over in his grave.

Ian Abramson, named Chicago’s “best experimental comic” by Chicago Magazine, took the stage and performed a conceptual piece on time travel that caused laughter and at least one audience member to shout out, “Hi Ian!” Abramson worked the crowd with his one-liners, “When I’m playing Poker I throw down Nicholas Sparks books and say, ‘read ‘em and weep!’” and a wave of delayed laughter spread through the packed back room of Cole’s bar in Logan Square.

Poet and performance artist, Roger Bonair-Agard had the hard task of transitioning from absurd comedy to poetry but he did so with complete ease. He performed twice in the night, touching on topics of sexual prowess, gentrification, and Brooklyn, his home for 23 years, which he eloquently said is now is an unrecognizable, safe place to push a stroller.

Show producer, Alex Kumin let the crowd in on her experience growing up in a Lebanese Jewish household, getting diagnosed with cancer twice, and the blending of her comedy and job. “I find myself doing crowd work at my job,” she waited for a beat, “I work at a rape crisis center.”

Closing out the night was headliner Calvin Evans who kept the audience steadily laughing throughout his set. His brand of local and smart observational humor bonded the crowd who nodded as one to Evans’ car premise. “You know you have a shitty car when you have to explain to your passengers what to do in it.”

Cole’s Chicago Cabaret is a free weekly show performed at Cole’s (2338 N. Milwaukee Ave.) that runs Sunday nights through Nov., 9. Along with comics, upcoming featured variety acts include an opera singer, rapping violinist and psychic.