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Chicago Comics Crack Jokes (With A Purpose) Friday In Face Of Trump Presidency

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 18, 2017 8:01PM

What a Joke

You gotta be able to laugh even when times are dark—especially when times are dark, in fact.

That’s the simple but profound gist of What a Joke, a three-day nationwide comedy festival that’s staring down the Trumpian abyss and responding with a giant, collective, metaphorical fart sound into the gloom. More than 30 cities will host stand-up showcases between Thursday and Saturday, to coincide with Donald Trump’s inauguration. All proceeds, including those gathered at Chicago’s edition, on Friday night at The Hideout, will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The seeds for What a Joke were planted basically as soon as Trump won. Liz Maupin, a local comedy producer who runs Late Late Breakfast, said the national organizer reached out to her about a Chicago version just two days after the election. Feeling the acuteness of the moment, “she immediately said yes.”

Maupin enlisted Meredith Kachel, who runs the weekly Chicago Underground Comedy series at Beat Kitchen; and the two “specifically chose a diverse, inclusive lineup” of comics, Kachel told Chicagoist. Local star Kristen Toomey headlines, but the roster also features Chicago favorites such as Matty Ryan, Brandi Denise, Sammy Arechar and more.

No one has been directed to go explicitly political, Maupin said, although we’d expect a healthy dose. We all “deal with these things in different ways,” Kachel said.

The Chicago comedy scene would seem an ideal participant, too. It’s far less cutthroat and more cooperative than the coasts, both comedy-production vets agree—a state that has helped Kachel’s past fundraising-through-comedy missions, including a recent benefit for Planned Parenthood. Chicago is a place where comics come to get better rather backbite, so it’s “easy to have the support behind something like this,” Maupin said.

If you can't be there Friday night, you can still support the cause—and also enjoy some much-needed levity—by ordering a What a Joke baseball cap, fashioned, naturally, in the style of Trump's red, MAGA headwear. Profits help fund What a Joke, with ten percent directed to the ACLU.