Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chris Othic Micro Fiction!

Look, a non-Mrs. Gruber related post! Chris Othic micro fiction! Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

* * *

It won’t be long now.

That’s what I thought to myself as I felt the low, loud rumble of the engines and the steady pull on my body as I was forced back into my seat. The shuttle was just pushing off, and my body tingled with anticipation knowing that in less than three minutes we would hit the upper atmosphere, the shuttle would start to roll and my destiny would begin.

I can't wait.

My co-pilot, Phillips, and the flight scientist, Adams, were sitting quietly now, no doubt thinking their own big thoughts. Like me, this was their first time in space. Unlike me, they would be a mere footnote in history. Only I knew what was about to happen in less than two minutes from now.

Getting closer now.

It was close quarters for the three of us, and I could tell by the faint sticky smell that Phillips was sweating inside his flight suit. Adams was too, but all I could smell of her was salt and citrus tinged with vodka, which was dampening her skin, a mix of the preflight drinks she had along with that damn perfume she always wore. Having a heightened sense of smell wasn’t something I enjoyed, but it would no longer be an issue for me in less than forty-five seconds.

Almost there.

As the sky starting turning from bright to light blue, then creeping into black, I could tell the shuttle was getting close to the edge of space. In just a few seconds it would start its gentle roll to the side, right on schedule. My palms were sweating and I could feel that old familiar itch up around my left shoulder, that itch that could only be scratched around the edges, that was never fully satisfied, on that old wound that had never fully healed.

The moment you’ve been waited for.

As the shuttle peeled over onto its side, the full, unobstructed moon appeared through the portal against the black backdrop of space. My eyes took it its full luminescent glow and my blood surged, pushing against the walls of every vein and vessel, then I felt that familiar blinding pain shoot through my entire body. It was one of the fastest transformations I had ever had. Phillips and Adams barely had time to scream before I shredded the straps on my jump seat. In one wet blur I ripped Phillips’ head off in a jagged line at the shoulders, then turned on Adams, biting down hard on her windpipe, reveling in the sweet taste of her warm, syrupy blood while trying to ignore the metallic, acrid odor of her cheap perfume.

To the moon.

That was about the last human thought I had. The program I snuck into the onboard navigation system should be kicking in at this point, plotting out the coordinates I had entered, overriding the commands from the control center, and taking us off of our planned orbit and straight toward the moon. For the next two days I would feast inside my own feral heaven, the animal inside me growing more frenzied as I got closer to my destiny, closer to my greatest desire, closer to the moon, the moon the moon themoonMoonMOONMOONMOONMOONMOON.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School - Master Post

For posterity purposes, RvD is pleased to present the master post for our Sketch Comedy:

Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School


October 16th - November 21st, 2009 @ 8:00
Gorilla Tango Theatre
1919 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL


Saturday, January 9th @ 7:00
Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival
Theatre Building Chicago
1225 W Belmont Ave, Chicago IL

"Ding dong! Ding dong! Do you hear the school bell ring? What shall we learn about today? Science? Geography? How about soul-crushing reality? Or what happens when a monkey meets a toaster? Oh, so much to learn! Welcome to Mrs. Gruber’s Ding Dong School!"

Puppets, happy songs, racist cloud creatures - Mrs. Gruber has them all and she just can't wait to fill your little brains with life lessons.

More information at the links below.

Press Release:

"People of all double-digit ages will appreciate Mrs. Gruber’s Ding Dong School – inspired by kids, but written with grownups in mind." - Read the full press release here.


"If you haven't checked out Robot vs. Dinosaur in the past, this is the one to introduce them." - Read more reviews from 10/20/09, 10/26, 11/1, Sketchfest Reviews 1/18/2010

Cast List:

Meet the kids here.


Another (Miniature) Review

"Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School
Easily the best
Robot vs. Dinosaur show to date, Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School takes the audience through a twisted, rollicking day at an academy run by a doddering but feisty schoolmarm with an age-addled brain and a passion for expanding young minds. Spot on casting, warped sensibilities and imaginative puppetry give it a Wonder Showzen feel, without a hint of a knock-off. Tickets are $15, and the show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through Nov. 21 at Gorilla Tango, 1919 N. Milwaukee (right under the Western Blue Line stop). For tickets, call 773-598-4549 or visit www.gorillatango.com."

Posted to the Gaper's Block events page here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How to Put On a Show / The RvD Process

Recently, an actor gave me a false sense of importance by sending me the following email...


Some friends of mine are putting together a sketch show right now and I was wondering if you could give us any advice on putting a show together? How does RvD go about it? Does each person do their own work and that's it or do you work on drafts as a group?

Anything you could offer up would be great.


I ended up writing a massive response--I am clearly not used to being taken seriously, and apparently I had all kinds of pent-up advice welling up inside of me. And I said some things about process that might be of interest to readers of this blog.

Here it is. If you want to encourage my false sense of importance, you can read it.


Hello, [anonymous friend],

To start, I would ask these questions about your group:

1) Are the people who are writing also performing?

Whether you answer the first question yes or no, I think there are strengths and weaknesses either way. I'm probably biased as a writer, but I think there's some truth to my feeling that you're going to have a better show if at least some of the writers are not performing. What ends up happening otherwise is that many writer/performers write things that showcase them as a performer. Not necessarily bad on its own, but most people become so blind with infatuation over what they're doing (or trying to do) and they have no perspective on whether it's funny or interesting or not. Often it's not. So if the answer to this first question is yes, then I would either ask an outside person like a director to join your group to keep everyone in check with what's actually resonating. You can bring that person in during the writing, or after all the material has been chosen.

2) Do you have a director, and if so, is that director part of your group?

For all the reasons stated above, and to protect the performers from getting their feelings hurt by another performer or performers, I recommend getting one, especially if the writers are performing. Because you can kind of have your head in it too much when you've been essential to the initial creative stages. The director can say things that other performers can't say without hurting feelings, so I highly recommend this.

3) Is there a similar sensibility between everyone involved?

I don't think success depends on a yes or a no to this question, but knowing the answer will help you manage your own expectations for what your shows might look like. I belong to one sketch group with 2 other writers and our comic sensibilities are different from each other. This can be frustrating, obviously, when creative differences turn into arguments and unresolved disagreements, but it also has maybe made the shows appealing to a larger range of people. RvD is more like-minded, although we definitely have our share of disagreement--fortunately, everyone is thick-skinned and trusts that everyone is just trying to help, not tear each other down.

RvD's process:

I'm an active writer/director for three groups, and all of the processes are a little different. I'm making some assumptions about how many people are writing this show, so correct me if this is not a group of 4 or more people who are writing, but RvD's is the process most likely to fit your own group. I'm not necessarily suggesting that you follow this model to a T, but since you asked, here it is.

We meet once a week for a few months. For the first 3 or 4 weeks, everyone is encouraged to write individually throughout the week and then bring in a scene or two or however many to read with the group. Although our shows have all eventually had themes (with the exception of Palindrome, which was a collection of stuff that we liked that hadn't fit in our other shows), we don't start out with a theme, so at first everyone is invited to write scenes about whatever they want. The writer will divvy out the roles for everyone to read, including someone for stage directions. When it's my scene, if there are few enough roles, I'll try to avoid reading so that I can listen to the scene to see what words people get hung up on, what things get laughs, and just take a more birds-eye-view in general (otherwise, I'm too focused on when I need to speak again). Except in very rare circumstances, the writer is forbidden from making apologies or explaining anything before reading the scene. Because we are a rude bunch of people, we sometimes mock each other gratuitously about typos and jokes that don't work. (This is not a recommendation, just the way it is with us.) Afterward, we have an open and candid discussion of the scene, saying what we loved or hated and brainstorm ways of making it more successful. That person is free to use or reject any of those ideas, but it's often a good thing when they DO incorporate those ideas. If someone is too protective and sensitive about their own work, it usually makes for a lower quality. In a group the size of RvD, if 5 other people are telling you there's a better way to go, there probably is. Typically, unless the rewrite is major, people don't usually bring back rewritten scenes until much later in the process, once we've picked a theme for our show and that scene looks like a contender.

Once we have a bunch of scenes to pick from, we see if there are any themes going on. We identify one or two and then start generating more material on those one or two themes. After a month or a few weeks, we look again at what we have, pick the best stuff, weave it together (we like having "seamless" transitions which are unique, although there's also something to be said for the standard, relatively unconnected sketch show), and then cast it. In the case of Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School, once everything was put together we did one last line-by-line readthrough of the script to tighten jokes and add some new ones.


Of course, the Second City's model for writing shows is completely different, as I'm sure you already know. In that case the writers are the performers, and my impression is (you might know better) that a lot of scenes are never really written down, but are performed over and over again until they're more or less set. Still, in the case of the Second City, the director is a crucial part of that.

Another "group" I'm with is just me and one writing partner, and we have very similar enough voices that we often feel comfortable writing collaboratively, in the same room, line-by-line. Othertimes we'll bring completely new scenes, like RvD does. Or we'll talk about ideas first, then go home and write them. In the most successful meetings, those ideas become so collaborative that by the time we're done with them, we can't always remember who had the original kernel and who came up with which plot twist, joke, etc. I think this kind of relationship is rare, and is an indication of a good thing going on, at least for us.

I guess the key thing with any group is to be honest and candid with each other, and to give and accept feedback without intimidation, which is hard to do when you know that someone loves something they created and you think it's just OK or totally flawed.

That's just kind of the creative side of it. There's a whole practical side, too, like picking a venue, marketing, props, budget, all that stuff. In some ways it sounds like more work than it really is, not because it's not a lot, but because it's usually fun, even when it's not.


I now end with the same apology I gave to her, for writing such a long post. I will now go back to feeling unimportant again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School . . . REVIEWED!

Okay, so this is going to be a Mrs. Gruber week at the RvD blog. A couple of reviews below:

Don Hall over at An Angry White In Chicago gave us a glowing review!

" . . . Parenthood is, from what I'm told, a blessing and a curse. Children are wonderful in their guileless ability to see those things in our daily walk through fresh eyes; they're also us without the societally driven stop gaps that prevent us from behaving like the selfish, self-absorbed monsters we start out as. And so we lie to them to give them false hope, to control them, to give us just a moment of respite from the screaming and greed inherent in the human animal.

We tell them fairytales about mythical creatures that reward us if we behave a certain way. We tell them that crime does not pay, that if they study hard they will get a good job, that they each are smarter and more talented than the kids next door. And we hide the regrets and disappointments we have in our own lives, the hard truths that only living can teach, and the true nature of our fellow beings.

Spoofing the legacy of children's programming (from Romper Room and Captain Kangeroo to Sesame Street and Zoom!) is a tired cliché. It's been done so often (Pee Wee's Playhouse, Avenue Q, and a billion different Off Off Broadway and Off Off Loop theaters and in basements in Seattle, LA, and almost every major and minor theatrical and televised outlet) and so well, that to do a spoof of children's television is a trap for most comedy groups.

Taking cues from
Wonder Showzen, RvD has avoided the trap and come up with a truly successful blend of embracing all that feels cheesy and sugary about the genre and exposing the dark hypocrisies that those who create this work have bubbling underneath. And it's really, really funny in that dark, tasteless way that Wonder Showzen is - the only thing missing is the device of using actual children.

Topping and Wendling have assembled a strong, funny cast (including the deranged, funny and a little scary talents of Rebecca Levine as Mrs. Gruber) and, in spite of the slight production values (not cheesy and cardboard-y enough to look crappy on purpose but not glossy enough to feel genuine - except for the Diversity Chicken suit which looks exactly right) manage to craft a fun and high energy evening that never overstays its welcome and ends with a solid Upright Citizens Brigade style "gotcha."

Aside from the writing, which is tight and to the point for the most part and only rambles when its supposed to, the fun is in both the bizarre situations presented and those strange little moments that catch you off guard into an unasked for guffaw.

Many sketch comedians forget that while the Pythons, Kids in the Hall, and Mr. Show played wild, off-the-wall characters they were also making biting satire underneath. The scene of a snippet of a Mary Poppins-esque nanny recreating the "Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag" moment provides us with an actual crazy homeless man selling cans for a dollar on the premise that fish have lasers; a happy, go-lucky cloud gets bored being upbeat and tries to learn how to be a racist because it looks more exciting than the tedium of sugar cookie joy; the Career Day that includes the morose experience as a Sex Crime Reenactment Doll. Each caught me off guard and each made me laugh out loud.

The small moments that the actors bring to the table are equally fun: the drunk racist sings his tuneless and rhymeless song about racism and then does a strange drunken box step dance; a kid with a lazy eye is considered expendable; a cloying puppet tries to make counting a cancer patients coughing fits a learning game. And just about everything Mrs. Gruber says and does leads to the inescapable conclusion that she is not which she pretends to be.

The mugging is kept to a minimum and the frequently awful singing is balanced by some great vocals by Jill Fenstermaker and the surprisingly sweet voice of Topping. And the show doesn't end until a good three minutes after you leave the theater so stick around out front for a moment.

If you haven't checked out Robot vs Dinosuar in the past, this is the one to introduce them. I've seen them a number of times and, with Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School, they get it just right."

And J.H. Palmer at Gaper's Block compared us to Canada Day and said we had a young Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell in our cast!

"Robot vs. Dinosaur, a writer-centric improv ensemble that originated in New York and was brought to Chicago in 2007, is enjoying a run of their show: Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School, at Gorilla Tango Theatre. A series of sketches loosely based around a preschool classroom, the show opens strong but loses focus. The premise of a school as a reference point seemed unnecessary, and even the best sketches ran too long, losing steam before they ended.

Some genuinely funny moments were had, but if this show were a national holiday it would be Canada Day, not the 4th of July - no fireworks but plenty of sparklers, and a few standout roman candles in the forms of Erin Morrill, Andrew Kraft, and Anthony Ellison, who came across like younger versions of Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell and Bill Murray.

Ellison was a great choice for the opening sequence, but we didn't see him again until the last sketch, which is a shame. Morrill and Kraft's portrayals were consistently strong, and the cleverly written songs marked high points in the show."

It's exciting to get reviews, and even though it wasn't clear to Ms. Palmer that Anthony Ellison was part of the opening act, not part of the Ding Dong School show, we can certainly chop some stuff out of those reviews to make it sound like we are the greatest show on Earth. If only they would have actually said that!

Anyway, we will post more reviews here if and when we get them. Come see the show and judge for yourself!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Production Pictures

I feel like every production, we mean to get a camera to rehearsal so that we can get some pictures and every time we forget. Which is a shame, really. The rehearsal process is a lot of fun, and it would be nice to show off our wonderful actors putting in all the necessary work (read: putting up with Greg and my bullshit).

Well this time, through the genius of Chris Othic, we did manage to get a camera in the rehearsal room. So, just to give you a taste, here are just a couple for your viewing pleasure:

Erin Morrill takes a break to snap a quick picture with her puppet, Fluzzo.

Jill Fenstermaker learns parasol technique from our resident parasol expert, Greg Wendling, while Ryan McDermott and Connor Tillman lurk in the shadows.

Susie Gutowski IS Diversity Chicken.

That's me leering at Measels and Fluzzo.

Ryan McDermott is happy to see you. And not in a creepy way. Okay, kind of a creepy way.

Nat Topping squints his eyes to get a better look at the radiant brilliance that is the comedic duo of Andrew Kraft and his pal Measles.

To reiterate what Greg wrote the other day, this cast really is amazing. I think the best decisions we made throughout the run of the show were the casting decisions. And, of course, the show (which, by the way, is hilarious) wouldn't be anywhere near as good without all of their talents. You should check us out if for no other reason than to see these actors act.

Mrs Gruber's Publicity Photos

For posterity, our publicity photos for Mrs Gruber's Ding Dong School, featuring Becca Levine and Gombster the puppet dog:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Opening Night!

We did it! Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School opened last night, and we had a great opening night. I celebrated my first free Saturday morning in a what feels like a long time by seeing Inglorious Basterds, which rottentomatoes.com has assigned an 87%. I liked our show better, so I'd probably give ours a 93%. That's the same rating that rottentomatoes.com gave "Star Wars". So yes, our show is as good as "Star Wars."

This is such a great cast. They carry the show. It goes without saying that I'm a fan of the material, but it could all fall apart with less talented actors. Come see them! Come see them tonight!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Show Time! or What He Said!


For Immediate Release:

Robot vs. Dinosaur Presents:
Brought to you by the letters RvD

Opening: October 16, 2009
Closing: November 21, 2009
Days and Time: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Location: Gorilla Tango Theatre
1919 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Tuition: $15
For Tickets, Call 773.598.4549 or visit http://www.gorillatango.com/

CHICAGO, Ill. – (October 1st, 2009) – Grab your inside voice and your thinking cap because Robot vs. Dinosaur is going back to school with their latest show, Mrs. Gruber’s Ding Dong School. Directed by Robot vs. Dinosaur members Nat Topping and Greg Wendling, Mrs. Gruber takes its audience through thirteen sketches, each teaching a rather unorthodox lesson.

Inspired by children’s televisions shows of yore, as well as the ensemble’s own skewed childhood memories, the show is taught by Mrs. Gruber, a good-intentioned but not entirely lucid schoolmarm, and touches on a multitude of coming-of-age topics, including death, racism, squirrel bites and laser fish.

People of all double-digit ages will appreciate Mrs. Gruber’s Ding Dong School – inspired by kids, but written with grownups in mind.

More about Robot vs. Dinosaur: Robot vs. Dinosaur originated in New York and was brought to Chicago by Joe Janes in 2007, when he assembled a roster of writers and performers with a great deal of experience in the Chicago sketch comedy and improv scenes. The ensemble is a writer-centric group whose goal is to write and perform original comic material that is eclectic, dynamically staged and fun for audiences. Robot vs. Dinosaur consists of Mike Bauman, Geoff Crump, Joe Janes, Catherine Monahan, Chris Othic, Nat Topping and Greg Wendling. To promote comedy writing in Chicago, Robot vs. Dinosaur also hosts Robowriters, a weekly writer’s workshop.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chris, Yeah, He's Forty

Wow, I started to write the most boring blog post ever about my birthday celebration. Instead, here is a list of everything I did over the past few days, going back as far as Saturday, October 3rd, when my celebrating began.
  • Saturday, went to suburbs, ate GIANT steak and drank my in-laws beer
  • Sunday, had heartburn from GIANT steak and hangover from in-laws beer
  • Monday, went to work
  • Tuesday, had heartburn from work
  • Tuesday night, ate another GIANT steak, compliments of Elizabeth Drury
  • After dinner, drank too much, compliments of Elizabeth Drury
  • Wednesday morning, cursed Elizabeth Drury's name while I was at work
  • Thursday, took the day off--from drinking
  • Friday, took the day off--from work
  • Friday night, ate GIANT slab of ribs, compliments of Mike Malone
  • Friday night, drank waaay to much, compliments of Mike Malone
  • Late late Friday night, continued drinking waay too much, compliments of Mike Malone
  • Saturday morning (actual birthday), cursed Mike Malone's name while having heartburn from GIANT slab of ribs
  • Went to 8 a.m. RvD rehearsal, tried to hide the fact that I was hungover (possibly still drunk)
  • Noon, slept, like and old man should
  • 3:30, played kickball, lost 1-0 to Crump's team
  • 5:00, cursed Crump's name because he was kickball MVP, instead of me
  • 6 p.m., continued drinking at Vines with friends
  • 8 p.m., salivated over moisty, fudgy cake made by my friend Mamata (http://www.pomegranate-cafe.com/id1.html)
  • 10 p.m., actually home and having a nice jacuzzi tub with a scented candle, because apparently when I turned 40 I also turned into a woman
  • Sunday, 6 a.m., woke up for 9 a.m. surprise flight to Kansas City, probably cursed someone (but not my wife)
  • Noon, watched Chiefs game with my pals Willie, Daryl, Dave, Rodney, Ralph, and my brothers Jeff and Danny.
  • 3:30, cursed the Chiefs for sucking
  • 6 p.m., went to see my nephew Luke's pee wee football game
  • 6:30, realized my nephew's pee wee football team was better than the Chiefs
  • 8 p.m., cake and ice cream with my nephew (and birthday buddy) Quade
  • 9 p.m., mad at Quade for getting more presents than me
  • 9:30, teaching nieces and nephews innappropriate behavior
  • Monday morning, rush down to visit parents in my home town
  • Visit my grandmother, who gives me $12 for my birthday, then finds a $20, which she trades me for
  • Mad at grandma for not offering me a frozen candy bar like all the other grandkids get every time they visit her
  • 3:30, Late lunch with my pal, Doug (Willie) and his boy, Hunter
  • 4:30, teaching Hunter inappropriate behavior
  • Fly home, make Mary mad by saying "brace for landing" right before we land
  • Tuesday morning, wake up, dread return to work the next day
  • See "Couples Retreat" and want those two hours back
  • Spend time thinking about how incredibly hot the women in "Couples Retreat" were, but still want those two hours back
  • 9 p.m., go to Metro for Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter with my pal, Dan Belshaw
  • Drink too much with my pal, Dan Belshaw
  • Wednesday, 7:30 a.m., curse the name Dan Belshaw
  • Arrive at work, and find rum cake made by my cube neighbor, Loree McKinney, as well as specially made 40 year old beers on my desk
  • Eat rum cake, realize I forgot to quit drinking
  • Finally come to terms with the fact that I am now 40, and get over myself
  • Write boring blog post about the experience

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day!

One thing I like to do when I can't think of anything to write (other than, of course, show plugs which get tiresome after the eighth or tenth time), is to write about holidays! Holidays are like freebie blogging material, because it doesn't require any more inspiration than opening up your calenders.

Hooray lazy!

And today just so happens to be Columbus Day!

Columbus is the Italian turned Spanish explorer who discovered America by proving that the world is round, and then proceeded to save the indigenous people from a sinful if otherwise peaceful and charmed existence living on tropical beaches. For this, we have named one of the worst cities in America after him. Also, some people get the day off to celebrate. And by celebrate, I mean spending the day vegging out in front of their televisions watching the Bonnie Hunt show or whatever it is people do when they have nothing to do in the afternoons. Also, there are furniture sales. Still not sure of the connection between Columbus and furniture, but... eh.

Of course, all the kill-joys out there will be quick to remind you that Columbus brought disease and violent death to millions of indigenous persons, including the wholesale extinction of entire tribes. They might also point out:
  1. That Christopher Columbus did not prove that the earth was round, because he did not travel all the way around the world.

  2. That everyone already suspected that the earth was round, as early as the Ancient Greeks.

  3. That Columbus wasn't the first person to discover America because technically there were people already living there.

  4. That Columbus wasn't even the first European to set foot in America; the Viking explorer Leif Erickson was in Canada 500 years before.

  5. That he never even set foot on North America, so there's really no good reason for us in the USA to celebrate the dude.

Yeah, okay; it's easy to point out a guy's failings. But think of it this way: this dude mistakenly stumbled on a "new" continent and perpetrated atrocities on the indigenous people, which caused other Europeans to move to the new world to perpetrate new atrocities, which lead to more of the same, which ultimately lead to that iPhone you're holding in your hand.

The guy couldn't have been all bad, right?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

News of the Weird

This week's assignment - NEWS OF THE WEIRD

My favorite news stories are the ones too strange to make it near the front of the paper. The ones where people or circumstances are nearly too impossible to believe. I'm also a huge fan of The Darwin awards.

So, this week, use a "News of the Weird" story as a resource for writing a scene. You have a few ooptions when it comes to this...

1) Directly, a dramatization of the story
2) A scene that leads up to the story
3) A scene that deals with the aftermath of the story
4) The "Based On True Events" Hollywood way where you only use the thinnest thread of the original to influence your scene

Earlier this week, I used number four to write a scene called "Baby Milosh." In the original story, a guy in Sweden committed to pumping up his breasts in a 90-day experiment to see if he could produce milk. His intention, if successful, is to show that men have another avenue to get closer to their children at an early age. In my scene, a man trying to calm down his baby in the middle of the night stumbles upon offering his breast to his child. I chose that approach to the scene because I wanted more than anything to have a guy on stage trying to breastfeed an infant.

If you don't have a local newspaper that runs "News of the Weird" you can find them on-line. Here's a link to one source...


See you Sunday at Metropolis!

- Joe

Friday, October 9, 2009

Final Viewing for "Dirt Nap"

Dirt Nap
Sept. 18, 2009 - Oct.10, 2009

Cheeky sketch comedy show DIRT NAP to die at only 4 weeks old

CHICAGO - This weekend, Dirt Nap, hailed for its' irreverent social commentary, poignant observations of the absurdities of everyday life, and humorous exploration of the fears and rituals surrounding death,' will be laid to rest according to his publicist. Youngest child of 8 for its producers, *Creepy Hug, last rites for Dirt Nap will be held this weekend at the Gorilla Tango Theater - 1919 N. Milwaukee Avenue (just East of Western). Viewings will take place on both Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th at 8 PM.

With puppets, puppies and music galore, "Dirt" will be remembered fondly by friends as "... a great show, with very tight, clever humor and (to my surprise) a lot of funny musical numbers. The writer/performers [of] *Creepy Hug approach the subject of death in a number of unexpected, humorous ways. This show is a very enjoyable way to start a night out with a lot of laughs."

The lifelong Chicago resident is survived by his dynamic cast - Collin Blackard, Jillian Burfete, Lisa Burton, Amy Lavery, Ryan McDermott, and Chris Perez; and writers Dan Facchini, David Rocco Facchini, Matt Noonan and Greg Wendling.

In lieu of flowers, $12 donations can be made in the form of ticket sales at the Gorilla Tango theater: (773) 598-4549.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Watch Your Tongue

I was going to write a blog in the same type of style Chris did yesterday since my birthday is also this Saturday, but strangely there weren't any delightfully witty quotes about turning or being 31. So here are 31 things if said in casual conversation will cause at least a mild distress to those around you (in no particular order):

If I was Hitler, here's how I would have done it.

It doesn't get much better then Disney's The Rocketeer.

I own every episode of According to Jim on DVD.

If you forget the murders, a lot of what Charlie Manson was saying makes sense.

Do you think they planted watermelon in the Rose Garden?

All I'm saying is a woman's body is biologically ready to have babies at 13.

The only reason we don't eat dogs is because they are cute.

As terrible as it is, slavery is a smart idea and it made this country what it is today.

Has anyone seen the other half of this scab?

Is it a problem when one of your testicles has swollen up to twice the size of your other two?

I wouldn't fuck my dad for less then a million.

With the economy the way it is I can't help but be niggardly.

I like my women like I like my scotch; 14 years old and smooth.

If God wanted men to have sex with each other he would have connected a uterus to the large intestine.

I've seen Faces of Death 32 times.

I kind of like the taste of urine.

Sheep have the most human-like vagina.

Unfortunately the term "It is better to ask forgiveness than permission" does not apply to sex.

I have been to the circus in a coon's age.

If you stab someone in the lungs they aren't able to scream.

The first thing I had to do was make a fagot and light it on fire.

That cunt Rachael Ray is a real cunt-faced cunt burger.

A hole is a hole.

Washing your hands creates more germs then it destroys.

Nice shoes, wanna fuck?

In order of hotness; Annie, then Shirley Temple, then Little Lulu.

Jesus Christ your skin looks delicious.

The problem with HDTV is you can see every pimple and cut and scrape so it does make it a little harder to masturbate sometimes.

Look, we've all tasted our own sex fluids at some point.

There are at least two people here I have had hardcore fantasies about.

Of course I don't wear a condom. You can pretty much live with any STD nowadays, and why do you think abortion was invented?

That's 31. Here are some extras a friend of mine suggested:

I was thinking about that while I was beating my dog.

The last two abortions went very smoothly, so I don't think I will have any issues with this one.

When I am cheating on my husband I keep thinking of you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chris Is Turning 40

I am turning 40 this Saturday. Any time you reach a milestone age (what is it with humans and numbers divisible by 10?) it does make you stop and think about stuff, like life and your place in the universe and how much you used to pay for a bottle of soda (25 cents).

“Life begins at 40 - but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.” - Helen Rowland (English-American writer, 1876-1950)

I wonder if 40 is the halfway point? Will I only live to be 80 years old? Will my liver hold out that long? I think I might make it past 80, because I have yet to have a midlife crisis, which of course will let you know when you reach your midlife.

“At the age of 20, we don’t care what the world thinks of us; at 30, we worry about what it is thinking of us; at 40, we discover that it wasn’t thinking of us at all.” - Unknown

In other words, I’m a 40 year old legal secretary who writes comedy, and I’m not really sure that anybody sees it. The average show I’m involved in draws an audience of maybe 200-300 spectators. Multiply that by the number of shows I’ve done and at best my message is probably reaching only about .0000000000000001 percent of the world (estimate). I don’t even know if anyone reads this blog.

“Forty isn’t old, if you’re a tree.” - Unknown

I am not a tree. I am a fragile human being. Don’t get me wrong. I think I am a young 40. I watch the MTV Music Awards every year. I literally run inside my house when going from the living room to the kitchen during commercials. And I still want sex more than I can get it. But I hurt my ankle a month ago and it still hurts, and if I drink more than three beers on any given night I have a headache the next day. I think that is a sign of old age.

“What most persons consider as virtue, after the age of 40 is simply a loss of energy” - Voltaire

Okay, so I still want sex more than I can get it, but there have been times when I could have had it but I didn’t want it. That would have never happened in my 20’s.

“The “I just woke up” face of your 30’s is the “all day long” face of your 40’s” - Libby Reid

I have been losing my hair since I turned 21. I have crows feet around my eyes that are so deep crows could actually build nests in them. My belly button used to be an outie and now it’s an innie. Just the other day I drank too much, slept funny, and woke up with some strange spots on my face. I don’t think it’s cancer, but who knows?

“The best years of a woman’s life - the ten years between 39 and 40” - Unknown

Okay, I’m not a woman so I thought this was pretty funny.

“At 20 years of age the will reigns; at 30 the wit; at 40 the judgment.” - Benjamin Franklin

Ah, wisdom. Now we can consider the good stuff--the benefits of old age. I do believe I am a lot better at making decisions now. Like, when I go for that third beer, I know it will be the last one, and if it’s not, I will have at least a total of eight, and possibly ten or twelve. That’s just good judgment. Like it’s also good judgment to end this blog post right now. Happy Birthday, to me.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Press Release... RELEASED!


For Immediate Release:

Robot vs. Dinosaur Presents:
Brought to you by the letters RvD

Opening: October 16, 2009
Closing: November 21, 2009
Days and Time: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Location: Gorilla Tango Theatre
1919 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Tuition: $15
For Tickets, Call 773.598.4549 or visit http://www.gorillatango.com/

CHICAGO, Ill. – (October 1st, 2009) – Grab your inside voice and your thinking cap because Robot vs. Dinosaur is going back to school with their latest show, Mrs. Gruber’s Ding Dong School. Directed by Robot vs. Dinosaur members Nat Topping and Greg Wendling, Mrs. Gruber takes its audience through thirteen sketches, each teaching a rather unorthodox lesson.

Inspired by children’s televisions shows of yore, as well as the ensemble’s own skewed childhood memories, the show is taught by Mrs. Gruber, a good-intentioned but not entirely lucid schoolmarm, and touches on a multitude of coming-of-age topics, including death, racism, squirrel bites and laser fish.

People of all double-digit ages will appreciate Mrs. Gruber’s Ding Dong School – inspired by kids, but written with grownups in mind.

More about Robot vs. Dinosaur: Robot vs. Dinosaur originated in New York and was brought to Chicago by Joe Janes in 2007, when he assembled a roster of writers and performers with a great deal of experience in the Chicago sketch comedy and improv scenes. The ensemble is a writer-centric group whose goal is to write and perform original comic material that is eclectic, dynamically staged and fun for audiences. Robot vs. Dinosaur consists of Mike Bauman, Geoff Crump, Joe Janes, Catherine Monahan, Chris Othic, Nat Topping and Greg Wendling. To promote comedy writing in Chicago, Robot vs. Dinosaur also hosts Robowriters, a weekly writer’s workshop.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A New Adventure

Mr. Fuck and Mr. Shit Speak of the Jonas Brothers.

I say, Mr. Shit, I sure enjoy the Jonas Brothers.

As do I, my dear Fuck. Their musical genius makes my groin sing.

My favorite Jonas brother is Ralph.

There is no Jonas Brother by the name of Ralph.

Are you certain? It was just this very morning that I was lying in bed, ballgag perfectly immobilizing my jaw, dreaming of a rousing rendezvous of rogering with Ralph Jonas.

My dear fellow, Ralph Jonas is the homeless man who lives under the 16th Street bridge.

I do not recall such a gentleman.

Do not recall? We stick woodland creatures upon his manhood every Thursday evening.

Of course! The fine fellow we fellated with a ferret!

No, you are thing of Mr. Bailey Noel Tosment, the youth pastor in Carbondale. I speak of the man we meat-mangled with a macaw monkey.

Ah, yes! It is now as clear as an Appalachian sunrise.

Shall we masturbate to reruns of Gary Unmarried?


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Scenes From Someone Else's Show


If you live in Chicago and frequent coffee shops or theaters, you cannot escape the cavalcade of postcards out there for shows (Be on the lookout for a real sharp ruler-shaped one. That show will kick ass.)

The assignment is to write a scene based on one of these cards. Pick one you're least familiar with, unless you're gunning to do a parody. I wrote two this week. The first one, Elaborate, was inspired from a postcard for the play The Elaborate Entrance of Chuck Deity at Victory Gardens.

Based on the image, this play has a lot to do with professional wrestling. My scene does not. I merely used the title as a springboard and created a scene about an out-of-touch CEO who makes an elaborate entrance into a meeting.

You can also use the postcard to create a scene that, in your own warped mind, might be in the play with which you are entirely unfamiliar. I did that with The Last Unicorn from Promethean Theater. The same folks who brought you Nat Topping in bloomers with their production of Measure for Measure.

I have heard the title before. The play is adapted from a children's story which has also been an animated cartoon. But I have no idea what the plot is. I decided to write my own version of a scene that could be in a play called The Last Unicorn. I started with finding a twist. Unicorns are beautiful, vibrant creatures, but what if mine was sick and poorly cared for. Would it still be as magical? Judge for yourself HERE.

If you live in an area not littered with promotional material for shows, you can grab the entertainment section of a newspaper and look at the ads for films. Pick one you never heard of or know little about. Remember, you're not beholden to honor whatever the title is or the image. It's a place to start and to get the creative wheels turning. Have fun.