Stand-up comedians welcome students back to campus


Meghan White/Daily senior staffer

Comedian Adam Burke performs for an audience of 15 at Evanston’s J.J. Java. The event was part of a new weekly show at the local coffee shop.

Amanda Gilbert, Reporter

A crowd of 15 people watched three comedians kick-off the new school year with a “welcome back” performance at Evanston’s J.J. Java cafe Thursday night.

Comedians Adam Burke, Anthony McBrien and Weinberg senior Gabe Schonfeld performed for Double-Shot Showcase, a new weekly show at the coffee shop.

Double-Shot producer Kris Simmons said the show was organized in a way to give  their stand-up comics a chance to perform for a longer time period and in a more casual setting.

“In most shows, comedians might get four minutes to present their material,” Simmons said. “But we limit the number of comedians we present so they all get longer periods of time.”

She added that this show was different from other stand-up performances because it utilized both experienced and younger comics. She said many comedy shows are typically hosted in bars on Monday nights, so student and underage comedians struggle to jump-start their careers.

“There’s very few all-age comic places,” Simmons said. “But this is like watching a show in your own living room because (J.J. Java) is such a casual place for all to enjoy.”

The venue also served as creative inspiration for the comedians’ jokes Friday night.  Burke said he loved performing in coffee shops because it’s the only type of show at which he doesn’t drink.

Others took a more traditional approach to comedy, spinning jokes from personal experience. Schonfeld began his performance by commenting on Chicago’s notoriously fickle weather patterns, gradually transitioning to his early childhood experiences of being a test tube baby.

“I’ll never forget being told I was made out of a machine, not out of love,” he said.

Schonfeld said he puts a lot of thought into his shows, planning out the order of jokes and keeping them timely. He compared it to journalism, explaining that success in comedy is all about being observant and relating to people.

“People laugh more if they know exactly what you are talking about,” he said. “ You have to find a side to something that is common.”

History major Schonfeld took a year off from school in order to perform throughout Chicago as a professional stand-up comedian. He said his main goal is simple: make people laugh. He added that the great thing about comedy is that there are many approaches a comedian can take to draw laughs from his audience. He said some comedians draw inspiration from world events while others focus on their personal tragedies or poor childhoods.

“I plan on doing other things besides comedy,” Schonfeld said. “But I just want to have fun in a different way.”

Simmons said she was especially excited to see the show because she had heard Schonfeld and Burke were two of the best comedians working in the Chicago today. She added that Burke’s first CD will debut on iTunes on Tuesday.

“I get to invite all of my favorite comedians and we get to see a show of people who I know are the best,” she said.