8 Random Thoughts About Tribune’s ‘Chicago Live!’

(l-r) Rick Kogan, mystery man, and Gerould Kern at the Chicago Live! after-party.

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[CHICAGO] Last night I attended the second taping of Chicago Tribune‘s experimental new show, Chicago Live! It’s a marriage of three local icons: Tribune, Second City, and the Chicago Theatre, where the taping takes place. An unusual extension of the Tribune brand, the show was described by one of its creators as “a mix of very serious news interviews interspersed with more entertaining comedy sketches, sports banter and arts performances.” (I briefly mentioned the project in an earlier blog post about innovation and the Tribune.) Anyway, this isn’t a review but just some random thoughts since I haven’t done a bullet-list post in a while.

  • Rick Kogan, you’re a modern day Frazier Thomas/Ray Rayner/Ringmaster Ned. A logical new personification of the Tribune brand. Maybe a little bit Bill Jackson. (Wait, was he WGN? No. Maybe Ch. 7?) I hope this is taken as a good thing.
  • If Trib Corp. could bottle and syndicate the passion of weather guru Tom Skilling, those bankruptcy troubles would vanish tomorrow. Every newsroom should have someone with this boundless spirit.
  • Maybe the sports segment could use a puppet? Just thinking out loud. Garfield Goose might be in the basement or something. (Dirty Dragon would be awesome, but I’m thinking Ch. 7 again.)
  • I actually enjoyed Michael Phillips’ riff on “Jackass 3D” more than I might have expected. If time permitted, would have been cool to show that other Chicago icon, Oprah, in her own hilarious Jackass homage (via MadTV). Warning: some language may be NSFW. Tribsters, if you get in trouble for forwarding this video, or for snorting raucously while watching Oprah tumble downhill in a Porta-potty, don’t blame me.
  • Favorite segment: Greg Kot’s live interview with, and performance by, local artist-writer-activist Che “Rhymefest” Smith, who co-wrote Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” and earlier in the day, filed to run for alderman in the 20th Ward. Hearing him speak, you can’t help but recall the passion from “Dreams From My Father” where Obama describes trying to make inroads on the south side. Facebook Rhymefest here.
  • Bonus: Second City oddball Tim Kazurinsky (SNL) paired up for a wacky skit with Skilling. Super Bonus: Open bar.
  • Segments showcasing “real Chicago” like the acclaimed Albany Park Theater project typify the multi-culti sensibilities of co-executive producer Lara Weber. (Disclosure: friend.) They should also help silence critics who say the Trib only focuses on rich, white readers or neighborhoods. (I spent a year volunteering at Hibbard Elementary, where we once counted 47 nationalities in the art classes in one week; APT’s live performance brought that ‘hood to life on stage.) Newspapers need more staffers like Lara, who’ve spent time living in a mud hut in Zambia or dancing barefoot at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, and need to set them loose on projects like this. Read my earlier interview with Lara about her Peace Corps stint, where she “got to know people who love life and aren’t burdened by the pressures we put upon ourselves in the ‘developed’ world.” Can’t go wrong amplifying that spirit in any newsroom.
  • I’m not sure who the silver Oompa Loompah man is in the photo above with Kogan and Editor Gerould Kern, but he reminded me of this alien guy I met at Burning Man and that’s always a good thing.

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Overall I liked Chicago Live! and would recommend it to journalists or anyone curious about Chicago culture. You can learn more about Chicago Live! and view clips and such at their website. If this sounds like your kind of thing, you might also want to check out these similar, sort of underground-y live events in Chicago:

  • PechaKucha, a worldwide phenomenon where a dozen presenters get 5 minutes and 20 slides (only) to present a Powerpoint a topic of their choosing. It sounds weird but with the right speakers, can be fascinating. I caught the first local PK gig at Martyr’s, and the show’s now gone all over town. Upcoming events include a PechaKucha showcasing students at the School of the Art Institute (tomorrow, Oct. 23!) and on Nov. 13, a PechaKucha for Chicago architects. Learn more about Chicago PechaKucha here.
  • The Show ‘n Tell Show, a local creation I saw at Schuba’s but outgrew that space and most recently took over Links Hall. It’s a live panel discussion from Chicago’s top graphic artists (it’s like AIGA meets The Tonight Show). These things are hard to produce and the one I saw was fantastic, entertaining-educational, to the point, and a great celebration of a Chicago subculture. No events are on their schedule but you can review archives and be on the lookout for more in the future.

If you are reading this and you don’t live in Chicago, too bad for you, because the best things in life are happening here right now.

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