The last laugh
This week, Chicago’s stand-up community will pay its last (hilarious) respects to Renee Gauthier and Kara Buller—two local comedians about to go coastal. On Tuesday 26, Chicago Underground Comedy (a top weekly stand-up showcase at Gunther Murphy’s) will play host to a tearful yet irreverent send-off. Expect pizza, cake, dancing, music and lotsa laughs: Hannah Gansen, Hattie Snider, Fay Canale and Becky Garcia have new material primed and polished. Maybe if we ask really nice, the guests of honor will tell a few, too.Before these two jump ship for sunnier, more congested coasts, read our round-up and laugh at one last set. Next time you’re out East or West, subtly bring up the Chicago-trained comic you know oh-so-much about. Impress friends! Wow strangers! Raise the eyebrows of casual acquaintances! You’re welcome.
“I’m terrified I’ll be horrible at networking,” says Renee Gauthier two weeks before her move to Los Angeles. She’d better get practicing—aspiring sitcom stars in L.A. are basically expected to schmooze it or lose it.Gauthier will be missed here at home. She was a member of the SpitFire Comedy Coalition and a regular performer at top alt–stand-up rooms. “Comics take risks here,” she says. “Chicago is a lot less hack, and my time here will serve me extremely well.”
We’re confident she’ll be fine: Fearlessness played heavily into Gauthier’s Chicago stand-up debut a few years back, when an improv-troupe mate invited her, on a whim, to a stand-up open mike. A graduate of the Second City Conservatory and I.O.’s training center, Gauthier was no stranger to the stage, and she welcomed the opportunity to be herself that stand-up afforded. “I was going through a breakup at the time, so I did a lot of ‘I want a boyfriend’ stuff,” she says. “I learned that the truth is a lot funnier than jokes, and that I like being the center of attention.”
In L.A., though, she’ll be content to win a supporting role further down the sitcom credits. “The straight woman isn’t for me. I’m more of the ‘quirky neighbor’ kinda girl,” she says.
Start spreadin’ the news, she’s leavin’ today
Unlike Gauthier, fellow SpitFire member Kara Buller used comedy to escape from herself. Her latest one-woman show, Kara Buller Live!, was fully character-driven. “I never revealed myself onstage, but I’m beginning to not find characters all that exciting artistically,” Buller shares. “It’s time to start telling my life story.”
Buller struggled with addiction many years ago and was ostracized as a child for being bisexual. Originally, she felt her audiences, and her own insecurities, weren’t ready for the whole truth. Her involvement with Buddhism has helped her achieve some sense of peace, but the next step is getting the word out in New York.
“I need a fresh start to feel comfortable telling my story,” she says. “New York will give me some anonymity, and it’s a very ‘anything goes’ place for an artist.”
Buller admits to being New York–obsessed her entire postadolescent life. “I have fantasies about living in New York, renting a theater space and nurturing a one-woman show. That and New York gay boys throwing around boas,” she says.Outside of getting East and performing, Buller’s goals are in-the-moment. “What I do is therapeutic for myself and the audience,” she says, “and I’m loving the creation process. If you don’t find joy in it, you’re missing something.”—Steve Heisler
Gauthier and Buller will receive a final sendoff at Chicago Underground Comedy Tuesday 26.