Making Out with Wes Perry and Friends | Comedy Review
Since its debut last April, Making Out with Wes Perry and Friends has struck a nerve with several disparate camps; folks from the similarly DIY-leaning underground sketch, storytelling and queer performance scenes fill the charming and intimate Upstairs Gallery in record-breaking numbers the third Wednesday of each month. Making Out is anchored by Perry's skills as an engaging storyteller and game host, willing and able to navigate the sudden tonal shifts that are bound to happen in a show as eclectic as this. An encore version happens Sunday 3 at 8pm at the Hideout.
At February's edition of Making Out, Perry's keen curatorial eye crafted a unique revue, featuring sketches from Anthony Oberbeck, Aarón Alonso, Seth Dodson and Christina Boucher, stories from Philip Markle and Kiam Marcelo Junio, and a devastating musical performance from KOKUMO. Oberbeck's set found him drawing from his notebook, randomly selecting partially formed solo sketches based on audience suggestions and following up each with a bit of self-deprecating feedback. A surrealist scene from the charismatic, eccentric Alonso treaded the line between sketch and performance art, evoking at times the body horror of early David Cronenberg and the oppressive absurdity of David Lynch, while Dodson and Boucher ran through their NED Talk (a parody of the wildly popular TED lecture series) before performing it at an actual TED Conference less than a week later.
Markle and Junio both shared personal stories; Markle drew from his experiences at the massive Burning Man festival, while Junio read from an old journal, sharing a story about his experience as a gay man in the Navy during the days of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The highlight of the evening, and one of the most moving musical performances I've ever had the pleasure of seeing live, came from KOKUMO, a transgender musician who recently released her first album. Her emotionally raw performance of "Mad World," a Tears for Fears cover popularized by Gary Jules, completely destroyed—I saw audience members in tears by the song's end.
The common thread connecting these performers is Perry, who has a background in sketch, improv, theater and the queer arts scenes. "At some point, I realized I was seeing such a variety of amazing performers, but so many of them would never see each other. My friends from the Annoyance would never be at the Beauty Bar," he explains. "Most people [on the bill] really are my friends." Thankfully, Perry's nice enough to share his friends with a community of open-minded, down-for-anything audience members each month. Making Out is peerless in Chicago: a variety show that blends real, old-school variety with an evolved sense of inclusivity.
Making Out with Wes Perry and Friends happens every third Wednesday of the month at 8pm at the Upstairs Gallery; the next one is Wednesday, March 20.