All good things must come to an end, including Chicago’s favorite winter festival, Tomorrow Never Knows. The final night of the five-day music and comedy event featured Sons of the Silent Age playing at Metro and BadBadNotGood closing things out at Lincoln Hall, among other great shows, but the must-see set of the night came compliments of Beth Stelling at The Hideout.

Near the end of Stelling’s early show on Jan. 15, the comedian informed fans that everything in her comedy is real. She proved this authenticity by lifting up the back of her shirt to show off a tattoo of her ex-boyfriend’s name, which had been the subject of a hilarious bit about her level of commitment earlier in the night. These types of free-form interactions were peppered throughout Stelling’s stellar Sunday night set, helping to make it a hilarious – and unforgettable – comedy experience that was full of surprises, suspense and a whole lot of laughter.

Stelling began her show at The Hideout by filling fans in on some ongoing Facebook drama that she was dealing with backstage stemming from her recent “A Prairie Home Companion” appearance – which she filmed along with Andrew Bird, Laura Marling and host, Chris Thile, at the Chicago Symphony Center the previous night. The taping generated a lot of social media compliments for the comedian, but you can never please everyone.

Case in point: A 68-year-old woman named Harriet, who was offended by a tale about Stelling’s mother and her technological difficulties, sought the comedian out on Facebook to express her disappointment. After including The Hideout audience in on the feud – and hearing their sympathy for the woman – Stelling recruited fans to participate in a special “I’m Sorry” video, just for Harriet, which she filmed mid-show. The ongoing interaction – and updates – added originality and a bit of intrigue to the already entertaining set.

Stories about Stelling’s family also generated lots of laughs as she was able to relate funny personal scenarios – including difficulties with her former stepfather – to universal human experiences. Her mother’s charming written reaction to Stelling’s appearance in “Playboy” – which only loves the comedian for her words – led to a hilarious bit about a parent’s bragging rights. She also took time out to answer some of life’s big questions, like what is the best way to deal with the TSA and how should one properly honor their IUD after years of flawless service.

Before Stelling took the stage, Shannon Noll warmed things up with some funny jokes. “I found Shannon in Phoenix, and I fell in love with her,” Stelling said of the show’s opener. The Chicago comedian’s stories about Wisconsin moms, a guacamole pioneer named Rhonda, having fun with hatred and being harassed by the police kept the laughs flowing during her short but satisfying set.

Stelling’s early TNK Fest performance was a one-of-a-kind comedy experience, something that is incredibly hard to do. She kept things moving with unexpected twists and turns that led to fresh takes on classic bits fromSimply the Beth,” funny new material and hilarious interactions with fans in the front row. We are already counting down the days until Tomorrow Never Knows returns in 2018. Head over to to stay up-to-date on all of Stelling’s comedy plans.

Laurie Fanelli is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who specializes in live entertainment coverage. She is at home at major music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and, of course, Lollapalooza and...

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