Adrienne Brandyburg (photographed by Sara Larson)
Adrienne Brandyburg (photographed by Sara Larson)

Adrienne Brandyburg, Chicago born and raised, strives for authenticity. Whether mining her life for stand-up material, diving deep into personal revelations as a storyteller or stepping outside herself to bring truth in acting roles, she creates engaging performances based on genuine moments.

“I’m trying to get in where I fit in. That’s what I’m trying to do,” said Brandyburg, expressing a desire to take what comes and make the best of every opportunity.

Chicago comedy fans have seen Brandyburg perform at Zanies, Laugh Factory, The Hideout – the list goes on and on – but she’s perhaps best known as one of the founders of the comedy variety showcase known as B.A.P.S. – Beautiful and Powerful Sistas.

Along with her co-producers, Adrienne Brown and Jillian Ebanks, Brandyburg loves providing a platform for women of color to perform across Chicago and beyond. The trio – all of whom also perform stand-up, sketches and more with B.A.P.S. – have taken a bit of a sabbatical of late, but they have exciting advancements coming up in the new year.

“It’s supposed to be a secret, but I’m spilling the beans. We’re preparing to do a slew of pop-up shows next year. I’m so excited to start to really kick that off,” said Brandyburg, who notes that the spontaneity that audiences have come to love will always be a part of the show.

“We want our fans, and it’s so weird to say fans, to always be up for whatever we have going for them,” she added.

Variety and spontaneity are cornerstones of Brandyburg’s career as a solo performer as well. She could rely comfortably on her status as a popular Chicago comedian, but she strives to push herself into new ventures.

“I perform at Second City, Laugh Factory and a lot of local great bar shows. I’m doing a lot more storytelling to work that muscle, trying to stretch, exaggerate and embellish even more on a story so I’m doing a little bit of everything,” Brandyburg said. “If a storytelling show has a theme, I try to sprinkle in a little bit of humor, but at the same time I still want to be my true self and be able to express whatever feeling the theme brought out of me.”

Even when walking in someone else’s shoes as an actress, Brandyburg brings her true self to the role to connect with a character sincerely.

“I’ve done a handful of short films and I love working on short films because it’s a great tool – and great practice – in trying to find the character, find myself and find how I interpret the character,” she said.

Brandyburg wasn’t always a performer. She manifested her life as a comedian while lamenting the day-to-day work of corporate America. Although she hadn’t performed comedy in the past, she felt the calling and soon found herself on stage.

“I was working at my corporate job and for some reason I had an epiphany that I was bored with life,” said Brandyburg. “So I went online and looked for comedy classes and internships and I found an internship at a comedy club. One of the requirements for the internship was you have to prepare material and go on stage. I did that and it was a terrible rendition of me ranting and raving about whatever I thought was funny.”

Some time passed, and Brandyburg once again heard comedy’s siren song.

“One day I posted on Instagram, ‘I think I’m going to go and do comedy.’ From there, I got the bug,” she said.

And the rest, is they say, is history.

Final Five Questions with Adrienne Brandyburg

Adrienne Brandyburg (photographed by Taylor Rife)
Adrienne Brandyburg (photographed by Taylor Rife)

What makes you laugh?

I feel like everything makes me laugh. I try not to take things too seriously, and even in serious moments I start laughing. It’s a mechanism for me to deal with nervousness. I just laugh all the time.

I also love other goofy people. They make me laugh and my friends make me laugh all the time.

Do you have a favorite joke either that you do or you love from another comedian?

The first thing that came to mind is Dave Chappelle when he just goes off. In one of his last two specials, someone yelled out, “Santa Monica,” and he was like, “Santa Monica? Santa Monicaaa!” It’s such a stupid, silly little moment, but it always makes me laugh.

There’s a comic, Marlon Mitchell, every time he says anything, he always adds his signature to jokes like “Baby.” That makes me laugh. There are so many great comics out here that have such great solid jokes. I can’t narrow down one.

What establishments or landmarks would you recommend for someone to visit in Chicago?

Go to Wicker Park. Wicker Park is solid – even though they’ve gotten a little bougie – if you want a nice good party scene and some really good food, go to Wicker Park.

Obviously, Millennium Park, but – meh – I rarely go to Millennium Park unless there’s a festival or something specific going on over there. If you’re coming on the weekend and visiting Chicago, there’s always something to do, especially in the summer. Summertime Chi, I can definitely suggest a different festival each and every day for sure.

Do you have any comedy recommendations to share with the world?

You should go to Zanies. That’s a solid club to go to, and Laugh Factory. And, of course, of course, go see Comedians You Should Know.

I love Ali Wong. I love Zainab Johnson. Chloe Hilliard is coming out with her special. I love all of her work. Her special is called Big D*ck Energy or something like that. That’s how we’re doing it, Big D*ck Energy, baby (Laughs).

JUGs – Just Us Gals – that’s one of my favorite shows to do for sure, and The Green Mill. I love all of these places, come on.

What makes you Rebellious?

I’m rebellious because I didn’t choose the easy road. I am the oldest out of four children, and I’m also the first college graduate out of my whole family, so everyone assumed and expected me to go and live in this dull corporate world. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it wasn’t my path. It wasn’t my journey whatsoever. It’s crazy how five years ago, I would never expect my life to be what it is right now.

I have a lot of ambition in my future. I’m rebellious. Whatever anybody says I can’t do, I’ll show them that I can do it. I’m a badass, so yeah.

(Photos by Sara Larson and Taylor Rife courtesy of Adrienne Brandyburg)

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...