Becca Brown
Photo by Sara Larson

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have already seen Becca Brown perform her hilarious brand of musical comedy in a live setting, you’re already a fan.

The Chicago comedian, actor, musician, writer – who recently moved to Los Angeles to further pursue a career on stage and screen – has already appeared in network television as well as legendary films, while also performing at such iconic institutions as The Second City and iO. Although Brown was eliminated tragically early from the NBC competition Bring the Funny, she’s ready to follow in the footsteps of another reality show underdog.

“I like to think of myself as the Jennifer Hudson of Bring the Funny, completely robbed, but hopefully I’ll go on to become an Oscar winner, because ultimately my goal is to become an Oscar-winning actress,” Brown said with a laugh during a phone call prior to her farewell show at The Hideout last month.

After years of bouncing from Chicago to L.A. to New York and back again, Brown made the move to La La Land this January, and her future is looking as bright as that California sun.

“A couple years ago I was working on a play in Los Angeles and I fell in love with it. I didn’t expect to and I fully found out who I have the potential to be while I was out there. I got really physically healthy and felt a lot better and was able to take that with me back here and bring that to my other gigs,” said Brown. “I love Chicago. I grew up here and I will always be grateful for institutions like Second City and Steppenwolf and iO for giving me space to grow my craft and learn as an artist. I think that Chicago is a great place for artists to sharpen their tools and to figure out what their voice is.”

Brown recruited a full band, The Pee Pee Boys, to join her on stage at The Hideout for a long goodbye to Chicago full of musical mayhem.

“The stuff that I’m playing at The Hideout is a culmination of my last couple of years here. I wrote so many songs, and these are my favorites. I’m also doing a couple of covers of songs that I didn’t write just because they’re fun and my band really kills it,” said Brown. “The Hideout is one of my favorite venues. I’ve done a couple variety shows there where I was a guest on someone’s show, and it’s always such an amazing crowd, and I love the people that work there.”

One of the songs Brown wrote in 2019 was “Forgot Your Name,” a radio-ready tune with as many punchlines as hooks. The video for the infectious tune was directed by Cassie Ahiers, the director/producer of Just Call Me Ripley, the comedic web-series – about a bagel shop employee’s coming out story – created, written by and starring Jake (fka Shannon) Noll, which featured Brown in its cast. Brown explained that she was thrilled to portray the title character’s love interest and even more thrilled that the story avoided cliched storylines.

“For someone to be able to take experiences from their life, put it on a page and then make it into comedy gold for everyone to see and for people to relate to is huge. I’m so forever grateful that I got to be a part of that process. It was so fun to work on. I loved being in the room with a bunch of queer people,” said Brown. “All I did was show up and play this character, but seriously, [Jake] and Cassie I owe them everything.”

Brown is also grateful for her past role as one of the kids starring alongside Jack Black in School of Rock.

“I loved it. It’s weird to say I was in a classic because that makes me feel old and I know I’m not, but it’s interesting. The legacy that that film has carried is so crazy to me,” Brown said, noting that she is touched by the messages she receives from fans who relate to her character and how they helped her to avoid any resentment that can come with such early success.

“I get messages from girls who are like, ‘Your character inspired me to pick up an instrument and start learning how to be a musician.’ And then I have queer women and non-binary people messaging me and saying, ‘I didn’t realize I was queer until a couple of years ago when I realized that you were the first person I ever had a crush on.’ I love that. That makes me really happy. Fortunately, it’s those things that keep me not resentful of it.”

Brown is passionate about all her upcoming projects and with the move to L.A., the future is wide open.

“There’s so many things I want to do. I want to be on Broadway. I want to do my music and comedy as a tour or a special. I really want to be in dramatic films and I want to be on funny TV shows. I honestly want to do it all, and I know that’s hella unrealistic, but I have big dreams and I’m taking things one day, one step, one gig at a time,” said Brown. “We’ll see where it goes.”

Final Five Questions with Becca Brown

Becca Brown
Photo by Sara Larson

What makes you laugh?

My sister. The dogs that I watch – I’m a dog sitter – babies and I’m really into astrology memes because I’m basic and boring (laughs).

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

Honestly, everything out of Patti Harrison’s mouth. She is just the funniest person. Literally, I can scroll her Twitter for hours and just die.

I don’t have a personal favorite joke of my own because that feels deeply narcissistic.

Mitra Jouhari – she’s from New York and now she lives in L.A. – has an amazing dumb dumb joke that always makes me laugh. She says, “I’ve got a degree from the New York Piss School of Shit.” That fully kills me every time.

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

Ooh, The Bean. No, I’m kidding. Oh my God, Eww. Kill me (Laughs).

Margie’s. The original Margie’s on Milwaukee and Western. I know it’s winter, but I’m an ice cream year-round kind of gal. Nobody can tell me that that’s not normal. We’re good. So, at Margie’s get a raspberry sundae. I promise you’ll love it if you’re into raspberries and ice cream.

I feel like anytime I have a friend come to Chicago, I have to really tailor what I recommend to their experience. I’d say I have something for each neighborhood. If you have a chance to go for a walk on the 606 when it’s nice out, do that. We love the 606.

I like showing people the little ma and pa restaurants that I like. Tank Noodle in freakin’ Uptown is amazing. I like to sit in the lobby of the Palmer House Hilton and write, but that’s not for everybody. Merz Apothecary, and I like all the bookstores, too. I would go on a bookstore tour of Chicago.

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

Obviously, I’m gonna have to shout out The Hideout. Also, Alex Grelle hosts an amazing show called “Ordinary Peepholes” at Beauty Bar every third or fourth Monday of the month. It’s amazing, and it’s usually a different theme every month. Alex Grelle is an amazing performance artist, singer and comedian who is such a good character developer.

Also, Derry Queen’s variety show and Just Us Gals. I really love Derry Queen’s variety show at The Hideout.

What makes you Rebellious?

Rebellious is a word that I used to describe myself when I was a sixth grade, little, pop-punk enthusiast, Avril Lavigne-lover kid wearing Doc Martens when everyone else was wearing, I don’t know, not Doc Martens. I played guitar when all the other girls were ice skating.

I think being rebellious is just being your f*cking self and not apologizing for it. Being unabashedly honest with yourself, especially. For me, being rebellious is also saying no to things. Being unafraid to say f*ck no, but also saying yes to things that scare you.

Saying no to things that you would normally say yes to because you’re people pleasing and saying yes to things that scare you, but you know you’re only afraid of it because you’d f*cking kill it. F*cking sign that contract. Buy that house. Buy that f*cking pair of cheetah print heels that cost $200 if that’s a responsible thing for you to do right now which for me it isn’t, but I’m going to do it anyway because they’re cute.

(Photos by Sara Larson courtesy of Becca Brown)

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...