Once upon a time, Elizabeth Gomez purchased a one-way ticket to Chicago, inspired by the $99 price tag, the promise of a free Malibu Rum drink from American Trans Air and a desire to leave Los Angeles behind. Lucky for Windy City residents, the move stuck, and Gomez has harnessed her unbridled inspiration and boundless energy to start such institutions as Windy City Rollers and Drinkers with Writing Problems, all the while leaving her mark on the city’s flourishing stand-up scene.
“Chicago called me, and it was like, ‘you’re not leaving,’” she said. “I love it here.” Gomez’s journey to the stand-up stage started on the roller derby track as she co-founded The Windy City Rollers in 2004 with Kelly Simmons after discovering the sport on a trip to Texas. At that time, there were only six leagues in the entire country and the duo – who became known as Juanna Rumbel (Gomez) and Sister Sledgehammer (Simmons) – helped to grow the sport in Chicago and all around the world, where there are now over 1,600 leagues competing every season.
After retiring from the sport, Gomez quickly learned that she wasn’t the type of person who enjoys sitting around and watching TV in her spare time, so she gathered together a group of former skaters, derby widows (significant others whose loved ones dedicate every waking hour to roller derby) and aspiring writers to help each other compose new creative works with the writers collective, Drinkers with Writing Problems. Since its founding in 2012, the group has amassed a giant following on WordPress and hosts monthly live readings at Brisku’s Bistro on the last Friday of every month.
“It ended up being really fun as it’s grown because now we have storytellers, we have stand-ups, we have writers, we have essayists and we have people who do journal readings. We even have musicians who come in to play their own music, so it’s kind of a great place to be, in a room experiencing the power of words,” said Gomez.
Enrolling in Kelsie Huff’s (The Kates) comedy class – a Christmas gift from her husband – led Gomez to discover a passion for stand-up comedy, especially when it comes to finding the funny in the darker side of life. “I like to be able to connect with people on that level where we can redefine what we think people are about,” she said. “That’s a cool thing about comedy, it’s always questioning how you see things, what you think about or how you approach things and how that might change in the future. It’s a pretty incredible tool.”
Whether she’s revealing the hidden humor in such unlikely sources as family frustrations, the inevitability of death or the passing brilliance of 1980s romance films, Gomez’s unique perspective has helped her to become known as one of the funniest people performing in Chicago today. Keep up with her busy performance schedule by following her on Twitter and head over to DrinkerswithWritingProblems.com to read her latest works.
Final Five Questions with Elizabeth Gomez
What makes you laugh?
The unexpected – I also love puns (laughs). I’m a huge fan of that. I remember being a kid and thinking Steven Wright was so funny because he really knew how to work those joke structures. Also, anytime my daughter walks into a wall (laughs) – my oldest daughter is the clumsiest. She always walks into things and that’s hilarious. I don’t know – I guess the unexpected is always funny.
Do you have a favorite joke either that you do or you love from another comedian?
I know that Kelsie [Huff] quoted Alexandra [Tsarpalas], but those tiny hands of Alexandra’s are just the best. She also does this Dove Chocolate thing that kills me every time I see it, so I would say that. She is one of the weirdest, kookiest ladies – I love her.
I also like Danny Kallas, he performs a lot here in Chicago. I think he’s very funny. There are so many comics in Chicago that I really like.
What establishments or landmarks would you recommend for someone to visit in Chicago?
A million places. I’m really into Mirabella’s right now, which is not too far from where I live so I love to go there. Gosh, this is so hard – I can’t believe how hard this question is.
Best Intentions is a bar that I really love on Armitage. And I would definitely recommend that you get a hot dog. You have to, right? Even though they’re kind of gross. Why do they put a quarter of a tomato on top – what a weird thing, but also delicious. Oh, and I’d get a corned beef sandwich at Vienna Beef Factory. That’s really good.
Obviously, I’d also recommend that everyone comes to see The kates.
Do you have any comedy recommendations to share with the world?
I’m a huge fan of Kelsie [Huff], so I’d put her first. And I really love Wanda Sykes’ detachable vagina bit. About her jogging and leaving her vagina at home. I love her so much. She has another bit about tilapia that kills me.
Also I love, from back in the day, Eddie Murphy’s bit about hamburgers. Where he talks about poor people hamburgers, which made me sad because it reminded me of my mom – she totally made those burgers.
What makes you Rebellious?
Oh my God… That I don’t give any Fs. That’s probably it. I’m not afraid to try something new or to keep going even in terrible situations – I’ll figure it out.