Chi-Town Comedy Chat: Stephanie Weber Mines Life – and the Afterlife – for Laughs

Stephanie Weber comedian

Chicago-based writer and comedian Stephanie Weber‘s world is filled with characters. From random shoppers at the grocery store to comedians – with whom she shares a stage as a cast member of The Lincoln Lodge and producer of Chicago Underground Comedy (ChUC) – to the ghosts that she suspects haunt the ladies room at her office, she finds humor in almost every encounter, supernatural or otherwise.

“I’ve always loved spooky things,” explained Weber of her past participation on the Travel Channel ghost-hunting series Haunted USA. “The show opened me up. I had never seen ghosts before, and I always kind of wanted to. I always thought I was a little too thirsty for it. Now that I want it too bad, they’re like a boyfriend playing hard to get.”

Growing up in New Lenox, Weber first fell in love with the stage as a playwright and theatre actress before diving head first into the wild world of improv and sketch.

“When I went to college, I started interning at iO and Annoyance and taking classes through that,” said Weber. “I was always interested in sketch comedy and I loved Strangers with Candy and Stella, these Comedy Central shows that I watched so much. I admired the fact – most of all – that these people had each other to work off of and I just dreamed of that. I wanted a troupe. I wanted to meet my people.”

Soon, Weber sought out her people in New York, where she pursued a career as a playwright. It was there that necessity provoked her to explore stand-up comedy, and she hasn’t looked back since.

“I lived in New York for a little bit, but it’s too expensive. After about two years, I moved back, but in that time I had started stand-up because I needed something free to do in New York, and open mics are free,” she said with a laugh. “If they’re not free, you’re going to the wrong ones.”

Now back in Chicago – where she writes for Mr. Skin and its spin-off site Mr. Man and hosts the Punching Up Podcast with Ian Erickson – Weber’s affable energy and hilarious humor delight fans at some of the city’s most beloved comedy institutions.

“I love The Lincoln Lodge. I love Chicago and I love Chicago institutions. It’s been such an important part of Chicago comedy for so long. It’s so cool to be a member of that cast,” she said, noting that performing among the best of the best has helped her grow as a comedian. “I’m the least competitive comedian, but when I’m on a show with other people and they’re all so good it’s like I want to rise to the occasion. I don’t want the audience to walk away being like ‘Eww, that one,’” Weber said.

Whether on stage or working behind the scenes co-producing ChUC – which takes place Tuesday nights at the Beat Kitchen – Weber strives to give audiences the best show possible.

“ChUC is one of the longer running shows in the city, so it’s beloved. We do have to balance it. It’s really difficult – but also very fun – to put those lineup puzzle pieces together,” she said.

Characters – real, fictional and ghostly – make everything more interesting. Their larger than life charms and quirky traits add excitement to the most humdrum of days. Whether holding a mirror up to society with her nuanced comedy or curating a show with diverse personalities, Weber understands the significance of characters and celebrates them at every turn.

Final Five Questions with Stephanie Weber

Stephanie Weber comedian doing standup

Photo Credit: Sarah Larson

What makes you laugh?

Well, I think really, really silly things make me laugh, like cartoonishly silly. Also, I’m always drawn to characters that are kind of delusional, who make a lot of faux pas. That Tim Robinson show I Think You Should Leave is all heightened faux pas, and that makes me laugh so, so much probably because in real life it bothers me. I think seeing it made funny is my coping mechanism.

I love, love, love that Lisa Kudrow show The Comeback, and I know so many people like her, a delusional actress. When you meet them in real life its like, “Oh, I do not want to be around you. I can’t. This is too much. You are freaking me out,” but that show makes me laugh so much, probably as a result of that.

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

We were talking about that ghost-hunting stuff, and I can talk about that for so long. Audiences like it OK, I’ll tell you. They don’t always love it because a lot of people think that I sound crazy. They think that talking about ghosts is crazy, but I love it. I think it’s fun. I think it’s funny, so anything that’s about ghosts is very funny to me.

One of my favorite silly comedians is Hampton Yount. His album Bearable is so, so good, and it has so many silly jokes. He has this one joke in particular that is imagining the marketing scheme for coming up with the McDonald’s character Grimace. It is so, so funny. I won’t ruin it, but it makes me laugh so much. I’ll listen to it on my phone and laugh out loud as I’m walking around. It’s great.

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

If you’re trying to see a show and hit up a cool place all at once, The Paper Machete is amazing. It’s Saturdays at the Green Mill, and the Green Mill is such a cool place. I love movie history and Chaplin had a studio, Essanay Studios, around the corner, and the storefront is still there.

You can go to the Green Mill, get all that old history, see The Paper Machete, see the comedy – oh my God it’s so wonderful – take a stroll and check that studio out. I think that’s cool. And then you can go get pho up the street. I’m planning someone’s whole day (Laughs).

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

I’m trying to think of people who aren’t about to move. I want to say Megan Stalter, but she’s moving in like two weeks, and that’s crazy.

Besides my own shows, I recommend The Paper Machete, and I love everything that Derry Queen is doing right now. Derry Queen is a drag comedian who is doing this show – I think at The Hideout mostly – and it’s so much fun. They perform all over the place, and that’s a comedian I would watch.

Also Logan Square Improv because I went there recently, and I was so surprised. There was a show there, the place was packed, and the improv teams were really good. You can get really jaded with comedy and improv because you’ve seen so much of it, but I laughed so much.

What makes you Rebellious?

I do not follow trends. I’m not a follower, and I never have been. That definitely has its negative impacts as well as its positive ones. I notice patterns and trends really quickly and I’m always, always, always someone who asks why.

Why is this happening? Why are we doing this? I ask before I jump in. I think that’s something that makes me rebellious because people don’t want you to ask why. People want you to step in line. I kind of step out of line a lot.

(Photos by Sarah Larson)

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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 Riot Fest. She loves chatting with hilarious comedians and has interviewed the likes of Maria Bamford, Paula Poundstone and Tracy Morgan, to name a few. She has photographed tons of great bands/musicians – from every genre – including Rob Zombie, Florence and the Machine, Alabama Shakes, Neil Young, Shania Twain, Pitbull, Pierce the Veil, Kendrick Lamar, Patti Smith and many, many more. When not writing or shooting shows, Laurie loves to spend her free time training for marathons and exploring the city of Chicago. She is a longtime vegetarian and animal advocate who likes to cook healthy, delicious meals that everyone can enjoy. For more information or to contact Laurie, head over to www.lauriefanelli.com.