Whenever Beth Stelling returns to Chicago – where she started her comedy career – fans look forward to laughing along with her dry, hilarious insights on family, travel and life itself. On Dec. 7, she will be taking the stage at Thalia Hall for one of her biggest shows to date following the success of her buzz-worthy new half-hour, which premiered in Netflix’s “The Standups” earlier this summer.
Stelling recruited funny duo The Puterbaugh Sisters and the versatile DJ WindyTimmy to join her on the bill, adding to the evening’s fun. In advance of the show, Rebellious Magazine got a chance to chat with the comedian about her upcoming Chicago performance, developing fresh material and potential plans for starting a new podcast.
“The Thalia Hall show is gonna be a fun time all around,” Stelling said. “DJ WindyTimmy is going to play some music, and the Puterbaugh Sisters, my best friends from Chicago, are going to open up the show with their act.” She also hinted that fans may see a reunion of “Entertaining Julia” – Stelling and the Puterbaughs’ alt-comedy show, which ran for years at Town Hall Pub – during the performance.
“It’s going to be a real walk down memory lane with some people who are special to me from my time in Chicago,” said Stelling, who absorbed an array of techniques from the School at Steppenwolf and The Annoyance Theatre while performing in Chicago before making the move to Los Angeles. “Then, during my headlining set, I’ll be working new material for people, with the exception of about three jokes.”
When developing a new hour, Stelling starts with “a premise and a punchline” before working out her performance to a point just shy of auto-pilot. “When you’re comfortable saying the joke, then you can add to it,” she said.
Callbacks are among the comedic elements that Stelling incorporates into her stand-up sets. “I actually avoided callbacks for many years because I found them to be stupid (laughs). I felt like, ‘come on, the audience is smarter than that.’ I hated them, but the truth is that a callback laugh is very cathartic for everybody. So, I end my special on a callback, as you might remember, with the ‘Weary Bones’ bit,” she said.
If you haven’t yet tuned into “The Standups,” do so as soon as possible to experience “Weary Bones” in all its glory. Your funny bone will thank you.
Another technique that keeps audiences on their toes and ready to laugh is Stelling’s skilled crowd work. “I do it to connect with the audience. And to quote Bernie Mac, to show that ‘I ain’t scared of you motherf*ckers.’ It’s how I assert my dominance in a fun way,” she explained with a laugh.
“I generally pick the right person to talk to. I would say two out of 10 times, I pick the wrong person, and they will not get the joke and the crowd won’t go along with it because they can sense that person is uncomfortable,” she said. “But, eight out of 10 times, it’s fun for all.”
Along with touring and developing a new hour of comedy, Stelling has been busy working on Pete Holmes’ show, “Crashing.”
“On Jan. 14, season two of HBO’s ‘Crashing,’ which I’ve written on for both seasons, will premiere,” she said. “And, I will make an appearance in the finale, so watch until the end.”
Stelling is also considering enlisting her mom – a frequent character in her stand-up act – to join her on a new venture. “You heard it here first. I am going to try to talk to my mom about starting a podcast. I’ve never done a podcast. I’ve been formulating a tweet in my mind, which is, ‘When are they going to give out the award for never having started a podcast, so I can get it and then start my podcast the next day,’” she said. “I’ve held out on a podcast for so long, and I’m thinking about broaching that topic with my mom. I’ll let you know at the Thalia Hall show what she says.”
(Featured photo by Kim Newmoney)