One place I’ve been meaning to go to is The Jukebox Comedy Club on Farmington Road. This place has outlasted all the other comedy clubs that have come and gone through the years and it’s really Peoria’s premier comedy club that’s been in business for over 20 years now.
One of my all-time favorite stand-up comedians is Wendy Liebman. She’s one of the few comedians like Stephen Wright, Sam Kinison and Rodney Dangerfield that really has her own unique style and delivery. Here’s a trailer from her latest Showtime Special, “Taller on TV, which is available on DVD on Amazon.”
Long-time readers of MBIP will remember my friends Brad and Chloe from The Handcuffs who we went and saw last May in Chicago when they played on a bill with Legs McNeil. Brad and Chloe are friends with Wendy and Chloe called me to let me know that Wendy was going to be starring at the Jukebox Comedy Club last week. I decided to go to the late-night show on Friday after work and Chloe set it up so I could meet Wendy! How much fun is this going to be? Well scroll down and you’ll find out!
The Jukebox Comedy Club is a straight shot down Farmington Road, we'll be there momentarily.
And just a few momentarily moments have passed and here we are at The Jukebox Comedy Club. There's a crowd of people hanging around outside smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo, now don't tell me, they've nothing to do. Let's go inside and see what's shaking.
The front part of the club is a bar area...perfect!
Speaking of perfect, here's pretty bartender Stephanie serving up a bottle of Budweiser.
Here's another shot of the far angle of the bar which is decorated with two comedians from Peoria that made a huge impact in the world of stand-up comedy...
Sam Kinison and...
Pictures of comedians that have performed here hang over the wall at the bar.
Here's genius comedian, Robert Schimmel, who sadly passed away four years ago.
Funnyman Norm McDonald thanks owner Dan Conlin and the Jukebox staff in this photo.
Lisa Lampanelli didn't bother to sign her photo, oh well, maybe next time.
There's tables and stools opposite the bar on the right side of the room in here.
There's more tables and stools up here in the front of the room. There's also a big plant over there whom I'm secretly hoping that his first name is Robert.
And seated at one of these tables just happens to be Dan Conlin, who's owned The Jukebox for the last 14 years. It was great to see Dan again, I used to go on his Breakfast Club radio show on WWCT back in the late '80's. Memories...
Dan's busy with the phones, so I wandered back to the bar for a beer...
And who do I wander into? The star of tonight's show, Wendy Liebman, striking a Sean Penn-like no paparazzi pose.
She was just kidding and happily posed for the MBIP camera. Wendy's really nice and we had a fun chat about Peoria, stand-up comedy, our mutual friends, Brad and Chloe and then she had to go do a podcast interview and get ready for the show, so we agreed to meet after the show and continue the conversation.
And so it's time to enter the theater section of the Jukebox Comedy Club.
Inside is my table of one. Harry Nilsson flashback!
Like all comedy clubs, the atmosphere is dark in here and there's just a faint smell of stale beer in the air. I have to say that normally you'd never be allowed to take photos in here, but Dan gave me special permission if I was discreet about it and only took photos without a flash, so they may be a little grainy, but what are you going to do?
On stage is a stool and the jukebox with a thyroid condition that the club is named after.
Brett Erickson was the emcee for the evening and he did a great job and got some good laughs from the crowd.
First up on the comedy bill was Jeff Bailey who we had met earlier in the bar. It's not easy being first, but he did a great job onstage.
Matt Hall was next and he kept the laughter rolling with his set.
Drift Roberts was third on the bill and had some great jokes and funny observations. Drift also works the door and does sound at the club. And it was his birthday that night, happy birthday, Drift!
Here's Brett back onstage introducing the headliner of the evening...
Wendy had the crowd in laughter from the moment she hit the stage. This is stand-up comedy at its best.
In addition to her regular material, Wendy interacts with the audience and several of them became improvisational characters in the show, which really adds a fun and exciting level to the performance. It was a fun and memorable show for sure.
After the show I met up with Wendy at the bar where we continued our chat and she posed for photos with fans...
Like me! Thanks to Wendy, Dan and everyone at The Jukebox Comedy Club for a wonderful and fun evening! We'll see you all tomorrow!
Wendy Liebman—The MBIP Interview
Wendy Liebman has been doing stand up comedy for over 25 years now. She’s appeared on all the late night talk shows including, David Letterman, The Tonight Show (with both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno), The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel LIve. She’s done comedy specials for HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central.
Wendy's been the opening act for artists as diverse as Bob Hope, Ray Charles, The Smothers Brothers, Tanya Tucker and Alan King.
I asked Wendy a few questions and here’s her answers...Oh Wendy...
So this is your second time in Peoria, what do you think of The River City?
I want to move to Peoria. Great wi-fi, skinny mirrors, IHOP. Oh, and the people are real! By the way, I did not know it was called The River City.
Any places that you've been to in Peoria that were memorable experiences?
The Jukebox Comedy Club! Our mutual friends, the band The Handcuffs brought me to a really cool store called: Younger Than Yesterday.
How were the crowds and shows at the Jukebox Comedy Club?
Small but phenomenal! My favorite audiences ever! For the record, size does not matter unless we're talking earthquakes.
How and when did you decide you wanted to do stand-up comedy?
I was doing psych research at Harvard Medical School and decided to take a class at night for fun at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education called "How To Be A Stand-Up Comedian." I was hooked. I had always been theatrical and in the musicals at school and camp, but I'd never done stand-up.
Do you remember your first time on stage?
Yes. I got off stage and a friend from the class said, “Nobody could hear a word you were saying.” But I didn’t care.
Your style and cadence is unique and unlike anything else in comedy. Did you consciously develop your dialogue style or is it something that just came natural?
I didn’t like being on stage in silence, so I would just keep adding tag lines, and I guess that’s how my style came to be.
What's the writing process like for you when you're coming up with new material for your act?
I try to think of funny things all day for Twitter and Facebook. My newest joke wrote itself—because it really happened. I had just woken up and I had no idea where I was, but I knew I wasn’t at home because somebody was vacuuming. Sometimes I just write down what my husband says in his sleep.
One thing that I really enjoyed at Friday's show was the interaction that you have with the audience. You really got some of them involved and it was total improv that worked great. Do you do this at every show or does it depend on the audience?
I love talking to the audience because then they realize I’m not just reciting lines but thinking on my feet—literally. It makes the audience feel like a community—they’re all in on the inside joke. I love when other comedians do this—Paula Poundstone is the best.
You've appeared on the Tonight Show with both Jay Leno and Johnny Carson as hosts. I've heard comedians say that it really changes your career after you did it when Carson was the host. What was your experience like?
I still get nervous thinking about it (May 10, 1991). The experience was surreal. I had only been doing comedy for 6 years, which sound like a lot, but is nothing in comedian time. Johnny gave me the AOK sign, but it wasn’t caught on camera. Johnny heard that I was upset about this, and CAME TO MY DRESSING ROOM! With ED McMAHON! At which point I almost fainted. They were both so complimentary and tall. My life didn’t change dramatically after
that, although that's when I quit my day job in Boston and moved to L.A., but I love that I will always have been on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson!
After the show on Friday at the Jukebox, I saw a couple come up to have their picture taken with you and they were doing some of your act for you. Is that weird when that happens?
I love it. Except if they yell out a punchline if I'm on stage.
Who and what inspired you in the past and present?
PAST: Steven Wright, Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Garry Shandling, David Letterman, Joan Rivers, Roseanne, Barbra Streisand, The Harlem Globetrotters.
PRESENT: Jake Johannsen, Kira Soltanovitch, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, Brian Kiley. (Jake Johannsen will be at The Jukebox in a few weeks!)
How do you handle hecklers and/or rude drunken idiots in the crowd?
You were in the movie, The Aristocrats. What was that experience like?
Well, three guys came to my house and filmed me telling the Aristocrats joke. I wanted to be part of the documentary, but I did not want to tell the joke. So I sort of told it backwards. I saw the movie in a theater and was completely thrilled when my punchline got a laugh.
Outside of your stand-up act, are you working on anything special these days?
My husband and I are writing a musical about stand-up comedy called HOME ON TUESDAY (cause even though I travel a lot, I’m always home on Tuesday). I’m also auditioning for America’s Got Talent at the end of April! Oh, and I'm always doing laundry—though I don't know how special that is.
Do you have any advice for people that are just starting in the world of stand-up comedy?
The stand-up world is different than it was 29 years ago when I started, but one thing remains: Perform as much as humanly possible. Nothing replaces experience. And also try a new joke every time you go onstage. That is the advice I wish someone had given to me!
Will you come back to Peoria (please!)
In a heartbeat!