The Trombone Got Me Into College

I attended my daughter's Winter Concert the other night and it made me think of all my young years as a band kid. She plays trombone like her Pop.

I loved my trombone. That trombone got me to New York, Seattle, Hawaii. I was twelve years old, in Hawaii, without my mother all because I played trombone in a band.

That trombone even got me into college.

Back in 1994, about two weeks before school was scheduled to start I received two letters in the mail from Clark Atlanta University.

The first letter was from the band director inviting me to audition for the CAU Marching Panthers band. While the idea of a "full or partial scholarship" was alluring, the idea of marching in a band again was not. I had not marched in a band since my departure from Buddhism like five years prior and I had no plans of returning.

Besides, my financial aid was fine. I tossed the letter to the side and moved on to the second letter.

The second letter was from the financial aid office. This letter was sent to me to inform me that based upon my grandmother's income (I was twenty-two when I arrived at CAU. Thought I had been on my own for like five years at the time, I could not apply for financial aid as an independent. I was not twenty-four, I was not in the military and I was not a ward of the state. I was my Grandmother's baby trying to go to college so Grandmother claimed me on her taxes so I could use her info for financial aid.), I did not qualify for one of the grants for which I applied and as a result I was twelve hundred dollars short for the year.

I returned to the band letter.

The letter gave a basic overview of the program, a contact number, audition dates and the date of the first day of band camp. I guess the proper thing to have done was call the number, set up an audition, audition and, if selected, show up on the first day of band camp. A date for which was provided in the letter.

I was not auditioning. I didn't own a trombone. I had not touched a trombone in over five years. I haven't even looked at one. While I could still read music and I was halfway familiar with the slide positions, there was absolutely no way I was going to survive an audition for a college band. I didn't have the chops.

What I did have was band experience.

Mother was a Buddhist and an active member of an organization which I think is called SGI-USA now but was NSA back then. Anyway, the organization had programs for the youth members, and as I was raised as a youth member, I was a part of one of those programs. The Brass Band.

I joined The Brass Band when I was four and spent the first six years of my membership carrying stuff. I never performed. I never marched. I just watched.

When I was ten, I decided that I wanted to be in the drum section and I told the band director. He laughed and sent me over to a group of other teens and preteens that play drums and trumpet that also wanted to be in the band. I spent two years in this group.

My faith in my ability as a drummer was created by my being in the school band. I was a drummer and I was advancing every year, seat wise, and I imagined this was the natural order of all bands including The Brass Band.

What I failed to realize then was that my steady progress in the school band had less to do with my talent and more to do with school band members graduating from middle school. Brass band members don't graduate from Buddhism. This was their way of life. They would be in the band forever.

When I was twelve, I approached the band director again about marching.

"I have enough drummers," said my band director. "too many drums over power the band. I have enough drums, enough trumpets and more than enough saxophones."

Then he said the words that would change my life forever.

"It's too bad you don't play trombone. You can never have enough trombones."

The Great Trombone rule. You can never have enough trombones.

The next semester in school, I quit the drums and took the beginner's low brass class. Next semester I was in the school band as a trombone player and that summer I was marching in The Brass Band.

I marched with The Brass Band until I left home. When I left Mother, I left her Buddhism and it's band with her.

I was done with the trombone. I never even considered playing it again until I got the letter from the financial aid office. But now it was clear that my ability to play trombone was my way into college.

I devised a plan. I was going to show up on the first day of band camp and get in the band on the hopes that the CAU Marching Band director was also a believer in The Great Trombone rule.

The next day, after hours of random calls, I found a pawn shop with a "dried up horn" for "cheap". I took a hundred bucks from my rent money and bought the dried up horn, slide grease, slide oil and trombone Christmas carol sheet music.

I remembered "whole step, whole step, half, whole step, whole step, whole step, half" so I was able to practice my major scales. My road back to the band was a regiment of major scales and Christmas songs. I practiced every day until the first day of band camp.

I arrived at the grassy area next to CAU's gym with no idea where to go or what to do. A random flute player guided me towards a trailer where another band member was checking in new and returning members. When I entered the trailer, I was greeted by a girl sitting at a table with a list of names.

"Name."

"Yusef."

She checks the list. "You are not on the list, Yusef."

"I know."

"Maybe they forgot to add you name. When did you audition?"

"I didn't."

"I don't understand, Yusef."

"Listen," I said, "I didn't audition because if I had auditioned I wouldn't get into the band and I really need to be in the band. So, can you just do me a huge favor and go tell the band director there's a guy trying to get into the band. Just tell him I need to talk to him. Please."

The girl looked at me for a minute and then smiled. I know now that the smile was because she knew how verbally abusive the band director was and she was already reveling in the tongue lashing I was about to receive.

She got up, disappeared into an office then returned with a tall, older man who looked bothered. I caught my self chanting a Buddhist phrase of prayer under my breath.

"May I help you, young man," barked the Band Director. The girl was standing behind him smiling.

"I'm here to join the band."

"You're not already in the band?"

"No, sir."

"So, you auditioned and we did not accept you?"

"No, sir. I never auditioned."

At this point, the girl laughed out loud. The Band Director spun around, shot the girl a look (she got quiet) then spun back to me.

"Young man..."

(I need to note here that my band director stuttered. To try to write it out would be ridiculous but know that all that follows came out in pieces)

"...this is a university and this is a university band. The majority of the band members are music majors and minors who take playing music seriously. They take band seriously. I take band seriously. And I...what makes you think you can skip my auditions and just walk up and join my band?"

"I play trombone. Sir."

The Band Director closed his eyes and shook his head and I knew he was a believer in The Great Trombone rule.

"I only need six hundred dollars a semester."

"That's it?" he asked.

"That's it," I said. "Oh, and a trombone. Mine is a piece of crap."

"Don't make me regret this."

"I won't."

He turned to the girl and told her to sign me up then returned to his office.

"You're lucky," the girl said.

I was. I was lucky and I knew how to play trombone.

I love that trombone.

The answer to why I have so many names in the form of a story

Every life is a story. The constant experience of living one second at a time. The time moves so fast sometimes that we forget that it's lived one second at a time. The seconds become minutes that become hours that become days that become volumes of memories with titles like College or Texas or Beaver. Our time is marked. By trophies or pictures or shot glasses. I think that instead of memorabilia my time is mark with names. The names have always found me.

I was born Yusef Jamone Williams. My surname Williams comes from a little clan of freed slaves from Americus, Georgia. How they got it, I don’t know. Considering the history of the name it's safe to say that the boys in Americus borrowed the name.

My first name Yusef is Arabic for Joseph - technology color coat dude - though there is some liberty with the transliteration. (I have been told by a few Mohammadians that my name was spelled wrong.) For a while I believed I was named after my father’s favorite jazz musician Yusef Lateef but he recently confirmed that was a myth. I asked why he named me Yusef and he said because it was cool. I then asked why I wasn’t named after him and grandfather. He said Harry Williams the Third is not cool.

I have absolutely no idea what Jamone means. I assume it is Swahili for "my parents did drugs in the '70's.

Names finding me started early. My first sitter as a child called me Joey because she couldn't pronounce Yusef. By middle school, I was known as Sef and because of man's eternal love for monosyllabic words, I remained Sef well though high school. 

Shortly after high school, I acquired a massive dislike for all things slavery related and that emotion attacked my slave name from Georgia. Seeking to rid myself of all things slave, I changed my last name to Abdul-Alim which means slave of the All-Knowing. Go figure.

As Yusef Abdul-Alim, I attended Clark Atlanta University where everyone called me Sef. I marched in the band and met a man who made hip hop music and I became a rapper. I had always loved rap. I love the writing of verses. I wrote my first rap in fourth grade. It was called the Ethiopian Rap. I got to read it to the class. I don't remember it all but I remember that last line was "kids are dying from starvation and that's the truth so at dinner thank God it's them instead of you." My teacher said, “you are pretty harsh." I just realized that's where I got my style from. Good ole Mrs. Carmichael.

Where was I? Band, rap yes, so I started making rap music. I was rapping for the fellas I went to school with. Talking a bunch of smack over cool beats. And I just rapped as Sef. There were no gimmicks no games no fantasy of grandeur. Just beats and rhymes. I didn't have a rap name. I was Sef. 

I hated how Sef looked on paper. I still hate it. I have written it six times and I hate all six. Back then I decided on Seth. It looks better on paper. Then one day while in the studio my producer friend said I had great timing "like the clock" I looked up at the clock and it was a Seth Thomas. I found my rap name. 

I graduated college and took a job in Lynwood, California as six grade science teacher where I became Mr. A. because Mister Abdul-Alim is a mouthful. I was Mr. A. once again when I moved to Chicago and worked as a teacher's assistant. It was also in Chicago where I started taking comedy classes.

I took comedy classes at Second City, Chicago and I started doing student shows. I used my rap name as my stage name and so in the comedy world I am Seth Thomas. I eventually met a man whose real name is Paul Thomas and we eventually became The Defiant Thomas Brothers.

Meanwhile, Abdul-Alim was losing its cool. 9/11 had happened and now on paper and over the phone I was sounding like trouble. It all came to a head in 2005 when I was flying from Atlanta to Chicago after Homecoming that year. 

I arrived in Atlanta with no ticket home. Prior to homecoming, I was on a pitching trip with DTB paid for by the agency and instead of having them buy me a round trip ticket between Chicago and Los Angeles, I had them send me from LA to Atlanta. I'd get myself home. 

Well, I touched down on a Wednesday and the party was already cracking. Thursday cracked. Friday cracked. Saturday cracked. And it wasn't until Sunday that I realized I need to buy a ticket home. So, I bought a ticket home.

The next day at the airport, I printed my boarding pass and the bottom looked like this:

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

I stood there for a minute staring at the boarding pass and then it hit me. A one way ticket from Atlanta to Chicago with no checked luggage was purchased the day before - cash - by Yusef Abdul-Alim. It's a wonder I didn't get strip searched.

It was time for a name change. Luckily for me California is a common law state. When I changed to Abdul-Alim all I had to do was start using it to be recognized. My government information remained Yusef Williams and Yusef Abdul-Alim was listed as an alias. So, in reverse, all I had to do was stop using it. I had to prove to a couple government agencies that I was in fact Yusef Williams but that was all. Good ole birth certificate. I notified everyone of the change and just like that Yusef Abdul-Alim vanished. What's crazy is that official records will show that Yusef Williams attended Clark Atlanta University from 1994-1999 when the truth is he never stepped foot on that campus.

DTB disappeared. And when it did Seth Thomas disappeared as well. I was still performing and being creative and I was still known to everyone as Sef spelled S-e-t-h, so I slapped my newly reclaimed Williams on the end and Seth Williams was born. (I already wrote about Seth Williams a couple days ago so to avoid being repetitive, here's a link.)

Today, I write as Yusef Williams, I perform as Seth Thomas and I call myself Seth at work because monosyllabic names and retail just go together. Doesn't really matter. Everyone in my first degree calls me Sef.

And everyone else calls me the name they experienced. It's rather cool. Like built in referencing. When a random person whom I don't recognize says, "Hey, Mr. A." I immediately know who they are and how we know each other. The same happens when I go into a theater and get, "Mr. Thomas."


I don't come for a long line of anything. My name isn't a brand or symbol for anything worth preserving. And maybe, as a poor man raised as a Buddhist, my learning to grab everything with a willingness to let it go has extended itself to names as well. It doesn’t matter. The names can change yet the connections remain.

The exception makes the rule and the rule is I am keeping Williams. Slave or no slave, it was the name of my father's mother who was the most important person to me ever and I wear it in her honor. You should have heard her when I called to tell her that I changed my name back to Williams. "Thank the Lord Jesus!" she yelled. "I never did like that Abbu Dabaa you called yourself." 

Whether it’s Yusef, Seth Thomas, Sef, Mr. A., Pop – as my children call me – or The Bowtie Man – as the janitor on the seventh floor calls me - what matters most is not the name used by the person but the smile that’s produced by the person when they see me. It means that I’m doing something good as a human no matter what the name is. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” right William?

And that's my answer. 

Throwback Thursday Seth Thomas on Scottish TV

The Death of The Seth Williams Show

Let me begin by saying that Slam Internet Radio still lives and they are awesome and the programmer did contact me via email around 6:30ish on Wednesday and had I checked my email, I might have recorded episode 20. However, I didn't. Instead, I saw the empty window and I realized the time had come to do what I had been putting off for years. Kill Seth Williams.

Seth Williams had a nice run. I created SW after the breakup of the Defiant Thomas Brothers. I did not want to perform comedy as Seth Thomas. No DTB, no ST. So I went out as Seth Williams; Williams being my birth name.

Seth Williams did some standup comedy and a Budweiser Select promo. SW did an indie film and recorded two awesome music projects – AMP and Work Music - with the amazingly talented Andy Metz.

And Seth Williams had an internet radio show. It was fun. It was great chopping it up with E. Brown and the random guests. It was awesome discovering new music and playing it. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the show, the format, the guests or the station.

I'm not committed.

The show requires planning. The real reason we didn't have a guest for Episode 20 was because I didn't do the work required to have a guest for Episode 20. The bits aren't as tight and if you are a true fan of the show, you've noticed the game has disappeared. Because I wasn't taking the time to create the games. I wasn’t doing it right. I was so detached from the show, that I didn't even have the show's email address' notifications turned on; I would have caught the email notifying me of the new location. I wasn't committed. And I was paying for it. And it'd be one thing if I was the only one footing the bill but I wasn't. Two others were chipping in on the cost. 

It's one thing to waste your own money and another to waste someone else's.

My mind and time are somewhere else and not with the show. And when I saw the empty window, I just saw the end. I just knew it was time. It was over for SW. He is a watch repair man and to the basement he shall return. It was a good run.

I had a lot of fun with The Seth Williams Show. I explored internet radio. I produced thirty-eight hours of music and chatter and I think I created some great memories. I look forward to revisiting all thirty-eight.

I will miss the laughs. I will miss the music. I will miss the theme song the most.

Thanks again to Danny Brown at Slam Internet Radio. You were awesome. And thanks to everyone who listened to the show. I appreciate your constant support.

I exist to entertain you. Stay tuned!

The Pondhawks - Guest - Episode 19



The PondHawks are an original band from Chicago who are changing the style of pop/rock music. Catchy melodies are exhilaratingly fresh and Beatles-esque. The songs are delightfully infectious with playful lyricism that is exuberant and gutsy. The band's arsenal of music takes the listener on an eclectic journey into Indie Rock spirited by Classic Rock influences that transcend the boundaries of contemporary music. You could say The PondHawks have created a new music genre.
The band has a unique contemporary retro rock sound with signature vocal harmonies reminiscent of The Beatles, ELO and Wings. Their albums have a bit of humor, ear candy, stellar rock 'n' roll and outstanding musical finesse.
The PondHawks are currently in the top 5 ranked Indie bands in the US, Chicago and the world. Their song "Drive" charted at #1 for 13 weeks on Music World Radio's Top 20 Alternative Songs Euro Chart.
Their fan base has grown to over 200,000 with 150,935 Facebook LIKES, 46,406 myspace fans with 1.4 million page views and 20,200 twitter followers. They have over 102,000 song plays just on their Reverbnation.com page alone.
Both of their albums “The PondHawks Have Landed” and “Dreaming Over Ireland” have received extensive airplay in the US and around the world. KNYSNA FM (97.0) in South Africa has been playing the PondHawks for 138 weeks straight!
In 2015 the band will released their third album.
“The PondHawks are literally THE band to watch, major label deal or no deal. The band exudes a Beatles-esque vibe that I haven’t heard many bands today offering. The vocal harmonies take you on a real ride full of twists and turns and I'm actually sitting here trying to figure out how they actually harmonized all of those vocal spirals? This is freaking awesome!” -- I Am Entertainment Magazine


“The PondHawks land in the Top 10 Regional Albums of 2011…” 7) The PondHawks have embraced the Liverpool pop sound and have created a tasty slab of original songs that while fresh, have a familiar feel. Infectious hooks, playful lyrics and spirited playing, nice male/female vocal harmonies, coupled with bright production and a vibrant approach make “...The PondHawks Have Landed” an album sure to take up residence in your stereo. 
--Tom Lounges, music critic – Northwest Indiana Times

“The PondHawks are light years ahead of most new artists... The amazing thing to me is the feeling of how badly this music was needed. It’s been longer than I can remember since an album has so strongly resonated with me. When I get new music at KPOV, I listen to some and decide whether they should get airplay. I then play The PondHawks right afterwards, and there is no comparison.” -- Tom Jasper - KPOV 106.7 FM (Bend, OR)
“The PondHawks! WOW! Innovative, unabashed, catchy, interesting, even kooky (in a great way), and always consummately professional in all four-part harmony!” 
-- Thomas Gilding, Station Manager - WBSD-FM 89.1 Milwaukee/Burlington, WI
“The PondHawks have a contemporary pop sound that merges happily with an unforgettable past. Dance to it, sing to it and revel in it. It's pop on the rocks that requires no chaser. Heavily influenced by the Fab Four, Clapton, Hendrix and the miraculous range of Roy Orbison, the band has infused indie pop with sophisticated, bright tonalities, shimmering harmonies and themes that touch on frothy romance and fantasy. Their outstanding oeuvre encompasses levity, handclaps and ‘Sergeant Pepper’-esque kitsch.”
-- Lisa Torem - Penny Black Music (UK)
“The PondHawks, a tremendous five-piece with stunning melodies, harmonies, and energy... the true trifecta of the IPO ethos! Love 'em!! One of my fave bands at the IPO. Their songs keep rising on various charts, and for good reason, because they rock the British inflected, ‘60s influenced pop music! Some British influences, some U.S. influences, radio friendly pop/rock, but their stock in trade are their wonderful male/female harmonies and sparkling hooks! One of the tightest, most professional bands we've ever had at the IPO. As good as their CDs are, they're 10 notches above it live!” 
-- David Bash, promoter of the International Pop Overthrow Tour

The band has opened twice for Davy Jones (The Monkees), David Cassidy, Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers, Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), The Doobie Brothers and The Temptations.

Anna Hovet - Guest - Episode 18



Anna Hovet is an entrepreneur, fashion designer, illustrator, educator, and social media influencer based in Chicago. Her fashion brands, Anna Hovet (womenswear) and HOVET (menswear), embody a fusion of designer style and streetwear comfort. Categorized as Sport Luxe, the garments are manufactured locally in Chicago and sold online and in several boutiques.



Anna Hovet is one of the most recognized names in Chicago Fashion and has had sponsorship deals with United Airlines, Kraft, and EFFEN Vodka. Her designs can be seen on actress Jennifer Hudson and comedian Hannibal Buress and have been featured in several publications including Lucky Magazine, Chicago Tribune, and RedEye. She has appeared on NBC "1st Look" and was a contestant on the Kenmore Reality Web Series "So You Wanna Be A Designer".

Beyond running her fashion design company, she owns and operates a Private Tutoring business and teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Laura Glyda - Guest - Episode 17



Laura Glyda is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and harmonist who has been performing professionally for over 15 years.  A Chicago native, Laura spent almost seven years in Boston writing and performing on the East coast, both as a solo artist and with the Laura Glyda Band.  She returned to Chicago in 2006 and released her first solo EP, "After Everything and All This Time," in November of last year.  She is currently writing, collaborating, and working on her first full-length solo album, scheduled for a 2016 release.

LeBron James is the new Christian Laettner

People hate LeBron James. I thought it was the regular dislike that any athlete that manages to win multiple times receives however this Finals has revealed a level of hate that I haven't seen since Christina Laettner.


My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of posts calling LBJ names like Crybaby, LeBum and SheBron. Some have complained that the announcers are showing him too much love. Some are even insinuating that the refs are being paid off by LBJ. And almost all of these posts are from people who aren't Warriors fans and probably didn't know there was an NBA team in Oakland until videos of Stephen Curry's daughter went viral.

Why the hate?

This isn't a guy who allegedly raped a woman in a hotel. This isn't a guy whose gambling problems allegedly lead to the death of his father. This isn't a guy who throws gang signs and hid the name of his hood in the design of his shoe. This isn't a guy with multiple arrests for domestic violence. Yet, all these guys get more love than LBJ.

Why the hate?

Complains over fouls? Who doesn’t? He thinks he's entitled to win? So. Last I checked sense of entitlement doesn't get the ball in hoop. His nickname is King James? Yeah, I struggled with that anointing too back in the day. However, after spending hours trying to figure out a cleverer nickname I had to acquiesce.

Maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with LBJ and everything to do with Haters. And when I say Haters, I don't mean the Taylor Swift "Haters gonna hate" Haters, I mean The Luniz "why you wanna Playa Hate on me" Haters; the Too Short "put you in a cross cause they really just haters" Haters. The people who see a player doing well and can't stand it so they just hate.

That's all LBJ is. A player doing well. Real good. Like triple double in the Finals good. And maybe these people can't stand it because their favorite player (who is not Stephen Curry) nor their favorite team (which is not the Golden State Warriors) is not doing so well...obvi.

This isn't about LeBron James. This is about the large amount of hate that lives in the hearts of men and social media that provides the perfect outlet for hate.

LeBron James is just a target. And long after he is gone, the haters will find a new target.

Now cue Taylor Swift.

Andy Metz - Guest - Episode 16




“Andy Metz” is the stage name for the Seattle-born and Chicago-based musician, Andy Metz.  Andy grew up in the historic neighborhood of West Seattle, where he began his interest in music at a young age with forced piano lessons.  He later gained an appreciation for said piano lessons, which helped him learn to play the guitar with all the grace of a baby falling down a flight of stairs.
While attending Bush School for High School, Andy began recording music that ranged from rock to hip hop to something else over the course of six CDs released from 2001-2003.  He quickly realized that vocal lessons probably wouldn’t hurt, so he took a few of those and a few guitar lessons before embarking on his first tour known as “college.”

Andy spent his freshman year at St. John’s College (not to be confused with St. John’s University or any school you’ve ever heard of) in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  While there, he wrote and recorded songs based on Ancient Greek literature called “Great Book Songs.” During this time, Andy also formed rap duos with Parker Reddington (Rhyme and Recreation), Andrew McClure (Whale Shark) and Ben Althouse (The Metaphorics).

For the remainder of his undergraduate degree, Andy transferred to DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, where he continued to record and release albums while performing at open mics around Chicago, such as Lucille’s (doesn’t exist anymore…not my fault), Duke’s, Red Line Tap and Hidden Shamrock.  Andy also performed in the crazy far-off cities of Beijing, China and Santiago, Chile.
Andy remained in Chicago to receive his Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy at The University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), and since his graduation, he has formed the rap duo, 8090, with Seth Williams and the rock band, Hero Monster Zero, with Ryan Birkett, Chris Stell and Jesse Walk.

Andy currently works as a transportation planner for a prominent transit agency in Chicago (you’ll never figure out which one), while writing, recording and performing around the city with Hero Monster Zero, 8090 and sometimes by himself…sigh. If you have any suggestions for what comes next, email me at: Andy@AndyMetz.com.

Largest vocabulary in hip hop

I spoke on a study of the largest vocabulary in hip hop and here is the link.
Check it out.

http://experiments.undercurrent.com/

Ericka Ratcliff - Guest - Episode 15



Ericka Ratcliff is a professional actor based in Chicago. Her acting credits include the world premiere of Stickfly, African Company Presents Richard III, Talented Tenth, The Colored Museum, 365 Plays / 365 Days, and Bulrusher with Congo Square Theatre Company where she is also an ensemble member and literary manager. Other Chicago and regional credits include Marie Antoinette (Steppenwolf Theatre); We Are All In This Room Together (Second City E.T.C.); Black Diamond: The Year the Locusts Have EatenAround the World in 80 Days, Peter Pan A Play  (Lookingglass Theatre Company); Rose and The Rime (The Miami Adrienne Arshdt Center); Court Martial at Fort Devens (Victory Gardens); Sketchbook (Collaboraction); Ruined (Mixed Blood); Raisin in the Sun (Milwaukee Rep); Seven Guitars (Pittsburgh Playwrights); The international tour of Funk It Up About Nothin inaugural Shakespeare In The Park production of Taming of the Shrew in the title role; both with Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Outside of acting, Ericka is also a certified yoga instructor. 

Jonathan Keaton - Guest - Episode 14





Jonathan is a Chicago native and alum of the Second City National Touring Company as well as having performed with other organizations like MPAACT, I.O. Chicago, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, The Chicago Dramatist & Pimprov (which is one of the longest running improv shows in Chicago.)  He won the BTA “Harry Belafonte Award” for Best Performance in and Ensemble during his time with MPAACT.  Right now you can catch him on stage in “The Power of Prom” running at the Annoyance theater & Pimprov which runs every Friday night at 10:30pm at the CIC Theater.

He has also been very fortunate to have kept busy with film & television roles in "Chicago Code", “Chicago Fire”, "The Moleman of Belmont Avenue" & "My Name is Jerry" and is currently featured in a television commercial for Xfinity Comcast.  As well as voice over (radio ads) for AT&T, McDonald's, American Family Insurance, Coors Light.  

Jonathan would like to thank God, his wife, children & parents for blessings they’ve given him and for continuing to push him to new heights.

Margaret Hicks - Guest - Episode 13



Margaret Hicks is an author, comedian and owner of Chicago Elevated Tours. After moving to NYC, Margaret promised never to take Chicago for granted again. She put her improv, comedy, and storytelling skills to good use and started her own tour business in 2010. She is also the author of Chicago Comedy: A Fairly Serious History and wrote the Second City Comedy Tour.  

Erica Reid - Guest - Episode 12



Erica Reid is a comedian, producer, director, dancer and choreographer. Her current projects are: the TV talent showcase Steve Gadlin's Star Makers (Supervising Producer), Modet Dance Collective (Executive Producer, Dancer, Choreographer), Shmib Dance (Dancer), Noah Ginex Puppet Company's SNORF (Director), Drunk Monkeys (Performer, Producer) and Chicago's all-female Beastie Boys Tribute She's Crafty (DJ). She also officiates weddings.

Bella Ciao - Guest - Episode 11



Bella Ciao is a silent film showgirl living in a pre-code world, a burlesque performer and model of indeterminate origin and determined originality. Inspired by the vamps and coquettes of classic Hollywood, Bella brings a glamorous sensuality and theatrical flair to her acts. Whether performing on a bar top or in a ballroom, Bella Ciao is a cool and classy dame. 

Bella is a regular performer with Original Tease, as well as a Belmont Bombshell with The Belmont Burlesque Revue, Chicago's longest continuously running burlesque and variety show. She's had the pleasure of performing at The Dirty Show 2014 (Chicago and Detroit), Motoblot 2014, The Road Rocket Rumble 2014 (Indianapolis), and as a special guest star with The Naughty Little Cabaret, Vaudezilla, and Peach Pies Caburlesque (Madison), among many others. 


When not bumping and grinding onstage, Bella enjoys surrealism and well-constructed artifice. 

www.twitter/com/missbellaciao

Laura Hugg - Guest - Episode 10



Laura Hugg is a stand up comic and performer. She is the host of one the longest running comedy open mics in Chicago, The Globe Pub Comedy Open Mic, a graduate of The Second City Training Center and was a founding member of the sketch comedy troupes BLAIRE and Hi Betty!, as well as the improv group Burning Desires.

Rachael Mason - Guest - Episode 9



Rachael Mason began her career in improvisation at Skidmore College, home of the National College Comedy Festival, with the Ad-Liberal Artists. After graduating with a degree in English Literature, concentrating on Shakespearean Studies, she moved to Chicago to study improv comedy with Del Close. She is now the head of Advanced Improvisation for The Second City where she created the Scenic Improv and Dramatic Improv programs and The History of Satire Series for The Second City Training Center.  She has performed musical improv with Baby Wants Candy at The Edinburg Fringe Festival, directed and performed at The Annoyance, played with The Hot Karl at ComedySportz, and had almost every job at iO (where she was Training Center Director for 8 years), done The Spoletto Festival with The Second City National Touring Company, and is currently in the cast of The Second City Improv All-Stars at The Up Comedy Club as well as with Second City's first resident improv show, The Boys every Friday night at 9pm. She is a mom, jerk, and nerd.

@missmason Twitter

Fuzzy Gerdes - Guest - Episode 8



Fuzzy Gerdes is a Chicago comedy legend, by which he means that he is old. He directs Blewt Production's nationally syndicated television show "Steve Gadlin's Star Makers", has taught blogging as a college class, and works a day job producing video games. Follow him on Twitter at @fuzzy.

Monique Madrid - Guest - Episode 7



Monique Madrid is a comedian, writer and actor. She spent 10 years in Chicago where she performed with The Second City on Norwegian Cruise Lines and all over the city, in such shows as Impress These Apes, "Bitch, I'll Cut You" - the live late-night talk show where a special guest gets an actual haircut on stage, and as a standup comedian at The Laugh Factory, Zanies and with The Kates, as well as in festivals around the country. Now in Los Angeles, she's an ensemble member in the show "Hell County, Florida" at The Second City, teaches improv with them, works as a freelance writer and interviewer for Splitsider, someecards and other online magazines. She also produces "Two Girls. One Pup." the comedy show you can bring your dog to, and can her work as a hair and makeup artist can seen in commercials, film and television, sometimes she can actually be seen in them too, if and when she gets booked. 

Mark Bratton - Guest - Episode 6



Mark Bratton is a fourth generation Chicagoan that completed study at Second City, Chicago; IO, Chicago and Annoyance Theater. In addition to his tenure as an original cast member of Pimprov, his stage appearances include "Out of the Blue" with Live Bait Theater and "Words" with Second City, Chicago among others.

In vast contrast, Mark is also a twenty-eight year veteran of The Chicago Police Department.

Brooke Breit - Guest - Episode 5



Brooke Breit is a resident stage alum of the Second City e.t.c. (A Clown Car Named Desire and Apes of Wrath).  She also performed with The Second City National Touring Company and numerous other shows at Second City, iO Chicago and The Annoyance.  She can currently been seen in Improv All Stars (UP Comedy Club) and Whirled News Tonight (iO Chicago). Brooke is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. Brooke loves coffee, pizza and her family (not necessarily in that order). 

Aaron Todd Douglas - Guest - Episode 4




Aaron Todd Douglas is a theatre practitioner who acts, directs, adapts and teaches.  He is a member of the Acting Faculty at Northwestern University and a member in good standing of AEA and SAG/AFTRA.  

He is a founding ensemble member of Congo Square Theatre Company, where his acting credits include their multiple Jeff Award winning production of Seven Guitars, The Piano Lesson, Before it Hits Home, Spunk, and Ali. He originated the role of Flip in the world premiere of Stick Fly by Lydia Diamond (the play was later produced on Broadway) and performed in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at The Goodman Theatre commemorating the Goodman’s historic completion of Wilson’s Century Cycle. 

Directing projects include: Ruined (Eclipse Theatre), Radio Golf (Raven Theatre), The Nativity (Congo Square/The Goodman), 12 Angry Men (Raven Theatre, Jeff Award Best Ensemble, nomination Best Director), Smash Hit by Steve Broadnax (Cultural Conversations Festival), Pill Hill (Black Theatre Alliance Award – Best Director, Best Production ETA Creative Arts), Talented Tenth (Black Theatre Alliance Award – Best Production), African Company Presents Richard III (Congo Square Theatre Company).

Aaron is a former company member at Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival where he appeared in numerous productions including Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Alchemist, Hamlet, Three Musketeers, and twice played the title role in Othello.  He later directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Outstanding Play- Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for Theater).

Other acting credits include: Tree and Wheatley (Victory Gardens Theatre), Wait Until Dark (Court Theatre), Journal of Ordinary Thought (Chicago Theater Company), Iphigenia 2.0 (Next Theatre), Fortunes of the Moor (ETA Creative Arts), The State of Mississippi v. Emmet Till (Pegasus Players), Julius Caesar (Chicago Shakespeare), Perfect Mendacity (Steppenwolf), and Measure for Measure (Goodman Theatre).


Kirsten Chan - Guest - Episode 3




Kirsten Chan is a Chicago-based actor, writer, eater, and crafter.  When she's not secretly documenting the odd behavior of those around her as "research" for her future sitcom, you can find her scoping out the best vegetarian dishes and desserts at restaurants across the country.  Kirsten's also an avid DIY-er with an emphasis on special events, party decor, and upcycling.  Her first love is and always will be TV, and you can count of her for endless commentary about The Bachelor / Bachelorette, Project Runway, and any sitcom from the 80s - 90s.



Food:

Crafting:

TV Talk:

Chad Briggs - Guest - Episode 2



Chad Briggs has been a fixture in the Chicago comedy scene for the past several years. In addition to stand up, he's known for his character work and has been taking on more and more acting roles as of late. He can be seen in the independent drama "Hellion" starring Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis. CLICK HERE to see Chad as a father who doesn't have long to live who leaves behind something special for his son. 

Kelvin Roston, Jr. - Guest - Episode 1




Kelvin is this season’s August Wilson New Play Initiative featured playwright with Twisted Melodies.  Other Chicago credits include: Jackie Wilson in The Jackie Wilson Story (Joseph Jefferson Award nominee, Black Theater Alliance Award winner, Black Excellence Award winner, Black Ensemble Theater), Rent (Paramount Theatre), Crowns (Goodman Theatre), Detroit ’67 (Northlight Theatre), Seven Guitars, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Porgy and Bess (Court Theater), The Old Settler (Writers’ Theater), Pill Hill (BTAA winner, eta Creative Arts Foundation) and others. 

International and regional credits include: Death and the King’s Horseman, Othello, Guys and Dolls, Before it Hits Home, Caroline of Change (The Black Rep), The Last Days of Judas… (HotCity Theatre Co.), Beowulf (Metro Theatre Co.), Dreamgirls as James “Thunder” Early (Orb Theater [Tokyo, Japan], Festival Hall [Osaka, Japan], MSMT [Brunswick, ME], Fulton Theater [Lancaster, PA], Marriott Lincoln [Chicago, IL]. Kelvin is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and Artistic Associate of Congo Square.