When I was growing up I discovered the wonderful comic strip, Doonesbury. Not only was it just plain funny, I was able to actually learn history from this four-panel satire. And that’s what it really was, satire. It was pointed, mean, irreverent, and still managed to be very funny.
Years later, as I studied long-form improvisation, I wondered if its principles could be applied to satire. Certainly, Second City created great sketches, but could it be improvised? I asked my teacher, Del Close, and he demurred… he wondered if any one point of view could given with such a collaborative art form, but, like all good teachers, he encouraged me to experiment and see if it could be done.
And here we are nine years later. The original title was NewsSpeak (after the language of media/journalists from the novel “1984”) but that was abandoned for the more self-explanatory “Whirled News Tonight.”
It’s difficult to explain how much joy this show brings me. It’s smart, intelligent and biting, without sacrificing gut-busting laughs and surprising slapstick. It can be caustic and political and then sad and sweet. It is, without hyperbole, my favorite show. I like to think that I would be as big a fan even if I wasn’t involved in it, but who knows… I’m just glad I’m here.
Founding members Marla Caceres, Alex Eilhauer, Arnie Niekamp, Eddie Pina, Matt Young, Shane Wilson, John Glynn, and Scott Brady have been with the show for nine years. While we’re lucky to have started on the weekends at iO, there was that full year where we were Friday AND Saturdays at 8pm. So, in many ways, this is our tenth year. Padraic Connelly joined us a few months into our first run so he’s a Founding member, but I exclude him from the initial listing to be a jerk. Adal Rifai joined us as regular cast member about three years ago and Brooke Breit just about a year ago.
Sarah Haskins, Sarah Wonack, Steve Waltien, Jordan Klepper were all founding members (more or less) and now have other fun, exciting jobs you may have heard about (google em!)
We’ve been very lucky to have had some exciting understudies as well over the years! Tim Soszko, Sara Wolfson, Jen Malinsky, Sean Kelley, Brett Lyons, Blythe Hagga, Christine Tawfik, Jeff Griggs, Rob White, Kate Lambert… wonderful improvisers all. If I have managed to forget someone, please accept my apologies—I am old.
If I am sometimes territorial or over-zealous in my protection and propagation of Whirled News it’s because of how special it is to me. It is a fulfillment of one of my dreams and a powerful show in its own right. I’m proud of all the astounding reviews that Whirled News Tonight has garnered over the past 9 years. Not just here in Chicago, but all the various places that we have traveled to perform and teach. I’m proud that every weekend we present a show that is smart, funny satire and completely improvised. I’m proud that this November will be our 3rd hosting of the Presidential Election at iO Theater. Most of all, I’m proud that the cast of Whirled News Tonight, intelligent, generous, hilarious beings are my friends. For nine years! I thank you all for believing in my little experiment and indulging my schemes. And thanks for being my friends.