TIL 50/50: Day 50

50. The Tonight it’s Live Family
Having produced 49 official Tonight it’s Live shows over the last 20 months (along with our 6 test drives in 2010), I’m very proud to have had the endurance to keep this project alive and (for the most part) enjoyable.  Over the past 50 days, this website has highlighted the many amazing individuals who have generously contributed to our show by sharing the passion of their craft with us for a few short minutes every Saturday night.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for not only being incredible people, but also for taking the time to support us over the years.  But, for the 50th day of TIL 50/50, I want to give a few shout-outs to the people who have taken this journey with me from the start, having lovingly worked many painstaking hours on the show.
First, I want to thank my older brother, Tim Bambara (yes, Tim and Tom…our parents hate us) for helping me establish the original two night run of the show, and encouraging me to keep trying it out until it was picked up by Oracle.  If Tim hadn’t booked the space, helped me find guests, and pushed me off my couch into the real world, I’m not sure if I’d be hosting a show tonight.
David Boren was the lynch pin for the success of this show on many levels.  He was the one who saw that it could be something fun and special as a weekly program for Oracle, and pulled a lot of strings to make this happen.  I don’t think he ever thought we’d do 50 of them, but he was with me the whole way…offering ample hugs and constant reassurance in both good times and bad.
Brad Jayhan-Little and Ben Fuchsen, thanks for giving me a shot and standing by the show.  I hope we can one day make big money together. 
James “Manny” Manno, the human juke box, is one of the most genuinely funny and happy kids on the block.  Without his crazy energy, musical genius, and spot on comic timing, I don’t think we’d have a very good time doing this thing.  I’m honored to have a friend like you always bringing a smile to my face.
Justin Snyder…you’re too good for us.  I don’t know why someone of your talent level bothers to work on our show, other than that you genuinely enjoy the product, and if that’s the case it makes me truly satisfied that you keep sticking around.  Thanks for building, lighting, and streaming…and I’m really sorry that LiveStream sucks.  When we get something better, I’ll let you take LiveStream out back and break it with a baseball bat, Office Space style.
Harold Jaffe……………I still have no idea where you came from or why you keep coming to help out.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE YOU, and want you there every week, as you’re now a part of our family and forever a part of the show.  I really appreciate your hard work, and maybe one of these days we’ll establish an origin story for you that makes a little more sense (and is more entertaining than the Wolverine movie).
My wonderful friends, Phillip Tamburello, Kyle Estep, and Marie Weigel.  Thank you for constantly supporting this show in the audience and cheering me on along the way, but most importantly, thank you for offering much needed criticism as well.  I have no doubt that you’ve helped make the show much better.
Finally, my three lovely co-hosts:  Andi Woody (19 episodes), Nicole Carter (16 episodes), and Natalie DiCristofano (15 episodes).  Andi, thanks for taking a chance on me early on and setting the bar high for what a great co-host needs to be.  I’m also surprised you stayed on the show for as long as you did, even through a broken foot and constant harassment.  I will always cherish our chemistry on stage, and our mutual love of the Walking Dead comics.  Nicole, my high school kid sister, thanks for being my friend for almost 15 years, for sharing so many inappropriate laughs with me, and for being so wildly unfiltered, courageous, and hilarious during your time as my co-host.  Let me know when you get out of rehab.  And Natalie, thanks for having a parallel sense of humor with me and for upping the ante by taking on more than you should with this project by producing as well as co-hosting.  You’re a right broad, you is, and have always been an ambitious and savvy righthand gal to me…keep it up, because your work isn’t nearly over.
Thanks to all who have taken the time to read these 50 shout-outs and for supporting the show either online or in person.  I’m very proud of what we have done to this point and I look forward to soldiering on as Chicago’s #7 most popular independently produced late night talk show.  KOBE!
Most sincerely,
Tom Bambara

TIL 50/50: Day 49

49. Urban Twang

In the fall of 2012, Tom and Manny had a conversation about how much they love having awesome bands on the show, but since Tom’s more in touch with the theatre/comedy scene…he asked Manny where they should go or what they should do to find more high quality musical acts.  Manny did the most logical thing: he posted an ad on Craigslist.  We received an overwhelming response to the ad, and if we were worse people, we would have done a comedy bit featuring some of the music that was sent to us.  And while there were a few submissions that were pretty darn good…there was one that clearly stood out a MUST BOOK NOW!  The diamond in the rough was Urban Twang.  We will officially call this the greatest Craigslist missed connection in the history of the Internet, because Urban Twang is one of our favorite bands to ever be on the show.  The band consists of the incredibly talented multi-instrumental Max Twang, the stunning vocals and mandolinin’ of Trish Clausen, the sassy guitar and vocals of Laura Glyda, and the angelic harmonies of Sarah Barlett.  The four of them connect like a perfect puzzle, bringing a warm folky feeling to your ears, and a smile to your heart.  Click here to listen to some of their amazing tunes (and buy their album while you’re at it!).    

TIL 50/50: Day 48

48. David Wesley Mitchell
David Wesley Mitchell, or better known to Tonight it’s Live audiences as “David, David, Tom’s Gay Friend” is one of the most supportive fans and contributors we have on this show.  David has been a guest multiple times, an audience member (heckler) multiple upon multiple times, and has finally settled into his very own TIL segment.  Tom met David several years ago at the only place they ever want to go, The Long Room, and immediately fell in love with each other.  They shared a passion for singing show tunes while walking long distances home in the car, commiserating about their oft vexed love lives, and one drunk evening played Cyrano de Bergerac on the ever popular GRINDER app (apparently Tom really knows how to help woo a man).  Aside from his responsibilities as one of Tom’s BFFs, David is also a wonderful actor, having performed all around town with his theatre company Chicago Fusion Theatreand one of our other favorite companies, The Right Brain Project.We love him so much, and want you to feel free to check out his brilliance in this embedded clip:

TIL 50/50: Day 47

47. Paul Walter Hauser
Paul Walter Hauser is one of the greatest people you’ll ever meet in your life, and if you’re lucky enough to witness his glory, you will be forever changed.  Paul is an ambitious, hard-working chap.  He has devoted his life to film, television, and comedy, and started a very successful stand up career at the age of 16.  Upon being cast in his first commercial, Paul was driven to Los Angeles after attending an open casting calling for Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black’s film, “Virginia” and won the supporting role of Dale.  Once in LA, Paul began performing stand up at The Comedy Store and taking classes at Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre. After landing a lead on a CBS pilot, directed by Seinfeld and Borat’s Larry Charles and produced by Arrested Development’s Mitch Hurwitz, he took a guest spot on the popular sitcom Community, and co-starred as Richie the Juggalo on a hilarious episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  In 2011, Paul moved back to the Midwest and worked alongside Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul in the upcoming film Quad from Oscar nominated producer Gary Gilbert.  We met Paul after he moved to Chicago to pursue his comedic education at the legendary iO Theater.  His appearance on Tonight it’s Live was memorable on many levels, mostly because we almost killed him with a shot of Jim Beam.  The after party was amazing, featuring a tremendous performance of Seal’s Kiss from a Rose, that may have seen a shirtless Paul dancing on a tabletop.  We love this kid, and look forward to the great things that are surely coming in his promising career.

TIL 50/50: Day 46

46. Run and Punch
In the summer of 2012, we at Tonight it’s Live got very very lucky.  We fell in love with an amazing band…and we think they might like-like us as well.  They hail from Chicago, led by the insanely talented Laura Raquel Camacho, fronting a 7 piece band with a killer ska/punk sound that’s fresh, exciting, and just plain dangerous.  They are Run and Punch.  These crazy cats have been friends since high school and have grown together over the years…developing an interest in all kinds of music genres, from jazz and soul to funk and punk rock.  They put it all together and created their awesome uptempo and explosive sound!  After Run and Punch played one of the best sets in the history of our show, something amazing happened: they kept coming back to the show as audience members, warming Tom’s heart with their continued presence and support.  Needless to say, they’re forever written into our cool book.  Head to their website and buy their awesome record The Uppercut EP!

TIL 50/50: Day 45

45. Bobby Biedrzycki
Bobby Biedrzycki hates Tom Bambara.  That’s probably not true, but for some reason when Bobby was a guest on Tonight it’s Live, Tom could not say his last name for the life of him.  He even tried to put it into a song to have it make more sense, and that failed miserably!  (But for the record, Bobby has a perfect Eleanor Rigby name…give it a try “Bobby Biedrzycki, picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been, Lives in a dream” Yeah, it totally works).  Aside from having an awesome last name that our host is a loser at pronouncing, Bobby is an amazing writer and storyteller.  His writing has appeared in The Black Bear Review, Ghost Factory, Ante:thesis Volumes I & II, and Hair Trigger, and he is a company member of 2nd Story, where he serves as Director of Programming. Bobby loves to collaborate with artists of all disciplines, and routinely works with musicians and performers of all types in a constant effort to explore, question, and expand narrative. Professionally, Bobby is an adjunct faculty member of the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago, and he also teaches personal narrative performance at Gallery 37 for the Arts and the Goodman Theater.  He also hates Tom Bambara.  Click Here or Click Here to listen to Bobby tell some really great stories!

TIL 50/50: Day 44

44. Don Hall and Joe Janes

Best friends are awesome!  Best friends who are creative together are even more awesome!  That’s what you get with Don Hall and Joe Janes: a pair of tremendously talented, stupendously smart, and amazingly ambitious writer/performers…they also inspire alliterative complements.
Don Hall is the founding director of WNEP Theater, where he has produced over 125 World Premieres and directed 35 - 50 of them since 1992.  Don also works as the Events Coordinator for WBEZ, and is the House Manager/ Production Manager/ Audience Services Manager for NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! He is also the host of The Moth at Haymarket Pub and Brewery (second Monday of every month) and he writes awesome articles (and rants) on his blog Angry White Guy: Chicago.  He’s also a pretty great actor.
Joe Janes has taught improv and writing at The Second City Training Center since 1997 and is the Improv Program Coordinator for Columbia College. He is also a senior writer/director at Fig Media, Inc. He is a founding member of the WNEP Theater Foundation and the artistic director of Robot vs Dinosaur. He has written and provided voices for the CD-ROM game "You Don’t Know Jack." He also has an emmy for writing for a Cincinnati children’s program called “Club 19.” A non-believer of writer’s block or not enough time, he has taken on writing a comedy sketch a day and posting them on his blog.
Don was the first of these best buds to appear on Tonight it’s Live, and of course Joe was sitting in the audience to cheer on Don and take a few Instagrams.  This was the week that Mitt Romney had announced Paul Ryan as his running-mate, and Tom got to hear all of Don’s colorful opinions on that choice.  A few weeks later, Joe came on the show to talk about his (and Don’s) awesome project for WNEP Theatre: Seven Deadly Plays, which were written by Joe in one week in seven dangerous locations.  Tom, however, put Joe in the most dangerous location he’d been in that week…centimeters away from face-to-face contact with Tom.
These two are just the best.  If you care to be thoroughly entertained by them, follow Don here at AWG: Chicago, and follow Joe over at Bite and Smile with Joe Janes.

TIL 50/50: Day 43

43. Jeff Steinbrunner

There will never be a bigger asshole on this planet who has a bigger heart than Jeff Steinbrunner…and we mean that with every single ounce of affection that drips off that sentence.  Jeff can say terrible things in his act.  TERRIBLE THINGS.  Yet his ever smiling disposition on stage is so genuinely likable that he can say something awful…(like his girlfriend’s Karma is so bad that he wonders what terrible things she did in her life to deserve him cheating on her)…and get away with it scott-free because he’s so gosh darn charming.  This would be a very dangerous quality if it were not coupled with Jeff’s immeasurable talents: his ability to generate an eclectic array of material, his incredibly clever joke writing, his hilarious visual storytelling both with props and body language, and of course his quick witted, no-bullshit attitude toward his audience.  He is one of the founders of the always great showcase Your Funniest Friends, and has appeared at venues all around the country.  Jeff is one of our favorite comedians and has been a great friend to us at Tonight it’s Live: having crushed a stand-up appearance this past summer and was hilarious on our pre-election Political Rundown panel show this fall.  Do yourself a favor and follow Jeff on twitter,  go like Your Funniest Friends on Facebook, and try stalking him in real life…he’ll smile and wink for your pictures.

TIL 50/50: Day 42

42. Richard Cotovsky

Rich Cotovsky is one of the only guests of Tonight it’s Live to have his own Wikipedia page…which is saying something about him, we guess.  Rich is the Artistic Director ofMary-Arrchie Theatre Company, and a beloved actor and director around town.  We’re not sure why he agreed to do our show…but we were privileged to have him!  After drinking a copious amount of Miller Light in the basement of Oracle, he sprang forth onto a packed audience, shared an open mouth kiss with Natalie, an open mouth kiss with Tom, and an open mouth kiss of wisdom for everyone in the theater.  Rich talked about his time directing an aspiring, young, no-name actor, Jon Favreau.  Favs really wanted to be in a show Rich was directing…but had to drop out (on opening week no less) because he got a supporting part in a little movie called RUDY…leaving Rich hung out to dry, scrambling to find an actor.  It all worked out in the end…the play went on to be a success, and Favs made Swingers and Iron Man.  He also told us about a game of cat and mouse he played with Academy Award winner Mel Gibson on the set of Payback.  Rich had a one day shoot as a homeless man who had a scene with Mel Gibson’s character Payback (or whatever his actual name was) and Mel was NOT into Rich’s amazing character work.  He insisted Rich be fired from the picture, but the director had other thoughts…and much to Mel’s chagrin, invited Rich to stay on set for the whole week.  Mel kept trying to have Rich fired, but the director kept bringing Rich back.  A week became two weeks, two weeks became a month, and in the end Rich wound up stretching his one-day payday into seven weeks of work, an all expenses paid trip to LA, and a free hotel room full of booze.  And the kicker is, Mel’s company produced the movie, so he was personally signing Rich’s paychecks.  We had a wonderful time with the Godfather of Chicago storefront  theatre, and we hope to see him back on the show for a full hour long interview.  Go to Rich’s Wikipedia page if you want…honestly it’s just cool that he has one.

TIL 50/50: Day 41

41. Calamity West

Calamity West was born in a dream.  Quite literally, in fact, as she revealed in an interview with Tom on Tonight it’s Live.  She was walking through her subconscious faux reality, and she saw a marquee with the name “CALAMITY WEST” written in shining lights.  As she approached the doors to the theatre, someone close to her whispered to her “that’s you” and she has been Calamity ever since.  While we have no idea what her real name is (although for the sake of this post, let’s just say it was Midge Newton), this Chicago-based playwright received her BA in playwriting from Webster University and her MFA in playwriting from California College of the Arts in San Francisco. In Chicago, her plays have been seen with Chicago Dramatists, The Inconvenience, The Ruckus, Jackalope Theatre Company, The Anatomy Collective, Sideshow Theatre Company, and the American Theatre Company.  Midge…er…Calamity, was a wonderful guest on our show, and we look forward to watching her grow as a playwright in the years to come.  We also look forward to any of the other angry heckling friends she brings with her when she returns as a guest on the show.