Picture Perfect? at the Second Stage, Fridays February 18 – March 25

Chicago improv group Hugs and Pullups is announcing their latest production, Picture Perfect. Known for their fast pace, relationship driven style of improv, they plan to explore the true meaning behind relationships through seemingly flawless pictures. They will be performing Fridays at 11:00pm from February 18th to March 25th at The Second Stage Theater located at 3408 N. Sheffield. Admission is $5.00. The theater is located near the Addison stop on the El Train Red Line, and can also be reached by the #22 Clark bus, at the Sheffield stop.

Sure, sounds great. Wait, seemingly flawless pictures? What are you talking about?

Awkward family courtesy awkwardfamilyphotos.com

Well, it’s part family psychology and part Awkward Family Photos. It’s every picture you’ve seen from a vacation, or at a family reunion, or just randomly looked at, where you know there’s more happening behind the scenes then this single photo can say. It’s taking a look at the forced smiles, the stiff stances, and the random people running around in the background, and saying to yourself, “I’m glad I’m not there, certainly. I’m sure it’s bad. But…. how bad?”


We’re going to answer that for you with a combination of our distinctive style of improv and a brand new improvisational form, created over the course of several months of practice, and designed to dig deeper and deeper into our photographic relics of bizarre memories.

Sounds daunting, but if you’ve seen us perform before (and if not, you can get a taste or two of our style in our list of previous shows) you know we’re always pushing ourselves further and further. This is a pretty big challenge though, so to help us, we have TWO separate teams opening up for us each and every night. These are all home brewed Chicago improv teams, who are ready to make your Friday night a very funny one.

The show is BYOB, because after all, it’s Friday night, and we’re all shaking off the work week. But as an added bonus, if you go across the street afterwords to Nisei Lounge, you’ll get 10% off all your drinks! Now you have no excuse whatsoever to stay serious and sober.

Come see why Hugs and Pullups is one of the best known independent improv teams in Chicago. Join us any Friday in March at 11pm at Second Stage, 3408 N Sheffield, and you’ll walk out with a newfound respect for everybody you’ve ever laughed at in a bad picture.

For questions or inquiries, email handpcomedy@gmail.com. We’re looking forward to seeing you!

How To Improvise – an H&P 101

Call us long in the tooth if you want (no, don’t) but we’ve been performing as a group for closing in on two years now. Back on that fateful day in March 2009 we started getting together to get extra experience outside of our iO classes, and have spent our time learning how to improvise together ever since. There have been a lot of laughs, because Brian is insane, and a lot of tears, because I’m a wimp, but we’ve made it 20 months with minimal legal action against each other.

Well, the rest of the team is probably going to kill me for it, but I’m going to spill the beans, and give you an H&P improvise how to – yep, here’s two years worth of experience condensed into 500 words. You’d think it would take more. You’d be wrong.

Teamwork is everything. We are all in this thing together
Our best shows are the ones where we come in extremely well connected with each other. We start our shows making contact with each other – eye contact, hand-holding, whatever else it takes to get in tune with each other and ready to support each other for the scenes we do. We’re friends and fellow performers, and we like to make each other laugh just as much as we like to see the audience laugh, and that’s what our pre-show rituals consist of.

We don’t think it. We follow our instincts.
It gets us into trouble sometimes, but we just don’t want to spend our time trying to invest some grand plot for our short little 20 minute show. We operate on themes of emotion and feeling, and on reacting to what happens in the moment. You can read books on how to improvise, and watch shows, or listen to Second City and SNL alum all you want, but in the end, the secret to improv, as far as I can tell, is looking your partner in the eye, absorbing what they just said or did, and reacting to it. You may want to react as you yourself would, or maybe you’re playing a character, but you are reacting as honestly as you can.

Good shows don’t depend on LPM (laughs per minute)
A good show is not necessarily a show where the audience is rolling every single second. I’ve loved shows that have had few laugh out loud moments, but have been touching, truthful, and real. We at H&P are striving to make shows that are so truthful that they leave the audience dead quiet, because these shows are even more memorable and impressive than those shows that have people laughing the entire time. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hear the audience react to what we do, but if you were going to define improvise, as Del Close once did, it doesn’t have to do with comedy. It has to do with reality.

If you want to see these lessons in action, the best way is to check out our upcoming shows!

Why We Love Improv Comedy

We here at Hugs and Pullups all share a common trait – an absolute adoration for improv comedy. I’ve done straight acting thanks to a theater degree, and I’ve done stand-up comedy, but neither of them come anywhere near the fun of getting onstage with all my friends and goofing off for 20-30 minutes in front of a live audience. It sends chills down my spine just thinking about it – or maybe that’s just the chilly Chicago winter.

That’s pretty much the only downfall of Chicago improv comedy though – the cold weather. Other than that, everything is unbeatable. Chicago is home to the finest improv comedy schools in the country – iO theater, the Annoyance theater, and the most famous of them all, Second City. Those are the big three, but there are many others too. Comedysportz is here too, which has a more national presence than the other theaters but still has one of its most powerful ensembles here. We all met at iO, where the teachers teach long-form improv, where instead of just playing improv games (fun as they are) we are acting out full scenes, where we develop characters and locations, see what kinds of situations we end up in as those characters, and by reacting to each other line-by-line, we figure out where they are going to go. It’s completely unpredictable, and it’s more fun than anything else I can think of.

If you had to see just one improv comedy show here in Chicago, it would be a hard choice. Second City and their famous mainstage show is guaranteed to be great, though by the time it makes the mainstage it’s mostly written out sketches you’re watching. IO has some excellent shows – the Improvised Shakespeare company is well known for bringing a very strong understand of Shakespearean plays into the improv world. They’re so popular they have two shows every Friday night, and they usually sell out too. Very highly recommended.

Of course, we have some upcoming performances that you may be interested in. We love the process of inventing characters on the spot and finding out where we’re going to take them as an ensemble. If you want to see what we mean, either give us a comment here or show up for a show!

If you want to try it yourself, then you’re a very brave soul. Not a whole lot of people have the guts to stand up in front of an audience with nothing planned ahead of time. It took me about nine months to do it without freaking out a little bit! But of all the improv comedy tips I was given, the best one was to focus all your attention on your scene partner. You must keep in tune with your partner, and with some practice you’ll find yourself forgetting about the crowd and just reacting to your partner instead. This is called being in the zone, and it is incredible.

If you’re a fan of improv comedy, and you’re in Chicago, I really hope to see you at one of our shows, or in one of the classes we’re taking at any given time. If you haven’t seen it before, I think you should come to one of our shows and see what it’s all about. We look forward to seeing you there!

Funny Monkey Pictures!!

funny monkey pictures

Yes, this is how excited we are that our 8 week run at Studio BE, beginning this coming Monday, May 31!  It’ll be more fun than a barrel of… well, you know.

Oooh, ooh, Lindsay Lohan!

I would like to point out that Nicholas Cage has NOTHING on Lindsay Lohan!  Let the tabloids commence!

So Lindsay Lohan missed a court date because she was at Cannes – and get this, she claims she couldn’t fly home because her dad arranged for someone to steal her passport!!!  So a judge, like, totally puts out an arrest warrant on her, which means if she flies home she gets arrested the second she lands – she can’t even go home to get some summer dresses to look cute in prison!  I mean, this country has been really messed up ever since Obama was elected (sorry, didn’t mean to get political!)

So anyway, she gets one of her bff lawyers to post bail for her so she doesn’t need to go to prison, but she’s still at Cannes, so what else is she gonna do?  PARTY!!!  She was out last night until 7:30am, which got her dad super pissed (I was laughing, I never miss a chance to piss my dad off, but LiLo is like the total queen here!) and now everyone’s all “she’s so irresponsible” but hello, Cannes!?  How could you NOT stay out until 7:30am?

Anyway, that’s all for now, I’ll totally update you with the latest Lindsay Lohan news as soon as she updates her Twitter again!

Hugs and Pullups: Party Hire

Hugs and Pullups would like to officially announce that we are putting ourselves on the market as Party Hires.  Do you have a birthday, wedding, anniversary, family reunion, bachelor, bachelorette, house, frat, Over the Hill, Gambling, or Democratic Party for hire that you need a little extra “oomph” energy behind?  Finding conversations a bit dull when you have a few friends over?

We look forward to helping you celebrate your little addition or mourn your loss with enthusiastic (but discreet if appropriate), optimistic, and goofy observations on life that you have come to know and love from all our Hugs and Pullups official performances.  Simply put, there will never be a dull social moment in your life again!

Have you always wished Brian could make Abraham Lincoln references in your grandmothers presence?  Here’s your chance?  Joe’s looking forward to talking baseball with that uncle who will never shut up about sports, while Courtney’s ready to tear it up on the dance floor to any type of music, from ballroom to hippity-hoppity.

In fact, if you act now, we’ll throw in Philip drinking too much too quickly, ensuring the hilarity gets going before 9pm!  Jared has hookah and Malort that your children will remember long after everything has been cleaned up, and John has the superpower of being able to transition any conversation to comic books in the blink of an eye!  You won’t believe how Aunt Mabel’s scalloped potatoes are so reminiscent of the Green Hornet!  I didn’t!

We will also throw in our HnP Guarantee – Meg Kennedy will always be there to make sure we don’t break anything expensive, and that we leave the minute our time is up.  Because we don’t want to be there if we aren’t getting paid, and you won’t want us there anymore either.


So what are you waiting for?  Email giveusmoney@hugsandpullups.com with your credit card information and dates and times, and get ready for a memorable event that no one in your family will ever forget!  We know you won’t – even though I’m quite sure I’ll pass out and forget most of it.


Your HnP Family

*HnP makes no guarantee that your family will speak to you after the event.  Clothing suggestions are encouraged, but will ultimately be ignored.  We are probably not the best human beings to have around your loved ones, nor are we legally ‘Your Family’.

**Please note, this is not a party BUS for hire.  Vabs wouldn’t let us use his car.

Chicago Reader poll – Best improv group in Chicago = Hugs and Pullups!

Hey everyone, it’s the time of the year when the Chicago Reader does its annual “Best of” poll for everything Chicago has to offer.  One of their categoreis is ‘Best sketch / improv troupe’

Can you say…. Hugs and Pullups??

Follow this link to get to their Arts and Entertainment page in the poll.  The category is very close to the end of the (long) list.  You can vote as many times as you want, so if you have OCD, this is a great thing for you to look into and get hooked on.

If TJ and Dave can do it, why can’t we?


Maybe I don’t have a job after all…

I recently discovered that Meg, despite knowing me for a year, has absolutely no idea what I do for income.  Do I work in an office?  A restaurant?  A hot dog stand?  Who knows…

Well, I accidentally gave her a hint the other night, but still haven’t said exactly.  If anyone has any ideas as to what I should imply to Meg that I do for a living, then please let me know in a comment.

Oh, and if Meg is reading this, please disregard.

Happy Mothers Day from HnP!

Look, we like our moms.  They’re pretty awesome for putting up with our garbage from day 1, and we appreciate that.  Well, most of us do.  Brian would probably get defensive and say he was the perfect child.  I wasn’t there, couldn’t say.

But listen, your mom needs a break.  She works hard.  She cleans.  She cooks.  She waits until everyone is asleep before breaking open the hootch.  And you should do something nice for her.  She deserves all the hugs and pullups in the world.

And what a better way to start with the 7 members of Hugs and Pullups as we open for Williams and Martinez at the Playground Theater tomorrow night at 10pm?  In fact, let me say right now that if you bring your mother, and you introduce us before the show, we’ll reciprocate by taking her out for a beer afterwards.  Our treat.  It won’t get weird… unless you want it to.

See you there!