Annoyance celebrates 25 years of late-night memories

April 20, 2012

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Today, Mick Napier and Jennifer Estlin join Tony Sarabia in our WBEZ studios to talk shop. Specifically, their shop.

This is the 25th year for the famed Annoyance Theatre, and Napier and Estlin have been there since the beginning. The Annoyance has grabbed Chicago media headlines for the talent they've produced at the comedy theater (Andy Richter, UCB, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, etc). Local media loves that story. And why not? It's great to know that the people that make us laugh on the television or movie screen came from Chicago.

But what really stands out is the Annoyance's relationship with Chicago. A whole generation of young Chicagoans stood in a line, laughed like they didn't know they could laugh and watched young, fresh and raw improvisers and comics tear up the precious theater stage. That is what the Annoyance was for me. A place where comedy and theater could be performed with no censor, no pressure to conform.

Shows like Co-Ed Prison Sluts, Manson the Musical, Screw Puppies and hundreds more became instant memories for young city and suburban kids looking for identity. Not unlike Too Much Light from Andersonville's The Neo-Futurists, the Annoyance served as a great city alternative to bars and clubs that young people couldn't partake in. It became part of a night out: first you went to Reckless, then you went to Annoyance, maybe hit up Tower Records on Clark Street and finished up at Peters on Fullerton. Something like that.

The Annoyance continues to mold young performers in their permanent space in Uptown. But it will be the memories from the theater across from Reckless Records on Broadway that will live forever. Or the memories of seeing a young Upright Citizens Brigade at the Annoyance on Clark Street in Wrigleyville. Not to mention following the careers of Chicago luminaries like Mick Napier (director, Second City), Susan Messing (actress, everywhere), Joe Bill (improv teacher and guru) and Jimmy Carrane (Studio 312, Improv Nerd). Listen to Napier and Estlin join me on Eight Forty-Eight and reminsce about the good old days -- and what's to come.