Chicago’s rising stars

Chicago’s rising stars

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Chicago-based comedienne Beth Stelling performs stand-up on a July 2012 episode of 'Conan.' (TBS)

As I watched Tina Fey and Amy Poehler kill it as co-hosts of the Golden Globes on Sunday, I was reminded of how they got their start in Chicago over 20 years ago. They met while taking classes at Improv Olympics, immediately bonded over Tina’s recent discovery of eyebrow waxing and formed the improv comedy troupe “Inside Vladmir” shortly thereafter. Fey went on to Second City, and Poehler took the Upright Citizen’s Brigade to New York. Then SNL came calling, and the rest is history.

Of course, Second City has a legendary track record of producing comic greats: John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Steve Carrell and many more. Other famous actors who honed their skills in the Chicago theatre scene include Gary Sinise, Jane Lynch, David Schwimmer, Laurie Metcalf and John Malkovich.

Now, a new group of rising stars has given Hollywood reason to take notice. Here is my list of the top Chicago-based actors and comedians poised for career breakthroughs in 2013:

(Katherine Cunningham)
Katherine Cunningham

As an alumna of Conant High School in Elk Grove Village, Cunningham has played a variety of roles on stage, television and film. Her long list of credits includes Detriot 1-8-7, The Playboy Club, Shameless, The Mob Doctor, Chicago Fire and the Michael P. Noens film Two Days in February. Cunningham most recently appeared on MTV’s Underemployed as Natalie, the love interest of lead character Sophia (Michelle Ang). Next up: Johnson, a film co-starring Cam Gigandet (Twilight, Easy A) set to premiere in 2013.

(Joe Minoso)
Joe Minoso

Minoso is a graduate of Nothern Illinois University and a veteran of the Chicago theatre scene, performing with such revered companies as the Goodman, Victory Gardens, Writer’s Theatre and Chicago Shakespeare. In addition to serving as the associate artistic director at Teatro Vista, he has appeared in several Chicago-filmed television shows, including Boss, The Chicago Code, Shameless, The Beast and Prison Break. His current role, the tough but lovable driver Joe Cruz on NBC’s Chicago Fire, is his best yet.

(Tawny Newsome)
Tawny Newsome

As an ensemble member of Second City’s e.t.c. Theatre, Newsome brings the laughs and an added bonus of top-notch theatre training. Before joining the cast in 2012, she graduated from DuPaul’s Theatre School and went on to win rave reviews for her performances at Chicago Shakespeare, Writer’s Theater, Victory Gardens and American Theatre Company. Newsome is an accomplished singer as well, lending her voice to local rock bands Jon Langford and Skull Orchard, The Dirty Rooks, and This Must Be the Band (Chicago’s only Talking Heads tribute). Tribune theatre critic Chris Jones named her one of “10 new faces you should know” in 2012, and her future only looks brighter from here.

(Michael Sanchez)
Michael Sanchez

Currently one of the driving forces behind Chicago’s “Comedians You Should Know,” Sanchez studied improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York before moving to the Windy City in 2006. He has traveled all across the country performing stand-up, including Seattle’s Bumbershoot and New York’s Seaport Musical Festival. In addition to writing a number of award-winning comedic shorts and opening for 30 Rock‘s Tracy Morgan, Sanchez is finishing up his first feature film The Return of Great Guy.

(Beth Stelling)
Beth Stelling

As Chicago’s comedy It girl, Stelling did it all: studying improv at Annoyance Theatre, performing with the Chicago Underground Company, earning a 2011 Chicago Beat award nomination for Best Non-Equity play (Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche, which went Off-Broadway and will be published by Samuel French in 2013) and tri-hosting the popular Entertaining Julia showcase at Town Hall Pub. Since re-locating to Los Angeles in 2012, Stelling has worked with many funny people (Rob Delaney, Sarah Silverman and Kristen Schaal, to name a few) and was recently crowned #2 on LA Weekly‘s “12 L.A. Comedy Acts to Watch in 2013.” Check out her super-cool website and watch her appearance on Conan below:

Follow Leah on Twitter @leahkpickett