Rich Lenkov has always dreamed of being a stand-up comic, but the Chicago-based injury defense attorney never took the chance of getting onstage. So when he saw that Zanies comedy club was offering the Ultimate Bucket List Experience—which gives funny dreamers the chance to create a killer act while being mentored by a top comic, and perform it in a real show—he dived right in.
The event offers participants a one-hour Zoom session with a professional comedian to go over the material that they’ve prepared; a thirty-minute pre-show session walkthrough and preparation for the show; and green room access to hang out with comics pre- and post-show. They also receive four complimentary tickets to the show for friends and family, billing on show graphics and the Zanies website, and finally the holy grail: three to five minutes on stage in front of a live crowd.
The package costs $300, and it’s the one sure way in Chicago for comedy lovers to live out their dreams on a professional scale. Lenkov hopes that it’ll be a fun transition from engaging jurors in serious cases to making audience members laugh at his every word.
“It’s trying something new and stepping out of my comfort zone,” says Lenkov, who counts Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David among his favorite performers. “But this is an area that obviously has the high risk of failure, and not just failure, but humiliation and embarrassment.
“Starting your first stand-up gig at Zanies is kind of like taking your first at-bat as a baseball player at Yankee Stadium in the World Series.”
Lenkov’s clear sense of excitement has made coaching him a joy for John DaCosse, a forty-one-year veteran comic at Zanies (who’s also part of the morning radio team with host Steve Cochran daily on WLS-AM).
“I”ve taught comedy classes before, but this is different because it’s not a group, but one-on-one with an attorney who’s always wanted to do stand-up,” explains DaCosse. “He came to me with some joke ideas and we sat down. I don’t try to change what they’re doing, I just try to structure it and punch it up and figure out what’s the best way to deliver it. And we go over the basics, too, with lighting and sound.
“It’s a lot of fun because they’re having a great time. This is not for people that have been onstage or trying to become stand-up comics or they’ve done open mics again and again. This is for somebody who has just always wanted to do this and then, if they go on from here, more power to them. It gives them an opportunity. It’s a lot of fun because they get very excited.”
Zanies general manager Brian Hicks says that the idea for the Experience has been a long time coming, and finally got kickstarted when the club’s director of operations Chris Lange tried to offer the package as a Father’s Day gift earlier this year. Then they got the idea to make it a broader gift idea for anyone at any time of year, or for people to buy for themselves.
He promises that the November 6 debut of the Bucket List Experience will give attendees a full, well-rounded slate of comics beyond the participants.
“The mentors will introduce their participants, then the participants will do three to five minutes. And then after that, the mentors go back up and they’ll do a little bit of time,” notes Hicks. “And then we built a show around it, too. The participants will have people that come out to watch them on the show. But for anybody who just bought tickets to come and see a show, we wanted to make sure we had a full show for them as well, with other comics. So there’ll be eight to ten comics on stage that night.”
The show will take place as part of the “Super Six Showcase” at 8pm, November 6 at Zanies, 1548 North Wells. Visit zanies.com or call (312)337-4027. Interested comedy lovers can apply for the Bucket List Experience at zanies.com.