Mike Toomey grew up loving television, and his favorite shows each year were the special Christmas episodes of sitcoms and the Christmas specials starring celebrities that filled the network schedules during December. But the WGN Morning News announcer and local star stand-up comedian noticed as he grew older that those shows were dying off, and in 2013 he decided to do something about it.
Teaming with other comics, Toomey rented a venue in Racine, Wisconsin, where he had a strong relationship with local radio DJs and staged an epic comic Christmas show of his own. In the decade since, the show grew in popularity and moved its way into Chicago-area venues—and now, on December 3, he’ll be performing this year’s edition at Zanies Rosemont.
Seeing the show evolve to greater and greater success is something that excites Toomey, who offers up a preview of what audiences can expect.
“This one is a one-man-show version, filled with all the funniest jokes, songs and videos from throughout the ten years it’s been running,” says Toomey. “It has a little bit of everything, with a lot of audience interaction. We encourage everybody to wear their goofiest Christmas sweaters and will have them take the stage to show them off, plus there’s some musically driven stuff that I sing and a nice PowerPoint presentation on a screen that shows lots of fun visual stuff.
“I have a Christmas-comedy CD and will be performing bits off that and singing the songs that are funny to croon about the holidays, and we’ll poke fun at lots of classic holiday commercials, too. Add in quiz shows with silly prizes, and it’s just a ton of fun for the audience.”
While Toomey has been a headliner at Zanies and top venues throughout the Midwest for over forty years, he achieved even more prominence when he started performing funny bits as a frequent guest on the WGN Morning News. He started out volunteering, moved up to getting paid for it, and when the show expanded to create a 9am-10am hour that could be fully comedic, he was hired full-time to bring the funny.
After a decade of sharing on-air yuks with the show’s popular anchoring trio of Larry Potash, Paul Konrad and Lauren Baumgartner, he has figured out the key to the show’s magic.
“The three of them have been on the show ever since it was started in 1995, and it’s just amazing that they’re great news anchors, but also have tremendous chemistry and know how to be funny when it’s okay to be funny,” he says. “We don’t have to focus on world news at the 9am hour because all the other morning news shows are over, so for that hour it’s a lot of celebrities, with authors and comedy people. It’s a much more talk-oriented entertainment-based hour of the show.”
Toomey grew up the youngest of a large Catholic family, and recalls that he always had to be the loudest and funniest in order to get attention. He would imitate TV characters and comedy routines that he heard on comedy records, and received such great laughs from family and friends that he was inspired to make comedy his life’s calling.
“I talk a lot about getting married and having kids and raising a family and what that’s like. But I’ve always had a throwback element to my comedy,” says Toomey. “In other words, when I was raising kids, I would compare it to what it was like when I was a kid, and now my kids are grown and we have a grandchild, and it just kind of keeps going around and around in a circle.”
“The Mike Toomey Christmas Special” is at 3:30pm December 3 at Zanies Rosemont, 5437 Park Place, Rosemont. Tickets are $30, available at zanies.com or (847)813-0484.