After nearly a decade in Uptown, the Annoyance Theater announced plans this past spring for a new venue at 851 W. Belmont Ave., just west of Clark Street. Lakeview is thriving neighborhood for sketch and improv (with ComedySportz, The Playground and The Public House nearby), but carving a bar and performance space out of the former retail location won’t be cheap. And the company’s recent plans to secure a small business loan have gone belly-up, in part, artistic director Mick Napier and executive producer Jennifer Estlin said in a statement, because of the recent government shutdown.
So the Annoyance has changed tactics, launching a Kickstarter campaign (kickstarter.com/profile/annoyance) to raise $50,000 by Nov. 22. Just as importantly, Second City CEO and co-owner Andrew Alexander has agreed to kick in $50,000 in top of that. While there has long been healthy competition among Second City, iO and the Annoyance, “each is a critical part of ecosystem,” said Alexander. “They all feed each other. The more stage time an actor can get — whether its with us or iO or the Annoyance — the better they get. Losing the Annoyance would be disastrous so it’s important to ensure they’re part of the community.”
There is a long tradition of comedy co-mingling in Chicago; Napier has directed a number of mainstage shows at Second City (including 1996’s “Paradigm Lost,” which starred Tina Fey, Scott Adsit and Rachel Dratch). “I love Mick,” Alexander said. “He’s been so important to Second City.” Alexander is also advancing Napier his salary for Second City projects he is working on in 2014.
A Chicago staple for 25 years, the Annoyance has been an influential incubator with a list of alumni that includes Jane Lynch, Stephen Colbert, TV and film director Jill Soloway, “Saturday Night Live’s” Vanessa Bayer and “Veep” co-star Matt Walsh.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun