Originally published with Paste Magazine on March 21, 2016.
New York City and its west coast counterpart Los Angeles might be considered the capitals of comedy, at least in the US, but there’s no denying the equal influence Chicago has had in providing a different kind of space to help shape rising comedians. From Second City to Upright Citizen’s Brigade, many an oddball idea has gotten its start in Chicago. And thank goodness. Those ideas, and the comedians behind them, refreshingly counter the sometimes big personalities and trite observations that can dominate the coast.
The Midwest gave rise to greats like Richard Pryor and David Letterman. Pryor, who was born in Peoria, Illinois, didn’t miss a beat calling out where he got his start. He told a San Francisco crowd in 1966, “My home’s in Peoria. Whatever you think of when you hear the name, that’s what it’s like.” Pryor ended up mining his hometown and the many characters he came across there for comedy gold.
[Full list available at Paste Magazine.]