Category: Old Town

Summer in Chi Town: Don’t Miss Out on These Experiences!

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By , June 3, 2015 11:00 am

With brutally cold winters that seem to last a little longer each year, Chicago is a city that lives for its beautiful summer season. So now that summer is here (finally!) why not try something new to soak up the sun and make the most of it?

Chicago Jet Boat Experience

One of the best ways to see Chicago is from the water, so kick back and feel the wind in your hair on a Chicago Jet Boat Experience. This is a half-hour tour that combines an adventurous ride with the beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the sprawling Chicago skyline. The boat leaves from Navy Pier, and the captain will tell you all about the city’s landmarks, architecture, and hot spots. Jet boats run daily between 11 am and 7 pm, May through October.

Photo credit: acuestareig via Flickr

Photo credit: acuestareig via Flickr

Introduction to Kayaking

To get a little more active on the water, take our Introduction to Kayaking class with the experienced guides of Kayak Chicago. This is a beginner-friendly class that’ll teach you everything you need to know about paddling, boat types, proper gear, safety techniques, and rescue strategies. This expereince lasts about four hours and runs on Saturdays and Sundays from June through September.

Sailing 101 Chicago

Another great water activity to try in Chicago is sailing! Our Sailing 101 Chicago class is beginner-friendly, yet challenging and comprehensive. To complete the course, you’ll need to take four sessions, and each lesson last four hours. So this is a great experience for locals living in the city! Sessions run daily between April and September.

Chicago Shopping Tour: Bucktown and Wicker Park

If you’re more in the mood for a little retail therapy, why not let a shopping expert help you focus and guide you through the city’s trendiest shopping district? Our Chicago Shopping Tour: Bucktown and Wicker Park experience will take you to unique boutiques and introduce you to fashion trends and the creations of top designers. You’ll meet your guide and fellow shoppers at a cafe and then head out to receive VIP treatment and the guidance of a personal shopping stylist. The experience lasts about two hours and starts at 1:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Devil’s Lake Day Rock Climb

If you’re willing to venture outside of the city to explore the surrounding area a bit, check out our Devil’s Lake Day Rock Climb experience in southern Wisconsin. This is an ideal climbing destination for beginner climbers, and experienced guides will provide you with all the gear you need. The day begins around 9:00 am and runs until about 4:00 pm. There are more than 2,000 climbing routes here along the picturesque cliffs that overlook Devil’s Lake – perfect for taking a summertime dip after a day of climbing!

Photo credit: stewie811 via Flickr

Photo credit: stewie811 via Flickr

These are a few of the other summer-centric attractions that are must-dos in the city of Chicago:

  • Lollapalooza
  • Cubs game at Wrigley Field
  • Sox game at US Cellular Field
  • North Avenue Beach
  • Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Chicago Air & Water Show
  • Navy Pier Fireworks

For a list of Chicago’s exciting 2015 festivals, take a look at TimeOut’s 2015 Summer Festival Guide and browse through FunSherpa’s Chicago experiences to find one that’ll make your summer unforgettable!

Discovering the Future of the Chicago News Scene With Brad Flora

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By , November 20, 2009 1:28 pm
Crowdsourcing News with Brad Flora

Crowdsourcing News with Brad Flora

With all the tumultuous change occurring in news media, Chicago appears to find its own unique way to challenge the status quo. Seeing sites such as the Windy Citizen and Chicago Now, it is quite evident that our city is close to the forefront of the future format of news and information. Funsherpa sits down with the brains behind the Windy Citizen, Brad Flora, Princeton and Northwestern alum, Chicago resident, and local entrepreneur. In this feature we learn about the local startup scene, and the future of news from the eyes of the Windy Citizen.

F: How has the concept of the Windy Citizen evolved over time?

B: The Windy Citizen has always been about helping Chicagoans find new things that you otherwise wouldn’t know about. We started with doing editorials through a team of bloggers who would post links and write short articles. We’ve since moved to letting our readers post the links and vote them up and down. We’ve gone from an editorial model to a crowd-sourced model!

F: Anything surprising you’ve discovered about local Chicagoans through the site?

B: I think we tapped into a well of city pride and found there’s a whole scene of people who follow what’s going on in the city – so it has really been fun to see that and provide these people with a forum to share their knowledge.

F: What’s your take on entrepreneurship in the Windy City?

B: There are a good number of people doing interesting things. The environment in Chicago is quite difficult. Chicago is known to be a good place to bootstrap a business. As you get to know people who are starting projects or new ventures, it is pretty rare to find someone who has successfully raised money or even intends to raise money. A lot of cool stuff is happening, but the approach to how you fund and finance that is very different from a lot of other cities.

F: Has there been a time when you just wanted to give up? How’d you resolve that?

B: There are quite a few times that I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve been working on the Windy Citizen for about a year and a half and for the first year or so I wasn’t making any money – so that was a very difficult time for me. It is very easy to get discouraged when you are creating something that you think is cool but nobody else is seeing it. There was a time when the content and design was always changing and I am very grateful to my friends and contributors who have stuck with the Citizen. The thing that really kept me going was finding a couple of people who supported me in developing the concept.

F: Any advice you’d like to share with entrepreneurs?

B: Do your homework. Figure out what you want to do and find the market opportunity. You don’t want to be caught flat footed and not know what your audience really wants!

F: What have you learned from starting up a local media site?

B: One of them is that the market opportunity is a lot smaller than most people think. A lot of people don’t want to think about geography. Their interest is in national stories and national news. Having a population of three million people in a city, doesn’t mean you have a market opportunity of three million people – the audience for us is a bit smaller. At the same time though our audience cares a lot more about what’s going on in the city. It is a smaller market, but we cater to people who are more passionate about things going on locally.

F: With all the talk about new media taking over traditional print, how do you think papers like the Tribune will survive in the midst of bloggers, 24×7 online news sites?

B: Well, The Tribune Company is being very aggressive in the market. They have a Chicago Now site which they’ve turned into a morning radio show. They’ve scooped up a lot of people and are trying to do something interesting.

My expectation is that newspapers will continue trimming costs up to the point they can be profitable. We’ll see smaller more nimble newspapers that may even be published a bit less but they will be profitable.

F: Who are your favorite columnists? What do you like about them?

B: I really enjoy Robert Feder from the Vocalo website. He was the media critic for the Sun Times for 20 years and has now come back to write. His stuff is excellent. Also, I enjoy reading Eric Zorn’s columns. He’s not always covered stuff I’m super interested in, but I’ve really enjoyed what he does. He’s the best and most consistent columnist. John Kass is great too, because he really goes after the creeps.

F: How do you cope with Chicago winters?

B: Working from home is a big start. Its nice when you don’t have to go out in the snow. Second I have a trusty overcoat that I bought in Pittsburg years ago. Between the two of those, I seem to manage them quite well.

F: Can you share with us some of your favorite places to grab a drink in Chicago?

B: I live in Old town. I love going to the Old Town Ale House. At first I was creeped out by the creepy paintings on the walls. I am still creeped out by it. But its got an atmosphere!

Tim Joyce weighs in on Improv Comedy

By , August 12, 2009 10:35 am

TimJoyceA few weeks ago, Funsherpa interviewed Tim Joyce, a comedian-in-training with Second City.  This week we talked to another Tim Joyce in the same line of work: a distinguished playwright/ actor/comedian and longtime resident of Chicago.  Tim has made a career out of stand-up comedy, writing, improv, acting, and teaching.  He has succeeded as a published author, speech-writer, and private comedy coach

You seem to have done it all! What aspect of your diverse career do you enjoy most: writing, performing, teaching, traveling…?

If you had asked that even three years ago, I would have quickly answered “performing.” But in the past few years I’ve been doing a lot more teaching, which provides inspiration and an outlet that I hadn’t expected. There’s a really sweet level of communication when teaching someone. So now I’d say it’s a tie: teaching and performing; with writing a close second.

Is comedy for the camera different than live comedy?

Live performing is actually very different that performing for a camera, whether it is comedy or drama. Cameras are intimate; they pick up tiny nuances that even the performer isn’t aware of, so you want to avoid being too broad. In a live stand-up situation, it’s almost impossible to be too broad.

What is it like to watch your plays performed? How much input/control does the playwright have?

I love watching my plays acted!!! It is a kick that cannot be described to see the levels actors and directors add to your work. They show you things you had no idea were there and make small choices that cause your work to shine.

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of input with my plays that have been produced. In every case, staged readings as well as workshops were necessary to get the working draft in shape. I’ve also worked with some really great directors who did a fine job shaping the material and the performances of the actors. A play – especially a new work – is a collaboration; I’ve been fortunate to have great collaborators.

We’ve recently interviewed another Tim Joyce who is taking classes at the Second City Training Center. How has Second City factored into your comedic career?

The Second City Training Center (which I attended in 1986/87) was a huge influence on me as an artist. It is not only a place that gave me a solid grounding in improv and more depth in performance, it is honestly the place where I believe I learned how to write.

You are also an experienced Shakespearean actor – what is your favorite Shakespearean character?

As a college freshman I got to play Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it will always be my favorite role from any play. I also love the character and poetry of Richard II; in fact, I use a monologue from it for auditions.

What made you decide to pursue comedy over straight acting?

I wish I had a more sanguine answer…But it was money. Comedy pays better and there are more financial opportunities as a comedian and as a comic writer. It is an artistic challenge too, but it was a fiduciary choice.

How much research is involved in writing for someone else’s speech? Who have you written speeches for?

The speech writing I have done has been very corporate, it is largely a job of “punching up” executives’ existing speeches – making them less dry.

How did you go about writing a ‘spoof’ of self-help books, especially with a co-author?

Carl Kozlowski, my co-author, is a former student of mine and an amazingly talented writer who has worked for the Tribune, Esquire, LA Times, and numerous other media outlets as a reporter. He and I were tipped off that there was an opportunity to write a self-help spoof and we put together some spec chapters and pitched it. Voila! Book!

Can you give us an overview of your teaching methods for comedy?

People often ask me how you can “teach” comedy when so much humor is subjective. Truthfully you cannot teach someone to be talented, but you can help them learn to edit and to focus their voice as a writer. My emphasis is on editing material ruthlessly and constantly asking yourself if you are saying what you want to say – what you think you are saying. The best comedy has no wasted words, and every word should audition to get into your act.

How do you juggle touring with raising a family?

It is hard. I do not have my own biological kids; I have two wonderful young women who came into my life through Hurricane Katrina. One has gone off to Boston to get her MBA and the other graduates in 2010 from college. I’ve been married for 26 years and I still miss my wife on the long trips. Staying emotionally grounded on the road is the single biggest challenge I face as a comedian. The road is inherently lonely.

Why did you decide to settle in Chicago? What do you think of Chicago’s comedy scene?

Studying at Second City was the major factor in my moving here. The comedy scene is always changing, sometimes it is up and other times it is down. The talent tends to move to the coasts after developing here, so the scene doesn’t stay the same for long.

What is your favorite Chicago improv club to either perform in or to see a show?

I still love seeing shows at Second City, especially the improv sets there. IO is pretty cool too. For stand up I like the Comedy Upstairs show at Fizz Bar and Grill….

Improvising skits and composing folk music with Tim Joyce

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By , July 27, 2009 9:49 am

Funnyman and musician Tim Joyce

Funnyman and musician Tim Joyce

Tim Joyce, a Second City improv student and folk musician talks about his passion for performing.  Like the best musicians and comedians, Tim strives to keep learning, changing and improving his skills. When you have some free time, you should watch him perform at the Second City and catch a late night brewsky with him at the Old Town Ale House.

F: Many people enjoy comedy without ever trying it themselves. Based on your experience, what are the biggest differences between being on stage and sitting in the audience?

T: This is a tough question. I think the differences are far fewer than most people think. What really makes people laugh are the things that they can identify with. Most people know when things are funny, and funny stuff happens in our lives everyday. When you see someone on stage in a funny situation and you recognize it as something that has happened or could happen to you, it makes you laugh. The one big difference: as a performer, you are putting your self out there. You and your life experience can get laid out for everyone to see. If someone yells out “embarrassment” as a suggestion, you may likely have to deal with the time that you wet your pants in gym class in second grade. And there is the rub, you will have to deal with it in front of a bunch of strangers. (That didn’t happen to me though…)

F: What was your first routine like?

T: My real first stab at comedy was as a little kid. I would jam a globe under my t-shirt and pretend I was an uncle who had quite a large gut. People laughed. Turn about is fair play I guess, because now my nieces and nephews get to do the same thing to me. One of my more recent opportunities to perform in front of a non family audience was at the end of my first year at the Second City. There were definitely some nerves and the fear that I would screw something up, but as soon as I stepped out on the stage, I forgot I was nervous. You trust that your teammates will not let you down, and have to trust that you are being honest and make sure you are having fun, and things will work out.

F: How would you describe your comedic style?

T: I think that is always evolving, especially in improv. Currently, I think I am a slow burn type of guy. When it comes to improvisation, I find myself taking a lot of time to let things sink in. Not that I am slow on the uptake, but I might react with a facial expression or a movement of my body before anything comes out of my mouth. This might be out of necessity at this point in my training. I’m still learning. It would be nice to be one of those people who can say what seems like the right thing every single time. I think a lot of that comes with practice: The more you do it, the more comfortable you get. (At least I keep telling myself that.)

F: How do you learn in comedy class?

T: I think the key is listening. It sounds corny, and you hear it all the time, but you have to pay attention. I learn more from watching my classmates than any other way. Seeing how they succeed and how they fail is the best instruction. And I think failing is a huge part of improv. You have to be able to let yourself screw up, forget about it, and move on.

F: Do people always ask you tell jokes? How hard is it to improvise something funny on the fly?

T: “Tell me a joke” happens pretty often. But more often is “Do something funny,” or “Do an improv!” I try, in the nicest way possible, to explain to people that it is not a crazy-hands, toe-tappin’ cigar-in-the-mouth Vaudeville thing. I try to explain that it is more often the people you work with who make you funny. It is getting in a scene with them and connecting with them that gets the laughs, it is about people in the audience being able to recognize something you are doing as something they might do, or more likely something they have already done. I guess to answer the question: “On the fly” is what it is all about, but it feels most rewarding when you have a partner in crime who knows the ropes a little bit.  This answer doesn’t usually leave family members very satisfied at Thanksgiving though, and that is usually the time I pull a joke out of the old funny bag.

F: What do you think of the comedy scene here in Chicago, especially improv?

T: I think Chicago is an amazing and incredibly supportive place for improv. I have spent a lot of time in the music scene here in Chicago and I find them very similar: Two very supportive groups of people with a lot of overlap. On any given night in Chicago you have access to some of the most accomplished performers in their fields. You can see a musician at the Old Town School of Folk Music on one night and the next night they will be playing at a little club in Evanston. Or, you can see someone on the mainstage at Second City one week and then see them at the iO or The Annoyance the next week. All for not that much cash, really. Great for the audiences, not so great for the performers. But a testament to how much people love performing. (Pay: another sad but true similarity between music and improv.)

F: Second City has some pretty famous alums: can that be intimidating while taking classes at the Training Center? What do you want to do after you perfect your craft?

T: There is no doubt that history surrounds you at The Second City. There are reminders everywhere about all the other people who preceded you: old flyers, posters, paintings. even the people who are training you are part of that history.  It is intimidating at first, knowing that all these famous folks who came through the programs and performed at Second City. But as a student, the real solace is something I mentioned before: knowing they all failed at some point and kept plugging along. I don’t really have an end goal in mind at this point really. Right now, I just want to really continue plowing through to be able to get good at this. I don’t know if you can ever perfect the craft of improv either. It seems that even the best performers are always learning and changing and getting better, even the ones you think are already geniuses.

F: You also work at the Old Town School of Folk Music, a singular presence on the Chicago music scene. What distinguishes folk music (from classical or pop, for example)?

T: I think folk actually has a pretty expansive definition. People usually just think of the sixties folk revival most of the time, but I think it extends way beyond that.  A lot of musical genres have more folk in them than people realize. The points where musical genres overlap are what I find the most interesting and I like music and artist that are blurring those lines. For example, one thing that is exciting to me right now are the groups of younger classical musicians who are playing smaller group shows in venues that normally wouldn’t be for classical music, and not necessarily playing all classical pieces.

F: How does comedy relate to music, particularly folk music?

T: I think there is a real similarity on the learning level. You have to practice to improve. No one can just sit down and pick up a Banjo and play Bluegrass having never touched a banjo before. The same way that no one can jump up on stage and be an expert improviser from the get go. You need a little instruction and you need to practice. You need to learn the basics. In banjo, it is chord shapes, tunings, clawhammer style, Scruggs picking technique… In improv it is dialogue rules, how to react, how to move your body, how to listen and respond…  And then after you get the basics down, you can decide what you like, what you want to continue to use, and find out where you want to go from there.

F: Do you think folk music is becoming more popular with listeners and/or musicians?

T: I do. Even though I would love to expand the definition of folk, there are things that definitely fall into the folk category for many people. It seems like every time you turn around there is another band that has a fiddle player, or a ukulele, or a strange Appalachian instrument in it. I think that is a good thing.

F: What are your favorite places to go in the Old Town neighborhood? What do you think Old Town has to recommend it (above other Chicago neighborhoods)?

T: Ahhhh the Fudge Pot. One of my favorite places in Chicago. You can get chocolate shaped like anything there. I think Old Town is a great neighborhood because of it’s accessibility. Once you are there, you can spend the whole day in a few block radius. This would be mine: I am a bit of a food geek, so I’d hit the Spice House and Old Town Oil then grab Lunch and a smoothie at Fresh Choice, proceed to dessert at the Fudge pot, grab dinner at Trattoria Pizzeria Roma, Catch a show at the Second City, then hit the Old Town Ale house for a late night beer.

F: You said you also run a record label with friends… tell me more about that.

T: The label is called Contraphonic. Part of the label is a traditional record label with a roster of bands running the gamut from freaky folk music, to giant experimental jazz orchestras, to 70’s style pop music. The other part is a Chicago History based project called the Chicago Sound Series. There are two parts to that currently. Little Hell is a Series (currently 4 volumes) in which we have musicians compose short, e.p. length musical interpretations of historical people, places, or events related to Chicago. The second portion is called “ A Lot You Got to Holler.” The “Hollers” are very short studies/field recordings of things in and around Chicago. Those are free downloads on our site.

F: And, finally, please tell me how you manage to pursue all these diverse interests and find time to sleep!

T: It is difficult. But when you are lucky enough to be involved in things that really mean something to you, it makes it easier. The excitement and enjoyment I feel when I am about to head to a class at Second City, record with my band, or watch a show at the Hideout keeps me going. (Plus I have a very supportive wife.)

F: There is another comedian named Tim Joyce based in Chicago – also associated with Second city, no less! Have there been any embarrassing mix-ups between the two of you?

F: I get the occasional Facebook message for him, but nothing major. Wait, I’m not even sure it was the same Tim Joyce, but there was this time in college…(cue flashback music)… It was the final day of a History class I was taking. The day before the exam and the professor asked me to see him after class. He pulls a Chicago Tribune out of his desk drawer, looks me in the eye and says “I need to know if this is you” He slaps the Local section of the paper down on the desk and there is a giant photo of Barney the dinosaur. I begin to read the article and the first lines say something like: “ Every weekend local actor Tim Joyce dons his Barney suit to entertain kids on the North Shore of Chicago…” I vehemently denied it until he finally believed me. But before I left I asked if it would have affected my grade, and he said very honestly “Very likely, I can’t just overlook these kinds of things.”

F: Any other cool things we should know about you?

T: I am addicted to cooking Italian food. I am a rabid cookbook reader, not a big fan of roller coasters, I love visiting Montana, and I used to drive a school bus.

Old Town entreprenuer avoids talking about the Grey’s Anatomy season finale

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By , May 15, 2009 8:51 am

Florida native, Loyola law school graduate, now entrepreneur Billy Brewster spills the beans on what it is like to jump off a cliff and be your own boss. A big fan of living in Old Town, Billy actually designed his pad to highlight his view of Cabrini Green – nothing like living it up in the neighborhood. A huge Cubs fan, you can probably find him hanging out in Wrigley Field on most days, or whacking gophers in the Lincoln Park Golf Course. When not taking it pretty easy, you will find Billy putting together the smoothest, cleanest, and straightest floors – he turns pumice rock into marble.

Pounding a brewsky with Billy

Pounding a brewsky with Billy

 Learning more about the king of flooring, the Cubs, and the Bulls

 I decided to skip practicing law and become an entrepreneur because there is nothing like running a business.

If I were to practice law, I would be in personal injury, and sue pretty much everyone.

Biggest challenge with starting a business is getting it off the ground. It’s like a train, getting it running takes a lot of energy but keeping it running requires maintenance.

One thing I learned about floors that I bet no one else thinks about is the cost of doing the job properly.

What is it like to sniff the bonding glue? Not all it’s cracked up to be. Did you see heaven? Was that heaven? I don’t know…I forgot…Did I sniff too much…Where am I?

My pet peeve about floors is cutting corners. If I ever catch someone doing it, I will fire them or give them my card and tell them to call when they want the job done correctly.

The White Sox are old and slow and the Cubs have no bullpen. Nevertheless, the Cubs are better because of Mike Fontenot and Chad Fox.

I think the Bulls are not as good as the series was. Derrick Rose is one of the few guys that lives up to the hype. Kevin Garnett sucks at life.

 Old Town gems and some other things about Chicago.

I live in Old Town because of Sully’s Tavern. My view of the city reminds me of opportunity. 

Best place to play hoops: Stoney Island Park. Worst place to play hoops: Anywhere I am playing.

If testosterone flowed freely Wrigleyville would be the place to go. But Manny Ramirez cornered the market for it.

Top things to do in Old Town: Visit Uncle Julio’s for a “plato gordo.” Follow that up by dropping by Sully’s Tavern to eat the Veggie Pizza. Travel to Wells and hit up Fireplace Inn. Then get real at Old Town Ale House. 

My running route usually involves me going around the block and stopping frequently.

You can find the best floors (in Chicago) at the bleachers in Wrigley Field…perfect slack to hold people up and still make enough noise to instill fear into any visiting team…and of course, Floor Coverings International.

Best place to do a keg stand and not break your neck anywhere where there is a keg and someone you trust.

I like fried chicken. Especially from KFC.

If tourists weren’t so foolish, they would go to Wrigley and avoid “standing room only” tickets like the plague.

My dream meal would be anything at Charlie Trotter’s.

I can find everything at 900 N. Michigan.

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