Saying Goodnight to Chicago’s ‘Late Live Show’

Sad news from the Windy City: after three years and more than 50 performances, one of live comedy’s most interesting experiments is coming to an end. This Saturday, The Late Live Show will have its final performance.

For those of you who missed our profile of the show last year, here’s the basic idea: A bunch of comedy nerds who grew up watching late-night shows decided they wanted one of their own, but knew they would never be able to get it on television, so they just started doing it as a live show in Chi-town venues. We’re talking opening monologues, desk bits, interviews — the whole kit and caboodle. It became a cult hit, drawing sold-out crowds and high-profile guests.

But now, it seems that the good times will no longer roll.

“I’d hate for the show to coast for a while and then damage its reputation and then stop,” Late Live Show host and co-creator Joe Kwaczala told me. He admitted that a personal choice led to the show’s termination: He’s moving to Los Angeles to pursue his comedy dreams.

“Chicago’s the place for ‘up and coming,’ but how long can you up and come?” he said. “I feel like now’s the time to make that move, if I’m serious about my career as a comedian.”

Kwaczala told his staff a few months ago to expect that their current eight-week run at Wrigleyville’s storied iO Theater would be the last. Fellow Late Live Show-ers said they respected his decision, but weren’t exactly gleeful about it.

“It’s just the curse of doing comedy in Chicago that as soon as things start going well, people are going to start leaving for LA or New York,” said show writer Megan Green. “The reason we all work so hard on making the show both funny and professional is because we want to work in comedy as a career, and I think Joe’s taking the right step for that.”

The Late Live Show is going out on a high note. The past year’s achievements include the show going on the road to LA, snagging an interview with (an impeccably dressed) Paul Feig, and having a segment with Kwaczala’s self-professed “white whale”: celebrity chef Rick Bayless. They made guacamole together.

“Believe it or not, our show has a long history with guacamole,” Kwaczala recalled wistfully. “We made guacamole on the very first show, years ago. And then, like, the true nadir of the show’s history was when we had to book a guest last-second and we ended up getting some person from the restaurant below the theater to make guacamole.”

“So that’s kind of poetic,” he added.

And now, like a bowl of eagerly consumed guac, the show is nearly done. Saturday’s series finale will feature special guests Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen of the hit Filmspotting podcast – as well as what Kwaczala cryptically referred to as “maybe the biggest sketch we’ve ever attempted.” Your guess is as good as mine.

The show’s legacy will live on, of course. Their best bits will be frozen in YouTube amber for as long as there’s a Google, and no one is ruling out the possibility of a reunion somewhere down the road.

Kwaczala said The Late Live Show will always be a part of him, but that it has left one peculiar scar. It comes as a result of the show’s recurring “Alternate Sign Meanings” segment, during which the imagery of common signage is reinterpreted.

“I can’t look at a smoking section sign and not see a giant train causing 9/11,” Kwaczala said. “So that’s my own personal curse.”

Abraham Riesman is a writer and documentary filmmaker. He lives in New York City, where he swears a lot while sitting alone in his apartment. He also has a website:

Saying Goodnight to Chicago’s ‘Late Live Show’