The Chicago-based couple founded BurbCity Productions two months ago, only five months after they began dating, but within that short span they have already turned their shared love of stand-up into an engine that they hope will ignite Des Plaines and Chicago residents’ passion for a comedic style they say is sometimes overlooked in Chicagoland.
Neither works fulltime in comedy; Avila, a 29-year-old former Des Plaines native, is a fulltime server and part-time small show producer, while Brochu, a Portland transplant, is a GrubHub sales executive with half-a-dozen years of part-time stand-up work under his belt.
But that doesn’t stop the couple from setting their aims high. They hope that a successful show and healthy turnout for Saturday’s gig will be the first in a series of stand-up presentations that they plan to host at the Des Plaines Theatre on the first Saturday of each month for the foreseeable future.
Des Plaines Patch sat down with Brochu and Avila to talk about Des Plaines, their production company and the state of Chicago stand-up comedy.
Des Plaines Patch: Why Des Plaines? Why now?
Avila: “It’s because I grew up there. I went to Maine West. I used to live a few doors down in this horrible studio apartment, and I worked at Leona’s, right next door to the theater. I think Des Plaines is starting to be more open to getting some new stuff in [that area]. They just built it up. I haven’t been out there in a long time. I didn’t realize how much is out there. It used to be houses. And [the Des Plaines Theatre] is just great.
Brochu: “It was a no brainer. We saw [the Des Plaines Theatre space] and it was beautiful. It was a bit of a stretch for us because it was bigger than anything we’ve tried before.”
Avila: “In the suburbs, you go out to a movie and dinner normally. This is a change. People are ready for live entertainment.”
Patch: Why should people come on Saturday?
Brochu: “Mike Stanley. He‘s just going to destroy.”
Avila: “And yet not a lot of people have heard of him.”
Brochu: “This city is just teeming with good talent. She and I went to Los Angeles two or three weekends ago, and I did some shows at the Comedy Store in Hollywood. We had a blast, but it was eye opening. Some of the talent we saw in L.A. in a casual showcase, to be completely frank with you, the Chicago comics are way better…There were like three that I thought stood up to Chicago comics. I walked away like, ‘if this were a room of Chicago comics, the crowd wouldn’t have a heart beat by the end of the show.’ They would have died laughing.”
Avila: “It’s something that so many people in Chicago should pay attention to more, is Chicago stand up. It’s here. It just has to be a little more recognized for what it is.”
Patch: Why do you think it gets overlooked? Is it because associate Chicago with improv comedy?
Brochu: “There are just tons of good talented people that L.A. and New York have been slowly clawing away because they can’t quite make it in Chicago. Unfortunately, it’s a situation where a lot of comics need to [leave the city] if they want to excel and grow. I have probably 150 contacts in my phone right now that are Chicago comics, but stand-up still kind of hovers under this cloud, underneath improv in Chicago for some reason.”
How was BurbCity Productions created?
Brochu: “I was running small shows around the city. She was running small shows around the suburbs. Those things are free [to produce]. It doesn’t cost you anything out of pocket other than fliers, but we wanted to go in and do something really big, because we have good connections with really good comics. Nationally-touring comics. But we’re starting it off now with really awesome local Chicago comics that we know, who are so good that they should be on TV. And we’re focusing on [the Des Plaines Theatre]. We want to make that our once-a-month show that’s a big thing. A destination. A thing that people are looking forward to the first Saturday of each month and say, ‘go there, it’s worth every penny.’”
Patch: Do you two stay on the production side or do you get behind the microphone, as well?
Brochu: “I’ve been a stand-up comic for six years. I started doing comedy at an old age. I did it on a bet and it stuck. I moved [to Chicago], broke my way into the scene, I’ve pretty much done every showcase in the city and all the independently run shows, and I’ve just learned a lot about what makes a good show.”
Avila: “I tried it twice. The second time in front of him. I got nervous. I don’t remember it. I mentally blacked out.”
Patch: You two are a couple, but you’re also business partners. Any conflict there?
Brochu: “We want to do this together, which is risky as a couple. We could be hating each other right now and we’re not. We’ve made a pact and said, ‘listen, this is something that we’re both passionate about, it’s awesome, whatever happens we’re not going to get upset with each other.’ We really trust each other and we know that the other person is going to put in the same amount of effort that you are.”
Avila: “The business and the relationship actually mix well together. If it weren’t for stand-up comedy I never would have met him...I saw his act.”
Patch: Is the goal to make this a fulltime job?
Brochu: “No. At the risk of sounding hokey for this interview, we’re just the biggest stand-up comedy fans. We love it. I will go to an open mic and laugh my ass off just as much as I’ll pay $30 to go see Louis C.K. It’s something that I’ve been in love with since I was a teenager.”
Patch: What can people expect from BurbCity in the near future?
Avila: “The first four months are already plotted out, as far as who we have booked. We already know who those performers are going to be.”
Brochu: “As far as headliners go, we will expand our reach. We’ve got a lot of connections with national comics. Once it’s established, we’re going to be able to do that… We’re going to let it grow.”
Avila: “I kind of want to do a variety show, eventually, at the Des Plaines Theatre…We would have three comics, two bands, a couple short videos and a variety or two.”
Patch: Anything else?
Brochu: Go to the show. It’s going to be great.
Avila: Do yourself a favor.
Brochu: The Super Bowl is the next day.
Avila: You want to laugh before you cry about your team losing.
Brochu: Men should take their wife, their girlfriend, the person they love out to dinner and a show the night before the Super Bowl.
Avila: Make your lady happy.
Brochu: Do you know how happy she’s going to be?
Avila: You see?
Brochu: Boom. And you can be home by 10 p.m.
Avila: If you want to be.
Brochu: I’ll be home by Thursday.
Saturday’s “An Evening of Comedy with Mike Stanley” at the Des Plaines Theatre starts at 7:30 p.m. and will feature a lineup comprising Matt Drufke of Boxcar Comedy Productions, Joe Kilgallon of Comedians You Should Know and headliner Mike Stanley. Tickets are $12, with a $2 discount given to the first 200 buyers. Ducknroll food truck will cater the event.