What is it? Quirky sketch comedy from Chicago comediennes Jet Eveleth and Holly Laurent, directed by Pat O’Brien. Jet and Holly regularly perform in several groups in Chicago. They’ve toured all over the country, and they won the Critic’s Choice in the Chicago Reader.
Why see it? These two pretty ladies from Chicago’s iO Theater have got enough multiple personalities locked inside to fill up the whole stage. Whether they’re playing children, old folks, or socialites, they address a variety society’s deepest issues and some stuff that will just leave you scratching your head — while cracking up. Most of the scenes loosely link back to episodes from a fictional ’80s sitcom called I Live Next Door to Horses.
Who should go? Anyone who appreciates intelligent humor that ranges from black to bubble-gum pink.
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15 • 1 hour 30 min. • May 23, 25 at 8:30 p.m.; May 24 at 5 p.m. • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. • (888) 374-2656
Next-Door Neeeigh-bors: Chicago comediennes play everything but horses
In the testosterone-fueled world of Chicago comedy, Jet Eveleth and Holly Laurent recognize what they’ve got going for them: They’re not dudes.
The two stars of I Live Next Door to Horses, a sketch comedy show from Chi-town’s iO Theater, take what some may view as a curse in the world of comedy — their femininity — and use it to their full advantage.
“I think as women we have an interesting opportunity to play half of the population, and that half of the population is really funny,” Eveleth says. “You see women on the street who are just kinda nutty, and we have an advantage over men: We can play them more realistically.”
After moving to Chicago about seven years ago to pursue comedy, the pair met at iO (formerly Improv Olympic), where they took classes the training program. They went on to form improv group The Reckoning (which performs at Theatre 99 starting May 23) with several classmates, which is now one of the longest-running improv acts in the city.
Being the only women in the group, Eveleth and Laurent formed a quick bond. It was only natural that they started leaning toward doing a show together.
Pat O’Brien, a director at Second City (where they also studied and perform), approached the ladies about putting together a show; it was his guidance and input that really got the wheels turning.
“He’s one of the most well-respected performers in Chicago, and one of the most cutting-edge, unique directors,” Eveleth gushes. “You can’t be in the [Chicago comedy] scene without knowing who he is.”
O’Brien, Eveleth, and Laurent brainstormed, using ideas from successful Reckoning skits. One particular character stood out: Eveleth had played a young girl who sat in her room and wrote letters to celebrities. Occasionally she’d spurt out non sequiturs like, “I live next door to horses,” (a fact from Eveleth’s life). Thus the name of the show was born.
The three started riffing on the idea of a TV show of the same name and decided it would be about two New York City businesswomen who move to Montana to become ranchers — a lifelong dream of Laurent’s. But rather than basing the entire show on this concept, they went with a more subtle approach, where most of the scenes would link back to that original idea.
“The whole show is kind of like a world that is somewhat affected [by the sitcom],” Eveleth says. “That’s very Chicago, to create a thread that’s very subtle, and if you pick up on it, you pick up on it. If not, it’s OK, because the scenes stand on their own. Each sketch has its own integrity.”
In the approximately 14 scenes in the show, Eveleth and Laurent take on a huge variety of roles, inspired both by those nutty women on the street and the pair’s delightfully twisted imaginations.
“Holly created a scene about a woman who lived down the street from her who won a Dairy Queen in a divorce settlement,” Eveleth says. “So all the kids in the summer would go and wait outside, but she was really scary. She smoked a lot of cigarettes and had a really hoarse voice, so if you were brave enough to go to the door and ask for a treat, she might get you one.”
Another scene was inspired when Laurent watched Pride and Prejudice, and thought it’d be funny if people still spoke like that in modern times. Other scenes were created by fleshing out previous skits they’d performed. O’Brien helped with this process, and he’s especially instrumental in choosing the running order, the music, and helping to refine the scenes.
I Live Next Door to Horses ran for six months at iO, then toured Boston and Los Angeles. Eveleth and Laurent were shocked when they were presented with a Del Award for best scripted show in March. The Chicago Reader also gave them a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Sketch Comedy in 2006.
Between teaching (both Eveleth and Laurent teach comedy classes as their day jobs), Second City tours, other comedy projects, creating a pilot for a new show, and even an SNL audition for Eveleth, Horses took the back burner. The Charleston performance will be their first in several months.
“We’re excited about remounting it,” Eveleth says.
While some of Horses‘ greatest strengths come from the show’s uniquely female-centric focus, Eveleth recognizes that being a woman in the world of comedy will always be a challenge — one she’s more than willing to take on.
“It’s kind of like what a man might experience in the ballet,” Eveleth says. “It’s an artistic world dominated by women, but if you truly have grace, it speaks for itself. I think that’s what happens in comedy. It is a world dominated by men, but if you really do have something to offer, that’s undeniable, and I think if you continue to plug away at your work, you’ll find your way.”