Craving laughs and sanity in a crazy world? That’s why we’ve all been “Waiting for Huffman.”

Would you rather?

Would you rather be a comedian with a diverse and ever-growing resumé and a record of sold-out shows?

Or would you rather be tasked with officially explaining Chicago’s schools and airports?

Comedian Lauren Huffman
Comedian Lauren Huffman

It turns out there are two people named Lauren Huffman in the city of Chicago.

Comedian Lauren Huffman is one of the creators of the critically acclaimed Waiting for Huffman which sold out at the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival and is now back by popular demand. She also produced and hosted Second City’s storytelling mic and showcase and currently hosts the Chicago edition of the international storytelling showcase Tenx9, and Do Not Submit Old Town, co-hosted with Waiting for Huffman co-creator Billy Sullivan.

The other Chicago Lauren Huffman, it turns out, is a spokesperson for Mayor Emanuel.

But the Lauren who will give you a happy break from life and other forms of chaos can be seen Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. through August 3 at Stage 773. This Lauren Huffman kindly spoke with me about her ensemble’s hit show, tips for writing successful sketch, and what you might be surprised to find backstage in the green room.

Teme: I’d love to hear about your show!

Lauren: Waiting for Huffman is a comedy group with myself, Billy Sullivan and Lynne Roberts. Billy and I met co-hosting Second City’s Sunday morning open mic and storytelling show. We then started this sketch group with another Sunday morning regular, Lynne Roberts.

Teme: How did you create Waiting for Huffman?

Lauren: We wanted to do Sketch Fest so we put together a group. Originally, there were four of us. The title came about because I was stuck at work during the writing process. I was working until 1 a.m. for a couple months, so I missed all the writing. The group came up with “Waiting for Huffman.” The show’s title is a take-off of the movie “Waiting for Guffman.” It worked out perfectly because they were always waiting for me.

Teme: How would you describe your comedy?

Lauren: Our comedy is a little bit satire, a little bit slapstick, and it’s throughout the generations. I’m a Millennial, and Billy and Lynne are Gen Xers. Even though we’re not that far apart in age, we have different everyday lives. So we weave that through all of our scenes. There is commonality between everyone, but there are still a lot of differences.

Teme: What are some of the differences? Although I don’t want to ask you to give too much away!

Lauren: One major thing is calendars when we’re scheduling rehearsal. I pull out my phone to schedule and they pull out an actual notebook with tangible pages, and that’s when we got the idea about just how different we are, but yet the same on a lot of notes, too. I often play the obnoxious teenager obsessed with my phone and a lot of times they’re my parents and they’re in a completely different reality.

We also have a sketch that is a take on The Twilight Zone where a girl ends up in a copy shop like a Kinkos in the “Millennial Zone.” There’s no phone, there’s no modern technology and she doesn’t know what to do.

Teme: That sounds really good! How did you each get started in comedy?

Lauren: I did improv classes at Second City and then it snowballed into storytelling. So I’ve been surrounded with comedy a lot, but comedy’s not really my forté. That’s more Lynne and Billy’s bread and butter. Lynne has been doing stand-up for five or six years and Billy’s been a part of The Cupid Players since the very beginning, so for almost fifteen years now.

Teme: Since you do both comedy and storytelling, what are your favorite things about each?

Lauren: My favorite thing about storytelling is not knowing what kind of ride you’ll be going on. When you go to a show, you don’t know if you’re going to laugh or you’re going to cry. You never know the rollercoaster of emotions you’re going on, which is exciting.

In comedy, you know you’re going to laugh. So to me, it’s two different kinds of evening. But no matter what, you come out of it refreshed.

Teme: What are the keys to creating great sketch comedy?

Lauren: The keys are being open-minded, being okay with your sketch not playing out how you first imagined, and making sure that you’re not married to anything, whether it be a line, a moment or even a sound cue. It all changes on the fly. You never know what’s going to work or not, especially with different audiences every night.

Teme: What is your favorite memory from a performance?

img_3007Lauren: Billy once was running through the house in a sketch and he nearly fell. He said, “Whoops! I almost tripped!” It was so Billy, but it was so also in character. The audience erupted. The ones that knew Billy knew it was so Billy. The ones that didn’t know Billy believed that it was part of the scene because it was part of the character as well. It’s cool to see those different views come together.

Teme: That sounds like such a great authentic moment.

Lauren: Yes, exactly. It was authentic. To some people it was authentic because of the person and to some it was authentic because of the character in the sketch.

Teme: What is the best advice you ever got about creating a show?

Lauren: The best advice I ever got is that what works in rehearsal may not work in front of the actual live audience and vice versa. It’s important to hold onto your improvisational skills and tools when you’re outlining and writing a sketch.

Teme: So always stay flexible?

Lauren: Exactly. You always have to roll with whatever happens.

Teme: So if somebody wants to get into writing sketch, is it important to take an improv class first?

Lauren: I think improv is key to helping you loosen up, roll with the punches and take whatever comes and respond to it appropriately.

I’ve seen people without an improv background get stuck.  They can sometimes get in their own way. If something doesn’t work as they thought it would or if a line just doesn’t hit, instead of going with it they can get stuck or obsess about it instead of moving forward. Improv skills really help with the ability to keep moving forward.

Teme: How did you get started in comedy?

Lauren: I’ve been doing theater since I was little. It was always my passion. Then I didn’t do it for a while. Then I moved across the street from Second City, so I thought, I obviously have to sign up for a class. I signed up and I loved my ensemble. I loved them so much I basically dated everyone in it. And when that didn’t work out, I wanted to continue performing. Then one of my friends signed up for a storytelling class. So I signed up, too, and I really liked it, so I stayed in that genre. Since storytelling often coincides with comedy, I ended up being around comedy a lot, too, and who doesn’t love to laugh?

Teme: Yes, so necessary!

Lauren: It is!

Teme: How did you get involved with Tenx9?

Lauren: Tom Valenti, who is my partner, brought me on in 2015. He’d already been doing the show for a year and he wanted to expand the audience and so he brought me on as his partner. He knew I was doing Second City and co-hosting a storytelling open mic. So he knew that I had some connections and had a pretty good network.

Teme: You’ve built a great career in comedy. What would you advise somebody who wants to start out, build a network like that and open up a lot of possibilities?

Lauren: Make sure that you fail and fail a lot. Learn to accept failure. When you keep going after you haven’t succeeded, that’s when things start to happen.

Teme: What would you say is an example of that?

Lauren: I auditioned for an improv group. I wasn’t cast. So instead of just not doing improv, I signed up for a different class. In that class I met the people who eventually led me to storytelling.

I think it applies to everything in life. It took me a long time to really grasp that and understand that failure is actually a good thing and it’s okay and it’s inevitable. It doesn’t mean that you’re never going to succeed. It just means that you’re being guided into another direction.

Teme: That’s such a great way to look at it! And what is something about each member of your show that the audience might not guess?

Lauren: Well, you notice at the end that Billy is very hairy. Lynne has a variety of characters up her sleeve. You would never know they were the same person.

Teme: What is something you must have in the green room?

Lauren: It would be dog treats, chips and salsa.

Teme: That’s awesome. Do you bring your dogs to the show?

Lauren: No, but during rehearsal once we tricked Billy and we had food out, like pretzels and other things, and I put dog treats in a bowl to see if he would eat them and he did.

Teme: Ha! Some dog treats look really good.

Lauren: I know. I’m really tempted sometimes to try it, but I just can’t do it.

Teme:  I have to admit, my dog loves these chicken treats and I did actually try one.

Lauren: And?

Teme: It tasted like chicken-flavored hay. I was curious because she loves them so much. Then once we had some family friends over who are members of a metal band. They were touring and stayed here, and they’re a lot bolder than I am and they tried one of her treats. So that got me thinking, huh, I could try that.

I hasten to say it’s not a habit, but curiosity just got the best of me.

Lauren: I feel you on that one.

Teme: What do you hope the audience will leave with?

Lauren: An hour of forgetting your troubles and just enjoying the present moment. That’s what I want people to do when they come to Waiting for Huffman. Hang out with us for an hour and just be, and laugh. It seems hard to do these days.

Teme: Very! That sounds so restorative and refreshing and just what we need right now. I love Stage 773, too. It’s a great atmosphere. It feels like an island in the middle of our chaos. It’s just this island that’s peaceful and relaxing.

Lauren: That is such a good description, it really is.

Teme: By the way, are you ever mistaken for the city spokesperson, Lauren Huffman?

Lauren: She always comes up when I google my name. And she always seems like she’s yelling at people. I am convinced it is actually me, blacked out.

Teme: What else should people know about Waiting for Huffman?

Lauren: If you can’t have a good time at the show, I don’t know where you can have a good time. It will take your mind off the chaos of the world and help you reconnect with reality. And sanity is reality. That’s something I just heard from a friend and I thought it was really poignant.


Waiting for Huffman is Thursdays at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. at 7:30 p.m. through August 3rd . Tickets and more information here.

On July 20th, you can take advantage of a special promo for Billy’s birthday: 30% off all tickets with code B4huffman.


More information about Do Not Submit Old Town here.

More information about Tenx9 here.

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