Opera House set to continue comedy night

Sarah Nader- snader@shawmedia.com
McHenry County athletes gather outside the Woodstock Opera House after Tuesday's Northwest Herald's Most Valuable Athletes awards show June 7, 2016.
Sarah Nader- snader@shawmedia.com McHenry County athletes gather outside the Woodstock Opera House after Tuesday's Northwest Herald's Most Valuable Athletes awards show June 7, 2016.

A new Cafe Comedy Night in Woodstock aims to give people what they asked for – the chance to share a laugh with friends.

Woodstock Opera House fans put in a request for more comedy at the historic venue. Looking to appease, Opera House Managing Director Daniel Campbell opted for a monthly night of comedy at the next-door Stage Left Cafe.

“It’s small, intimate. It works sort of as a listening room type of space,” he said. “We thought it’d be perfect to launch this program.”

The Woodstock Opera House hosted its first Cafe Comedy Night last September, bringing in professional comedians from throughout the Chicago area. The event now is hosted at 8 p.m. the fourth Saturday of every month at the cafe at 125 W. Van Buren St., Woodstock. 

Tickets cost $15 at woodstockoperahouse.com or 815-338-5300. With capacity for 75 people, seating is limited. The shows generally are recommended for those ages 18 and older.

Past comedy nights have drawn an average of 50 people, with Campbell considering the addition of an open mic time for comedians after the performances.

“It’s a great way to get out on a Saturday night, have a couple of drinks and a few laughs,” he said. “People are looking for a good laugh.”

The upcoming Saturday Cafe Comedy Night will feature headliner Harry Hickstein, known as “Mr. Big Stuff.” Having performed with Ray Charles, Tom Jones, Spyro Gyra, Mitch Ryder and Rare Earth, Hickstein is described this way: “When he walks onto the stage, his audience can’t decide if he’s a member of the Hell’s Angels, a mob enforcer or a tough member of the teamsters ready to keep everybody in line. The mystery is quickly solved when Mr. Big Stuff launches into his routine and his audience roars with laughter and realizes he’s just a big teddy bear.”

Michelle Krajecki of Chicago, a graduate of The Second City Training program and Zanies standup comedy classes, also will perform her brand of comedy stemming from her “Midwestern, middle class, middle child views.”

A mom of two now-grown children, Krajecki taught special education before staying home to raise her children.

Having grown up wearing out a Jerry Seinfeld comedy CD and an old 45 record of George Carlin, she decided to pursue comedy after performing comedic roles in church dramas. 

The “mid-life crisis,” as she calls it, has been a success so far as she’s hosted her own comedy minute on 95.9 The River, co-hosted the comedy cable television show, “Comedy-At-Random,” in Downers Grove, won a couple comedy competitions and performed professionally throughout the Chicago area and beyond.

“My comedy is very broad,” she said. “It’s all observations about my family, my life, my slant on things.” 

Her bio describes her as someone who learned to look at life through a “twisted lens” raising two children on the spectrum. Comedy comes from imperfect people living in an imperfect world, the bio states.

“You can’t control life, but you can control your reaction to it,” she said.

She likes to think comedy is making a comeback. But watching comedy routines on YouTube and Netflix just aren’t the same as seeing it in person, she said.

“There’s just something about sitting in an audience and laughing with someone,” she said.

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