12 Sept., 2023
In its first 30 years, Boom Chicago Comedy Theater started the careers of Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele, the Ted Lasso creators – and me. Now it’s time to share some classic tales from their Origin Stories. Time for Shapiro Boom Chicago Tales!
I came to Amsterdam to work with the Boom Chicago comedy theater for just one summer – and 30 years later, I’m still here. Along the way, I’ve worked alongside so many now-famous folks, playing improv comedy – where the Golden Rule is Make your partner look good onstage. “Make your partner look good!” And looking at their careers – versus mine – I think I did my job extremely well.
BOOM CHICAGO TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES
In this video series, I share some backstage stories – from 1 person you might have heard of and 1 person you might not have.
This episode: Jordan Peele & Dave Buckman.
You might know Jordan Peele for winning an Oscar for his film Get Out in 2017. But back in 2001, he started playing comedy with us in Amsterdam.
As Jordan writes in the Boom Chicago book: “The biggest laughs I’ve ever been part of, or seen, were at Boom Chicago. Going to Amsterdam actually gave me more experience as a writer and a performer and as a human being than I would’ve gotten anywhere else—and with no better people.”
Unfortunately – according to Jordan – these days he says he can’t remember a lot of specifics from back then, because he smoked a lot of weed. From my book, I wrote: “Jordan smoked so much weed he was like Cinderella: at midnight he’d transform after 12 bongs.”
Jordan smoking weed was the inspiration for a classic character bit. In the days after 9/11, performing comedy was hard. One of the first jokes we dared making on the subject was Jordan Peele and Dave Buckman portraying al Qaeda spokesmen in Afghanistan – as stoners like Cheech & Chong. Their act even made the news as the first comedians to joke about 9/11. And Jordan smoking weed was the inspiration.
Book Release Today! The first Boom Chicago book review is in: “30 years in the history of a comedy club in a way that totally defies expectation.”
4 July, 2023
As a contributor to this book, I can say I’m very happy with the way it came out. And here’s a review that agrees with me. Reviewer Jack Helbig wrote about Boom Chicago years ago in The Chicago Reader in the theater’s early days. And here he is reviewing the book Boom Chicago Presents the 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History. Helbig writes: “It is at once a book hard to put down, and hard to read straight through from start to finish. (I did a lot of skimming; you will, too.)”
Jack, you have no idea. This book first appeared with a Dutch publisher in 2018 for the 25th anniversary, and it was even more of a mismatched patchwork. This new version is totally revised, by author Matt Diehl. He went to great lengths to create a readable oral history of Boom Chicago’s first 30 years.
Helbig: “Large swatches of the book look and read like an oral history, in which prominent and not so prominent BookChicago alums prattle on, reminiscing about moments in BoomChicago’s rise from a ragtag group of improv comedians performing in 1993 in the back of dive bar to hothouse for creating future celebrities to a bone fide part of Dutch comedy world. As oral histories go, it’s not bad stuff.”
I’m glad he remembered to mention the “not so prominent.” I feel included. Indeed, I was a contributor to this book, along with Rob Andristplourde. Since we both arrived at Boom Chicago in the early days, we were there for many signature Boom Chicago events. Hence, Yes we took part in the interviews. And we contributed the ‘Meet the Cast’ section, full of anecdotes about all the “prominent” as well as “not so prominent” alumni.
Greg Shapiro Contributes to the Boom Chicago 30th Anniversary Book
14 June 2023
Finally, a proper oral history of the Boom Chicago Comedy Theater – and I got to contribute! About 30 years ago I came to Amsterdam to perform for one summer, and I never left. Along the way, I got to work alongside now-famous names, such as Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele and Kay Cannon. And the comedy form we all played was improvisation, where the Golden Rule is: “Make Your Partner Look Good Onstage.” And looking at their careers, versus mine, I like to think I did my job VERY well.
The book features a foreword by Seth Meyers, a voorwoord by Ruben van der Meer, a BackWord by Jordan Peele – and a Who’sWho Section by me (and fellow Boom Chicago lifer Rob Andristplourde). Author Matt Diehl teams up with Boom Chicago founders Saskia Maas, Andrew Moskos and Pep Rosenfeld to write the book. Rob and focused on the some of the juicy anecdotes that did not get covered in the oral history interviews. Such as:
-The time Seth Meyers improvised with an audience member who pretended to be retarded.
-The time Jordan Peele got into a rap battle with that guy from Seinfeld.
+ The reason Amber Ruffin’s tooth was hanging on the wall.
And I added this bit about myself:
“Greg almost moved back to the US like Pep – until he met a Dutch woman named Inez (who was working in the Boom Chicago office). On the eve of his wedding to Inez, Greg’s bachelor party was crashed by Inez and a number of Boom Chicago cast members. These included Kay Cannon as a naughty nurse, Liz Cackowski as a Catholic school girl, Jen Bills as a cop, and Holly Walker as a straight-up dominatrix. Together, they performed a girl band version of the Boy Band song from the show called “That’s What He Likes.” And no, it wasn’t inappropriate! Because the only actual semi-stripping was done by Inez. And she is Dutch.”
(Here is a pose from 1994 with the founders of Boom Chicago Pep Rosenfeld and Andrew Moskos.)
Pre-order “Boom Chicago Presents the 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History” here:
Boom Chicago 30th Anniversary Book: “Boom Chicago Presents the 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History”
An exciting history of the improv group you’ve never heard of that changed comedy in America—this is the story of Boom Chicago in Amsterdam as told by its founders and most famous alumni
“It’s kind of crazy, the impact on culture so many Boom Chicago alums have had. Boom was where I became my best comedic self: the excitement of Amsterdam, the freedom of that environment, the letting loose—it’s magic. There’s no better training ground.” —Jordan Peele
“Boom Chicago should have ended up on the scrap heap of ‘Terrible Ideas Americans Have While Stoned in Amsterdam.’ But when you stubbornly love one thing (comedy) as much as another thing (Amsterdam), you just believe they should be together. And here we are—thirty years later, Boom Chicago is alive and kicking.” —Seth Meyers
“Working at Boom Chicago was an unbelievable experience. Thank goodness someone was smart enough to write it all down! You’re lucky ’cause you get to read about THE most exciting, fun, and illegal time I’ve ever had!” —Amber Ruffin
Featuring interviews with
Meyers, Peele, Ruffin, Jason Sudeikis, Ike Barinholtz, Greg Shapiro, Kay Cannon, and many more; and a sixteen-page, full-color insert with both behind-the-scenes snapshots and images from live performances.
What do Ted Lasso, Get Out, Late Night with Seth Meyers, 30 Rock, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Breaking Bad, Saturday Night Live, Girls5Eva, The Colbert Report, Inside Amy Schumer, Pitch Perfect, Key & Peele, The Daily Show, MADtv, Rick and Morty, The Amber Ruffin Show, Horrible Bosses, Portlandia, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Suicide Squad, Superstore, How I Met Your Mother, Wicked, The Pee-Wee Herman Show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Broad City all have in common? They all feature writers, creators, directors, or stars who got their start at Boom Chicago.
Having risen roughly to the middle of Chicago’s cutthroat comedy scene, Andrew Moskos and Pep Rosenfeld decamped the Midwest for Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1993 to start their own improv comedy troupe, Boom Chicago. In a foreign land with zero tradition of English-language humor, Moskos and Rosenfeld unwittingly created the finishing school for some of today’s most groundbreaking comedic talents. They (along with coauthors Matt Diehl and Saskia Maas) document this journey in the definitive oral history Boom Chicago Presents the 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History.
From its stages, Boom Chicago went on to launch cultural game changers like Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele, Amber Ruffin, Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Ike Barinholtz, Kay Cannon, and Tami Sagher (and that’s just a partial list). At Boom, these young upstarts honed their craft in front of unsuspecting foreign audiences and visiting dignitaries like Burt Reynolds, Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay, Dutch royalty, and the Netherlands’s prime minister—all while navigating a world with legal weed and prostitution, annual holiday celebrations involving blackface, cookies with weird racist names, and football that has nothing to do with the NFL. From this culture shock, this collective created a more topical, inclusive, tech-savvy humor that would become the dominant comedy style of our time.
Praise for Boom Chicago:
“The Groundlings. The Harvard Lampoon. Second City. These comedy institutions have been supplying Hollywood with a steady stream of talent for decades. Well, there’s another name—almost as influential—that you’ve never heard of: Amsterdam’s Boom Chicago. Huh?”—GQ
“A small theater in Amsterdam became the most influential American comedy factory you’ve never heard of . . . Boom alums have had a significant hand in many of the shows that defined the past two decades of comedy.” —New York