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There’s something very special going down in Chicago. Every month for the past three years, Tyler Jackson and Danny Maupin have been putting on Late Late Breakfast, a standup comedy show like no other. It features some of Chicago’s best comedians trying to do their sets while completing all manner of insane challenges.
They might have to perform while eating chili, or lip-syncing to one of their own pre-recorded sets, or putting on a puppet show. Every show is different and the comics have no prior knowledge of what they might have to do when they get on stage.
The show’s been such a hit in Chicago that there’s now a second incarnation in New York, and Jackson and Maupin have even taken it on the road, hitting up well-known comedy festivals like Green Gravel in Iowa City and the New York Comedy Festival.
Now, thanks to a successfully funded Kickstarter, the duo will be filming a television pilot so they can bring their madness to the small screen.
The Daily Dot caught up with Jackson and Maupin over email, and here’s what they had to say about the joy of doing their show and what they hope the televised version will be like.
When was the first LLB show?
Jackson: The first show in Louisville was, I believe, in early 2012. The first show in the Chicago incarnation was June 2013.
The show started out in Louisville, right? How has it changed since its inception?
Maupin: Louisville’s show, mainly based on setting and time slot, had to be a much tighter show. It was in a comedy club in Louisville and it’s at a music club (the Hideout) in Chicago. The Hideout gives us all of the control over the show and that freedom has made the show bigger in scale and more chaotic. It’s really allowed us to create a clubhouse vibe for comics that is still entertaining to audiences.
Jackson: It started at the Comedy Caravan in Louisville. They asked me to run a show in a Sunday early evening spot. I initially had this idea to do comedy showcases with specific themes that changed every show—everyone performs the first five minutes they ever wrote and then their most recent five minutes, everyone performs as a different comedy stereotype, etc. (Interestingly enough, this is kinda what we do with our “Breakfast for Dinner” showcases now: one-off showcases with strange, specific themes.) That wasn’t pulling in a crowd at all, so I decided to change it to a simple late afternoon open mic. That started to pick up some steam with local comics, so I started to introduce some of the weird ideas back into the show via making a few comedians each show take on some kind of challenge or game during their set.
When I moved to Chicago, I started hitting open mics every night of the week and noticed that they all kinda felt the same. It always felt like I was performing to an audience of the same comedians at every show. I wanted to start a mic that audiences might want to actually watch and that could be super silly but still low-stakes enough that people could mess around and do new and weird material. I figured that same “mic with games” idea could work for that but didn’t know anyone or any venues in Chicago. Danny and Liz moved up here shortly after I did, though, and had some contacts at the Hideout who were looking for a Saturday afternoon event. We decided to increase the number of games and make them a bigger part of the show to make it weirder and stand out from other shows. Comics and audiences loved it, and we started getting a following who really enjoyed the games, so we just kept making the games a bigger and bigger part of the show, and the show just got weirder and weirder and more elaborately themed, and it eventually just mutated into what it is today. It’s basically been a long, long process of trial and error. We do a lot of dumb stuff that doesn’t work that we learn from.
Also, when it started in Louisville, we served donut holes, but now there are pancakes at every show.
Comedians usually hate having anything interrupt or mess with their set, but every comic I’ve talked to loves doing LLB. Why do you think that is?
Maupin: That is something I have never been able to figure out! Sometimes I am baffled that comics let us do what we do to them. I think one thing that helps is that almost every comic on the show is getting their set disrupted in some way. It also helps when comics see another comedian really crush a game and it elevates their set. People want that to happen to them, too!
Jackson: Yeah, I think maybe people enjoy watching other comedians get their sets messed with, and it becomes some kind of group experience, like, “Oh well, I laughed at this guy [to] have his set ruined, I guess I should participate and have my set ruined too.” Like it’s some kind of weird community that involves laughing at watching everyone else squirm, and then knowing that by potentially bombing you can also help in creating this weird thing happening.
You’ve taken the show on tour a bit now. What’s the reception been like? Do any cities stand out as particularly good or bad?
Maupin: Taking it on the road was great! We got to see if our show could hold up without the hometown support and it totally did. It was also a blast to write a new show for every city and meet all of the great comics. The biggest standout city for me was Denver. Nothing but fantastic things to say about that city and its top-notch comedy scene.
Jackson: Oh yeah, the tour was really fun! Doing road shows and festivals over the past few years has been an absolute blast, and running a show that involves so many people lets you really get to know each scene that you pass through, too. I think my favorite shows were Cincinnati and New Orleans. Cincinnati just really embraced the weirdness—we had dudes eating chili out of each other’s hands, and at one point every single person in the bar laid facedown on the floor. I’ve never seen anything like it. And gosh, New Orleans. Man, we wrecked the New Movement theater down there. We just got powdered sugar and Mardi Gras beads and crushed goldfish crackers EVERYWHERE. They had to mop the floor after us, it was nuts.
How often do you change games between shows? Are there some favorites that show up every time?
Maupin: We really try to make every show different. Every show is based around a theme that we pick, so we try to make the games based on the theme. We always repeat the game Let’s Be Frank Caliendo, where the comic has to do their jokes in a series of celebrity impressions that we hurl at them every 30 seconds, and our You’re Killing It game, where the comic has the BEST set of their life. We just make the audience go nuts, like bonkers crazy for every joke. It’s really funny to see how doing great can disrupt a comic’s set.
What’s the craziest thing you remember happening during one of the shows?
Maupin: Oh man, that’s tough. I mean, we invite so much chaos into the show so sometimes it can get pretty nuts. One of the big ones for me, and this is pretty hard to describe, is when a comedian decided to use their set to say every name that has ever been used for Satan. All the while they keep inviting people on stage and playing weird music. People started running around in costumes and the music was really dark and the place really did kinda turn into a nightmare for a minute. The whole set ended with people casting away spirits and paying homage to a comedian in Chicago named Dave Maher that everyone had been told had passed away. Turns out that Dave was actually in a coma and had recovered a couple months later and is alive to this day. I don’t know if some weird voodoo happened our stage that day, but that was just crazy to watch.
Jackson: What Danny said is definitely the craziest thing we’ve had. I would also like to add, though, that there were several people naked onstage during that, covering their junk with signs that said “69” and that they all joined hands at the end and sang “That’s What Friends Are For.” Gosh, apart from that, our last show had a human centipede on it. Um, we once made a comedian at a special backyard show smoke pot onstage in front of her parents. That was pretty weird. We once made the Hideout smell overwhelmingly like onions. I love that we’ve managed to create an environment where comedians feel free to just do the craziest things they can think of.
How did the second show in New York get started?
Maupin: We did our show at the Comedy Exposition in Chicago and Peggy O’Leary from NYC was a featured comedian on the festival and really liked the show. She talked to us about doing a similar show in NYC with Lindsay Boling. Craz[il]y enough, Tyler, my wife Liz (who is also a LLB producer), and I know Lindsay all the way back from our Louisville, Kentucky, days. We all decided that instead of starting a similar show, how about we team up and just have LLB in NYC, too. So now we have a second branch at the Creek and the Cave.
When did you decide to try and turn LLB into a television show? What was that conversation like?
Maupin: Tyler, Liz, and I had been kicking around the idea casually for a few months. We had heard from a lot of people, very nice people, that LLB would be a great show to watch on TV. We’ve been gaining some good steam for a couple of years now, getting some solid press, and it honestly sounded like the next natural step to try and get it on TV. There’s a lot of great comedy happening in television right now, between streaming services like Seeso, and I think networks are ready at this particular point in television for a show like LLB. Shows like The Chris Gethard Show are really paving a way for unique comedy to have a place on television.
Jackson: I believe the idea came about after we wrapped up our tour last year. I think we had a month where we did like three festivals and a road show in a row, so we were exhausted and taking a breather and looking at next steps. Where to go from there. More road shows and fests were already in the works, and so somehow we settled on the next thing in our downtime being how to figure out how to create a pilot. We spent a lot of time planning out the timeframe, the Kickstarter, the pitch video, what form the pilot would take, etc.
When you started looking into what it would take to film an actual high-quality television pilot, was it overwhelming or did you pretty much anticipate what would be involved?
Maupin: I’d say a little bit of both. My wife Liz is basically a project management/line producer genius and spearheaded a lot of getting the costs organized, hiring the crew, and even helping us book our fantastic lineup. We are also pretty fortunate to have some very talented friends in L.A. and here in Chicago who will be on our production team.
Jackson: Liz was definitely on-point with figuring out a budget and lining up a lot of stuff. There are certainly a lot of little pieces that popped up over time where we’d be like, “Oh yeaaaah, we should figure that out,” but for the most part it’s actually been pretty organized. The crew came onboard pretty easy, and a lot of the comics are friends of the show who were happy to help out.
Are there elements you think you’re going to need to change in order to make the transition to TV? What’s important for you to keep?
Jackson: Really, we’re trying to keep the show pretty much the same—randomly assigned games, comedy teetering on the edge of falling apart chaotically, a lot of anticipation about what the hell is going to come next in this crazy show. The only thing that really has to change drastically is the structure of the show. Our normal show is a 90-minute open-mic-style thing where we put up a bunch of comics, but since we’re shooting a half-hour pilot, we’re cutting it down to five comedians with slightly longer sets and more elaborate games.
According to Kickstarter, you’ve already booked the comedians for the pilot. Any chance we can get some names, or are you saving that for a surprise?
Jackson: Yeah, Danny’s got it. They’re all very funny and have been involved in lots of cool projects. A few people with Chicago roots, too! And gosh, we know Singer back from when he was in Cincinnati. They’re all great!
What’s been your favorite thing about doing the LLB show?
Maupin: SOOOO MUCH! I love how unpredictable it is. It’s honestly like a house of cards that we set up every time and then spend the whole show knocking it down. I get to work with some of my best friends. I work and travel alongside my wife and play with fantastic comedians.
Jackson: Oh gosh, yeah, traveling and touring with Danny and Liz and meeting comics from all over has been really fun, and having this dumb show where we can take every single silly idea in our heads and throw it on stage and see what happens and know that people are going to embrace it is just an absolute dream situation.
I also love, love, love the fact that at Late Late Breakfast, everything is so unpredictable and weird, that regardless of whether you have a great set or a terrible set, it’s always a great set, if that makes sense. Like, if any set ever fails, it fails in such a spectacular way that it’s still enjoyable. And the games act as a kind of equalizer, where newcomers and headliners alike are all thrown into unexpected situations and everyone gets a chance to shine. Everyone gets their moment in the deeply weird spotlight.
Screengrab via Liz Maupin/YouTube
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.