Alex Honnet - iO Chicago's Creative Director on Improv, Jangleheart, & the Upstairs Gallery.
April 22, 2015
I'm from Boston, MA and I've been an improviser/actor since high school. I have been performing in Chicago since 2010, minus an early go at iO classes in 2006 that I was not really prepared for.
First Entertainment Job
My first paid regular job in Entertainment is probably the one I currently have as Creative Director of iO.
Otherwise it's probably teaching an improv workshop to some elementary school teachers in the western Chicago suburbs. That experience was fine. The teachers did not really like improv.
What, or whom, inspired you to get involved with improv comedy?
I enjoyed short form a lot when I was younger, but when I visited Chicago for college options in 20014, I saw a Harold (show) and was hooked.
After seeing TJ & Dave, Cook County Social Club, and the Reckoning at various times while I was living here, I realized just what sort of scope improv was capable of and got REALLY hooked.
What was the move from Boston to Chicago like for you?
It was different for sure! I had to adjust to Chicago after the East Coast.
People are friendlier here.
Luckily, I went to college out here first and so, by the time I graduated and moved down to the city I had already adjusted. I wish Chicago had more sub shops.
As the Creative Director at iO Chicago what are your primary responsibilities?
I work with Charna Halpern to set the creative programming for the theater.
I see shows and performances at other spaces to get a sense of the general "scene," I work with up-and-coming performers to help them create the show they'd like at iO, and act as a liaison between the performers and the operations side of things at iO.
Recently, some of the best young performers in Chicago moved. So, there is a gap in terms of groups or voices that are fully realized.
I think the Upstairs Gallery was that for a lot of folks, so the hope is that now we can start to foster support systems at instituations that will help younger performers find their voices so they can start plugging away.
How do you use Social Media for your career?
All the time. I think Social Media is an extremely effective way to engage with folks!
The Upstairs Gallery facebook was a way for us to communicate with our audiences/performers. In a lot of ways Facebook is sort of another stage for folks.
I'm very much enjoying working as a creative director. I wonder if someday I could find a role on the production side of things in T.V.
A dream would be to be some kind of show runner or producer for a friend's project.
The Upstairs Gallery
The Upstairs Gallery was a small theater that myself and some friends started almost accidentally and that I lived at and operated for 3-4 years.
It changed my life in a very real way.
Through it, I learned how to produce shows, how to operate a theater, what it was like to be almost fully dedicated to a brand, how to produce a 3-day comedy festival, and a ton about collaboration. I also laughed so, so much.
Top Memories in Entertainment
Almost all Upstairs Gallery related shows/sets/bits.
The first Jangleheart.
Being hired at iO.
Realizing that the improv team I was on was actually pretty good or at least enjoyable to watch.
You're the Executive Producer of the Jangleheart Circus Comedy Festival, what has that experience been like?
Jangleheart is really an extension of what we did at the gallery!
It's a celebration of the independent comedy scene that was fostered around the U.G. during its heyday.