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Warming up the Crowd

Songs about Vin Diesel and breakaway pants will get you giddy.
Wednesday Jan 26, 2005.     By Joe Jarvis
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

The infamous Warm-Ups, with Vickery on the left. After hearing their demo, Emo Philips told Jimmy Vickery of The Warm-Ups, "there isn't a headliner in the country who wouldn't want you to open for them" and proceeded to book Vickery and his guitarist partner at Zanie's on Wells.

Warm-Ups appearances are a bit scarce these days due to tight scheduling, so make sure to check out Vickery and company at the Metro, when they open for Dave Eggers as part of Columbia College's Story Week. Songs about Vin Diesel, breakaway pants and the virtues of children running into burning buildings will get you giddy and their folk rendition of "Str8 Outta Compton" is nearly sublime. Keep your eye out for Vickery's non-musical solo work at clubs, bookstores, post-prom parties or wherever he decides to pop up next. We decided to put him in the spotlight before he hits the bright lights, big city:

Moment you first knew you were funny: Grammar school. I found out I could make my classmates laugh. I wasn't exactly the class clown because I was too good of a student, so I was sort of like a liaison between nerds and cool kids. In high school people told me I should do stand-up, but I thought doing stand-up was sort of the same thing as playing violin. It just seemed completely unreasonable.

Favorite topic: Anything that deals with what makes people uncomfortable. The best comedy comes from something genuine, and I'm often uncomfortable, whether in my relationship or other social situations. It's just important to maintain sincerity.

Favorite Chicago venue: I like doing literary readings, at places like Quimby's. The audience doesn't seem to be expecting it. The crowd tends to be, what's the word: less drunk.

Favorite place for pre/post show drinks: You can't go too far after a bad set, or even a good one. I like Corcoran's Grill & Pub (1615 N. Wells) in what I call Comedy Corner, right across the street from Second City and down the block from Zanies.

Time it would take you to leave Chicago for "Saturday Night Live": Thirty-five seconds. Actually, I'd need to pack, so two-and-a-half hours. I'd need to say goodbye to my mom, but I'd probably do that from the airport. I would love to be on SNL, mainly because a couple years ago I bumped into this comic I had seen on NBC the week before. We started talking and he said he had only been doing comedy a year. It totally inspired me that he was on TV already. I mentioned this club in L.A. where I had seen stand-up and was planning to go to again. Apparently he played there a lot and all of a sudden his tone changed. He said if I saw him there, not to look at him. I thought he was joking but he was completely serious. He said, "You don't know what it's like out there. I don't want to see you looking at me." I was speechless. Well, that guy was Fred Armisen and now he's on SNL. I want to get on the show so I can ask him what the hell he meant.

Worst on-stage bomb: Me and my friend John, who is the other half of The Warm-Ups, got asked to perform at a post-prom party way out in the suburbs. It turned out to be at a cafe and was some kind of alternative to drinking and sex for the kids. I think they were forced to go by their parents…clearly not happy to be there. Before we started we saw a couple brought back by a cop when they tried to sneak away to make-out or swear or whatever they wanted to do. And the crowd was just not into our act. During our first song they actually started booing. I told them this was like my real prom and John added, "Yeah, but with less booing." And they still didn't laugh.

What fans would name your tribute Web site: I just want to be well liked. I saw this pet store in Chicago called Let's Hug Puppies and I thought, what a great name.

Take the mic: Chicago is definitely a breeding ground for great comics. There's no place better for improv. I have to say, I love the stand-up in New York, but Chicago is still a great place to be. And we don't have our trash on the sidewalks.


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