Tamale’s 12: Spotlight on Adam Guerino

Tamale’s 12 for 12 is a collection of 12 questions posed to one of Tamales favorite comics each month.

You might know Adam Guerino from OutLoud Chicago’s Queer Comedy at Zanies, or any one of the wildly successful comedy shows he’s produced in our city. A staple in both the gay and comedy scenes, Adam is multifaceted and incredibly talented. I have been lucky enough to share the stage with him numerous times, and now let’s get to know him a little better!

1. When did you first know you wanted to do comedy?
I’ve always been a fan of comedy and a writer, so stand-up comedy has always seemed kind of like a natural fit for me. When someone told me at a bar that I was funny and I should do stand-up, I told her “I get that a lot” even though I had never done it before. She responded, “No, really. I book the comedy night at this bar.” Within two weeks, I was performing. The desire was there but it kind of fell in my lap. I don’t know many people who had a “moment” that they knew they were going to do comedy, it was kind of a mixture of a growing desire for me and a chance opportunity.

2. How long have you been at it and in what forms?
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I was writing comedic short stories and screenplays long before I ever took to the stage. When I was asked to do comedy for the first time, I was managing at a coffee shop about 5 years ago. Within a year of my first show, I was producing The Sarcastic Squad a show where I performed stand-up, wrote and performed in movies as well as sketch. I’ve never done traditional improv but crowd work always has elements of that. As of now, I’d say my strengths are in writing, production and stand-up but I’m hoping for that day where I can do sketch and movies again.

3. What has been your scariest moment on stage?
Just recently, I was hosting at a college show recently and forgot the end of a joke. It was the first college show for my production effort OutLoud Chicago so there was a lot of pressure. It was this weird sensation like I forgot to pick up a friend from the airport or call someone on their birthday–like this realization that I let someone down. It’s a panicky moment that catches your heart. I said, “But I forgot the rest of this joke so while I think of the rest, welcome your next comedian.” After the next comedian performed, I finished the joke and the students told me they thought it was funny that separated a joke like I did. Of course, I pretended it was planned the whole time.

4. What are you most proud of in life?
In comedy? I think I started doing comedy because I liked comedy. But the more I’ve done it and become more familiar with the community, I aspire to do something larger than just performing. My production effort OutLoud Chicago aims to install queer entertainment in mainstream venues to blur the lines of sexuality by combining safe spaces with mixed sexual orientation crowds. The most successful series has been Queer Comedy at Zanies which has put a queer comedy show at a world-class comedy club at a late-night weeknight slot. We’ve been able to feature queer comedians and we’ve had great turn-outs of queer and straight audiences. The show has done so well, they bumped us up to a prime-time slot. That has been the greatest pay-off for hard work. The greatest compliment I’ve ever received came from Rosie O’Donnel. I told her about OutLoud Chicago and my goals for it and she said she’d like to perform in it and told me that the show was “Inspirational.” It was really empowering to hear from someone who has been such a trendsetter for comedy and for the queer community that I inspired them. Now I just need to get her on stage.

5. What are two things that are not related to comedy that you love, or enjoy doing and why?
Something I make no secret of is my love for all things nerd. One of my most cathartic past-times is drawing super heroes. It’s one of the only times that I’m truly able to turn my mind off and not worry about deadlines and audience turn-outs.

6. Your biggest pet peeve about fellow comics is:
My biggest pet peeve lately about comedy has been waiting at open mics. Open mics are a valuable tool for comedy. As a professional, you shouldn’t “try out” new material on an admission-paying audience and open mics are great places to figure out if something is funny or how to get comfortable saying a joke. But it can be a 3 hour investment for 3 minutes of stage-time and I’m way too busy for it. Maybe I’m not more busy than anyone else but I’m definitely more impatient. I see comedians make the most of their time, working on their jokes while they wait and networking with other comedians but I have a hard time not wondering how much more productive I’d feel writing or drawing super heroes.

7. What’s the best advice you ever got about comedy and who said it?
One of my best comedy friends Bill Cruz told me once that you are given a certain amount of time but you need to leave on your biggest laugh, not your last second. If you are toward the end of your set and you get a huge laugh, say goodnight. Always leave on a high note. It’s much better than fishing for a good exit line when you’re supposed to be getting off stage. This advice has shaped how I view comedy in a large way–it’s like a date and you want to leave on a good impression, not wear out your welcome.

8. Please name three people who have inspired you in a way that has informed your comedy. What makes each of them so meaningful to you?
There’s so many so I’ll just try and list the first 3 that come to mind. Cameron Esposito, an amazing lesbian comedian, has been a huge influence for me–she’s a tremendous talent, great friend and relentlessly successful. I try to watch her perform or work with her as often as possible. Steve Gadlin was producing comedy shows when I was deciding whether or not I should. His shows, from Blewt productions, have always been entertaining and innovative. He was awesome enough to let me and my artistic director take him out for a beer and ask him 100 questions. Without his kind and candid suggestions, I might have never taken the plunge and started producing my own work. Lastly, and as kind of combination of Cameron and Steve, there is a great friend of mine that I pursued like a stalker for advice–Brad Loekle. Brad’s an amazing NY-based gay male comedian. When I started doing Laugh Track at Sidetrack, I asked my NY comedy friends “Who is doing this kind of show in NY?” and heard that Brad’s show he booked and produced was similar at Therapy in NYC. I booked a flight, performed for him and stalked him to grab a beer or coffee. Later, I flew him into Chicago. Twice. He’s one of the best comedians I’ve ever known and he’s a wealth of amazing advice about how to be a gay male comedian without being a cliche and how to cater comedy to the queer community without excluding anyone.

9. What was the funniest thing you remember as a kid?
I loved The Simpsons and SNL as a kid. I wish I could say I had a refined taste in comedy but it was thanks to my brothers that I could quote Wayne’s World in the 2nd grade. Way.

10. Do you drink coffee, and if so, how do you prefer it?
I worry sometimes that I can’t write or be productive without coffee but then I take a sip and don’t worry as much anymore. It calms and quiets me. My favorite way to take my coffee right now is thanks to an amazing friend Alma Izquierdo who introduced me to adding nutmeg and cinnamon to coffee. I usually order a light roast with cold soy milk then add sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

11. Tell me about a particularly memorable gig.
Probably more than having my own show at Zanies or taking my production effort on tour to colleges, the show that felt the biggest was my first “weekend gig.” After many months of open mics and off-night showcases, I was asked by Dave Odd to perform at his comedy club The Edge Comedy Club opening for a writer for David Letterman. I met one of my favorite people and greatest comedy friends that night, Matt Drufke. I brought like 15 people, which was half the audience, and we were in this huge auditorium but I’ve never felt so thrilled as I did that night. It was one of those experiences that you undoubtedly feel was a big step forward. I wonder what it will take to re-live that experience? Who knows, maybe a one-man show or performing on TV?

12. Hecklers. We’ve all had one, or at the very least, seen them work their magic. Tell me your favorite heckler story.
Some of my favorite diffusions are, “Wow, lady, you have NO inner monologue, do you? You talk to your TV at home too?” or “Get your own stage, this one’s taken.” Usually the heckler will enjoy being laughed at and the audience is relieved that they shut up. But one time, I was told by a booker that I was “a little too harsh with that one hecker” in reference to my saying, “Excuse me, sir? I’m sorry, I’m talking. No, I take that back, I’m sorry that you’re talking.” Sometimes you have a great line but it will turn your audience against you. It’s a fine line and I’ve always been one to fall over it.

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