GAG REFLECTIONS

(Gag Reflex � Twelve Years and Counting)

In 1993 the stand-up comedy boom of the late eighties was a dimming memory. The country was feeling good because we had a young, virile President in the White House and we were clueless as to how virile. We were finally putting the LA riots behind us and had no idea that soon an ex-football player would drive 40 miles an hour into infamy. It was a golden age.

It was during this misty, water-colored time that Dale Roe left his directorial post in the long-standing comedy group Slapstick! and ventured into pastures new. He began forming a new comedy group, originally to be called COMIKAZE, with fellow journalist Steve Lord. While Dale had been writing and performing sketch comedy since the late seventies, Steve was new to the field and intended to write only. As plans for the group moved ahead, that illusion fell away and Steve became a full writing and performing partner in the group.

Soon the name of the group changed to Gag Reflex and Dale and Steve went about finding more performers. Joining Roe and Lord were Josh Gilbert, Jeff Anseth, Bob Schilling, Mary Jo Baratz, Carey DiPietro and Brian LeFevre. The group soon set about writing and rehearsing their first revue, Jurassic Pork (or Man! Is My Dino Sore). The show debuted in August of 1993 and was performed again the following October. The group then began doing smaller shows at regional clubs and nightspots. By the time the first New Year�s Eve show, The Get-Somebody-Else-To-Do-It-For-You Messiah (or I Just Can�t Handel This), rolled around cast members had already started to change. This would be the beginning of years of revolving cast members. Legend has it that every time the group has a cast photo taken, someone is doomed to leave.

Through 1994 and most of 1995 Gag continued to grow and shrink in size. During this period only three members were constant, Dale, Steve and Josh Gilbert. During this unstable time Gag managed to produce four more full revues: Babble On Five (or Star Trek: The Next Regurgitation), Tales from the Black Forrest (or White Men Can�t Gump), It�s A Wonderful Liver (or Donor Know You�re Riding on the Marakesh Express) and 1995�s highly successful Itomania! (Hey! You�ve Got To Hide Your Glove Away). The group also began flaunting their talent all over northern Illinois, recorded 3 episodes of a cable access show and began a residency at a local comedy club.

In mid 1995 Kris Keef was asked to come and fill in during a performance of Itomania. Kris had been performing in local theater for years and knew Dale. She had recently won tickets to the show in a radio contest. Kris soon found her position in the group permanent and is with the group today. Again in the fall of �95, Eric Schwartz stepped in for a couple of performances with the group. Eric had been director and driving force behind the comedy group Strange�s, a group that both Josh Gilbert and Dale had worked with in the early 90�s. Eric soon found himself a full member of the group and has been with the group ever since. The cast of Roe, Lord, Gilbert, Schwart, Keef and Janet Day embarked on a whirlwind of performances finally capping 1995 with The Do-It-Yourself Home Oil Change Kit and Messiah on New Year�s Eve. The show was performed twice that evening to two sell out crowds at The Comedy Revue.

The group took a break in early 1996 to write Gag Reflex � Anthology, a video project that would have acted as a demo for potential venues and as another episode of their cable access show. During the writing process Josh Gilbert left the group for the sunny weather of Los Angeles. Shooting began on the project and the group held auditions to fill the spot left vacant by Josh. Janet left the group after 75% of the shoot done. It was too late to reshoot and fall shows were pending and the video was scrapped.

Three more members joined the cast in the summer of 1996, Mary Ann Boyd, Greg Ledford and Maureen Gannon. This cast produced �96 Tears (or It�s My Sweatshop and I�ll Cry If I Want To), Michael Jackson: First Contact (or Disturbing Behavior �The Next Generation) and toured the �best of� show Everybody Must Get Cloned (or It Ain�t Either Of Me Babe) through the spring of 1997.

Boyd and Ledford left at the end of the tour and the group held auditions once again. This time they picked up Ben Lundy and Millie Collins. The group then produced Things To Do With Bob Denver When He�s Dead (or Hey Little Body) and Shake, Rattle and Walk (or Your Au Pair Beats My Full House) after which Lundy left. The group took up a seven-week residency at the Kane County Events Center in the fall of 1998. Dan Neid, a musician, writer and actor who had done tech for the group for years, came on board as a member in time for Apollodent (or John Glenngary, Glenross). On the same night the group released their first CD, It�s A Sick World, Betty. The album contained 10 of the group�s best songs and was produced by Roe.

An all-music tour, The Sick World Tour, followed in the spring and summer of 1999. In September of 1999 Dale announced he was moving to Austin, Texas. Eric took over the reigns as director and the group produced Glass Eyes Wide Shut (or The Summer of Sammy Davis Jr) and Polka,Mon (or Don�t Jamaica Me Pikachu).

In the spring of 2000 the group debuted their Internet radio series Gag Reflex Comedy Theater of the Air and began a push to grow their online presence. They created their own online radio station, record label, released dozens of free mp3s and eventually Eric Schwartz, Steve Lord and (from Texas) Dale Roe created their own production company, Boundary Waters Media. In late summer Maureen Gannon announced her departure and Millie went on maternity leave. The group held auditions yet again and picked up Marie Ann Hogarth and Marla Parus.

For the group�s 2000 New Year�s Eve show, Recount Dracula (or Chad The Impaler) and the kick off show for the group�s 2001 tour, The Viagra Monologues (or Set Your Pfizers on Stun), Dale made the trek back to Chicago to perform with the group. As Gag moved into the Viagra tour, Marie Ann Hogarth left due to scheduling conflicts. They continued on, finally wrapping up the year with Welcome Back, Potter (or This is Getting To Be A Hobbit With You). The same night the group released their second CD The Viagra Monologues, a live album recorded over the tour.

Dan Neid left the group in early 2002 to pursue music. In the spring Lord, Keef, Collins-Schwartz, Parus and Schwartz took the World Domination Tour 2002 all over the upper Midwest, performing in new areas and continuing to expand their touring circuit. Meanwhile, in Texas, Dale Roe founded Gag Reflex- Austin with Joe Stafford and began touring with a whole new cast. Their first revue,American Idle: The Search For A Supersize (or He Ain't Heavy He's My Big Brother), took some of the best sketches from the Chicago group to a whole new audience. The Austin cast created their first all new show on New Year's Eve with Should Old Aquaintence Be Forgot (or Happy New Year! Who The *$&^ Are You?) and followed it up in the summer of '03 with The Sonny & Blair Show : I Got You Baghdad (or: Tikrit Goes On). Back in Illinos, with a stable cast in place and the addition of actor/singer Keith Survillas in late 2002, the group performed their tenth New Year�s Eve show, I Want Iraq and Roll All Night (or Hussein in the Membrane).

2003 found Gag Reflex celebrating their tenth anniversary with the Reflexology Tour. In September the current cast came together on stage with former members Dale Roe, Marie-Anne Hogarth, Ben Lundy, Brian LeFevre, Mo Gannon and Greg Ledford, as well as Dino Deusler and Joe Stafford of the Austin cast for a 10th Anniversary Bash! For two nights the group and their fans relived old sketches, viewed a table of a decade's worth of memorabilia and were awash nostalgia.



Keith Survillas left the group to pursue more theatrical ventures at the end of the tour. To wrap up their 10th anniversary year, Gag made an unprecedented decision; there was no New Year's Eve show. The group decided that rather than jumping immediately into a new revue, they would take the holidays off (their first in 11 years) and start fresh in 2004

In the spring of 2004 Marla Parus took a short leave from the group and the remaining 4 produced Dude! Where's My Carbs (or: Pasta La Vista, Baby). Soon after the group performed at Millie and Maureen's old school, Illinois College, with Maureen once again joining the fold for that show. Gag took the rest of the year off. During the hiatus Marla decided it was time to move on and Gag was down to 4 again.



2005 proved to be one of Gag's most successful years ever. In the spring the group welcomed 2 returning faces and 4 new cast members to the Gag Reflex fold. Lisa Sprague, Charles Ramsey, Marea Berkley and Steve Stern all joined the group in the spring and Marla Parus and Ben Lundy returned to the groups loving arms soon after. The group also began production on a local TV series with producer/director Nathan Stein and released the album House Blend, an all music show recorded in the fall of 2001. In August the group began their stint as the house comedy group at First Street Playhouse in Batavia, IL. They debuted with the "best of" show; Desperate Houseflies (or What's Larva Got To Do With It). And in November and December they presented the all new revue Happy Sunshine Kill You Die. The shows were successful both with the audience and with the management of the First Street and Gag will continued as the First Street's house group.

2006 found a flurry of activity in the Gag Reflex camp. The group presented their biggest string of shows (the Brokeback Steakhouse Tour) stretching from February into May, at the First Street and other venues in and around Chicago. The TV show started airing on FVTV in January and. Gag also turned up the marketing of the group. They adopted a road in a high traffic area of Geneva IL, created a 23-Track Sampler CD that they sold at shows for $2 and encouraged people to rip MP3's from it and share them with friends. Sprague left the group in the summer for the wilds of Missouri and Stern and Berkley took much needed rests. The rest of the group did another successful run with Hezbollahpalooz, rounding out the year with a New Year's eve performance

For 2007 and 2008 The group has taken a much needed break and the individual members focused on other projects. But fear not - with the opening of the new Geneva Underground Playhouse (with Lord as President and Schwartz as Executive Director), Gag Reflex is coming back. They are slated to do best-of show (as yet untitled) in June of 2009 and an all-new show (working title: prisonchicksonworkrelease.com) later in the year. Joining the cast in 2009 is Will Burdin!



 

Gag Reflex has always defied convention. They have carried on in a time when people suffer comedy-burnout from endless sitcoms, Adam Sandler films, joke e-mail circles, beer commercials and websites. They have remained a scripted, rehearsed group when 95% of their peers are improv players. They have always thrived on their diverse ages and tastes when many groups seem homogeneous. Most of all, they�re still here. They refuse to quit. They have performed in restored vaudeville halls, barber shops, churches, football stadiums, outdoor stages, giant tents in the winter, bars, black box theaters, pizza joints, coffee houses, record stores, dining rooms and in front of guys dressed as Klingons, who heckled them.� They have entertained thousands of people in the last 16 years and don�t plan on stopping any time soon.

Complete Performance History