Cook County Social Club 

Wink and Nod: Cook County Social Club revels in the bromantic

Cook County Social Club
Fri. Jan. 16, 8 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 17, 9 p.m.
Theatre 99

The idea for Cook County Social Club hatched in Chicago in 2005, with four funny guys meeting during their lunch breaks from their crappy desk jobs.

We can only imagine the conversations that ensued over the endless sandwiches and chips, but it inspired the foursome to put together an improv group that's been a regular at iO Theatre ever since.

"Cook County Social Club is pretty much four best friends who like to do improv together," says member Greg Hess (pictured second from left). "We've been playing together for so long and we're such good friends off-stage that we know how the other person will react when we make certain choices on-stage.

"That means we just get to mess with each other a little more than other improv shows. There's rarely a show that goes by when there isn't sort of a wink and a nod when we start to mess with each other."

Now pushing 30, with crappy desk jobs behind them, Hess, Bill Cochran, Mark Raterman, and Brendan Jennings (also performing in Roseville) work full-time as comedians and writers. Three of them regularly tour with Second City, and they all work with various improv and sketch groups. But Cook County will always hold a special place in their hearts.

"Cook County was definitely our first love," Hess says. "It's been something that we always come back to, which is really great. It's almost like a home show, where every week the band gets back together after traveling."

According to Hess, "joy" is what set them apart from other improv acts: "We love to play games within scenes, which are just little patterns that emerge and are repeated," Hess laughs. "Sometimes they are noticeable to an audience, sometimes not. Our style is fast and transformational, with scenes bleeding into one another."

And while the shows are all about fun, Hess warns that it's not necessarily family-friendly. Think PG-13 to R.

"We don't censor ourselves," he says.

If they have their way, someday Cook County will hit the road. "We really envy Kids in the Hall," Hess says. "We envy the idea that the four of us could tour and play as Cook County Social Club, and make a living doing that, because between the four of us, this is our favorite thing to do. We love to go places and show what we do."

As for visiting Charleston, they can't wait.

"We're looking forward to sipping mint juleps and doing all those sort of Charlestonian things."

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