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Bronzeville Comedy Showcase Shines Spotlight on South Side's Talent

 Brian Babylon will host the free Bronzeville Comedy Showcase, which he guarantees has "one of the better lineups" in the city.
Brian Babylon will host the free Bronzeville Comedy Showcase, which he guarantees has "one of the better lineups" in the city.
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Provided by Rob Walton

CHICAGO — Bronzeville is going to have something to laugh about when its comedy showcase starts up 7 p.m. July 17.

The showcase is one in a biweekly series of events that give comedians the chance to try out new sets on an audience that pays nothing for a few hours of entertainment. 

This is the sixth year the Bronzeville Comedy Showcases have been presented, and the first year the events will be held at the Blanc Gallery, 4445 S. King Drive. It was created by host and curator Brian Babylon as a way of featuring the South Side's comedy scene.

"A lot of people call [Bronzeville] a food desert but I found it to be an entertainment desert, as well," Babylon said.

Babylon, who styles himself the Prince of Bronzeville, said he can guarantee his shows will have some of the best and most diverse lineups in the city because he reaches out to a variety of comedians.

It's "one of the more diverse shows," Babylon said. "I bring comics from all sides of town, so you'll have white, black, Latino comics on the bill."

Babylon said the Bronzeville Comedy Showcase has a national reputation and attracts attention from New York and Los Angeles. He expects visits from his friend and mentor, Deon Cole, who hosts "Black Box" on TBS, and comedian Amy Schumer.

The Bronzeville Comedy Showcase is backed by Chicago radio station Vocalo 90.7, where Babylon hosts The Morning AMp. The station's managing director, Silvia Rivera, said the event's venue switched this year, but it was important to Vocalo to keep the showcase in the Bronzeville community.

"I think the concept is just extremely important just when we think about the lack of ... cultural activities on the South Side, on the West Side," Rivera said.

"Brian brought up a very poignant point: It seems like the comedy scene is on the North Side. Why isn't there one on the South Side? We want to be able to support the idea that we can create a community in these neighborhoods around the comedy, around the arts, in the same way we're trying to bring public radio to the masses."

More showcases will be held on July 31, Aug. 14, Aug. 27 and Sept. 4. Performances are held outside if weather permits, and there is a cash bar.