At a time when too many comics try to wow an audience through rapid-fire delivery, Chicago comic Jimmy Carrane has honed the slow burn, winning audiences with sly subtlety, and leaving them in stitches.
Then again, Carrane had to figure something out as a kid. The son of a Calabrese father and a half-Calabrese, half-Irish mother, Carrane was one of five siblings vying to take center stage. “It was a very boisterous loud Italian family, and the thing is we loved to laugh,” he recalls. “They had so many kids we were kind of neglected, but making them laugh was a way to get their attention and get into comedy.”
That childhood ambition of becoming a stand-up comic took root in high school, when he went to see Second City — and lived the dream of studying under the celebrated teacher Del Close. “He really coined the phrase ‘slow comedy,’” Carrane says. “So what I teach now is that if you slow down, take a couple of seconds and look at your scene partner, you’ll make that connection and can start to tap into your life experience.”
As a comedian, Carrane’s true-life exploits brought him success before he hit 30. His one-man show “I’m 27, I Still Live at Home and I Sell Office Supplies” became a long running hit at the Annoyance Theatre. A few years back, he created the popular “Studio 312” at WBEZ-FM 91.5, getting a boost from former morning show host Steve Edwards.
Though Edwards had earned acclaim as a no-nonsense news guy, it was his idea to play Carrane’s foil as a lead-in for the program: “Edwards was a huge mentor of mine,” he says. “He was the straight man and I was the goofy guy; it gave me an endorsement because he was willing to play along with me.”
Carrane continues to expand his vision; he has ambitions of picking up where 312 left off and bringing his interview skills to a wider audience. But he’s not waiting for some mysterious door to open. His “Improv Nerd” podcast has introduced listeners to more than 170 famous and established comics.
“Not only is it a live interview, but we also improvise with the guests, then break it down and talk about what we just did,” Carrane says. “So people get to go behind the curtain and see how we make the magic.”
Carrane has another way of sharing his magic: teaching. His “Art of Slow Comedy” class was just named one of Chicago Magazine’s “5 Great Comedy Classes for Fall 2015.” On levels from beginner to advanced ensemble, Carrane imparts a lesson other instructors overlook — that improv is as easy as having a conversation.
“We begin improvising when we begin talking, and I think we overcomplicate it,” Carrane notes. “When I started doing it at 19, I found a sense of freedom because I came from a house that was repressed emotionally. It’s all about people believing in their creativity.” That goes for everyone from corporate types to people who tackle it late in life.
And when a class begins to click, “There’s not only a sense of mutual trust but a community aspect,” Carrane says. “You find your place in that community.”
To learn more about Jimmy Carrane’s upcoming performances and comedy classes, visit jimmycarrane.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 855-4-IMPROV.