DePaul alumnus puts on comedy show


Xavier Ortega / The DePaulia

Hashem commanded the stage Wednesday.

The faintly illuminated bar room allowed just enough light to see your drink and the smiles stretching across each person’s face as the laughs rolled all night at Revolution Brewing. Highly touted for its tap selection, the popular Milwaukee Avenue brewery was testing out a night of stand-up comedy.

The roaring laughter made no one happier than the birthday boy and DePaul alumni Andre Hashem. A year and a half into his comedy career, newly 35-year-old Hashem has successfully led the organization of a brand new comedy night at one of Chicago’s most popular breweries.

“Everyone here listens to Andre,” fellow comic Marcus Banks said. “He’s the one that really shows the motivation to organize a night like this.”

That motivation stems from a love for comedy that lights up every dimly lit barroom. Banks recalled all the work poured into organizing the night, saying that the group’s skill set fits like a puzzle piece.

“It took something from all of us to put this together and we all looked to Andre on how to make it work,” he said.

Hashem studied journalism at DePaul and spent a lot of time finding his true passion. Seven years ago, he performed at his first open mic. He spent the next several years utilizing comedy as a hobby until he realized it was the career he wanted to pursue.

“It felt like comedy was just right there, you know? I had to go and take it,” Hashem said.

As satisfying as a successful night or set is, not every night can go as planned.

“Trust me you know when you’re bombing,” Hashem said. “And when you are you just have to live in the bomb. Acknowledge it.”

He chuckled as he continued to say that every comic experience the same thing, especially in the early years. Comedian colleagues Chris Grieco and Banks mirrored the sentiment, reminiscing on times where they had to accept the feelings that come with an unfavorable reaction from the audience.

“You can feel the difference between ‘I don’t like this’ and ‘this isn’t for me,’,” Grieco said. “It feels worse when they just don’t like it, but every comic has to go through that.”

The three comics shared a look as they recalled some of the times their set did not go as planned. Banks explained that many comics seek connection with the audience and that laughter confirms that connection. He said that comedy is inherently communal, but it can feel lonely when you don’t break through.

“It’s important to remember that audiences want to laugh,” Hashem said. “Comedy is like an antidepressant. Maybe not as strong but it breathes levity into the moment, whatever people may be experiencing.”

It takes those unsuccessful nights to improve. Eventually, every comic wants to move on to bigger things, something beyond open mics and breweries.

“Comics come to Chicago to get a start and cut their teeth while they plan to take their shot in L.A. or New York,” Grieco said. He praised the comedy culture in Chicago, especially Second City, which he recognized as a beacon for up-and-coming comics.

Hashem tried a stand-up class at Second City and an improv class at Annoyance, but admitted to dropping both after three sessions.

“I had done a few mics already, so it felt really weird to be in a lit classroom setting, having my material dissected by people I didn’t find funny,” he said. Instead, Hashem was motivated to sharpen his skills through relentless writing and performance.

As his own writing evolves, Hashem gravitates toward different comics.

“I’ve been listening to a lot of Maria Bamford recently,” he said. “Her jokes are so playful and relatable, I don’t think the audience realizes she’s dark.”

He has clearly brought shades of those elements to his own act, which exudes a somehow lighthearted cynicism and hypocrisy, along with a witty penchant for pop culture references.

A challenging approach in a time when political correctness is of utmost importance.

“No one wants to be the one to say that everything is too P.C., but I’ve always looked at comedy as a conversation starter,” Banks said.

He continued to say that people too often treat it as the end of a conversation instead.

But, for a comic, the heart of the work lies in one goal. In the words of Andre Hashem, “Really, I’m just still trying to get laughs.”