At Skrine Chops on Thursday nights, a “Cheap Shots” sign is stuck to the wall upstairs with duct tape. It’s fitting that “The Cheap Shots Comedy Show” has such low-cost décor, because it’s a bargain for customers.
The cover charge for the 18-and-over crowd is $5.00, beers are $2.00 and there’s a $3.00 menu to order from. The only thing that doesn’t come cheap is the laughs. They are well earned by a cavalcade of rising stars and veteran comedians.
Pablo Rodriguez, the show’s emcee, is in the latter category. Rodriguez has opened for TV comics like Tracy Morgan and Dave Attell. He’s hosted the Improv and played clubs from Minnesota to Florida. The 32-year-old, whose parents are from Columbia – “My father is Juan Valdez,” he joked. – is an academic adviser at Dominican University. It’s a pretty good job for someone who “didn’t exactly win academic gold in the classroom.”
Rodriguez’s day job also provides him with material – a routine about how college students are “80% adults,” is one such example. The youthful audience at Skrine Chops resembled a college class, sitting tightly together in rows. Rodriguez and fellow producers, Ryan Budds and Patrick Chase, strategically grouped the tables and chairs close together to replicate a comedy club setting.
Like his college jokes, most of Rodriguez’s material comes from life experience. “I want it to be relatable, based on truth and as honest as possible.” He tailors his act to the audience, be it PG, R, or corporate. His biggest influences are Chris Rock and George Lopez; and he is a life-long class clown, who has learned comedy by trial and error.
“Being a comic is like asking a girl out. You stink at first but you get better the more you do it,” Rodriguez said.
Cheap Shots opened its doors at 8:30 and the show started at 9:00. Rodriguez kicked off the proceedings by talking about the many places he’s lived. Likening his wanderings to the “witness protection program” he warned, “Don’t hide out in Wisconsin, if you’re Hispanic.”
Rodriguez was living in Menomonee Falls, Wis. when he worked up the courage to do his first stand-up show. It involved traveling to Minneapolis and he a got laugh from saying he was one of the few Hispanics choosing to cross the Wisconsin border.
Following Rodriguez to the stage was David Drake. He said that keeping your eyes open during a kiss is “creepy – like you’re a murderer.” He also talked about his “nightmare” day job as a “sandwich artist.” He pointed out that, with most art, the artist chooses the ingredients; while in his job the customers complete the masterpiece.
Ryan Budds, who has a CD called “No Wrong Way,” spoke of having his eyes examined. “Waiting for that puff of air is the scariest three seconds in your life. The eye doctor wants to make sure your eyes still hate surprises.”
Jeanie Doogan was the lone female on the bill. Being a high school teacher, she said she wasn’t used to people listening to her. As the sets went on, the crowd increased from about 30 to nearly half a hundred. Rodriguez retook the stage, talking about a girlfriend who wore so much eyeliner “She looked like she was playing outfield for the Cubs.”
Besides providing a format for local comics and affordable entertainment for the masses, Cheap Shots introduces comedy lovers to Skrine Chops. As Rodriguez declared, “It’s not a library. It’s a pork chop joint in Forest Park – the Mecca of Illinois.”