Chicago trio Team Us Comedy reflects the city's diversity, but two of its members trace their love of making people laugh back to their suburban childhoods.
Vik Pandya grew up in Naperville; Tyler Fowler is from Lombard. They met while taking classes at Second City and, along with Meg Indurti, formed Team Us Comedy in 2015. Now the group plans to film a stand-up special to help raise funds for the arts.
The show, titled "Friends with 401(k) Benefits," will be filmed live on Saturday, Jan. 6, during two shows at Chicago's CH Distillery. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, which brings visual, digital and performing arts education into Chicago Public Schools.
The show mixes three routines into one special, featuring Pandya's self-deprecating style and observational humor, Indurti's one-liners on American culture and Fowler's stories about growing up Catholic and working in corporate America. It will be edited to mix the different voices into one unique show, cutting from comic to comic talking about a similar topic.
"We're completely different people," says Indurti, "Vik and I both grew up with immigrant parents who gave up everything for us. And we had totally different paths to stand-up. Tyler grew up Catholic in Lombard. While he was hanging with the Bible, I was hanging with the English dictionary."
Their differences are what makes the team unique, says Pandya, whose family came from India. "Because we've had such different upbringings, even when it comes to a topic as simple as dating, each of us is going to have a completely different take," he says. "And then when you edit that together side by side, it's going to be fresh, and it's going to be hilarious."
Pandya's comedic rise began after an initial open mic in Chicago, where he "bombed miserably, as most do their first time," he recalls.
"The experience made me question everything I thought I was," he says. "'Am I not funny? Did I invest all these years in an interest that I could never do myself? Why would anyone want to do this?' It made me appreciate comedy as a profession and an art form, and that people in it actually work at it."
That's when he signed up to study at Second City, and the rest is history.
More than 200 people came to Team Us' first major show in 2016.
"We pretty much did everything wrong," says Pandya, who hosted the show. "We booked two headliners. We put out all this free alcohol in the back and had way too many people on the lineup. It was like 12 hours long. Thankfully, a lot of people had fun, and we got a crash course on how to run a show."
Since then, they have significantly changed their show format but still stick to their roots of producing comedy shows in nontraditional spaces. They've been recognized locally for their work and ability to turn modern spaces into comfortable rooms for comedy.
Pandya has opened for Roy Wood Jr. and Michelle Wolf, and Fowler is a regular feature and host at Zanies Comedy Club. In 2017, Indurti was a semifinalist for "Standup NBC" in Chicago by NBCUniversal.
They're excited to film their first stand-up special together. They plan to pitch it to networks and streaming platforms.
"Stand-up is seen as this lonely art, but it doesn't have to be," Fowler says. "We started out doing open mics together, and we've pushed each other from day one to be better comics."
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"Friends with 401(k) Benefits"
What: A stand-up special from Team Us Comedy that will be filmed live during two shows at 6 and 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 6
Where: CH Distillery, 564 W. Randolph St., Chicago
Tickets: $10; available at www.teamuscomedy.com