The Paper Machete is a free weekly “live magazine” series, performed every Saturday afternoon at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge in Chicago. Put on free of charge to its audience and written from scratch each week based on the current headlines, the Machete features a constantly changing cast of writer-performers from the worlds of stand-up, sketch comedy, improv, theater, live lit, journalism and music.
The show features comedic essays and character monologues drawn from the week’s headlines, sandwiched in between musical performances from rock bands and musical acts of every stripe. Originally mounted in the front of the dart boards in the back corner of Lincoln Square’s Ricochets Tavern in January of 2010, the series, co-founded by former Time Out theater editor Christopher Piatt and his cohort Ali Weiss Klingler, has since grown into a showcase of the city’s major burgeoning talents of every performance genre, as well as a frequent spot where visiting headlining comedians from New York and Los Angeles are known to stop by and hold court. In 2011, the series moved into the Horseshoe Tavern, and in 2012 it began its residency at the famed jazz nightspot the Green Mill, legendary for its association with its one-time most famous patron, Al Capone, as well as the birthplace and home of the original Poetry Slam.
The Machete is inspired largely by the “Living Newspaper” plays produced by the WPA’s Federal Theater of the 1930s, with visible shades of vaudeville, the Chautauqua public lecture circuit, Harold Ross’s early, pre-serious New Yorker years, old-time radio, campus follies, political cabaret and community theater. Since its inception, it has served as a creative incubator for a broad and eclectic group of artists and voices from a wide variety of disciplines, and scores of the show’s alums work in television, film, theater, radio, journalism and other professional media forms. With a popular following fueled mostly by word-of-mouth, the Machete regularly plays to packed houses of all ages. In addition to its ever-rotating rosters, the Machete is also known as the home of Chad the Bird (the creation of writer-puppeteer Josh Zagoren), whose weekly installment as the show’s Avian Op-Ed Columnist is an audience favorite. A completely uncensored free-speech zone for its contributors, the show is also known for its experimental and provocative comedic content, and its association with dynamic, original voices.
The Paper Machete is produced and hosted weekly by Piatt. A WBEZ podcast from 2010-2014, the Machete is now an independently distributed podcast.