New Variety

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New Variety Improv ad
CompanyGoodman & O'Donnell
GenreVariety / jazz / blues /sketch / improv
Show typetouring / clubs
LocationChicago Improv
Creative team
Produced byThom Goodman, R. O'Donnell, Scott Siegel
Directed & Staged byR. O'Donnell
Musical DirectorVince Willis
George Goetchell
Production DesignScott Siegel
Other information
Years Active1992-94

The New Variety is an American cabaret created and produced by Thom Goodman and Richard O'Donnell in the 1990s. It was a fast-paced, ever-changing volley of acts that included award-winning jugglers, fire-eaters, stand-up comics, singers, musicians, and sketch comedy troupes.


In February 1992, producers Thom Goodman (co-founder with J.P. Mayer, CrossCurrents Cabaret Theater, 1978) and R. O’Donnell (founder, New Age Vaudeville) teamed up to present the New Variety, located at 400 N. Clark, downtown Chicago.[1] Modeled after the vaudeville variety shows of the ‘20s and '30s, the New Variety presented an evening’s worth of acts that included jugglers, fire-eaters, comics, singers, musicians, and sketch comedy troupes.[2]


New Variety Cabaret[edit]

The original location of the New Variety was the upstairs of the Italian restaurant Bellagio. Built specifically for the show, the cabaret was an elegant and intimate 100-seat theater, revealing a sophisticated art deco-style decor. The audience sat at round black tables with green and black chairs around a small black-and-white checkered stage, slightly raised.[3]

Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as a Cabaret for the 90s.[4] the bill included artistic director & host Richard O'Donnell (billed as "R."), jazz band the Vince Willis Trio, juggler extraordinaire Andy Head, drummer Donny DeMarco Jr., tap dancer Ayrie King, stand-up comedy by John Tamborino, and Saxophonist Sarah Underwood, followed by a crowning performance by the incomparable blues chanteuse[5] Barbara LeShoure.

Improv Comedy Club[edit]

In August, 1993, the New Variety moved to the Chicago Improv, (504 N. Wells)[6] and was responsible for changing a faltering 3-ring comedy presentation into a successful variety format. The New Variety now offered a more streamlined, commercial show. Acts included artistic director & host R. O’Donnell, stand-up comics such as Paul Gilmartin (Dinner and a movie, host), Kevin Rogers, and Steve Seagren and sketch comedy troupes including the all-girl Nude Coffee, the all-gay The Boys in the Bathroom, and the all-improv The Upright Citizens Brigade. Dr. Boom (who literally blew things up on stage) was the highlight of the evening. [7]

The Chicago Improv was a 400-seat theater whereby audience members sat at long tables in a room about the size of your high school cafeteria. Scott Seigel re-designed the original look of the stage to accommodate the New Variety's edgier feel.

Regular Acts[edit]

Boys in the Bathroom
Matt Besser
Upright Citizens Brigade (Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Ali Farahnakian, Adam McKay, Rick Roman, and Horatio Sanz)
Dr. Boom
Nude Coffee
Ectomorph (Darren Bodeker, Bart Heird and Jim Kopsian)
Andy Head
Ayrie "Mr. Taps" King
R. O'Donnell (host)
Kevin Rogers
Steve Seagren
The Sound (Acapella group), Paul Mabin, Greg Vaden, Kevin Kent and Keevin Peuse
John Tamborino
Obediah Thomas
Vince Willis Trio
Sarah Underwood


  1. ^ Kogan, Rick (March 1, 1992), "New Variety takes its first steps", Chicago Tribune, Arts, Pg 2, Section 13
  2. ^ Helbig, Jack (July 23, 1992), "The New Variety", New City, Arts
  3. ^ June, Sawyer (May 15, 1992). "New Variety A Cabaret For The `90s". Chicago Tribune (Arts).
  4. ^ Sawyers, June (May 15, 1992), "New Variety a cabaret for the '90s'", Chicago Tribune, Friday, Page 2 - Section 7
  5. ^ Belsito, Elaine (July 2, 1992), "New Variety Cabaret Features a Wealth of Entertainment", Windy City Times, Spotlight on Chicago
  6. ^ Tucker, Ernest (August 6, 1993), "Improv Adds Some Variety To Its Stage", Chicago Sun-times, Arts & Show, Section 2
  7. ^ Adler, Tony (May 27, 1993). "New Variety Offers Slicker Mix in New Digs". Chicago Tribune, Overnight.