Bob Hope writer Gene Perrett keynotes Chicago’s first Comedy Conference

Zanie’s hosts the Comedy Conference Aug. 1-3.

By Ruth L Ratny

One of my writers for several years at the Original Screen was a nice young man who was seriously aggressive about becoming a comedian.

Comickoz, as he called himself, was not a funny person. He didn’t think funny. The jokes he made up at best evoked a phony smile. Even when he dug up someone else’s joke to tell he managed to bung it up. (Which begs the question: Why does unfunny, unappealing Jimmy Kimmel have his own talk show?)

What made me think of Comickoz was how greatly he would benefit from the upcoming Aug. 1-3 Comedy Conference, a first for Chicago, to be held at Zanie’s downtown comedy club.

The Comedy Conference features a dozen honest-to-God successful comedy-types: writers, standups, coaches, teachers and a club booker. All will extend their secrets of how to write jokes, how to sharpen skills, improve talents and how to get on TV.

Since Zanie’s is the size of a closet, space is limited to 100.

Keynote speaker is three-time Emmy winner Gene Perret, making his final appearance before retirement. He is the former head writer for Bob Hope and a writer for a myriad of shows include Carol Burnett, “Three’s Company” and “Welcome Back Kotter.” He has been writing the Comedy Round Table newsletter for comedy writers since 1983.

Here are some of the other Conference comedy trainers.

CHILI CHALLAS, “Tonight Show” writer and a 20-year veteran of standup comedy.

NEIL LEIBERMAN (, professional comedian coach since 1982; writer for national headliners; screenplay writer; cofounder/SVP of George Carlin’s

DOBIE MAXWELL (, comedy class teacher since ’93, 20-year standup comic; comedy competitions finalist; author, book and tape series, “Be Funny and Make Money.”

KEITH LESLIE, writer for “The Jamie Kennedy Experience;” former staff writer on “Grace Under Fire” and “The Dennis Miller Show,” and a standup comic.

JOEY CALLAHAN (, veteran comedian and current teacher.

STEVE ROYE (, writer of books and courses on learning comedy for the comic, presenter, public speaker, CEO.

ED HERCER, writer for Bob Hope and many other famous comedians.

BERT HAAS, a comedy club booker for 20 years who’s dealt with top stars like Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Tim Allen.

PLUS RICH GIESER (, professional publicist with tips on promoting yourself; columnist DEB DISANDRO (, on how to get published; LINDA PERRET and CAROLE PERRET MAURER, organizers of The Round Table convention in L.A. for 19 years.

Unfortunately, Comickoz won’t be able to avail himself of all this expert knowledge because he’s in…uh-huh, L.A. While waiting for lightning (or Leno’s people) to strike, he’s working in retail and presumably hitting on a new set of people on which to practice his groan-a-minute jokes.

Cost for the entire weekend, including after-conference performances by Dobie Maxwell, a cocktail reception at the Omni Ambassador Hotel, an open mic night at the hotel and more, is $350 when you register before July 1; $400 thereafter. At Zanie’s, 1548 N. Wells. Register online at eventinfo.asp?Eventid=9099.