September 16, 2019 | 65° F

Rutgers alumnus creates laughter at Chicago Improv Festival


Courtesy of Jonald Reyes | Jonald Reyes produced the 2015 Chicago Improv Festival. The class of 2001 graduate has spent the last 15 years expanding his career in comedy, and is now working on a satirical musical based on the documentary, "Blackfish."

An English major with a focus on cinema studies has developed into a famous comedian with ties to one of the world's largest sketch comedy festivals.

Jonald Reyes, who graduated from Rutgers in 2001, now works with the Chicago Improv Festival to help other comedians find their audiences.

“The months leading up to the Chicago Improv Festival were careful and detailed in planning,” he said. “Once we got to a month before the week of CIF performances, I was constantly thinking about it."

As the producer for the Chicago Improv Festival in 2015, Reyes led the logistics and operations of the how the festival itself ran. The Chicago Improv Festival takes place for one week and is held at multiple venues, he said. For 2015, they were in 16 different venues with more than 150 acts, he said.

Reyes was the point person between the Festival and each venue, he said. He also led the marketing, web development, social media and record keeping for the Festival with the help of his assistant producers.

Over the years, he said he has been able to develop a routine and balance multiple projects.

“I think anytime you perform as part of a festival, it adds a bit more excitement and nervousness,” he said.

There is an expectation to be good but even more so due to being a part of this big name festival, he said. During festivals, Reyes has had the opportunity to perform sketch, improv and direct material.

One of the benefits that some festivals provide is access to watch other shows for free, Reyes said. So he often observes what other people have been working on.

“I actually really enjoy watching other peoples' work,” he said.

As the associate producer for the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival and Chicago Women's Funny Festival, Reyes helps with being the point person between comedy groups and the Festival. He assists in submissions, social media and house management duties.

“In five years, I'm hoping to have another feature length film either in the works or under my belt,” he said. “As a producer of theater, I'd really like to own my own theater,” he said.

Right now, Reyes is directing and producing "Blackfish The Musical," a satirical story based off of the 2013 documentary.

“This musical has received amazing exposure and positive feedback,” he said.

Reyes said seeing Asian-American and performing on stage tackles one stereotype — that it is possible to be an Asian-American comedian.

“Being who I am and looking the way I do is different from the Caucasian, male prototype that society is so used to,” he said.

If Reyes is performing, he believes he can be an example for other Asian-Americans who want to try it out.

Reyes said a documentary he filmed and produced, "That Asian Thing" was accepted into the Independent Features Film Festival, which was held at Tribeca Cinemas in New York City.

It was his first film festival experience, but Reyes sold out his screening slot and won the Festival's Audience Choice award.

“The whole experience was surreal and it truly showed me how much support my relatives, my Jersey friends and Rutgers family had for me,” he said.

As a comedian, Reyes seeks human behavior as inspiration. He watches people and tries to figure out why people do what they do, including his own behavior.

Jay Steigmann, director of K-Spa Time Machine and Reyes's comedy troupe, Stir Friday Night, said the comedian is entertaining .

Stir Friday Night has created a large amount of material, Steigmann said. Reyes's work ethic leads to his spending excessive amounts of time perfecting his material.

“K-spa was both funny and heartfelt. He is going to take over Chicago,” she said. “He has a major presence and his future is unlimited."


Jessica Herring is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in English. She can be found on Twitter @Jesslindsey93.

Jessica Herring

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