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Thompson Hotels Influencers Chicago X Annette Ferrara


Turning the Cringe Worthy Into Comedy

It might sound like your worst nightmare: mounting a stage and telling a bunch of strangers about your most humiliating childhood memories. Yet, at Mortified Live, people do just that. During the show, adults share their most embarrassing youth artifacts (from journals to poems to home movies) in order to tell stories about life at bible camp, their first kisses, worst prom ever, and more. No pressure to perform—as an audience member, you can laugh, cringe, and be glad it wasn’t you.

Annette Ferrara is one of the producers behind the show’s Chicago iteration. An experienced writer, copywriter, and editor, Ferrara also works as a storyteller and marketing lead at IDEO, a global design company. Her past roles make her perfectly suited to helping other people bring their best stories to the stage. Ferrara spoke to us about how she got involved with Mortified, her favorite Chicago spots, and just what makes the city so funny.

Follow Annette @anetferrara

How did you get involved with Mortified, and what keeps you active with it?

I was working as the Chicago editor for Flavorpill in 2006 when Dave Nadelberg, the founder of Mortified, reached out to me asking if there was anyone I knew who would be interested in bringing the comedy show to the city. Even though I didn’t have a theater background—other than some forgettable musical theater experience in high school—the writer in me was intrigued by the concept and I volunteered to be the founding producer. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s a privilege to hear intimate and awkward stories from people’s childhoods. I love unearthing up-until-now top-secret personal artifacts and helping their original authors shape them into compelling, comedic stage performances. It’s unbelievably satisfying to see regular people you’ve coached kill on stage. Plus, I get to produce the show with two of my best, most talented friends, Shay DeGrandis and Victoria Rodriguez!

Chicago seems to be a great place for storytellers and funny people with its improv scene and projects like Mortified. Why do you think this is?

I think Chicago’s great for a number of reasons. Unlike San Francisco or New York with their sky-high rents, the city has a great quality of living. You can make art and experiment and not have to live out of your car and eat ramen. Also, the creative people who are attracted to the city are incredibly talented, but also incredibly humble, straightforward, hard working, and collaborative. It’s a very supportive community that takes the mantra of “make others successful” seriously. This optimistic, scrappy, collaborative vibe is the foundation for the city’s amazing improv, standup, and live storytelling scene. You couldn’t have institutions like Second City or This American Life without it.

After shows/meetings, where are some of your favorite spots for food and drink?

For drinks and fancy snacks, I love The Betty on Fulton Market. Their cocktails are well-balanced and the space is big, yet cozy at the same time. Plus: no TVs. I hate TVs in bars. I recently had my mind blown by the Korean-Polish fusion food at Kimski in Bridgeport. My spice-averse Polish mom would think it was crazy, but I thought the flavor combinations were inspired. And after our Mortified shows at The Promontory in Hyde Park, well, you’d be crazy to grab a drink or bite anywhere else.

Are there any upcoming shows / comedy events / other goings on around the city that you’re particularly excited about, and why?

Well, #shamelessmarketingplug here: Mortified Chicago’s 10 ANGSTiversary Extravaganza is August 20 at Lincoln Hall in Lincoln Park. We’re putting together two back-to-back shows plus a Mortified Class Reunion featuring our best performers from the past decade. It’s gonna be all killer, no filler. Outside of Mortified, I’m really inspired by Between Bites, a food-inspired live storytelling show, and Story Sessions, a theme-based monthly live lit show. When I can force myself to stay awake past 10pm, I love seeing Adam Burke‘s erudite standup and Eva La Feva‘s Burlesque & Variety Revues at the California Clipper.