Out comedian Irene Tu is returning to Chicago for a new gig at Up Comedy Club.
The Break Out Comedy Festival turns three this year for the annual event brought in by Second City and NBC. Running June 8-10, there will be a variety of sketch, improvisation and stand-up acts featured each night.
Named one of the Bay Area's best stand-up comedians, Tu is originally from Chicago. She hosts several popular shows in the San Francisco area, such as The Mission Position, Hysteria and Man Haters.
She has opened for W. Kamau Bell and Gary Gulman, among others. She heads out on your own for multiple appearances at Break Out this year.
Windy City Times: Did you perform comedy in Chicago first?
Irene Tu: I actually started there and moved when I switched colleges to Berkeley. I started by taking classes at Second City when I was 16. I started with improv and did a little bit of stand-up.
When I was in college, my friend suggested that I join a stand-up group.
WCT: So school took you to California?
IT: Yes. I went to Northwestern originally, then transferred to Berkeley. At Northwestern, I majored in gender studies; then, when I transferred, I majored in Asian-American studies. I am still in San Francisco now.
WCT: How is the scene there?
IT: I love Chicago, but the weather was too much for me. I had lived there my whole life and didn't want to live so close to my parents. It is a good stand-up scene. It is close to LA so we get a lot of LA comics. I like it because the crowds are pretty diverse.
WCT: How did you join the Break Out Festival?
IT: I heard about it the first year it started, because I have a lot of of friends who did it. A couple of my friends did it last year. I saw something about it online this year so I sent an email and was asked to be one of the performers.
WCT: Are you the next "Asian Ellen Degeneres," [as you say]?
IT: I do say that, but I probably won't be! I love Ellen and aspire to be like her. I don't really want a talk show. I like her career trajectory. She had a sitcom, then disappeared, and is now one of the most famous people in the world.
WCT: What do you like to talk about in your act?
IT: I like to talk about myself mostly. I will talk about being gay or Asian or being a woman. I tend to talk about things that other people don't talk about. It could be something gross. I was doing a joke about yeast infections for a while. I don't talk about it now.
WCT: Any comedians you admire?
IT: Ellen, of course, [along with] Ali Wong, Jerrod Carmichael and Tig Notaro.
WCT: Are hosting gigs more difficult than just being part of the act?
IT: It is much harder. You have to go up first, which is much harder on a line up because nobody is ready to laugh yet. After each comedian you have to bring up the next comedian, so you are never really done until the show is over. Hosting you have to keep your energy up. No one really remembers the host. It is really not about you.
WCT: Are you doing anything for Asian Pacific Heritage Month?
IT: I am doing my first hour show next week. I am calling it Triple Minority, because I am very oppressed. I [was] at the Pacific Islander Cultural Center in San Francisco on May 27. It is the 20th anniversary of their festival called United States of Asian America.
WCT: I just went to Macy's to meet Top Chef winner Kristen Kish for [its] Asian celebration.
IT: She is one of my celebrity crushes! I am so mad I missed that. I never know where she is. I follow her on Instagram, but didn't see that she was there.
WCT: What are your upcoming plans?
IT: I am doing some music and comedy thing in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin in July. After that, I will just do my shows in the Bay.
I am trying to get more into acting. I would like to move to LA. I am going to slowly make my way down there.
WCT: Isn't it expensive to live in San Francisco?
IT: It is way more expensive than in Chicago. An apartment costs way more here than there.
I like living here, but I like the food better in Chicago. Some of my favorite restaurants are in Chicago. I like Allende Restaurant's tacos and Potbelly Sandwiches.
WCT: There isn't a Potbelly San Francisco?
IT: There are none here. I saw one in the Portland airport, but none in California. It is the hot peppers that I love.
WCT: I like the Wreck meat sandwich.
IT: I get the Wreck with hot peppers. Giardiniera is not a thing here so I can't get that topping. When I get there I am going to fill up on tacos and peppers!
Tu breaks out at UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North Ave., on Fri., June 9, at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., with a special midnight show on Saturday, June 10. Visit UpComedyClub.com or call 312-662-4562 for tickets and information.