The Polish Cowboy Comic: Phil Biedron, Chicagoan of the Week
It’s 10p.m. on a Wednesday at the Second City. Phil Biedron bounces up the escalator to meet me outside the Skybox Theater. He just had rehearsal with his Conservatory improv group The Thunderwolves, who perform Monday nights at the ETC theater. Tomorrow, after leaving his overnight shift at 7a.m., rehearsals for two other shows await.
“I’ll have some free time in April,” he laughs as he flips through his weekly planner filled with auditions, rehearsals, and work. “I can sleep then.” Between rehearsing for three shows, crafting his next stand-up set, shooting comedy videos, and working two jobs, the south suburbs native doesn’t have time for anything outside comedy. But his humble commitment is paying off.
One upcoming show is Shenanigans!, a modern-day, family-friendly vaudeville act running Saturdays through March. Another is “Jackie and Me,” a play telling the story of Jackie Robinson, which opens February 8, 2011.
“I love the instant feedback you get from comedy and theater. You know right away if something hits,” he chuckles. “Or if it doesn’t.”
While his training and most extensive experience is in drama (he graduated from UIC with a B.A. in theatre), his core passion is stand-up comedy. His most recent stand-up success was in early January, when he clinched a spot in a showcase at Zanies Comedy Club — quite the accomplishment for a 23-year-old. But you don’t get to perform at a famous Chicago club with sub-par material. He’s been sharpening his craft since his first try at stand-up three years ago.
“My first open mic I did I was terrified,” he laughed. “When my jokes failed I felt it personally. But then I realized that if I just put on a character and do the act through him, it’s not Phil the audience is reacting to. It’s this other guy.” That “other guy” is a nervous, banjo-playing, self-depreciating white guy of Polish descent donning a Western-style shirt. The “Polish Cowboy”, as he describes him.
“A lot of people play the guitar, and a lot of comedians have a certain fashion,” he explains. “But I’m the only banjo player with a cowboy shirt.”
He hopes to ride that style through a stand-up career and into the sitcom world, following in the footsteps of Kevin James or Jerry Seinfeld, who became household names because of their signature personas.
“Of course I know there are comedians better than me,” he laughs. “But I think I’m realizing how to better market myself… how to market my character. And that’s the point.” He doesn’t limit his character work to the stage, though. Music videos featuring Pierre, Beidron’s “French sex god” alter ego, have gotten attention on YouTube. “I think I’ll keep doing more with him,” he said. “He’s a fun one.”
Another video featuring the Frenchman’s mock-sexy endeavors is currently in production.
“I want to be a household name,” he said of his ultimate goal. “You know, when people hear Phil Biedron, I want them to think ‘yeah, that guy with the banjo.’”
When his schedule allows some flexibility, his favorite Chicago hang out spot is the Lion Head Pub in Lincoln Park. He tries to make it on Thursdays, so if you head there you may have the pleasure to meet the “Polish Cowboy.” And if you’re lucky, he’ll play you a Steve Martin song on his banjo.