Local Mom brings Stand-Up Comedy to Lake County

HilariTea celebrates One Year!

Shows held the first Saturday of the month at Madame ZuZu’s Tea House in Highland Park 

by Tina Johansson

Denise M performing at Madame ZuZu's Tea House in Highland Park. -
Denise Medina performing at Madame ZuZu’s Tea House in Highland Park. – Marisa Medina photo

Some say that behind every great laugh there’s a great female comedian.

Denise Medina of Round Lake Beach is a believer

A one-time resident of Chicago who was an intern on the former TV show Wild Chicago, is a stand-up comic who has brought the fun to Lake County.

“It was and still is a male dominated industry,” said Medina, the mother of two. “But the numbers of women are increasing thanks to supportive networks.”

She named among them: Feminine Comique, an all-female stand-up comedy class; the kates, a collective of Chicago’s best female jokers; and Women in Comedy, an advocacy group.

“Women are creating, writing and producing their own comedy shows and they are killing it,” said Medina.

In fact one year ago this month, Medina began producing HilariTea, a comedy show at Madame ZuZu’s Tea House in Highland Park. The show which is held every first Saturday of the month, has proven to be a hit.

Incidentally, April of 2014 was also the first time Medina began actively performing stand-up.

She praised her mentor, well-known Chicago comic Kelsie Huff for giving her inspiration to produce the shows.

Medina attended classes at Second City and The Players Workshop where she learned improvisation. She also learned a great deal through classes with Huff, she said. And through her former teacher, she was introduced to Krista Atkinson and Elizabeth Gomez, both Chicago comedians, who agreed to help produce the tea house shows.

Women are creating, writing and producing their own comedy shows and they are killing it.” – Denise Medina, stand-up comic

Medina, Gomez and Atkinson take turns performing at Madame ZuZu’s, along with other comics including men. Gomez has a blog called “Drinkers with Writing Problems” which gives comedians a platform to promote themselves.

Medina said her two daughters, ages 11 and 15, have been a big inspiration for her jokes. “My humor is observational, and I make fun of myself a lot. I want to be current and hip, but I’m just confused. Like the time I said, ‘I would like to be hot and thin…like jerky.’”

She got the idea to produce the shows out of frustration. “There was really no place around that had stand-up,” she said. Medina felt that Lake County had become a standup comedy desert of sorts. Years ago there was a Zanies in Vernon Hills, but that has since closed. “I felt there should be some options for people,” she said. “You know, a place to go after dinner or a movie.”

Luckily, the management at the intimate tea house agreed, and shows began. They are even appropriate for older children, said Medina.

“We rate them PG13. There are no ‘F-bombs’ in our shows. We feel they can be classy, not raunchy, and still be fun.”

The next Hilari Tea is held April 2 at Madame ZuZu’s, 582 Rodger Williams Ave., Highland Park, from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Shows are free, but the purchase of a tea or other beverage or snack is suggested.

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