Tom Dreesen, a famous Chicago-born comedian, returns to his native land for two performances of his one-man comedy show, “Laughter and Memories of Sinatra.”
Dreesen will perform at 8 p.m. April 11 and 12 in Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College. Almost half the ticket proceeds for the two shows will benefit The Hundred Club of DuPage County, a nonprofit that provides financial and other kinds of assistance to sworn police and fire personnel who are killed, injured or stricken in the line of duty.
Frank Sinatra’s opening act for 14 years, Dreesen will do his standup comedy and tell real-life stories from his time spent with the Chairman of the Board. In addition to his film and TV credits, Dreesen boasts more than 500 appearances on national television from “The Johnny Carson Show” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” to “Late Night with David Letterman.”
Tickets cost $50, $75 and $100 each. The $100 tickets include premium seating and VIP access to a special “Sinatra After Party,” including a meet and greet with Dreesen.
“Everywhere I go, no matter what I do, people want to know about Frank Sinatra,” he said.
“I know why — he was an icon and had arguably the greatest career show business has ever known. It lasted seven decades. Aside from that, he was a brilliant actor.
He won an Academy Award and never took an acting class. He was an extraordinary talent. I decided to put together a one-man show called ‘An Evening of Laughter and Memories of Sinatra.’”
The show, he said, is exactly that: his journey with Sinatra, from first hearing his music on the jukebox as an 8-year-old boy shining shoes in Harvey to one day carrying his casket out of a church in Beverly Hills, Calif.
There are a lot of laughs as well as a lot of poignant moments in the show, he said.
“I’ve always thought that a good comedian can make you laugh in an hour and a half, but a great comedian can make you laugh and cry in that hour and a half,” he said. “I’ve only seen two comedians do that — Red Skelton and Richard Pryor. And I wanted to do that. I think that’s part of the entertainer — to touch all the emotions.”
He has been doing the show for about three years, although he is constantly tweaking it.
While he tells his stories, pictures appear on screen to authenticate his tales. He grew up dirt poor in Harvey, one of eight children, and worked odd jobs to help feed his family. After high school, he joined the United States Navy.
Then he became one-half of the country’s first biracial comedy duo with Tim Reid. He takes the audience through the years 1969 to 1975, and talks about what it was like touring the nation with the Tim and Tom Show. From there, he talks about working as a stand-up comedian and finally getting to “The Johnny Carson Show” and “The Tonight Show” to working with Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
He gets back to Illinois quite a bit for charity and corporate work. He has the annual Tom Dreesen’s Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament in Bolingbook, and his charity of choice is the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative.
“Chicago is the greatest city in America bar none — from April to November,” he said. “I miss Chicago every day of my life, but I don’t miss 40-below zero.”
In May, he will appear on “Late Night with David Letterman.”
He has some other work lined up — he’s a motivational speaker, an actor, a master of ceremonies — but comedy is his passion.
“I’m a standup comedian first, last and always,” he said. “I love standup comedy.”
He’s also an ambassador to the Gary Sinise Foundation, helping to build smart homes for men and women who lost limbs in combat. He’s looking forward to his shows in Naperville.
“The Hundred Club … is such a good cause,” he said. “Policemen and firemen, our first responders, what they do for us we take for granted so much. I’m glad to do this for them.”