They’re an odd couple: the blocky, charismatic, contrary black man and the angular, nervous, libertarian white man. Aaron Freeman’s comedy is highly intelligent and very physical. Rob Kolson’s comedy is highly intelligent and very musical. Together, they wrote and star in Do the White Thing, Chicago’s longest-running revue, a revue in which one skit ends with Mikhail Gorbachev on his knees before a giant portrait of Milton Friedman.
Freeman and Kolson met six years ago at a Chicago nightclub where Freeman, now 34, was performing his celebrated brand of standup political comedy and singing song parodies sans accompaniment. Kolson—who is a thesis shy of a doctorate, has taught economics at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, and spent four years as an investment banker (“without a single indictment”)—offered his abilities as a self-taught piano virtuoso and music arranger. An act was born.
When Chicago’s Organic Theater asked Freeman, 38, to work up a show and Freeman asked Kolson to be a part of it, Kolson at first declined: “I was too busy being president of a whey company up in Wisconsin.” But when Freeman pressed, Kolson agreed, and they spent the next six weeks working together almost nonstop. ‘‘I was ready to quit that job anyway,” rationalizes Kolson. Do the White Thing opened in the Organic Theater’s experimental Greenhouse annex in November 1989 and readily, steadily won audiences, moving a few months later to the main stage.
Aaron: I’m an IRS auditor.
I’m gonna give you trouble, just you wait and see.
Rob: He’s from the Internal Revenue Service,
And he’s gonna seize your property.
Aaron: Unless I get a small fee.
Rob: And if you did absolutely nothing wrong, babe,
Aaron: Well, that don’t matter to me. That’s because I’m a federal government bureaucrat, babe.
I’m gonna roll all over you.
Rob: He’s a federal government bureaucrat, baby.
He’s gonna roll all over you.
Aaron: I’m gonna make you blue.
Rob: He’s a surly civil servant.