I open my inbox and see that I have received an email from Saskia Maas, co-founder of Boom Chicago. “Hey Anouk, I saw on Facebook that you’re starting your trip Around the World in 80 Brands. I think we should meet before you leave. Why don’t you come to our show tonight? It’s called Branded for Life. It might give you some ideas for your project.” – Saskia
Boom Chicago is an Amsterdam-based creative organisation that makes comedy shows and television productions. They also have a live show at Chicago Social Club in Amsterdam’s Leidseplein nightlife district. I’ve been to several shows in the last few years and was always impressed by the sharp sense of humour.
I rang Saskia and set a meeting for tonight, an hour before the show starts. I cycle into the centre of town and park my bicycle in front of ‘rock temple’ Paradiso. I cross the square and enter the historical building on the far side of Leidseplein. Saskia is talking to the man behind the bar.
“Come in,” she says when she sees me. “I’ve reserved a VIP table for us.” I follow her into the theatre, which is still almost empty. Some people on stage are going through the last-minute details before the show starts. “Tonight’s show is called Branded for Life,” Saskia says, “it’s about brands, advertising and marketing, and the impact they have on our daily lives. We try to find the excesses, pull slogans out of context and make fun of it.” “Sounds interesting,” I say, “I’m always interested in brands. The marketing and advertising are often too simplistic and predictable… and easy to make fun of.”
“Together with Andrew Moskos and Pep Rosenfeld, who are Boom Chicago’s original founders, we come up with topics for new shows. We’re always looking at what’s going on, what’s at the core of things, what we can call ridiculous in modern life — and then we hold up a mirror to it. We make fun of nearly everything. In the end it really is just meant as a joke, so we try to stay respectful.”
The men on stage finish their preparation and disappear through a door. In the auditorium, waitresses are arranging the tables, waiting for the first guests to arrive. “Just recently we came up with Deep Undercover,” Saskia says, lowering her voice as if somebody might hear her, “an interactive crime-solving game that takes place through Amsterdam, finding clues in Chinatown and contacting secret agents in the Red Light District.”
“I love interactive games,” I say, “interaction is something brands need to do to keep their customers involved.” “Our shows in the theatre are always interactive. It’s called improvisational theatre. One actor gives the others a starting point, the second replies, then the third comes in, etc. until the circle is complete. The starting point often comes from the audience.”
In the meantime, people have started entering the theatre. First a few, then more and more of the seats and tables are filled. Drinks are served and the sound of talking and laughing gets louder. “Boom Chicago has been partnering with TEDxAmsterdam for some time now,” Saskia says. “Pep has hosted and spoken at previous editions and Boom will be the venue for the 2013 TEDxAmsterdam auditions round.” “Cool. Boom Chicago has become a brand itself,” I say. “Why don’t we write a ‘Boom story’ for our project Around the World in 80 Brands?” “Now we’re talking,” Saskia says, as the lights in the auditorium dim, “show time!”
© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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Tags: Global Storytelling Campaign, Anouk Pappers, Maarten Schäfer, Around the World in 80 Brands, Around the World, 80 Brands, Around the World in 80 days, CoolBrands Storytelling, Storytelling, CoolBrands, Boom Chicago, Meeting Boom Chicago, Meeting Saskia Maas, Saskia Maas, Saskia, Maas, branded for life