Why comedian Evan Mills is the Second City’s first choice

· Updated on May 2, 2024

*Photo credit: Carter Wright

Chicago is known for its deep dish pizza, its Cubs baseball team, and soon, Evan Mills. The Michigan-born lyricist and musical comedian is making a name for himself within the Chicago comedy circuit. As a “gay, Filipino, left-handed, only child with divorced parents, and a gay dad,” his solitude gave birth to a vivid imagination and a creative mind that creates hilarious songs and performances leaving audiences in stitches.

After moving to the “Windy City” for college, Mills ended up joining the illustrious comedy club, comedy theater, and school of improvisation the Second City in 2018. Since becoming a member, Mills snagged the coveted Bob Curry Fellowship, a tuition-free masters program aimed at developing diverse talent, and joined the Second City’s touring company, ultimately penning the Queer Eye: The Musical Parody from the experience. Now, as a main stage member, Mills has won a Jeff Award, Chicago’s own Tony Award equivalent, for his work in the Second City’s Don’t Quit Your Daydream, and was one of twelve performers to be featured in Paramount Global’s 2023 CBS Showcase.

Mills time with the Second City only proves that he has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of successful alumni like Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Aidy Bryant, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Catherine O’Hara, and more. INTO spoke with Mills about how a hosting job serendipitously brought him to the Second City, his advice for queer Asian creatives, and why he wants to give The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula an origin story starring Reneé Rapp.

How would you describe your brand of comedy?

I was once described in a Chicago Tribune article as someone “who physically contorts himself somewhere between a gummy bear, a jack-in-the-box, Peter Sellers and a 149 CTA bus turning a corner with its bendy bit in the middle.” If you mix that with the weirdness of Steve Martin, the musicality of Flight of the Conchords, and the joyful early 2000’s-ness of The Princess Diaries, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate representation of my brand of comedy. I love writing and performing comedy music and I find a lot of inspiration from the things that really influenced me growing up as a closeted only-child. 

The Second City has been the foundation for many famous comedians. What drew you to The Second City and what has been the greatest lesson learned from being there?

I found out about Second City because of a hosting job I had applied for back in 2012. I had no idea what it was until my first shift, and it completely changed the course of my life. I was mesmerized by a sketch show that featured Tim Baltz, Mary Sohn and so many other legends. I was standing on the side in my host uniform and remember saying to myself, “I want to do that. I’m going to do that.” 

Since my time on mainstage, I’ve learned that I really enjoy performing live on stage, and that this specific job prepares you to be ready for anything. It makes sense why some of the greatest comedians came out of this building, because it teaches you how to be multifaceted and how to easily adapt in so many different situations. And also, love what you’re doing and have fun doing it, because if you love what you’re doing, chances are the audience will love it too. 

Photo credit: Tim Schmidt

What’s something in comedy that feels queer, but isn’t queer?

Bo Burnham. Does that make sense? I think that makes sense. I live for it but I wanna do it in a queer, Filipino way. 

At INTO, we’re all about pop culture, something comedians continue to use as a source for standup comedy sets. So, what queer pop culture moment defined your childhood?

There are truly so many, but the ones that always stick out to me are: Chris Evans covered in whipped cream with a banana in his butt from Not Another Teen MovieAnna Faris in literally anything. MTV’s Next, there were gay episodes and I remember taping them on a VHS that was labeled “Spongebob Episodes” so no one would know. I also remember watching the episode of Degrassi at my grandparents house when Marco kisses Dylan. I was sitting in the center of the living room where I had a clear view of my grandparents door just in case they came out and I had to change the channel.

You wrapped up your final performance in Don’t Quit Your Daydream, where you also won a Jeff Award. Congrats! What was the experience like being a part of the cast?

Thank you so much! It felt like such a full circle moment to win a Jeff Award for my final revue and to really share it with the cast cause there’s no way I would have been able to win one without them. Being part of this cast felt like being in college again. It was magical, we had incredible shows and memories, but it was also tough and on certain days, you just didn’t feel like being funny. But because it’s your job, you have to find a way to push past that, and luckily for me, it was the cast who helped me do just that. I love them all so much and we created such a special bond during a crucial time in all of our growing careers. 

You’re also directing The Second City’s Victor Wong Fellowship, which focuses on the next generation of AAPI talent. What advice do you have for other up-and-coming queer Asian creatives?

Don’t be afraid to take up space and tell your story. Be the voice in the room for all those who don’t have the platform. Keep showing up for each other and create a supportive and uplifting community. When you show up for others, others show up for you. And just do what you think is funny. Write and perform what makes you laugh and what gives you the joy of doing it, because it should never feel like work. When it starts to feel like work, it just means it’s time to shift and figure out how to make it fun again. 

Photo credit: Tim Schmidt

Speaking of directing, if we gave you a budget to produce a biopic about your favorite queer icon, who would it be, and what would be the Oscar-winning scene?

Baby, give me Rob Marshall’s budget from The Little Mermaid but let’s do an Ursula origin story. The way I was obsessed with Emma Stone’s Cruella, I was like, We. Need. More. Of. These. But give me Reneé Rapp and some original songs written by me, and let’s actually gooo. Oscar Winning Moment: Ursula has just been cast out of the family and banished from the kingdom. It’s a power ballad; her Effie White, “You’re Gonna Love Me” moment, where she tells her family they’ll be sorry as she swims into the darkest part of the ocean to start her journey as a sea witch. Disney, can I get in a room please? 

Lastly, being a creative means collaborating with a variety of other talented folks. Do you have any dream collabs you’d like to turn into reality?

I wanna work in the world of RuPaul and Drag Race. I wanna write something where Dolly de Leon plays my mother and Alan Cumming plays my gay dad. I’d love to sing with James Taylor and Trixie Mattel. Together or separate, or both. I’d also love to work with Steve Martin, Keegan-Michael Key, Maya Esrkine and Abbi Jacobson so badly. ◆


The Evan Mills-directed Victor Wong Showcase tickets for Youth In Asia (Are You Proud Of Me Yet?) at the UP Comedy Clubare available here. Show dates: Every Tuesday at 8pm in May (5/7, 5/14, 5/21, 5/28).

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