The James Conklin Memorial Scholarship
The mission of the James Conklin Memorial Scholarship is to support Chicago-based comedians through direct giving. We aim to support aspiring and up-and-coming comedians in their training and comedic pursuits.
In the past, JCMS was solely a training scholarship for applicants who wished to be awarded funding for the iO Summer Intensive. Due to COVID-19 in early 2020 and iO's closure in the summer of 2020, we have decided to shift our mission to award funding to Annoyance's Summer Intensive Program. Both theaters are places that James loved dearly.
To donate, please visit our Donate tab! We are are a registered 501c3 in Illinois. If you are interested in taking advantage of our tax-exempt status or setting up a reoccurring donations, please contact Shelby Plummer at email@example.com.
The Scholarship Board
Before moving to Chicago, James and I shared 3 years together in our college short form improv troupe Improv Anonymous. We were often gasoline to each others fire, and together we created some of my favorite and earliest moments on stage. This included characters like Brie and Brit- the "two girls who got ready for the party but fell asleep and missed the party," and the Burger Boys who sang a song about their preferred burger toppings. But I want to tell you about my favorite alliterated couple, the Bored Brothers. In early February of 2013, New Hampshire was struck with a Category 3 Nor'easter. Our campus was snowed in and it was not advisable for anyone to be outside, so naturally James trekked to my apartment in sneakers so that we could make a "funny video." The result was a piece called Fashawn in which the Bored Brothers put on a costume fashion show for each other. The video went on to win 2nd place in a student film festival that featured over 10 films. Amazing. If you happen to see this video, you'll hear the wind howling outside and you'll see our myriad of beautiful outfits, but what you will never know is vile smell James' sneakers thawing in the corner. And that's something I'll always treasure.
James and I grew up down the street from one another in Plymouth, NH, and moved out to Chicago the same summer.
James was a chronic tickler for as long as I can remember. For the whole walk, I wasn’t able to get any closer than in this picture. It’s an absolute miracle that Clay was able to capture a second where our faces weren’t entirely convulsing from laughter.
James and Taylor were childhood friends from Plymouth, NH. They attended kindergarten, elementary school and high school together and were even roommates in college. It's a little known fact that James used to pick on Taylor in kindergarten but they managed to put aside their differences to enjoy a lasting friendship of hilarity and laughter.
They remained close when James moved to Chicago and often talked at length over the phone in a strange dialect they had developed over the years.
Past Members and Friends of the Scholarship
James, Matt, Griffin, and I were all sharing a hotel room while performing at a comedy festival in North Carolina. After a night of heavy drinking, we all woke up one by one groaning about how hungover we were. When James wakes up, he looks around the room like a zombie, rubs his head and says, "Oh boy guys, I think I had a beer last night."
James and Griffin performed on Macy Ledbetter together and wrote a musical called The Starlight Lounge presents: Bracket and Spootz.
It took almost an entire year and mostly involved Griffin wrangling James and telling him that there was no need for a dream sequence involving an elephant whose nose was a squirrel that kept stealing peanuts from the elephant.
They also exchanged many texts that said things like "oh man, when is this town gonna wake up and see us for the gods we are," and "we've really gotta spank Tom Fell's little ass tonight."
Like a man wise beyond his years, James new that a nap was the only thing that could follow eating tacos. One of my favorite memories of James is eating tacos together, having too much time before a show, making the trek all the way back to my apartment so we could nap on my living room couches for 15 minutes, before walking all the way back to the theater
James and I lived and laughed together with Max and Eric. James and I would work on our laptops together. The first day the weather turned in 2016 and the sun was blasting in Chicago, James and I took our shirts off and sat on our porch and worked on our laptops. We couldn't really see the computer screens but the sun felt good and we couldn't stop laughing. We still got our work done.
So, this picture is insane. This is from freshman year at UNH. James is wearing a shirt, sized 3XL (which reached his knees) and had a Bart Simpson cartoon on the front, imagining a can of "Duff" Beer. Dreaming about beer at UNH... not that we'd ever drink the stuff! ;)
When James passed, I had known him for about 12 years. I'm pretty sure we met during a pickup frisbee game among friends where James and I were obviously the least athletic; that's when it became a friendship.
For James' fledging comedy career, I was often the amateur (and unserious) "straight man," the interviewer of Officer Friendly or a hapless victim of any number of James' characters.
Though my acting skills paled in comparison to James, I was always happy to do it. Doing anything but the funniest or most extreme never made sense.
I moved to Chicago in 2013. James and I were in Level 3 together at iO. Level 3 is all about patient earnest scene work. Something James and I loved to successfully fail at. James would remind me within in a scene that my body was a refrigerator and would open it to find a row of penguins walk out. Now this is dumb . . . but everyone in the room would lose it. All the time. Our teacher, Jason Shotts, would stop the class and say “you know how I tell you there are these rules and proper ways to do scenes?”
The class would answer “yes.”
Jason would point at us on stage and say “some people just don’t need to follow the rules.”
James couldn’t be ruled. He was a comedy monster. The best kind. You can never reprimand him because he would make you laugh as you tried. He was the funniest person in any room he was in.
“That’s Chicago, New York for ya baby!” -James Conklin