Seven months after stepping off a plane at Midway after relocating from Denver, comedian Basil Faraj took the stage on a Thursday night in front of a sold-out crowd in the backroom of Cole's — a dive bar in Wicker Park that houses one of the hottest weekly open mics in the city — and introduced socio-political comedian Hari Kondabolu. Half the crowd went wild, while the other half looked around confused, wondering what to expect. Kondabolu's appearance had been kept a secret, with promotions for the show hinting only at "a national headliner." The show was a new showcase titled "Woke Up, Stand Up" that seeks to provide a platform for LGBTQ performers and performers of color. Securing a performer of Kondabolu's stature — he has released two comedy specials, co-hosts a podcast with fellow comedian (and former Chicagoan) W. Kamau Bell and regularly appears on the late-night TV circuit — for a first-time event in a room the size of Cole's was a major coup. And Faraj knows it. Now he wants to build on that precedent and make "Woke Up, Stand Up" an established comedy show sought out by audiences and comedians alike. "I got to Chicago and I noticed that there are a lot of great clubs here and I love them all, but I just wasn't seeing the headliners I wanted to see," Faraj says in the empty backroom of Cole's after the show, as music blares around us. "So I wanted to create this space where these national people could come and sort of do their thing and work out material, interact with audiences. Basically anyone who society considers 'other,' I wanted to create a comedy space for them." While Chicago has LGBTQ shows (The Kiki at Laugh Factory, Baby Wine at The Annoyance, the recently-ended SPACE at The Revival) and collectives comprised of people of color (The Martin Luther Kings of Comedy, PREACH!), Faraj — who has a Turkish father, a Sudanese mother and describes his look as "off-brand Jeff Goldblum" — wanted to create something more, to use a buzzword, intersectional in nature. "All these groups share the same struggles, but I think sometimes we get siloed and sometimes we silo ourselves," he says. "And to me it's the same. It's different flavors of the same