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Mike Houlihan: Chicago’s Multi-Talented Hooligan

September 19, 2011 | By | 1 Comment

Update: we dropped a note to Mike, asking what he’s doing, and he let us know that he’s a busy as ever!

He’s still in post-production on his epic documentary, “Our Irish Cousins,” and posted a trailer on the website.

Last February and March the prologue to “Our Irish Cousins,” entitled “Her Majesty, ‘da Queen” was broadcast on WTTW Chicago Public Television. “Her Majesty, ‘da Queen” is a humorous sneak peek backstage at the annual Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen Contest. Also Houlihan and crew continue with their radio show every Saturday afternoon on WCEV 1450AM, The Skinny & Houli Show. They’re in the midst of a movement to revive the legendary Southside Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade for 2012. More info and podcast on this at

And he also continues his monthly column in The Irish American News,

Below is our feature about Mike from November 14, 2010:

Margaret Ann Stewart

Mike Houlihan, Hooliganism Stories

When you talk with Mike Houlihan –the owner of Mike Houlihan Creative, a Chicago-based advertising, production and public relations firm– you instantly understand how he has been able to sustain a career in show business for decades. He is a charismatic man that is quick to find humor in anything, even the most serious of topics – but that would be expected from a man whose favorite line from a film is, “anything from Caddy Shack.” Yet, at the same time he is a man that is immensely proud of his family and that is engulfed in understanding and learning about his Irish heritage – in fact that has been a significant factor in his filmmaking.

Houlihan is also a writer and performer, as well as a former columnist for the Chicago Sun Times. On stage, Houlihan has performed throughout the country at such prestigious theatres as the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., The Kennedy Center, The Beverly Art Center and the Royal George Theatre. As a producer and director, his New York company, Penumbra Productions, earned him the “New York Drama Desk Award for outstanding production of a revival.” In television, Houlihan won the International Television Association PHILO Award for Public Service Media, for his production of Takin’ Back Bucktown. His current feature film in release is Tapioca, starring Ben Vereen and Tim Kazurinsky. In addition to his work on stage, television and film, Houlihan is also a stand-up comic at clubs such as Zanie’s and Barrel of Laughs and he is a regular guest on Chicago Public Radio.


Mike Houlihan, Tapioca

Houlihan has been doing film for ten years. Two of the most significant people that Houlihan works with are his twin sons, Paddy and Billy. Paddy Houlihan is a screenwriter and was the director for Tapioca, while Billy is an executive producer. Houlihan’s film family also includes his trusted film editor, Roger Wolski, who Houlihan believes is an “amazing talent” in the Chicago film industry, as well as Joe Williams and Joe Fitzgerald, Houlihan’s cinematographers.

Mike Houlihan’s first film was Tapioca, originally a stage play that Mike produced with his sons, Paddy and Billy. Mike says, “It was a show with comic skits about the homeless,” which may not seem funny, but as Mike contends, “life is funny, you just have to find the humor in it – and it’s everywhere.”

When the show came to a close, Mike’s son suggested that they film it and suddenly a new adventure in entertainment opened up for Mike. He raised $200,000 for the film and, with contacts that he had made as a writer, got Ben Vereen and “some guys from Second City” to star in it. The film was presented at the Geneva Film Festival and won for Best Feature Film.

Now in post-production is Houlihan’s Our Irish Cousins. The idea for the film spun off of a book that Houlihan wrote entitled, Hooliganism, which focused on Irish Americans and that is also the title of his column for the Irish American News. The film centered on one question that Mike wanted to know the answer to: “What is the difference between an Irish American and an Irishman from Ireland?” To answer the question Mike took a film crew and they followed Houlihan around the country to different Irish festivals, as well as to Ireland itself. Once in Ireland, when not on stage doing stand-up, Houlihan was asking people his primary question. He said, “What I found out was that everybody with an Irish background is Ireland” – a group of people that are all connected by Irish blood. The answer was significant because it was during the making of the film that Houlihan discovered how important film was in being able to explore the world and find answers to the questions in life that mattered most. According to Houlihan, that is one of the most fascinating aspects of filmmaking.


Mike Houlihan, front.

One of Mike Houlihan’s many talents is screenwriting. His script, Ballhawk, is a comedy baseball story that won the Illinois Film Office Screenwriting Award for best screenplay. “That’s a script,” Mike says, “that I either plan to produce myself or sell to someone else.” The fact is that Mike produces most of his screenwriting work himself because he believes he is capable of ensuring that his vision for the script is what will appear on film.

Houlihan also mentions that he has partially written a comic zombie script that he would like to complete one day entitled, My Brother, the Zombie. Mike says that he got the idea for the script after his brother passed away six years ago and he had a dream that his brother came back to life as a zombie – a comedic zombie, of course – and he wanted to complete the script in his brother’s memory. That hasn’t occurred yet, however, because of the multiple other projects that Mike has written, including his most recent film, Her Majesty ‘da Queen.

Current Projects

Her Majesty ‘da Queen is premiering the night of November 13, 2010 at the Irish American Heritage Center at 7:30 P.M. The film is a documentary, that is oddly also a comedy, and that centers on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade queen’s contest. Like Our Irish Cousins, Houlihan took a film crew and shot on location over the course of two years at actual queen’s contests. The film not only features prominent Irish-Americans, but it also takes a close up view of the people connected to the pageants, including the women who vie for the crown.

Learn more about Mike at and


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Comments (1)

  1. Is there something that Mike doesn’t do? :)
    Seriously, he is amazing,…

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