Comic from Minnesota dies in fall down smokestack at Chicago hotel

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 13, 2012 - 10:08 PM

Nicholas Wieme "had a really sharp sense of humor."

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Chicago firefighters responded to the report of a man who fell down a chute early Thursday at the Intercontinel Hotel.

Photo: Peter Nickeas, Chicago Tribune

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A Minnesota man who recently moved to Chicago and was working as a comedian found his way to the roof of a 42-story downtown hotel in his new hometown, then fell a short distance early Thursday while shooting photographs and died, authorities said.

Nicholas Wieme, who grew up in the western Minnesota city of Pipestone, fell 22 feet down a smokestack shortly after 1 a.m. while atop the InterContinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue, according to the Fire Department and the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Fire rescue personnel pulled Wieme out a few hours later and took him to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he died shortly after 5 a.m., the department said.

Wieme and his girlfriend had dined at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse in the hotel Wednesday evening and then went to "explore" the hotel, police said. They took the elevator to the top floor and entered the restricted rooftop deck through an unsecured door.

Department spokeswoman Meg Ahlheim said that Wieme was communicating with his girlfriend, either with phone calls or by texting, and that firefighters had maintained contact with him until about 3:15 a.m.

Wieme was wedged in the chute where it turned at an angle before dropping about 42 floors, Ahlheim added. Rescuers had to cut into the shaft below him and lower him down to the opening.

Hotel management declined to field questions about the incident, then released a statement from general manager Raymond Vermolen, who said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the guest at this difficult time. The hotel staff will continue to cooperate fully with authorities in their investigation."

Wieme was the son of Pipestone's longtime KLOH Radio country music DJ Bernie Wieme and graduated from Pipestone High School in 2007. He earned an English degree from Minnesota State University, Moorhead in 2011 and moved to Chicago soon afterward.

He was scheduled to appear Monday as part of a troupe at the iO Improv's Cabaret Theater. Alumni from iO Improv include Tina Fey, Mike Myers and Andy Dick.

Wieme also was registered with Rooftop Comedy, which offers video clips of him performing.

Kyja Nelson, an associate professor at Moorhead who chairs cinema arts and digital technologies instruction, had Wieme as a student in production classes and said he was "very creative and had a really sharp sense of humor."

Nelson said Wieme was "just full of life and almost larger than life in a way. Everything he did, he had fun doing it. That's part of his vibrancy."

It was during college that Wieme took on standup comedy as a hobby, said his brother Jamie Wieme. That led Nick Wieme to Chicago and a shift into improv.

"In this he found even more success," his brother said. "Those that watched him perform often attested that Nick had a way of unintentionally stealing the show."

Nick Wieme's coach at the iO Improv, Matt Higbee, described him as "not only a great comedian but a very skilled filmmaker and storyteller."

"He had such a joyousness," Higbee added, "and you couldn't help but watch him."

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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  • Nick Wieme was killed when he fell into a shaft on the roof of a Chicago hotel where he had gone to take photos.

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