Jean Gudenas, Head of Collections Management at Loyola University Health Sciences Library, has nicely contributed a guest blog post on the Chicago comedy locations. You can also read Hilarious Chicago in the January MLA News. Thanks Jean!
Hilarious Chicago by Jean Gudenas
Chicago is the breeding ground for some of the best comedy in the country, and great comedy is not just limited to large festivals or weekend shows. Although Chicago has gained popularity with TBS Just for Laughs (the largest comedy festival in the country), Chicago has always been a favorite location for headliners and serves as a training arena for those who think they are funny. Second City is especially notorious for starting the careers of many comedians ranging from classics like Joan Rivers and Bill Murry to current favorites such as Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey. To say the least, Chicago has a plethora of comedy venues that will appeal to any sense of humor.
Because many comedy events are often not scheduled until a month or two before the show, check out these venues prior to May to see what will be happening and who might be staring!
Zanies is for the die-hard fans of standup. Zanies has hosted original standup since 1978 and served as the stage to many influential comics like Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld. While there are several locations, the first location in Chicago’s Old Town remains the most popular. Tickets start at $25.00 and is open every night.
Perhaps the most recognizable comedy name in Chicago, Second City has been performing sketch comedy and improv for over 50 years. It seems that many known comedic actors have at one point trained and performed with Second City, and regardless of which show or troupe is seen (typically there are 3 different troupes touring the Mainstage and the E.C.T stage), most likely a future talent is performing. Note that weekend shows often sell out 2-4 weeks beforehand, so it is recommended to reserve tickets in advance. Ticket prices vary depending on show and troupe.
The Playground Theater is a nonprofit cooperative “dedicated to the art of improve comedy.” While this BYOB venue is not the most chic of stages, talents like Jack McBrayer from the show 30Rock obviously feel comfortable to try their brand of comedy. Be prepared for experimental comedy and witnessing potential rising stars. Tickets range from $5.00-$15.00
Best known for training entertainers like Mike Myers, Amy Poehler, and the Upright Citizens Brigande, iO Improv is an improv and sketch show with an underlying philosophy that distinguishes it from any other venue. As opposed to the improv-game that is popular (for instance, Whose Line is it Anyway?), iO concentrates on long improvisational structures coined by Del Close, iO’s founder, as “The Harold.” One cannot explain The Harold without experiencing it, and thankfully with shows 7 nights a week, there is always a chance to understand The Harold! Ticket prices vary depending on the performing show
A nightclub four nights a week and a comedy club three nights a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), The Comedy Bar is partnered by Jim Belushi and features a range of new and established comedians for a rather affordable cost with no drink minimum ($10-$15 a ticket, depending on the show). Located in the North River District on Ontario Street, this is a great venue for experiencing comedy Chicago style.
For additional information on other venues or to learn more about comedy in Chicago, ComedyofChicago is an excellent blog that “supports and promotes the Chicago (as well as national) standup comedy scene.”