Best Comedy Clubs in Chicago

Where to bust a gut in the funniest city in the world

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STAGE 773
1225 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-327-5252; stage773.com
What it offers: Improv, sketch, and standup
Backstory: Better than perhaps anyone on the scene, Brian Posen, Stage 773’s artistic director, knows how to mount a festival. Operating out of the former Theatre Building Chicago in Lake View, which underwent a $1.7 million renovation last year, Stage 773 offers four affordable rental facilities. Since 2002, Posen has produced the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, which in January drew more than 1,000 performers in 163 shows. In June, the venue will host its first Chicago Women’s Funny Festival.
Best for: The comedy lover whose idea of a good time is hopping from show to show to show
Must see: Street Tempo Theatre’s Little Shop of Horrors, April 9 through June ($15 to $38); Claymore Productions’ Exquisite Corpse, April 14 at 10:30 p.m. ($10)

UP COMEDY CLUB and THE SECOND CITY
230 W. North Ave., 3rd fl., 312-662-4562, upcomedyclub.com; 1616 N. Wells St., 312-337-3992, secondcity.com
What it offers: Improv, sketch, and standup
Backstory: When a vacancy arose in Piper’s Alley, the building complex in Old Town that houses The Second City’s stages and training center, the sketch comedy megabrand said it was venturing into standup. So far, UP, the brand-new luxe 300-seat cabaret theatre, features improv and sketch shows more than nationally known comics, but expect that ratio to even out in the coming months. Meanwhile, downstairs, The Second City Mainstage will present its 100th revue this month. It features Tim Baltz and Mary Sohn—who played an awkward couple in Sky’s the Limit on the E.T.C. stage—along with Steve Waltien (of iO’s Improvised Shakespeare Company) and returning cast members Edgar Blackmon, Holly Laurent, and Katie Rich.
Best for: Your future in-laws, who want to see what all the fuss is about (and are footing the bill)
Must see: The Second City’s Improv All-Stars, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. ($16); 100th revue at the Mainstage, Tuesdays through Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and 11 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m. ($23 to $28)

ZANIES
1548 N. Wells St.; 312-337-4027, chicago.zanies.com
What it offers: Standup only
Backstory: “I’ve been working honky-tonks, gin joints, and third-rate smoke-filled fornicatoriums,” said the emcee of Zanies’ Rising Star Showcase recently. That sounds about right: Since 1978, Zanies has been a haven for nomadic comics and local neophytes. Hundreds of signed headshots dot the walls—including Carey, Leno, and Seinfeld—many addressed to Rick Uchwat, Zanies’ founder, who died last May. Zanies gives back to the Old Town community with Good Neighbor Tuesdays, when those who live or work in the 60610, 60611, and 60614 Zip Codes get in free (a $25 value!). The newest Chicagoland location opens in May in Rosemont; the others are in St. Charles and Vernon Hills. Words of caution: If you have the two-drink minimum at each of the four locations in a single night, you might find yourself in a fornicatorium.
Best for: Die-hard fans of standup, because every night there are comics who kill and comics who bomb
Must see: Pat McGann is the house emcee for April; Greg Proops, April 19 to 21 ($27); Doug Benson, April 24 at 8:30 p.m. ($22); two-drink minimum

 

And don’t miss these spring headliners . . .

John Hodgman
April 1 at UP Comedy Club
upcomedyclub.com

Daniel Tosh
April 19 at the Chicago Theatre
thechicagotheatre.com

Carol Burnett
May 8 at the Rialto Square Theatre
rialtosquare.com

D. L. Hughley
May 25 to 27 at the Improv
improv.com/comedyclub/chicago

Aziz Ansari
June 15 at the TBS Just for Laughs Festival
justforlaughschicago.com

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