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The Revival Wants to Bring Improv Back to the South Side

The new Hyde Park comedy club opens tonight.

The Revival   Photo: John Stoops

Say it’s Friday evening and you’re looking for a night of comedy out on the town. If you live on the North Side, you have a plethora of options.  There’s Up Comedy Club in Lincoln Park, The Laugh Factory in Lake View, Second City in Old Town—not to mention any number of comedy nights at various bars north of Roosevelt Road.

South of Roosevelt, however, there’s the stand-up club Jokes and Notes in Bronzeville … and that’s about it.

Cue The Revival, a 149-seat cabaret-style comedy club opening in Hyde Park tonight, on the corner of 55th and University. Conceived by John Stoops, a longtime theater producer (he founded the Three Oaks Summer Theater Festival in Michigan) and former Leo Burnett adman, The Revival aims to reemphasize improv comedy’s South Side roots. The pioneering Compass Players, whose members included the late director Mike Nichols and comedienne Elaine May, invented the genre in Hyde Park in 1955.

A former cast member of the Second City-affiliated European troupe Boom Chicago, Stoops, 43, first hatched the idea for a Hyde Park comedy club about a year ago. “My wife, four-year-old son, and I moved to Hyde Park, and it gave us a front row seat to all of the incredible development that’s going on here,” he says. “There’s been an explosion of arts-based activity, from the Promontory to the new Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago to the incredible work of Theaster Gates. I approached the University of Chicago and suggested the idea of bringing this art form back to its birthplace.” The university was “wildly supportive,” and offered the lucrative spot on the corner of 55th and University Avenue as a venue.

Lincoln Lodge, the popular Wicker Park stand-up showcase and launch pad for such comic heavyweights as Hannibal Buress and TJ Miller, will mount a new weekly Sunday night show in addition to its Subterranean shows on Friday nights. Expect screenings of such classic comedies as Caddy Shack and Blazing Saddles and Bears games too. There will be a weekly open mic night hosted by local cutup Mr. Greenweedz. The Green Room, a black-centric stand-up showcase, will also have a slot every Saturday as well as The Cricket, a humorous spin on the popular Moth storytelling series, on Thursdays starting in December.

Stoops also plans to include music in the programming. “We want to be cognizant of the history of this corner and while much of our programming will be comedic, it’s being programmed as a traditional cabaret space,” says Stoops. “At the end of the day, we are on the South Side of Chicago, and to be a successful theater you’ve got to have a broad mix.”

Tonight’s soft opening kicks off with Late Night with Conan O’Brien writer Brian McCann’s Talk Show, in which audience members get to play the celebrity guest.

Go Nov. 22 at 8. $5–$10. The Revival, 1160 E. 55th St. the-revival.com

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