DESTINATIONS
EXPERIENCE
DESTINATIONS
EXPERIENCE
Pictured: Kiley Fitzgerald, E.J. Cameron, Claire McFadden, Evan Mills, Julia Morales, Andy Bolduc. Photo by Timothy M. Schmidt for The Second City.

5 MUST-VISIT CHICAGO COMEDY CLUBS

BY HEIDI MITCHELL
The Midwest may not be known for its sense of humor, but Chicagoans sure are. At least 40 notable writers and recognizable cast members on “Saturday Night Live” have gotten their start in the Windy City, many of them on the stage of The Second City in Lincoln Park. Natives include current darlings Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, and Vanessa Brayer, but there’s also Chicagolanders Laurie Metcalf, Adam McKay, Bob Odenkirk, Seth Meyers, Bill Murray, John Belushi…the list goes on and on.
There’s clearly something in the water.
Or in the audience.
Performers will often remark how much they enjoy playing at comedy clubs in Chicago, since the ticket holders give such a crackling energy. That give-and-take is especially evident in small venues where comics hone their chops and finesse a joke to perfection. All are within a short distance from
Sentral Michigan Avenue
and all promise belly laughs worth 1,000 sit-ups.
In need of a good chuckle? Here are five of the best comedy clubs in Chicago — from Lincoln Park to the South Side —
worth traveling for
.

1. ANNOYANCE THEATRE

If absurd and outrageous humor is your bag — and you’re not easily offended — then make haste to Uptown’s
Annoyance Theatre
. Here, the ensemble cast take to the stage nightly to put up original parodies of not-so-funny films, like “Uncut Gems,” or make new genres out of whole cloth, like founder Mike Napier’s recent “mentalism meets improv” during the show “Trigger Happy.” Annoyance Theatre also hosts classes and even a 24-week residency, which is probably why the longstanding company has churned out generations of funny folks, from Stephen Colbert and Jason Sudeikis to Jane Lynch and Jon Favreau.

2. THE COMEDY CLUBHOUSE

Scripted, stand-up, improv, jugglers, rappers — all comedy is created equally at the
Comedy Clubhouse
, which wins awards annually from local publications for its laughs, served with hefty sides of craft beer and pizza. The Wicker Park establishment saves its stage on many evenings for improv battles, but there are plenty of nights to catch sketch shows, stand-up and more. The acclaimed One Group Mind Improvisers Guild holds court here regularly and can make an entire show out of but one audience suggestion.

3. THE SECOND CITY

As the leading Chicago improv comedy club in town,
The Second City
now has three locations, but the original in Old Town remains the best, even now that it’s owned by a private equity firm. First opened in 1959, Second City has served as the breeding grounds for many a household name, including Eugene Levy, Tina Fey, Jordan Peele, Amy Poehler, Steve Carrell, John Candy, and Dan Aykroyd. Started by two University of Chicago students (read: smartypants), the still-divey spot shines the limelight on rising talent seven nights a week, which means you can catch the country’s next comedic star before they move from the Third Coast to Hollywood.

4. THE REVIVAL

Hyde Park is known for lots of things, but for 60 years, it didn’t have much of a comedy scene — despite the fact that improv actually started here, in the back of a bar on 55th and University by a group of students who would later go on to found Second City. In 2015, prodigal son and producer John Stoops decided it was high time his birthplace reclaimed its heritage, so he opened
The Revival
on that same corner. The 150-seat cabaret gives the stage over to young talent. A little tip: Don’t grab a stool or a drink at the bar if you’re easily offended…these upstarts can do insults like they invented the genre.

5. ZANIES

Don’t call it a chain: The original
Zanies
is here, on Wells in Old Town, and is just as riotous as it was back in 1978. Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, and Kathy Griffin performed here back in the day, and you can still find talent that kills on stand-up nights and events like Wednesdays After Work with just $10 tickets! (Planning a trip to Chicago? Find out
budget-friendly travel tips here
.) Every stripe of comedian is represented in the small space, from middle-aged wives who “identify as single” to differently-abled political jokesters to really anyone who has an opinion about the Midwest.

CHECKING OUT THE BEST COMEDY CLUBS IN CHICAGO AND SPENDING MORE TIME IN THE CITY?
Stay for a little while or live for longer at
Sentral Michigan Avenue
.

ABOUT THE WRITER 
A lifelong New Yorker who has traveled to more countries than states — often on assignment for publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, and Town & Country — Heidi Mitchell moved to the Third Coast, aka Chicago, five years ago. She has spent a ridiculous amount of her time in the Windy City attempting to explore (and dine in) each of the city's 77 distinct neighborhoods. Next up: Summer urban music festivals!

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