A Local’s Guide to the 13 Best Comedy Clubs in Chicago
Welcome to the Second City, a magical place with art, music, deep dish pizza, and—cue the laugh track—comedy! If you’re a fan of hilarious television like “Saturday Night Live” or “The Office,” then you’ve already experienced some of the biggest names to come out of Chicago’s bold comedy scene. This city has garnered laughs from Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Bill Murray, and many more whose careers took flight after training and performing on Chicago stages.
Those living in Chicago can grab tickets to some of the most historic comedy clubs in the country, or try out their own jokes during an open mic session. From improv to stand-up and sketch comedy, here are the 13 best comedy clubs in Chicago:
The best improv comedy clubs in Chicago
1. Second City
One of the Second City’s most prominent landmarks is the aptly named comedy club, Second City, located just outside of Downtown Chicago in the beautiful Old Town neighborhood. This renowned school and theater has a reputation for branding some serious star power. Its programs have been the launch pad for comedic legends such as Jordan Peele, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Bill Murray, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, and countless others.
Witness the next big comedian at a Second City improv brunch, musical show, or murder mystery revue. Those seeking to hone their craft can study performing, writing, directing, and more through the institute’s renowned courses.
2. The Lincoln Lodge
Between Logan Square and Wicker Park sits the Lincoln Lodge, a little theater with big potential to have you in stitches! This club is a local favorite, as it cranks out live improv and stand-up comedy events along with guided training sessions. Those eager to master the art of making audiences laugh can sign up for workshops that include FemCom— geared toward female comedians—or Stand Up Seminary, a class tailored to beginners.
Notable names to grace this stage include Hannibal Buress, Kumail Nanjiani, JT Miller, Fred Armisen, and Chelsea Peretti. Should you decide to partake in the Lincoln Lodge bar service, it is essential to note that food is not available. But fear not! There are a ton of great places to eat in the surrounding area.
3. iO Theater
Don’t be fooled by Lincoln Park’s charming streets, patios, and bakeries—this neighborhood gets rowdy at the iO Theater. The haven for improv lovers shut down during the pandemic but is preparing to make its return in fall 2022. iO is notable for its Improvised Shakespeare, an unscripted, unrehearsed performance of a Shakespeare-play-gone-wrong. The venue also offers myriad training classes and has featured industry names such as Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert on its stage.
4. The Comedy Clubhouse
As one of Chicago’s top-rated comedy clubs, this venue can’t be beat if you’re wanting a fun night out with friends. The Comedy Clubhouse features improv battles where performers duke it out for who can get the most laughs and “main stage mic” showcases featuring some of the best talent in the city. Located in the eclectic neighborhood of Wicker Park, the Clubhouse also offers a kids camp for young children and other fun events.
The best standup comedy clubs in Chicago
1. Laugh Factory
Laugh Factory has been churning out laughs since 1979, with world-famous stages found in just a few cities. Chicago’s northside neighborhood, Lakeview, is home to one. Here, you will witness new talent at an open mic night, vote for your favorite stand-up comedian at “Verified Laughs,” and maybe even catch sight of a special celebrity guest.
Laugh Factory has seen sets performed by Tim Allen, Drew Carey, Jamie Foxx, Roseanne Barr, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Adam Sandler, Robin Williams, Bob Saget, and many more.
This historic comedy club has been making the Windy City laugh for decades. Now, guests have two locations to choose from: the original venue in Old Town and a newer venue in Rosemont, a suburb just outside the city. A number of notable names have seen the Zanies stage, including Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Kathy Griffith, and Gilbert Gottfried.
Zanies doesn’t offer an open mic, but that’s because you’ll find headliners there every single night of the week. Seating at Zanies is first-come-first-serve, so make sure to head to this comedy club early! Do note that guests must be 21 or older to gain admission to a show.
3. The Comedy Bar
First things first: The Comedy Bar is located inside a Gino’s East Pizzeria. This means you can have your fill of deep-dish pizza while enjoying a night of live stand-up comedy. This is the perfect place for a date night, girl’s night, or gathering with friends, as the venue is situated along Chicago’s iconic Magnificent Mile, a premier shopping district in the middle of downtown. During warmer nights, guests can mix and mingle on the outdoor terrace while experiencing some of the funniest jokes the city has to offer. (PSA: You won’t leave hungry!)
4. The Den Theater
The Den Theater’s cozy, intimate venue is tucked away in Wicker Park, but shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s indie, innovative, and an essential part of the local arts scene. Here, you will find stand-up sets galore, boasting local and national talent, as well as plays and parodies. Plus, you’ll get the chance to peruse the Den’s weekly marketplace, where vendors sell food, drink, and merchandise. This theater has become part of the community and it’s well worth the visit.
The best sketch comedy clubs in Chicago
1. Annoyance Theater
Prepare for all things whacky, weird, and wonderful at the Annoyance Theater! Past performers include “SNL” alums Vanessa Bayer and Aidy Bryant, and “The Office” star Kate Flannery. If you’re lucky, you’ll snag a ticket to the company’s flagship sow, Splatter Theater, a wild ride that pays homage to ’80s horror films (Spoiler alert: There is a lot of fake blood!)
Situated on Chicago’s northside, the theater offers performances ranging from a hilarious “whodunnit” to a showcase celebrating LGBTQ+ comedians. In addition to sketch and improv sets, you can find workshops on scene work and performance.
2. Cic Theater
Once you’ve made new friends in your new city, head to the Cic Theater for a BYOT (Bring Your Own Team) game. Participating teams can prepare to unleash their best jokes for this interactive show, though participation is not required to spectate the chaos! In addition to tons of improv, the Cic features a diverse list of sketch acts that pair well with a fun night out on the town. This Lakeview-based venue also offers a unique five-level training curriculum for comics-in-the-making.
The best comedy clubs in the Chicago suburbs
Based outside the city in the suburb of Schaumburg, Improv is part of Improvisation Comedy Clubs, a premier comedy company with venues across the country. Since the company’s inception in 1963, Improv stages have seen the likes of Lily Tomlin, Chris Rock, Dane Cook, Billy Crystal, and tons of other comedic treasures.
Its old-school interior brings you back in time and will make you feel like you’re in an episode of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The venue hosts a diverse range of sketch and improv acts, as well as special “new talent” showcases for those wanting to show off their set.
Oh, it’s also attached to Chicagoland’s largest shopping center, Woodfield Mall, which spans a massive 2.2 million square feet. Shop ’til you drop and enjoy dinner and a show! (Yes, this place has a full menu.)
2. Laugh Out Loud
In case you didn’t get your fill of laughs from Improv, you can head over to the Laugh Out Loud theater, located right next door to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. In addition to offering improv classes, Laugh Out Loud hosts an epic open mic night, where newcomers can pay $5 to guarantee their spot on the night’s roster, or show up 30 minutes before showtime (a safe alternative for those worried they might get cold feet!)
This club offers some family-friendly options for those with kids, as well as adult-oriented comedy. Their lineup includes recurring performances like “The Jam,” where audience members may just end up onstage, and “Laugh Out Loud Classic,” which honors improv’s traditional roots, encouraging audience members to shout out topic suggestions.
The best comedy clubs in Chicago: An honorable mention
Those looking for a traditional comedy set won’t find it here. Still, Drunk Shakespeare makes this list because it’s unique, memorable, and, well, funny. With four locations situated across the country, this 21+ experience is unlike any other. In the Windy City, guests will head past the grandiose Chicago Theater and slip into a speakeasy for this little soiree. Five actors will set the stage, and then one is chosen to take five shots of whiskey while performing one of William Shakespeare’s classic works. From here, the play is certain to go awry and guests are in for a hilarious night.
Thinking about moving to Chicago?
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