No city packs in the laughs quite like Chicago does. Here are seven of the best comedy clubs in the Windy City.
Any fan of stand-up comedy will likely be aware that Chicago is among the world’s greatest breeding grounds for stand-up comedians. There’s a strong leaning towards improv comedy in the Windy City that is synonymous with The Second City, which opened its doors to performers in 1959 and now has an alumni list that reads as a veritable who’s who of the comedy world. So, if you want to watch the next potential Tina Fey, Keegan-Michael Key, Stephen Colbert or Bob Odenkirk take to the stage and try to figure it all out, then be sure to pay a visit to one of these great Chicago comedy clubs. Please note that you must be 21 or older to visit many of these clubs listed.
One of the great Chicago comedy institutions, Zanies, has been around since 1978 and it oozes old school charm inside and out. If there’s a notable, household name in America’s stand-up comedy world, you can guarantee they have performed at Zanies at least a dozen times. Photos and drawings of many of them adorn every wall and wooden beam, including Dave Chapelle, Roseanne Barr, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock. There are daily shows, mostly specials by individual comedians, but the occasional showcase of up-and-coming talent, too.
1548 N Wells St
Improvisational comedy as we know it today began in Chicago’s cultured South Side neighborhood of Hyde Park back in 1955 when the Compass Players held its first ever show at a building on 1152 E 55th street. A few members of this seminal group went on to form The Second City. In 2015, The Revival opened just a few doors down from that original site, bringing improv back to the South Side. This is Chicago’s most authentic comedy performance space, where performers have nothing but a bar brick wall behind them. There’s stand-up on Thursdays and improv on Saturdays.
1160 E 55th St
The Second City
Everyone from Catherine O’Hara and Bill Murray to Amy Poehler and Steve Carrell spent quality time at The Second City in the early phase of their careers. Recently entering new ownership, it’s too soon to tell whether this legendary company will remain the same potent force it used to be. Their main club is a block from Lincoln Park. The Best of Second City is a nightly showcase of the touring company’s best sketches and improvisations through the years. Heck, if you think you’ve got what it takes, they even have classes.
230 W North Ave
The Comedy Clubhouse
It might not have the pedigree brand of some of the other comedy spots in Chicago, but the Comedy Clubhouse is the kind of intimate venue atmosphere that fame has killed off at those other places. In fact, not only are the shows consistently rated highly here, but One Group Mind (the organization who run the shows) is also quietly amassing a list of successful alumni of its own. The group’s ethos is exemplary: run like a union, members pay monthly subs in exchange for training and a chance to perform, and they gain a cut of the door on show nights, which run nightly from Tuesday to Sunday each week. There’s a liquor and food licence, so feel free to turn up hungry.
1462 N Ashland Ave
Originally starting in Hollywood, California, Laugh Factory has become a dependable chain of comedy clubs that manage to attract top names in the stand-up world and the Chicago site is no different. There are nightly shows, often with around six or seven comedians taking to the stage. Occasionally a celebrity name may put in an appearance to work out some newer material. Tickets are reasonably priced but please note there’s a two-drink minimum per person here (including non-alcoholic beverages).
3175 N Broadway
The Comedy Bar
One of the larger comedy clubs in Chicago is The Comedy Bar, located right on the Magnificent Mile a few blocks from Navy Pier and Lake Michigan. There are nightly shows, with local stand-up comedians usually headlining the weekend slots, while midweek sees popular formats like Late Nite Mic bringing emerging talent to the stage. Seating in this 140-cap venue is at individual tables and guests are frequently seen tucking into a deep-dish pizza from Gino’s East, one of great Chicago pizza joints in the same building as The Comedy Bar.
162 E Superior St
Up in Lake View East is The Annoyance Theatre, which has changed locations many times over the years, but has currently settled with a dual stage space, allowing them to run a diverse roster of shows. This is the place to go for the avant-garde comedy fan. The comedy remit is broad here, with audience-led improv, experimental stand-up and sketch review shows, among other offerings. As with a number of the other venues on this list, you can take part in classes in stand-up, improv and comedy writing here.
851 W Belmont Ave
Honorable Mention: Whilst mostly catering to big name music acts that pass through Chicago on tour, The Chicago Theatre is the place to check out for some of the biggest names in comedy performing their best work while on tour. Chris Rock, Jim Jefferies and Ricky Gervais were all scheduled to perform at the time of research.
175 N State St