Lately the term “experimental comedy” has gotten tossed around a lot in the Chicago comedy scene, but the label is vague. Ultimately, in my opinion, it's any type of live comedy that breaks the convention of a stand-up comedian doing a straight performance of prepared material and bits. This can be slinging jokes while blindfolded or performing while jumping rope. Sure, it might sound a little gimmicky, and some comics definitely think this art form is hard enough without additional hurdles thrown at them.
Like it or not, experimental comedy has struck a chord with more and more showcases incorporating new quirks and non-traditional formats. Here are some of the best experimental shows in Chicago.
Late Late Breakfast at the Hideout This "Saturday afternoon hangover" comedy show takes the potentially boring convention of your standard open mics and turns it on its head. Frenzied challenges, crazy games and spontaneous performances keep the comedians and crowd on their toes. Some Saturdays, 3–5pm. Check website.
Sean White’s BEEF at Hi-Tops BEEF is a comedy roast on LSD. It takes the standard insult show template and turns into an insane game show hybrid. Comics get pitted against each other in various challenges in which they have to try to burn the other opponent based rules they have no idea about until they arrive. First Fridays at 9pm, 2462 N Lincoln Ave.
"Arguments and Grievances" at Schubas A&G is a live comedy debate and podcast featuring comedians debating dumb topics such as “McRib vs. MacBeth” and “Hugs vs. Drugs” with the audience choosing the victor. First Sundays at 8pm.
"I SHIT YOU NOT!" at Logan Theatre Although the format is traditional, the topic of this show is, well, unsettling. The basic premise: Performers go up and tell stories of shitting themselves. Yep, tales of incontinence and anal sex gone bad abound. Last Thursdays at 8pm.
The Social Take Over at Laugh Factory Chicago Chicago comedians take over audience members' social media accounts. The show starts off normal enough—three comedians do short sets to warm up the crowd—but then it gets real and as volunteers come onstage to have their Facebook pages, Twitter accounts hacked. Hilarious. Everything from sudden marriage announcements to pregnancy scares, all live on stage. Wednesdays at 8pm