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The Second City
Photograph: Timothy M. SchmidtThe Second City

The 7 best Chicago comedy clubs for a good laugh

Chicago comedy clubs abound. These are our favorite full-time venues for stand-up, sketch and improv comedy.

Written by
Kris Vire
&
Marty Johnson
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Improv and stand-up are the kind of performance art that is traditionally associated with L.A. and NYC. While some might only ascribe such entertainment heroes to those coastal pillars, the Midwest has certainly earned our own sassmouth capital. Chicago's reputation as a comedy town is well-deserved: It's the city where improv was born and sketch was refined, where Saturday Night Live comes looking when it needs to replenish the well. It was here that Nichols met May and Poehler met Fey. The best comedy clubs in Chicago cultivate and build on that rich history to ensure that the city will always be a place where young talent can thrive for years to come. From the Second City to Zanies, these are the best comedy clubs in Chicago for a good laugh.

Chicago's best comedy clubs

The Second City
  • Comedy
  • Comedy clubs
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

Located in Old Town, Second City is undoubtedly the crown jewel of comedy in Chicago. This is the place that put both sketch and improvised comedy on the map while launching the careers of many distinguished comics including Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Chris Farley, Keegan-Michael Key, Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell—to name a few. With long-running revues on both the main and e.t.c. stages and a number of smaller spaces for Second City Training Center students to hone their skills, the long-running institution has made the corner of North Avenue and Wells Street a comedy destination.

  • Comedy
  • Comedy clubs
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

Annoyance put itself on the map with its famously distasteful gross-out musical Co-Ed Prison Sluts. Three decades later, it still cranks out bizarre, unconventional comedy. Opened in 2014, its new home on Belmont gives it two performance venues and classroom space all in the same building, as well as a homey bar where you can rub elbows with the next generation of comedy influencers.

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  • Comedy
  • Comedy clubs
  • Lake View

Jamie Masada's SoCal stand-up club empire established a Chicago foothold back in 2012, refurbishing the former Lakeshore Theater space. The club offers lineups of local comics several nights a week, with the occasional touring headliner. The venue's main show, “Chicago’s Best Stand Up,” offers the a rotating lineup of some of the city's top laugh-makers.

The Revival
  • Comedy
  • Comedy clubs
  • Hyde Park

Located in the heart of Chicago’s South Side, Revival makes its home at the corner of 55th Street and University Ave, the supposed birthplace of improv comedy. Catch shows on most Friday and Saturday nights, or sign up for a class or workshop—Revival has options for both adults and little ones.

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  • Comedy
  • Wicker Park

The Comedy Clubhouse is operated by One Mind Group, an improvisers' union that charges its members a monthly fee in exchange for training, performances and use of its Wicker Park space. The B.Y.O.B.-friendly venue offers scripted, improvised and stand-up comedy. Some of its most successful alums have gone on to appear in laugh-out-loud TV shows like The Office, Community and Saturday Night Live.

Zanies
  • Comedy
  • Comedy clubs
  • Old Town
  • price 2 of 4

Remember the olden days when comedy clubs with a two-drink minimum policy ruled? That era is long gone, but this venerable example has managed to hang on. The 40-year-old comedy here is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Zanies offers stage time to up-and-comers while paying tribute to some of the greats, but both the venue and the comics can, at other times, feel a bit dusty.

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The Comedy Bar
  • Comedy
  • Stand-up
  • River North

Local headliners rule at this downtown stand-up room, which recently moved from the Ontourage night club to the third floor above Gino's East in River North.

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