In a city as comedy-centric as Chicago, no one neighborhood can claim to be the destination for comedy fans. Old Town will always have Second City and Zanies; pH Productions and the Neo-Futurists draw connoisseurs to Andersonville. But even though iO moved south to the Clybourn Corridor in 2014, Lakeview may have the highest concentration of comedy clubs of any ’hood in the city. With the Annoyance Theatre's relocation from Uptown to Belmont Avenue and the opening of the new Under the Gun Theater and Public House Theatre all in the last few years, plus music venues like the Vic Theatre and Schubas occasionally hosting touring comics, Lakeview has laughs to offer every night of the week.
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Comedy venues in Lakeview
Annoyance put itself on the map with its famously distasteful gross-out musical Co-Ed Prison Sluts. Twenty-plus years later, it still cranks out bizarre, unconventional comedy. Its new home on Belmont gives it two performance venues and classroom space all in the same building, along with a lobby bar worth visiting even if you're not seeing a show.
Jamie Masada's SoCal comedy club empire established a Chicago foothold in 2012, refurbishing the former Lakeshore Theater space. The club offers lineups of local comics several nights a week, with the occasional touring headliner.
A ref keeps the score as dueling improv troupes battle it out at the Chicago version of this national brand (which relies heavily on audience participation). Most shows are squeaky clean and family-friendly, but late-night "blue" shows on the weekends can get a little edgier. The Belmont Avenue venue also hosts stand-up showcase 100 Proof Comedy on Monday nights.
While not exclusively a comedy venue, this multispace venue plays host to a number of festivals, including January's influential Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival (more commonly known simply as SketchFest), the Chicago Women's Funny Festival in June and Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival in August. Stage 773 is also home to long-running troupes like Cupid Has a Heart On, and independent sketch and improv shows often rent its theaters.
The nation's only not-for-profit co-op theater devoted to the art of improvisation is an excellent place for young teams to practice their craft. The programming is often experimental and incredibly hit or miss, but there's no denying the youthful, infectious energy that pervades the place.
Former Upright Citizens Brigade NYC artistic director Kevin Mullaney and Chemically Imbalanced Comedy founder Angela McMahon took over the old Links Hall space in Wrigleyville in 2014, opening a new venue for improv and sketch. Many of UTG's original shows tend toward pop-culture parodies; it's also played host to long-running troupes like the female improvisers of Sirens and Asian-American sketch company Stir Friday Night.
The producers of the long-running Bye Bye Liver: The Chicago Drinking Play now have their own venue a few blocks north of Wrigley Field, where the flagship drunkfest fits right in. It's supplemented by short-run shows from up-and-coming sketch groups and the occasional scripted comedy.
Formerly known as Studio BE, this storefront venue rebranded as MCL Chicago in 2014. The initials stand for Music Comedy Live, reflecting the programming's focus on musical improv and sketch.