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Photograph: Anthony McBrien

Unusual comedy rooms

Not all stand-up happens in a club or dive bar.


Is your two-drink-minimum comedy club boring you? Relax, here’s where to find stand-up…

…in a Mexican restaurant
It’s Saturday night in the suburbs and you’ve got a badass craving for enchiladas. Dammit, if only a Bayless restaurant were closer. Instead you discover a joint called Cancun City at the corner of Algonquin Road and Lee Street in Des Plaines and settle in for margaritas and mole. Suddenly, the lights dim. What!? There can’t be a show happening; there are only three occupied tables (including a totally chatty and uninterested family of four). Nevertheless, a half dozen comics take the stage at 9pm for a weekly joke night at Gladys’ Cancun City Comedy Room (1261 E Algonquin Rd, Des Plaines; 847-298-3264). Most drown under the stress of the thin crowd, but Chicago headliner Mike Sheehan swoops in and milks the “crowd” for every laugh, despite the fact the kitchen crew has turned off the lights and called it a night.

…in a sex shop
You and your significant other are horny as hell and decide to spice up your Monday with some new action in the bedroom (or bathroom, or back porch or wherever). You hit the Pleasure Chest around 8pm to stock up on goodies. A cock ring for him? A strap-on for her? But in the back of the store, some lady with a Morrissey quiff who calls herself Rhea Butcher is cracking wise to a crowd of about 30. Next thing you know sibling comics the Puterbaugh Sisters are delivering jokes using vibrators as microphones. Welcome to Performance Anxiety (3436 N Lincoln Ave, 773-525-7151), a new night of stand-up happening monthly on Mondays at 8pm and based on a show created by T.J. Miller in Los Angeles. Half a dozen comics take the stage; many are funny as hell. Maybe you should grab a six-pack from the liquor store next door and have a seat. After all, guests of the show receive 15 percent off all items in the store.

…in a bookstore
They’ve just announced the finalists for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, so you hit your favorite bookstore in search of a summer beach read. Its café is filled with ladies. What’s going on? If E.L. James is here to do a reading, why is the crowd cracking up? Maybe it’s because Nellie Huggins is reading from the diary she kept as a teen or Natalie Jose is cracking up the crowd with brassy relationship humor. You’ve stumbled upon the Kates (4736 N Lincoln Ave, 773-293-2665), a night of comedy produced by Kelsie Huff and happening every second Friday at 8pm and every last Saturday at 7pm at the Book Cellar. Do yourself a favor, grab a spritzed beverage and a pastry (go for the chocolate toffee scone if it’s fresh) and settle in for an amusing night of estrogen-fueled comedy.

…in someone’s basement
Who is this kooky bearded fellow who seemingly rolled out of bed and is now dropping one-liners in his briefs? More important, how did you let a friend drag you all the way up to Rogers Park to watch an afternoon of stand-up comedy in the same beat-up house the band members of Alkaline Trio lived in years ago? Relax, you’re at Sunday Bloody Sunday, a bimonthly basement comedy show produced by Goodrich Gevaart and Nicholas Rouley and featuring local stand-ups like Bill Cruz, Nate Simmons, Stephanie Hasz and Joe McAdam. Give in and giggle; just pray the worn ceiling doesn’t collapse on you.

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