Based on the great stand up comedy Chicago provides, we’re not sure we buy this “Second City” nickname. Sure we’ve already discussed that New York City is a mecca for iconic comedy clubs. But just like the pizza, Chicago redefined stand up to make it deeper and more complicated.
Don’t get us wrong, we love NYC pizza and comedy clubs. Both tend to be straightforward and satisfying (at least if they’re done right.) There’s definitely something to be said about catching a stand up show in the Windy City.
What makes stand up comedy Chicago style so different?
It’s hard to pinpoint why a certain city embraces the type of comedy it does. Sometimes, a city’s quirky nature leads local comics to establish oddball clubs. And in Chicago, perhaps, there was a conscious effort to set its scene apart from New York. There are a few things we think make the comedy in this town special.
- There’s tons of variety. Okay, fine. You can find a variety of stand up in any decent sized town. But the stand up comedy Chicago has on tap really runs the gamut.
- There’s a cool vibe. We’re taking the city as a whole here. In any city, the comedy scene varies widely between clubs. But there’s really something for everyone here.
- There’s a rich history. Maybe you grew up on SCTV. Or perhaps you love more recent homegrown humorists like John Mulaney. Either way, Chicago breeds humor.
Here are some of our favorites spots for Chicago laughs
As we mentioned, you can find a wide range of funny acts. Don’t love traditional stand up comedy? Just check out an improv troupe or some other variation. Whatever you’re looking for, if you want to laugh you shouldn’t have a problem.
If you want good (and we mean good) old fashioned stand up, Zanies is your stop. This is where some of the best stand up comedy Chicago has to offer is on display. Huge stars make stops on this stage all the time. And you might see a familiar face or two lurking in the background. After all, this iconic club was co-founded by comedy legend Jim Belushi.
2. Up Comedy Club
This is a great example of this city’s diverse and eclectic comedy scene. On any given night you might find sketch comedy, stand up or a riotous game night. The only common theme that runs through everything in this club is a steady stream of laughter.
3. The Second City
If you know anything about the stand up comedy Chicago is known for, you’ll recognize this club. It basically represents the roots of the improv movement. And the number of legendary comics who rose through its ranks is eye popping. Chances are, at least a few of your favorite funny men and women earned their chops here. Oh, and remember the reference to SCTV earlier? It was these guys.
Are you one of those people who thinks everything is a competition? Well, whether you are or not, we think you’ll get a kick out of Comedysportz. It’s an improvisational battle that is something altogether different every time. The stand up comedy Chicago produces is hardly run of the mill. And some of the most original stuff in the city comes out of this club.
Chicago comedy clubs: Honorable mentions
The locations above are some of our favorites in the city. But there are a LOT more. Even with the honorable mentions below, we’re sure to leave some out.
We’re gonna give it a shot anyway…
- IO — Maybe this location doesn’t carry quite the weight it did in its Improv Olympics heyday. But you can always find some funny characters on stage at this iconic club.
- The Playground — Here’s a bit of an experimental take on comedy. It’s a non-profit co-op, which sounds kinda weird. But the laughs speak for themselves.
- Gorilla Tango Theater — It’s a little burlesque, a little parody, and a lot of fun.