Chicago: Comedy’s Breeding Ground
30 October 2018
Chicago has a reputation for being one of the best cities for comedy among audiences and students. For decades, it has been the breeding ground for top comedic talent, producing greats like Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Bill Murray. It begs the question: how did Chicago become THE destination for comedy?
Whether it’s sketch, stand-up or improv, this city has all the resources for those looking to hone their comedy craft. And for residents of 1000M who are looking to improve their acting and comedic ability — or to just have a laugh or two — read on. We’re sharing info about some of the best comedy clubs and schools throughout Chicago.
The Second City
It seems only right to begin with the comedic mecca of Chicago, The Second City, where improvisational theatre in the U.S. began. Paul Sills, inspired by the games that his mother played with the children at Chicago’s historic Hull House, opened The Second City with co-founders Bernie Sahlins and Howard Alk in 1959.
A year later, The Second City began offering its first improv workshops. In 1967, the troupe moved to their permanent location at 1616 North Wells, where the theatre still stands today. Today, the theatre offers a wide variety classes to both adults and children that not only produce great comedians, but great performers in general.
The Second City is located at 1616 North Wells. Visit their site to view their show calendar and class schedule.
Founded in 1981 by Del Close and Charna Halpern, iO, or the “ImprovOlympic” as it was formally called, began as a way for teams to compete in front of audiences. This later evolved into a comedy form known as the “Harold,” in which performers create a series of scenes based off a suggestion from the audience that follows a single narrative. This type of “long-form” improv really found its structure at iO.
The theater has had a handful of homes over its 37 years in business; their permanent and largest being their current location in Lincoln Park. There are four separate theaters spanning two floors, with table service for food and drink. Like Second City, iO also offers a variety of classes, from improv to video production.
iO Chicago is located at 1501 N Kingsbury St. Check out the iO website for a list of shows and classes.
The Annoyance Theater
Describing an experience at The Annoyance Theater is a lot like hearing an astronaut describe being in space; you just had to be there. Founded by Mick Napier in the late 80s, the focus of the Annoyance is to produce a great show, regardless of what it takes to pull that off. If iO gave improv its structure, then Annoyance gave it flexibility.
The company’s improvisers take inspiration from films and television, politics and popular culture to create and perform their original material. And if you’re looking to strengthen your individual voice, look into their workshops in improvisation, writing, musical improvisation, acting, and solo performance.
The Annoyance Theater & Bar is located at 851 W Belmont. Check their site for a list of shows and classes.
Zanies Comedy Club
If you’re looking for a more streamlined comedic delivery, setup and punchline, then head to Zanies, which celebrates 40 years of stand-up, seven nights a week. Since they opened doors in 1988, they honor a format where a host introduces a featured comic before the headliner performs. It’s a tribute to the quality of their program that Zanies remains vital and continues to deliver its unique comedy experience in a club setting.
Zanies is located in the Old Town neighborhood at 1548 North Wells Street. Visit their Chicago site for all the latest shows. (They also have 3 other locations in Rosemont, St. Charles and Nashville.)
When you’re up for a night of comedy, fiinding the right show can a tough decision. If you’re entertaining guests from out of town, then The Second City is always a great choice. For more refined humor, you might want to take in a show at iO or Zanies. But, if hilarity and chaos are more up your alley, then check out the Annoyance.
All of these locations are accessible via public transit which is only a block away from 1000M!