The nation’s future comedy stars are honing their skills right now in Chicago comedy clubs. Our city (which happens to be the home of improv) is full of first-rate comedy venues that offer the best in stand-up, sketch, improv, and more.
No matter where you go, you might discover the latest up-and-coming talent or even catch established comedy stars. Get ready to laugh with this guide to Chicago’s best spots for comedy.
The Second City
For half a century, the cabaret-style theater put sketch and improv on the map, launching the careers of many stars. Tina Fey? Yup, she’s an alum. Steve Carell? Him too. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Stephen Colbert, John Belushi — the list of Saturday Night Live cast members and American comedy masters that trained and performed with The Second City is incredible.
With highly interactive shows that address current issues through social and political satire, the venue’s multiple stages are a showcase for the next generations of comedic geniuses.
The iO Theater
Home of Improvised Shakespeare Chicago, this iconic Lincoln Park comedy club poetically answered the age-old question, “To be or not to be,” with the former. Established in 1981, the iO Theater reopened in a brand new location in the fall of 2022 under new ownership.
Visitors to the revamped venue can look forward to remodeled common areas, a brand-new bar, and four theatre spaces. Boasting noteworthy alum like Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, and Chris Farley, the iO remains an enduring fixture in the Chicago comedy scene, featuring long-form improv shows that riff on everything from pop culture to real-life experiences.
In Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, Laugh Factory is known for its impressive roster of stand-up comedians that include local acts to the biggest names in the industry. The historic venue originally debuted as a 525-seat movie house in 1915 and was reopened as the Laugh Factory in 2011. The facade and the lobby maintain their original detailing, while the stage now hosts some of today’s hottest comedy acts.
Want healthy competition with your comedy? ComedySportz is a sure winner. Two teams of comedians vie for your laughter and applause in an action-packed, guffaw-for-points contest that uses suggestions from the audience to put together scenes, songs, and games on the spot. Hosted by a referee, the high-energy show delivers clean comedy suitable for teens and families. Swing by Piper’s Alley in Old Town to catch a show.
Right down the street from the legendary Second City is the original Zanies, or as some people call it, “Stand-up Heaven.” So many comics have played there, the list is endless. You can see that by perusing the number of autographed photos on the wall. The intimate space gets you up close and personal with the acts — you might even catch the headliners chatting with patrons on their way out.
The Den Theatre started in 2010 as a single second-floor room in Wicker Park. Today, it’s evolved into a full-fledged performance venue with multiple performance spaces, including black box theatres and cabaret stages, in addition to a well-stocked bar and lounge. With a growing list of stand-up talent passing through its doors, The Den brings the laughs with a diverse array of shows and talent, ranging from local performers to national headliners.
The Revival Improv Comedy Theater
Situated on the intersection of 55th Street and University Ave in Hyde Park — which, according to legend, is the physical birthplace of improv — The Revival Improv Comedy Theater stays true to its name by reviving the art form where it began more than 60 years ago. Comprising a theatre space and outdoor terrace, The Revival features intermittent improv and sketch comedy shows. Those hoping to catch a show at this historic venue should keep an eye out for performance announcements on The Revival’s website, newsletter, or social media pages.
With an alumni roster packed with Saturday Night Live cast members and prolific actors, such as Jason Sudeikis and Amy Sedaris, the Annoyance Theatre is a powerhouse of comedy. This celebrated Lakeview comedy club proves its dedication to the craft by featuring improv shows every night of the week, whether it’s an original musical, play, or series of sketches. Famous for its slate of edgy and subversive programming, the Annoyance Theatre often pushes the boundaries of comedy — it’s a must for fans of absolute off-the-wall hilarity.
The Comedy Bar
Chicago’s River North neighborhood — a bastion of nightlife with its ever-growing list of restaurants, bars, and clubs — keeps the funny going until late into the night. The Comedy Bar is in the same historic building as Gino’s East and features two performance spaces. At the main stage, you’ll find a popular comedy brunch, plus open mic and stand up showcases. The brewery stage is a more intimate venue with a cool vibe and views into the brewing space.
In Logan Square, a vibrant neighborhood known for its artsy vibe, the Lincoln Lodge offers stand-up sets and variety shows in an intimate, laid-back setting. The nonprofit Tight Five Productions is the mastermind behind the Lincoln Lodge, which bills itself as “the longest-running independent comedy showcase.” While the venue itself may be relatively small, Lincoln Lodge confirms its mighty stature with a list of prominent alum that includes Kumail Nanjiani, Kristen Schaal, and Hannibal Buress.
The Comedy Clubhouse
Highlighting stand-up, group improv, and scripted acts, this hidden gem in West Towncelebrates all forms of comedy. Managed by One Group Mind, a Chicago-based guild for improvisers and comedians, The Comedy Clubhouse provides a quaint and casual space for visitors to enjoy affordable comedy shows. With its friendly staff, hilarious performers, and relaxed atmosphere, it’s no wonder The Comedy Clubhouse is one of the most popular comedy clubs in the city.