"Let's give a toast to a new era of comedy in Chicago," declared Colin Mochrie, a Second City alum who’s probably best known from his work in TV’s Whose Line is it Anyway. And with a hearty cheers, the standing-room only crowd celebrated the grand opening of Chicago’s new UP Comedy Club .
Residing on the third floor of Piper's Alley (taking over the space where Tony 'n Tina's Wedding played for some years), the 285 seat venue may have just opened, but it already has an impressively eclectic lineup, including classic stand up, improv, and family-friendly fare. The Second City, a producing partner for the new venue, has produced four distinct shows for UP Comedy Club, as well. For a full list of events, go here.
The space, which very much resembles the two other Second City venues in the building, is slick and urban, with large LED screens flanking the wide stage. I’m not sure how these screens will be used in future shows, but there’s opportunity for some interesting multi-media tie-ins.
Along with Mochrie, the grand opening featured Cash Cab's Emmy Award-winning host Ben Bailey, who provided an hour of hilarious, seemingly on-the-spot stand up material. Bailey is one of those comedians who remains completely in tune to the audience pulse and adapts his material accordingly. On Friday night, he managed to take a seemingly superficial bit about the stresses of filling out a job application to a wryly insightful and (hilariously disparaging) level, using the setup as a means to lament how vexing life in general can be. Let’s hope Bailey, a NYC native, makes a trip back to Chicago soon.
Finally, because I tend to make decisions based on my gut, I'm also pleased to report the venue offers a full menu, featuring sandwiches, burgers, Lou Malnati's deep dish pizzas and a kids menu. I tried the Up Burger, and it was pretty darn good. (I just wish there was more room to eat -- the tables and chairs are rather packed in.) Service was speedy and attentive, but not obtrusive. So if you come hungry (and thirsty), there’s plenty to please the palette before the laughs kick in.