Chicago’s the city where improv comedy was created and cultivated, so it’s only fitting that today it serves as America’s incubator for up and coming comedic talent. With sketch, stand-up, and improv shows here every night of the week, it’s no easy task sorting through the litany of theaters and showcases around town. You might even say trying to narrow down the list of Chicago’s comic venues to the 22 best ones would be laughable... [pause for groans]. We’ve done it regardless, see one or see all, just don’t wear yourself out.
The Best Comedy Theaters and Shows in Chicago
The trusty standbys
The Second City & UP Comedy ClubAddress and Info
Safe to say the company that sparked the careers of national treasures like Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Key & Peele, and countless others is pretty legendary. You can’t go wrong with tickets to the two-act sketch revues on either the Mainstage or ETC (buy in advance though), and UP draws a nice mix of comedians hitting their prime, like Pete Holmes, TJ Miller, and Amy Schumer.
Some call it the mecca of improv comedy (just don’t call it Improv Olympic™) because it’s where long-form improv took shape and continues to be an influence worldwide. Performances by Revolver and The Improvised Shakespeare Company are required viewing. Make it a point to catch a Wednesday night set from master improvisers TJ & Dave, who spin hour-long shows with no scripting at all that are equal parts hysterical and heartfelt.
Known for its dark and assertive tone -- no other theater could pull off shows like Skinprov or Holy Fuck Comedy Hour -- The Annoyance is home to at least a dozen must-see shows any given week. Having settled into its new Lakeview digs with two stages and a friendly bar, plan to be thrilled/shocked by the absurd, uncensored, and sharp wit from an ever-growing list of exciting performers.