Chicago is known for a lot of things. What you might not realize is that we’re also known for being funny. Chicagoans appreciate a good laugh. And there are plenty of places to go in the city to quench our appetite for comedians.
We have a love affair with performances of every kind. You can find small theaters and large venues all around the city. With comedy, we’ve got large clubs devoted solely to standup, venues that offer comedic ensembles and improv, and plenty of small bars and restaurants that host open mic nights and comedy showcase nights.
For this post, we’re just going to highlight some of the best venues that are solely dedicated to comedy. But we totally recommend looking around your area. You’ll find a lot of great dives, small clubs, and local areas where they have live performances regularly. Those are fantastic places to have an amazing time and you’re supporting local performers in those venues.
Whether you’re a local or someone just in town for a visit, you can’t beat a night out at a comedy club in Chicago. Check out our list of the best comedy clubs in the city below. You can give the gift of comedy to a friend or family member with a virtual GiftYa card that they can use for their hilarious night on the town.
There is no way you can talk about the comedy in the city of Chicago and NOT highlight Second City. This theater goes all the way back to the late 1950s. They do improv sketch comedy, kind of like what you would see on Saturday Night Live… there’s a reason for that. A lot of the cast at Saturday Night Live got their start at Chicago’s own Second City. You can see all the cast members that have graced the Second City stage in photos on the wall inside.
Most of the original SNL cast started at Second City and that tradition has continued throughout the years. It’s completely possible to catch a performance here and see one of the performers on SNL a few months later. But the best thing about the Second City experience is the intimacy. It’s a small theater so you can get very into the performance. There’s no bad seat in the house. And it’s in Old Town, so you’re in a beautiful neighborhood to go explore after the show lets out.
Another thing about The Second City is that they do have classes available for youth and adults. If you’ve ever wanted to try improv, if you think you might have a knack for comedy, this is an amazing place to learn the ins and outs of improv from some of the best in the business.
Zanies is another world-renowned club and you can see all the pictures on the wall of the fantastic comedians who have walked across their stage. This place still treats the customers like gold. Excellent service and a great, old-school comedy vibe here. It’s a good venue to visit for standup.
Service is subjective, but we have to mention it because virtually all of the reviews talk about of how great the staff is.
The real reason people come here is that they can catch comedians who are hitting their stride. They feature local and national talent. Any comedian who’s done touring and has been through Chicago has likely hit this stage.
Worth the stop if you like standup comedy.
The Laugh Factory bills itself as Chicago’s Best Standup Comedy, and they have some reasons to make the claim. They have local and national talent, and their shows are well received and reviewed. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun. This venue isn’t a Chicago native. Where Second City was founded here, The Laugh Factory has locations all over. But that can be a good thing. You don’t necessarily get a Chicago vibe but you do get a funny vibe which is probably more important.
They have a good lineup of performers, and they highlight different shows. Currently, there are ones running to highlight local talent and young performers. It’s a good place to have some laughs.
Gotta mention the Comedy Bar. Like the venue above, The Comedy Bar has locations in different cities. The one in Chicago is super special because it’s located right above the original Gino’s East in the heart of downtown Chicago. If you’re a tourist, you might not understand what that means – get the stuffed pizza. For real, you won’t be disappointed.
They opened about ten years ago and have stormed the scene, being listed as one of the best comedy clubs in Chicago by Chicago Magazine. It’s a great small venue and during some months they also have a rooftop patio performance available, you need to contact them to check on availability for that.
The Comedy Clubhouse is an amazing small venue. It’s a small stage with a good atmosphere and the talent is highly rated in the city. They have a variety of types of comedy. You can see scripted shows here, improv, and standup comedians. So pay attention to their schedule because there’s something coming up for pretty much any comedic taste.
They also have flatbread pizza that patrons really like and drinks, of course. They serve wine and beer.
UP Comedy Club offers a fantastic night out. It’s a traditional comedy club with a full dinner menu and bar. So you’re getting everything all in one spot. They offer a variety of types of comedy, from standup through sketch. There’s also a no drink minimum if that’s important to you. They get excellent reviews and feature unique, original content.
Comedians You Should Know (CYSK) is a comedian run and produced showcase. If you really like comedy, this is one you don’t want to miss. It’s highly praised by patrons and comedians alike. They pull the best talent from local performers, alternative comedy, and mainstream comedy, to give patrons a good mix of what’s funny, no matter what they tend to favor.
CYSK prides itself on bringing in only the highest quality comedians and they have a good reputation among those in the industry, so patrons are always thrilled by the performances. The audience size is small, so you need to reserve tickets as early as possible to make sure you get a spot. But the small audience size is great for the experience. Everyone gets to feel involved in the productions.
The Revival is located in Hyde Park and features great improv. It’s a good place to catch an amazing show with talented, and quick performers. Improv is one of those talents that amazes the crowd because no two shows are ever alike. It’s an experience all its own.
The Revival also offers classes for both youth and adults. If you’re looking for a place to test out your own improv skills, this could be the perfect opportunity for you.
The Annoyance Theatre and Bar is billed as THE place for off-beat entertainment. In a city like Chicago, that’s saying something! They offer sketch comedy, standup, and original performance pieces. It’s a great place to catch an outrageously funny group performance. The location is dive bar friendly and comfortable. They have good music and fun, get to know the other patrons atmosphere when no one is currently performing.
CSz or ComedySportz Theater is a unique experience. They divide up two comedy teams that compete for applause. It’s a fun vibe and the audience gets in on the action, rooting for their favorite performers and teams. And they come complete with a referee, who may or may not be biased.
CSz is reminiscent of Whose Line Is It Anyway. You get that great competitive vibe from a cast that obviously loves what they do. They feature well-known improv games and no show is ever alike.
This is a unique spin on comedy and improv and the audience loves the experience. Live shows are intimate and entertaining. They also, like many venues, started streaming online events during the lockdown. Not sure if those will continue or not but it’s worth checking out because they did a fantastic job with it and it will give you a little taste of what you’ll get in person.
This is billed as a live-action Drunk History and it’s fantastic. We are living for this type of comedy. It’s a new take on Shakespeare for sure, but you don’t have to love the bard to love the show. It does help.
It’s been reviewed by magazines like Slate and TimeOut Chicago and the consensus is fantastic. If you’re looking for rowdy, funny, and sometimes completely out of line, this is a great choice. I mean, just think about the language of Shakespeare and then try to understand it after five shots of whiskey. It’s a setup that leads to some great fun.