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The Harold

Open run: Wed-Thu 8 PM, Fri 8 and 10:30 PM, Sat 10:30 PM, Sun 8 PM, Mon 10:30 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Improv teams use an audience suggestion to create interweaving story lines that result in a connected long-form narrative.

Duck and Cover Classroom

Open run: daily, various times
The Time Gallery 1342 N. Milwaukee Ave., second floor, Chicago Wicker Park/Bucktown

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I can't vouch for Escape Artistry's trumpeted dedication to "equality, environment, and education," but I can attest to the aesthetic and cryptological rigor of this tantalizing, exasperating, and ingenious escape-room game. After a cheeky introductory video instructing us newly deputized agents in the nuances of time travel (here walking down a hallway), we're locked in a drearily appointed 1950s schoolroom and given 60 minutes to decipher combinations to multiple locks in hopes of finding some missing uranium. I couldn’t track the backstory—something about two missing agents and the world’s first nuclear chain reaction—but lead designer Melissa Schlesinger’s stocked the room with mind-addling puzzles that delighted and ultimately baffled me (luckily I was trapped with smart people). Stick with it: the payoff is worth it. —Justin Hayford 773-789-9535

The Winner . . . of Our Discontent

Wed-Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM (except 12/31, 7 and 10 PM), Sun 7 PM (no show 12/25), Tue 8 PM; also Tue 12/20-Thu 12/22 and Tue 12/27-Thu 12/29, 11 PM
Second City 1616 N. Wells St., Chicago Old Town

Buy Tickets$19-$46


The Second City is nothing if not responsive. I mean, really: Nothing. Responsiveness is the whole point of an improv-based, satirical theater. The institution has no entertainment value if its ensemble members fail to respond to one another and no relevance if it fails to respond to the world. Continue reading >> 312-337-3992

Dream Freaks Fall From Space

Open run: Wed-Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM, Sun 4 PM, Tue 8 PM
Second City 1616 N. Wells St., Chicago Old Town

Buy Tickets$29-$46


Second City is in denial. Donald Trump is our president, and along with that comes a host of issues regarding race, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and police brutality, among other things. The cast of the brand-new yet already outdated main-stage revue Dream Freaks Fall From Space tackle these loaded topics by mentioning them, then moving right along. And speaking of denial, scenes break one of the most fundamental rules of improvisation—embody the spirit of "yes, and . . . " to complement your partner onstage. Here instead actors deny ideas with "What are you talking about?" Second City is the tentpole of Chicago comedy for the rest of the country, but Dream Freaks feels like it was concocted in an intermediate-level improv class where mere nods get laughs and politics get skewered with Pixy Stix. Continue reading >> 312-337-3992

Cascade Drive-In

Ongoing
Cascade Drive-In 1100 E. North Ave., West Chicago Other Suburbs West


When you go to a movie theater, there's a decent chance someone will sneeze and you'll contract a horrifying airborne monkey disease (or at least that's what I learned from Outbreak). Not a thing you have to worry about at the drive-in. Plus you can make out, it's BYOB, and it's under ten bucks for a double feature.

Homolatte

First and third Tue of month, 7:30 PM
Tweet Let's Eat 5020 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago Uptown


With Scott Free, featuring gay and lesbian spoken-word artists. 773-728-5576

Blue Man Group

Open run: Thu 8 PM; Fri 7 PM; Sat 2, 5, and 8 PM; Sun 4 and 7 PM
Briar Street Theatre 3133 N. Halsted St., Chicago Lakeview

Buy from Ticketmaster$49-$99


After 20 years and god knows how many bald caps and gallons of paint, this Chicago staple stays true to its mission: “Blue Man Group—enemy of monotony, remedy for boredom, promoter of overjoy and elation.” That experimental, interactive theater can remain both current and family friendly in equal measure speaks to the show's healthy mix of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it wit and larger-than-life clowning. Audience participation, voluntary and involuntary, is still a key component, whether it’s sharing Twinkies with the trio, donning a poncho in the splash zone, or being shamed as a latecomer, in showstopping fashion. Cultural references and parodies have certainly changed with the times (and devices), but the keys to Blue Man Group remain its hypnotic music and lively energy—if you’re not out of your seat dancing when the 90 minutes are up, you probably don’t have a pulse. —Marissa Oberlander 773-348-4000

Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM, Sun 7 PM
Second City E.T.C. Piper's Alley, 1608 N. Wells St., Chicago Old Town

Buy Tickets$19-$46


In the weeks and now days leading up to the inauguration, it seems like the jokes about Trump and the current state of our political climate are basically writing themselves. Between rumors of golden showers and the president-elect's meeting with Steve Harvey, it sometimes feels as if we're all living in one long political sketch. So where are comedians supposed to go from here? Continue reading >> 312-337-3992

The Improvised Shakespeare Company

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Seven strapping men in swashbuckler shirts improvise a two-act Shakespearean play based on a title suggested by the audience. At the show I saw, "The Taming of the Jew" inspired the Bard's usual themes (religion, family, betrayal) and plot devices (murders, disguises, fortunes gained/lost) as well as an uncomfortably funny circumcision. Director-performer Blaine Swen, a veteran of long-form Shakespearean improv who swears they don't conspire during the intermission, has assembled a vigorous ensemble of actors and proven improvisers. Their experience doing Shakespeare flowers in the language: they relish iambic dialogue, execute perfectly timed asides, occasionally utter rhyming couplets (some hilariously forced: "Let us be quick-sa, and get to the bar mitzvah!"), and drop parodic phrases ("scurvenous knave," "midfortnight report") and well-placed anachronisms (the bar mitzvah had a DJ). Even the ending echoed the real plays: story lines resolved tidily—and uproariously. —Ryan Hubbard

ComedySportz Theatre

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri 8 and 10 PM, Sat 6, 8, and 10 PM
ComedySportz Theatre 929 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview

Buy from Ticketmaster$19


Part of a national chain of comedy clubs, this company is known for quick improv games (think Whose Line Is It Anyway?), but it also stages long-form improv. LCD screens and sophisticated lighting and sound systems amplify the sports-style improv of the company's eponymous production, ComedySportz. There's a snobbery in the Chicago improv community that looks up at the "art" of the long form, with its emphasis on story and characters, and down on the "entertainment" of the short, with its emphasis on games and punch lines. ComedySportz falls emphatically in the entertainment camp; its bottom line is laughter, and it gets plenty of it. The show is structured as a competition between two teams performing multiple games that require audience participation. A referee ensures that the players--a rotating roster from a company of about 50--work clean or they finish the game with a brown bag over their heads. The formula is practically foolproof: players may flash their quick wits in winning responses, but they're even funnier when they fail. In one game a team had to devise a pick-up line, each member contributing a word. Moving rapidly from player to player, the line developed: "Tonight-I'll-tango-with-your-face." Probably wouldn't work at a bar, but at ComedySportz it killed. --Ryan Hubbard 773-549-8080 or 312-559-1212

Twisted Knots

Open run: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 4 PM


Longtime married couple Frank and Carla—a stressed-out salesman and an underappreciated nurse—try to get back their conjugal mojo by role-playing a call-girl scenario (Carla plays the call girl) in their hotel room on New Year’s Eve. The Hard Rock Hotel on Michigan Avenue provided furnishings and decor to lend verisimilitude to Greg Pinsoneault and Shaun Renfro’s set design in this production directed by Tara Branham. In fact, it’s Dale Danner’s script that could use some authenticity; the couple’s sex games and the husband’s much-discussed superstitious streak feel contrived and strained. Only when the charade is dropped toward the end do we glimpse genuine disappointment and fatigue. Ryan Kitley’s Frank seems detached from the proceedings, but Mary Cross turns in lively, tangy work as Carla. —Zac Thompson

Lincoln Lodge

Open run: Fri and Sat, 8 PM
Lincoln Lodge 956 W. Newport, Chicago North Center


For close to 15 years, one of Chicago's best comedy clubs wasn't even in a club. It was in the back of the Lincoln Restaurant, a modest diner in North Center where the Lincoln Lodge, the successful indie stand-up and variety show, set up shop. The restaurant's wood-paneled walls and curiously patterned carpets created a warm and welcoming experience not unlike watching a comedy show at your grandma's house. Lest this environment sound too safe, the show itself is known for its edge. The house cast, which currently features promising up-and-comers Derek Smith and Rebecca O'Neil, boasts such alumni as Cameron Esposito and Kumail Nanjiani, while Kyle Kinane and Hannibal Buress were among the show's most frequent visitors until Hollywood came calling. Even now, the Lodge draws prominent headlining comedians—like Marc Maron and Eddie Pepitone—eager to perform for cheerful crowds untroubled by a two-drink minimum.

When the Lincoln Restaurant closed its doors in December, the Lincoln Lodge was without a home. Luckily, the Subterranean came calling. Located in the epicenter of Wicker Park and patronized by boozy youngsters, the SubT isn't as homey, but the Lodge has always had swagger, and the new digs reflect that. And the location is ideal for tracking down targets for Lincoln Lodge's live interview segment, which puts a comic out on the streets to interview unsuspecting passersby.

At the show I saw on March 14, genial host Marty DeRosa welcomed a mix of newer faces (Smith and fellow cast member Trey Brown) and old standbys (CPS teacher turned full-time comic Jeanie Doogan), all of whom were solid. Local legend Junior Stopka headlined the evening, and his irreverent ramblings and absurd non sequiturs were characteristically hilarious, enough to distract from the bass-heavy EDM show that was starting upstairs (some of the kinks are still being worked out, it seems). That lone drawback aside, the new era of the Lincoln Lodge is off to a strong start. —Drew Hunt 773-251-1539

The Infinite Wrench

Open run: Fri-Sat 11:30 PM, Sun 7 PM
Neo-Futurarium 5153 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago Andersonville


Greg Allen gave and Greg Allen took away. On December 31, 2016, the Neo-Futurists founder made good on his promise to kill off the company's signature cult show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, ending an unprecedented run of 28 years. The current generation of ensemble members weren't happy. Now they've pretty much reconstituted TMLMTBGB in everything but name, running on the same schedule at the same venue with the same exuberance. Though their new baby is superficially different from the original (where before the plays were numbered, for instance, now they're color coded), it retains the identical goal of offering 30 original short plays in 60 minutes. The performance I saw lapsed occasionally into reductive political posturing, having more to do with tribal affirmation than revelation. But it also had its share of wit, insight, emotional frankness, and dancerly physicality. —Tony Adler 773-275-5255

Thirsty

Open run: Fri-Sat 10:30 PM
Apollo Theater 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago Lincoln Park


Improv games billed as a "drinking party." 773-935-6100

Chicago's Best Stand-Up

Open run: Fri 8 and 10 PM, Sat 8 PM
Laugh Factory 3175 N. Broadway St., Chicago Lakeview


The nationally recognized Laugh Factory pads its schedule with a weekly showcase for stand-up comics to perform in a club atmosphere. 773-327-3175

Laugh Out Loud Improv

Open run: Fri-Sat 7:30 and 9:30 PM
Laugh Out Loud 3851 N. Lincoln, Chicago North Center


Chicago's bustling improv scene got a new neighbor this week when Laugh Out Loud, a suburban comedy staple, opened a charming double-storefront space in North Center. Short, self-described Whose Line Is It Anyway?-style games form the basis both a family-friendly early show and a later "anything goes" set; at the children's show I attended, an able cast of company members and alumni kept the attention of young kids with the sort of quick, silly punch lines the games' premises begged for. I'd be curious to see whether these rudimentary set-ups—rap battles, atypical sports commentary, gibberish guessing games, audience members' day reenactments—mature along with the material later in the night. —Dan Jakes 773-857-6000

Bible Bingo

Open run: Fri-Sat 8 PM
Royal George Theatre Center 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago Lincoln Park


Vicki Quade’s Nuns4Fun empire is nothing if not holy impressive. Since the inception of Late Night Catechism in 1993, it's raised $3 million-plus for retiring nuns. But that doesn’t mean that Mrs. Mary Margaret O’Brien—the former nun played by a witty Kathleen Puls Andrade on the night I attended—will be thanking you. Church bingo fund-raiser Mrs. O’Brien is full of salty-nun severity and some refreshing snark, welcoming audience-member squirms elicited by talk of religion on date night. As one-half of the token Jewish couple and unlikely winner of the first round of bingo, I got more attention and Catholic prizes than I'd prayed for—and promptly traded my Bible eraser for another winner’s mini Torah. (Don’t tell Mrs. O’Brien!) —Marissa Oberlander 312-988-9000

We Gotta Bingo

Open run: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 5 PM
Chicago Theater Works 1113 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview


At Disney World, you can book a "character breakfast," which is what they call it when Goofy harasses you while you try to eat waffles. This show is sort of like that, only you're fed lasagna and the zany characters you’re forced to dance, play games, and otherwise interact with have a lot less depth than Goofy. The evening's premise is that the audience is attending a bingo night benefiting two Catholic congregations—a predominantly Italian-American one and a predominantly Irish-American one—that have recently merged. For some reason there are beer-hall Germans and a swishy gay guy on hand too. All the punch lines rely on tired stereotypes, but the jokes are so obvious they'll probably only offend your sense of humor. —Zac Thompson

Smut

Open run: Sat 11:30 PM
Laugh Factory 3175 N. Broadway St., Chicago Lakeview


Alex Seligsohn and Clare Austen-Smith host stand-up comics who'll discuss their sexuality, kinks and all; there's sketch comedy and music as well. 773-327-3175

Bye Bye Liver: The Chicago Drinking Play

Open run: Sat 8 PM
Stage 773 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview

Buy Tickets$20


A show about and with drinking. "Patrons must be 21+." 773-230-4770

The Blackout Diaries

Open run: Sat 10 PM
Lincoln Lodge 956 W. Newport, Chicago North Center


The gregarious Sean Flannery tells stories about adventures he's had inebriated out of his mind. He's joined each week by other comedians and the occasional layman—each with a drunken tale to tell. 773-251-1539

The Revival Hour

Open run: Sat 8 PM
The Revival 1160 E. 55th St., Chicago Hyde Park


The comedy club's signature hour of improv, sketch, and stand-up. 866-811-4111

Late Nite Catechism

Open run: Sat 5 PM, Sun 2 PM
Royal George Theatre Center 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago Lincoln Park

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A bona fide born-in-Chicago international hit, this simultaneously nostalgic and satirical comedy by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan concerns a nun instructing her students—that's you—on the dos and don'ts of dogma. —Jack Helbig 312-988-9000

Whirled News Tonight

Open run: Sat 8 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


The fact that this fully improvised show has lasted ten years is impressive enough—most improv troupes are good for a season or two at most. Even more impressive, though, is how well the ensemble functions under the direction of creator Jason Chin. They listen to each other, play well together, and never resort to the kind of cheap, quick laughs that can wreck a scene. Instead, as the best improvisers do, they build slowly, adding to one another's improvisations and in the process creating fascinating, funny scenes with the ease of an ace jazz ensemble. The improv bits here are loosely based on items taken at random from the newspaper, as well as on questions submitted by the audience. —Jack Helbig

The iO Musical Featuring the Deltones

Open run: Sat 8 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park

Buy from TicketWeb$14


Like the Cupid Players, another musical comedy act that performs at iO, the Deltones have a penchant for the nasty and the absurd. But unlike the Players, the Deltones improvise. Accompanied by veteran iO keyboardist Dave Asher, they create varied song structures and impressively catchy lyrics, and demonstrate a good feel for when to turn scenes into tunes, capitalizing on fortuitous openings in plot or character development. At the show I saw, the suggestion of "couch" led to an authentic long-form piece with intertwining characters--including a hilarious couch potato who fell onto a plumber, prompting her husband to beg, "Aw, don't pull tools out of your folds, hon!" —Ryan Hubbard

DJ Major Taylor

Saturdays, 10 PM
Five Star Bar 1424 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago West Town/Noble Square


312-850-2555

Jazz Party with Sabertooth

Saturdays, 12 a.m.
Green Mill 4802 N. Broadway St., Chicago Uptown


773-878-5552

Saturday Gallery Tour

Saturdays, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Starbucks 750 N. Franklin St., Chicago River North


This week a representative from Marx-Saunders Gallery will lead the tour to Stephen Daiter Gallery, Printworks Gallery, Jean Albano Gallery, and Marx-Saunders. Meet at the Starbucks at Chicago and Franklin. 312-649-0065

Heraldo

Open run: Sat 8:30 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Though this Harold is entirely in Spanish, English-speakers are the target audience. The improvisers who perform are pros, able to convey what's going on in a particular scene without the safety net of a witty retort.

Chicago Dramatists Saturday Series

Open run: Sat 2 PM,
Chicago Dramatists 1105 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago West Town/Noble Square


This near-weekly program features staged readings of works in progress. 312-633-0630