Chicago offers many solutions for those in need of a comedic fix. With outstanding comedy options like the Improv Olympics, showcasing long form improvisation shows, to the Annoyance Theatre where one can find innovative and often comical shows. Chicago’s rising stand-up comedians can be seen at the Lincoln Lodge, a restaurant with top notch stand-up comedy on Friday and Saturday nights or Chicago Underground Comedy, a stand-up comedy showcase on Tuesday nights at The Beat Kitchen. But it is another group that has put Chicago on the comedy map: The Second City.
For over six decades, The Second City, an improvisational comedy troupe based in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, has been making mischief much to the delight of Chicago residents, as well as guests to the Windy City. Among the alumni who have graced the Second City Chicago stage on their route to comedic stardom include Joan Rivers, Harold Ramis, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Mike Meyers, John Candy, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert. Given The Second City’s notoriety as a training ground for future Saturday Night Life cast members and other comedy shows, the odds remain very good that at least one of the actors who grace the stage at any given performance may re-appear in the very near future on a network or cable TV comedy show.
While, Second City Theaters have full bar service with a light bar menu including pizza, appetizers and desserts, those desiring more heartier fare can begin the evening with dinner at a number of restaurants within a few blocks of the theaters.
Head to Twin Anchors, a barbecue tavern, that’s rumored to be one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite haunts and remains a local favorite. Other suggestions include; Italian restaurants Topo Gigio and Marcello’s, Bistrot Margot for French cuisine and Kamehachi, the first sushi bar in Chicago. Also, located within two miles of The Second City are two of Chicago’s famous stuffed/deep-dish pizza restaurants: Giordano’s and Gino’s East.
Next, for those seeking some much needed comedic relief from the ongoing onslaught of negative national news, what better way to continue an evening than taking a seat at one of the two Second City theaters? The Second City Mainstage Theater offers improvisational revues that have a satirical spin with tongue in cheek titles like "Between Barack and a New Show" and "No Country for Old White Men." Currently, the Second City e.t.c. stage is showing "Pratfall Forward," a compilation of the best of their revue "Pratfall of Civilization" while mixing in all new scenes and songs.
Both shows run Tuesday through Sunday with The Second City Touring Company performing on Monday nights.
While the iconic troupe’s comedic styles have evolved over the years to reflect the current socio-political and cultural milieu, their well honed improvisational format remains a classic staple. At each show, audience members are treated to a plethora of scripted scenes mixed in with improvised music and written material that is crafted with input from the audience.
After the shows, head to Corcoran’s Pub & Grill, an Irish Bar located on North Wells Street, where the Second City cast and crew often gather. With sidewalk tables in the front, a beer garden out back, and a possible chance to spot some of the comedic geniuses who just graced the stage it is a must stop. Those who want to continue partying into the wee hours of the morning should head over to The Old Town Ale House.
After a night partaking of some of Chicago’s famous food and comedy, head back to your hotel for some R&R before hitting the clubs once again. With the plethora of Chicago based comedy, you’ll be laughing till Mrs. O’Leary’s cow comes back to Chicago.
What & Where:
Second City Mainstage Theater (1616 North Wells St., 312-337-3992)
Second City e.t.c. Theatre (1608 North Wells St, 2nd Floor of Piper’s Alley, 312-337-3992)
Twin Anchors (1655 North Sedgwick St., 312-266-1616)
Topo Gigio (1516 North Wells St., 312-266-9355)
Marcello’s (645 North Ave; 312.654.2550)
Bistrot Margot (1437-39 N. Wells, St; 312-587-3660)
Kamehachi (1400 North Wells St; 312-664-3663)
Giordano’s (730 North Rush St; 312-951-0747)
Gino’s East (633 N. Wells St; 312-943-1124)
Corcoran’s Pub & Grill (1615 North Wells St; 312-440-0885)
The Old Town Ale House (219 W. North Ave; 312-944-7020)
Improv Olympics (3541 N. Clark St; 773-880-0199)
Annoyance Theatre (4830 N. Broadway; 773.561.4665)
Lincoln Lodge (4008 N. Lincoln Ave; 773-251-1539)
Chicago Underground Comedy (2100 W. Belmont; 773-281-4444)