Chicago Open-Mic Festival offers free, unique, panoramic view of Chicago’s best stand-up comedy

An adventure in comedy is about to kick off and you’ll have thirteen chances to be a part of it starting Thursday night. That’s when the Second Annual Chicago Open-Mic Festival begins. Over the next three nights, the Festival will sponsor twelve open mics at venues throughout Chicagoland. Comedians are challenged to bring their best material and to compete for a spot in Sunday’s “Best of the Fest” finale at the WIP Theater. At the finale, bookers and representatives from Chicago’s most prestigious venues will award guaranteed stage time to each of their favorite comedians.

The producer of Open-Mic Fest, David Gavri, kindly took time out to email with me and tell me more, including the details of an impressive judging system worthy of James Bond. David is a Chicago comic who hosts the Bagel Authority open mic on Thursdays and the Second City open mic on Saturdays. He also publishes comedy interviews on and

The schedule below will tell you when and where you can be a part of this unique, exciting only-in-Chicago event.

Q: How did Open-Mic Fest start?

A: Chicago Open-Mic Fest began one year ago, with the idea of rewarding the true, hard-working comics in this scene with a fair shot of performing in front of people who can potentially help elevate their career.

Q: How many comedians will be at each venue and how long is each set?

A: Sets are normally 4 minutes long, depending on the venue. How many comedians? Last year, each mic had anywhere from 30-50 comics. This year should be no different. And if anything, there should be more.

Q: What will the judges be looking for? What are their criteria?

A: Judges will be looking for the comics with the best sets throughout the fest. The criteria would be: Demonstrating the ability to captivate an audience while getting consistent laughs. Someone who is original. Someone who acts professional. Someone who shows potential and promise.

Q: Is it difficult for the judges to remain anonymous?

A: The amount of secret judges this year is massive, to eliminate bias. To keep it 100% anonymous, some of the people who think they are secret judges are actually just decoys. So, not even the secret judges know if they are actually secret judges.

Q: Why is this a great experience for the audience?

A: Because this is where comedy begins. Every famous comedian out there started their career at an open mic. This is a chance for audience members to be able to one day say, “That comedian on TV! I was there when they were an open-miker!” It is a chance to see Chicago’s most ridiculously talented folks for free, while they still can.

Open Mic Festival Schedule

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