A lot of stars are visiting this week, but before I get started on that, I want to mention some of the many bright constellations of Chicago. My favorite band, and I’m betting they’ll be yours if they’re not already, award-winning Lola Balatro plays a rare two-hour set this Saturday.
Tim Barnes is leaving us for New York. A loss for Chicago comedy, but a gain for comedy! He’s still got a few Chicago shows left (see below), including the last recording of his critically acclaimed podcast, It’s All True on Thursday.
This week is Snubfest. Hosted by Zanies and Under the Gun Theater, the festival features comedians unwisely rejected by festivals over the past year.
Tonight, Tom Dreesen hosts the funniest cop contest at The Laugh Factory. Even early in his career, Tom Dreesen could have been called legendary. He grew up extremely poor in Harvey which now has a street named for him. He was half of “Tim and Tom” with Tim Reid in the ’60s, the first interracial comedy duo at the time. They traveled the U.S. and caused a stir, especially in the south. After they broke up, Tom Dreesen became Frank Sinatra’s opening act and a frequent guest and guest host on late night. I have seen him in person once and can say there’s something rare about his presence – he’s just extremely uplifting and positive and his spirit is contagious. Also exciting to be in the presence of a true comedy legend. He’s in demand all over the country, so this is a great opportunity to see him at home.
The list of illustrious visitors to Chicago this week includes Martin Lawrence, Mo’Nique, Cristela Alonzo, Pete Davidson, Rory Scovel, Seth McFarlane, Kevin McDonald, Byron Stamps, Andrew Stuart-Cline, James Doyle and Justin Bulver. And of course, BATSU! is here for the summer turning sushi into mayhem and memories.
Here is my spotlight for this week – everything I would do if I could be anywhere and go everywhere! When a venue or comedian catches your eye, please check out the rest of their happenings – this list represents just a fraction of Chicago comedy. Please confirm all details before heading out! Sometimes shows are canceled or changed and I’m loathe to admit this, but I have sent people to Thursdays on Wednesdays and … well, just confirm all details.
Much appreciation to the Chicago comedy community!
UPDATE June 21: Big news and sad news for the comedy community. Jokes and Notes is closing after this weekend. I first heard the news on Damon Williams’ Instagram page and then Tony Sculfield went live on Facebook today to give a shout-out to owner Mary Lindsey who has been instrumental in the growth of Chicago stand-up going back to All Jokes Aside days. Check out Tony Sco’s video here and as he says, support Jokes and Notes. Please see this weekend’s schedule below or visit Jokes and Notes’ site.
MONDAY, JUNE 20
Laugh Patrol: The Fourth Annual Search for Chicago’s Funniest Police at The Laugh Factory, 3175 N. Broadway, 8:00 p.m. Hosted by one of the best in the business (of comedy, not policing), Tom Dreesen.
Sadsacks and Wisecracks at High Hat Club, 1920 W. Irving Park Rd., 8:00 p.m. Free showcase. Tonight: Valerie Tosi, John Margelewski, Allison Dunn, Dave Metz and Lisa Curry. Music by Natalie Alford. Hosted by Mary Novokhovsky.
100 Proof Comedy & Chigaygo’s Big Pride Show at Comedy Sportz, 929 W. Belmont, 8:00 p.m. Co-hosted by 100 Proof’s Cody Melcher, Esq. and Chigaygo’s Scott Duff. Headliner Baby Wine (acclaimed improv from The Annoyance Theatre), with Erin Diamond as Melania Trump, Marla Depew, Jaboukie Young-White, Rad Turkin, Taylor Williams, Casey Larwood and Peter Alexander Bresnan.
Followed by an after-party from 9:30 p.m. to midnight featuring DJ Greg Haus. The party is open to the public and includes a cash bar.
Louder Than a Mom at Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., 8:00 p.m. “Everyone has a depressing, shocking, miserable, vulgar, hilarious family story!” Share yours or enjoy commiserating in the audience.
Female Funnies at Zanies, 1548 N. Wells, 8: 30 p.m. Hosted by the wonderful comedian and radio host (WGN’s Pretty Late), Patti Vasquez.
Best Night Ever at Gman Tavern, 3730 N. Clark, 8:30 p.m. Free stand-up showcase. Recently named one of the best free things to do in Chicago by thrillist.com.
Wild Out Mondays at SLR Bar & Grill, 16409 S. Halsted, Harvey, 9:00 p.m. Improv, stand up and music hosted by Just Nesh.
The Mixer at The Playground Theater, 3209 N. Halsted St., 10:00 p.m. “For anyone interested in improv.” At 10:00 p.m. there’s an improv workshop. At 10:30 everyone breaks into teams for a long form show. You can choose to be in the audience or join everyone on stage.
TUESDAY, JUNE 21
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at Millennium Park, 6:30 p.m. The 2016 summer outdoor series debuts with the best movie of all time.
The day I conjured my favorite movie character …
Write Club at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 7:00 p.m. Award-winning comedic literary duels. Audience picks the winners. Tonight: Samantha Irby (RIDE) vs Carly Oishi (DIE), Bob Stockfish (PERSIST) vs Ian Belknap (QUIT), Gwynn Fulcher (FIRST) vs Cher Vincent (FINAL).
Flat Iron Comedy at 1579 N. Milwaukee, 3rd Floor, 7:30 p.m. Rotating casts of house-and guest-improv teams, plus stand-up, music, storytelling and more. Admission is pay what you can. All donations go to the performers. Every Tuesday and Wednesday night.
Chicago Underground Comedy at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 9:00 p.m. Chicago Underground Comedy launched the careers of many of today’s best loved comedians. ChUC’s hot summer series continues with Tim Barnes, Ricky Gonzalez, Geoffrey Asmus, Casey Larwood, David Philips and Alex Kumin. Also an appearance by Actual Murderers and surprise guests.
Plus there’s this: “THIS summer we are building up to the TWENTY FIRST ANNIVERSARY of the movie Se7en with a weekly “WHAT’S IN THE BOX” raffle. Before the show for every $1.00 you get 1 piece of paper to write your name on … we’ll pick ONE winner to go home with not only the memories of a killer show… but whatever is in our mystery box that night.”
Natalie Jose and Friends at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 9:00 p.m. Natalie Jose continues her month-long residency at The Hideout. Natalie Jose was named one of sixteen comedians to know by Chicago magazine and was featured on Last Comic Standing and starred in the OWN network’s My Life Is A Joke.
That Maxwell Bitch at The Annoyance Theatre, 851 W. Belmont, 9:30 p.m. Storytelling, sketch, improv, stand-up, music.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22
Seth McFarlane at Ravinia, Highland Park, 7:30 p.m. With the Chicago Philharmonic and Katharine McPhee.
Probably won’t get to hear Seth McFarlane say “douche” at Ravinia, so I added it here …
11th Annual Snubfest at Zanies 1548 N. Wells, 8:00 p.m. Snubfest features comedians rejected from festival over the past year. Go to Snubfest and laugh at how mistaken those festivals were! Snubfest alums include Nick Vatterott, Cameron Esposito, TJ Miller and Vanessa Bayer. Snubfest is at Zanies and Under the Gun Theater all this week.
Kevin Bozeman at Zanies, MB Financial Place, Rosemont, 8:00 p.m. Tonight and Thursday.
The Untold Love Story of Bill and Hillary at iO, 1501 N. Kingsbury, 8:30 p.m. Grace Perry and Lyndsay Rush have written this welcome behind-the-scenes scoop. Starring Damian Anaya, Emily Clouse, Shelby Plummer and Micah Sterenberg. Wednesdays through June 29.
Comedians You Should Know at Timothy O’Toole’s, 622 N. Fairbanks, 9:00 p.m. Tim Barnes and more TBA. Nationally recognized as one of the top stand-up venues in the city. Site of many comedy album recordings.
Fictitious at iO, 1501 N. Kingsbury, 10:30 p.m. An improv literary journal. Authors take note! Follow link for details.
TJ & Dave at iO, 1501 N. Kingsbury, 10:30 p.m. Internationally renowned improv greats TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi improvise a one-hour play every Wednesday. Never the same show twice. When we had family in from the U.K., this was the first place they wanted to go. Unfortunately at the time, TJ & Dave were on a brief hiatus, but they are now back weekly!
THURSDAY, JUNE 23
Pete Davidson at The Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 7:30 p.m. This is Pete Davidson’s first stand-up tour. He is the youngest current cast member of Saturday Night Live. Excellent article about him in the New York Times last year here.
Tim Barnes’ It’s All True at @North Bar, 1637 W. North Ave., 7:30 p.m. Last Chicago recording before Tim leaves for New York! Guests: Arish Singh (Comedian), Lily Be (Moth GrandSlam Winning Storyteller), Ric Wilson (Rapper), Natalie G Alford (Singer/Musician). Please check out my interview with Tim here.
BATSU! at Kamehachi, 1531 N. Wells, 8:00 p.m. The hit Japanese-style comedy game show created by Face Off Unlimited comes to Chicago to serve all manner of antics, contests, giant chickens and surprises with your dinner. Repeatedly sold out in New York. Find out why the show is called BATSU! (“punishment”) and experience this singular, electrifying (sometimes literally electrifying) performance. Thursdays and Fridays.
Exploded at The Revival, 1160 E. 55th St., 8:00 p.m. Comedy takes on anxiety. Anxiety takes on comedy. An evening of clarity and laughs.
Felonious Munk at Rat Pack Comedy at The Holiday Club, 4000 N. Sheridan, 8:00 p.m. Featuring Becca Brown and Michael Myers with headliner Felonious Munk (Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Windy City Live).
A Red Line Runs Through It at Second City, 1616 N. Wells, 8:00 p.m. This critically acclaimed show is an inside comedic look at Chicago in all its right and wrong, glory and gloom. Shows throughout the week.
Cristela Alonzo at Zanies, 1548 N. Wells, 8:30 p.m. Did you see ABC’s Cristela last year? It was one of the few sitcoms I watched. Unfortunately, it was canceled. It should still be on! Cristela Alonzo is also a guest-host on The View and has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan, Gabriel Iglesias’ Stand Up Revolution and more. Here is Cristela’s blog and her reaction to learning her show was canceled (see 5/11/15) – very real and honest and worth reading! She will be at Zanies in St. Charles on Friday night and Zanies in Rosemont on Saturday night.
Just Dickin’ Around All Genders Showcase at Hydrate, 3458 N. Halsted, 9:45 p.m. The JDA showcase is “a women-run, queer-friendly showcase that provides a safe, supportive space with a positive energy for our performers and guests.” Enough reason to go, but also: free pizza! Hosted by Scott Duff (JDA member). Showcase guests: Lilly Allison, Krista Atkinson (JDA member), Marla Depew (JDA member), James Fisher and Vikram Pandya.
ALL CAPS at iO, 1501 N. Kingsbury, 10:00 p.m. This is a brand new show running on Fridays through July 21 (no show on 6/30) with extraordinary creators and cast. It’s a real feast of Chicago innovation and a new concept merging the styles of iO and New York’s UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade). The creators of the show are improv legends TJ Jagodowski (TJ and Dave) and Peter Gwinn (The Colbert Report, Baby Wants Candy.) Their star cast: Christina Boucher, Peter Collins, Sarah Dell’Amico, Peter Gwinn, Shantira Jackson, TJ Jagodowski, Mike Jimerson, Laurel Krabacher, Danny Mora, Jeff Murdoch, Dewayne Perkins, Emma Pope, Allison Ringhand, Jo Scott, and Craig Uhlir.
To kick the evening off, one audience member will be invited to rant or rave about any topic they choose. The cast will turn that passion into long-form improvisation.
Nightcap at Second City, 1616 N. Wells, 10:30 p.m. A late night talk variety show takes a comedic look at current events.
Messing with a Friend at The Annoyance Theatre, 851 W. Belmont, 10:30 p.m. Susan Messing has been named “Improviser of the Year” at The Chicago Improv Festival, “Best Improviser” by the Chicago Reader and “The Funniest Woman in Chicago” by Chicago magazine. Tonight’s guest: Jonathan Pitts.
FRIDAY, JUNE 24
Mo’Nique Interview on Chicago’s Comedy Scene Radio, 8:00 a.m. Tony Carr and Steve Touhy interview Mo’Nique who headlines this weekend at The Improv. Follow the link or download the app for 24/7 Chicago comedy, live shows and interviews.
Cristela Alonzo at Zanies, Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles, 8:00 p.m. Cristela will be at Zanies in Rosemont on Saturday night.
Martin Lawrence at The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, 8:00 p.m. The TV, comedy and movie star is here for two nights of shows on his Doin’ Time Tour as he puts together his next concert film. I remember when it was Martin and Seinfeld, the two best sitcoms on TV. I miss those days!
11th Annual Snubfest at Under the Gun Theater, 956 W. Newport, 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Snubfest features comedians rejected from festival over the past year. Go to Snubfest and laugh at how mistaken those festivals were! Snubfest alums include Nick Vatterott, Cameron Esposito, TJ Miller and Vanessa Bayer. Snubfest is at Zanies and Under the Gun Theater all this week.
12 Angry Candidates at Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark, 8:00 p.m. Friday night and Saturday. A GOP convention preview. Friday and Saturday night.
The Ben Hecht Show at The Noyes Cultural Center’s Piven Theatre, 927 Noyes St., Evanston, 8:00 p.m. This world premiere is written and performed by playwright and Second City alum James Sherman. The renowned screenwriter Ben Hecht will tell you “everything you need to know about show business, Jews and anti-Semites. With jokes.” Follow link for all show times through July 17.
Mo’Nique at The Improv, Woodfield Mall, 8:00 p.m. Through Saturday. Check site for show times. Mo’Nique is an award-winning comedian, actor and author originally from Baltimore. She received a standing ovation her first time on stage which encouraged her to leave her job at the phone company to pursue comedy full time. She won thirty acting awards for her role as Mary in the 2010 movie Precious, including an Academy Award, Golden Globe and an Independent Spirit Award. Her television roles include being the first woman to host Showtime at the Apollo and the starring roles in The Parkers and of course, The Mo’Nique Show.
TBS Showcase Hosted by Tony Sco at Jokes and Notes, 4641 S. King Dr., 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Tony Sco returns to Chicago from his new gig in San Francisco to host this showcase during Jokes and Notes’ last weekend.
The Boys: We Make It Worse at Second City, 1616 N. Wells, 9:00 p.m. Internationally renowned improv greats improvise together: Susan Messing, Rachael Mason, Craig Uhlir and Ryan Archibald.
[LAST SHOW] Jamie Brew’s The Program at iO, 1501 N. Kingsbury, 9:00 p.m. I don’t even know how to get onto Google Chrome half the time, so I’ll let someone else explain this: “The Program is a show written using a computer script that mimics predictive text. For four Fridays in June at iO, a small team of actors and artists will present an hour of drama culled from this program’s cold, digital mind.” Cast: Sameena Mustafa, Rose Boyle, Nicky Martin, Will Meinen and Nate Varrone.
It’s the Ronnie Ray Show at WIP Theater, 6670 N. Northwest Highway, 10:00 p.m. A multimedia comedy event of sketch, stand-up and improv hosted by nationally touring headliner, Ronnie Ray. Featuring improv group EbonyEssenceJet.
Pimprov at CIC Theater, 1422 W. Irving Park Rd., 10:30 p.m. Unique, acclaimed Chicago show: pimps improvising.
SATURDAY, JUNE 25
Paper Machete at The Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 3:00 p.m. Free legendary weekly showcase hosted by Christopher Piatt. Comedians, musicians, actors, writers. Arrive in advance for seats – it becomes standing room only very fast and early.
Simmer Brown Showcase at Bughouse Theater, 1910 W. Irving Park Rd., 7:00 p.m. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. for reception for prepaid ticket holders only. Show is at 8. This showcase almost always sells out. Tonight: Double headliners: Dave Helem and Lara Beitz. Music from Gabe Liebowitz. Special Guests: Shane Copland (History Channel, HBO, Zanies) and Tim Barnes (It’s All True, WBEZ, Doug Loves Movies, one of his last Chicago shows!). Also featuring Simmer Brown producers: Prateek Srivastava and Sameena Mustafa.
The Kates at The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave., 7:00 p.m. Tonight is hosted by The Kates’ producer Kelsie Huff. Featuring Christi Lowell, Angelica Davila, Alexandra Tsarpalas, Kristin Clifford, Alaina Hoffman, Beth Schmidt, Lindsay Thobe and Jennifer Ann Coffeen.
Cristela Alonzo at Zanies, MB Financial Park, Rosemont, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Lola Balatro at Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln Ave., 8:00 p.m. This is a rare opportunity to see a two-hour set from com-rock’s best. As they’re saying, “This will not be off the hook. This is the hook.” That’s how I come out, too. Please read my interview with Lola Balatro here.
Martin Lawrence at The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, 8:00 p.m. The TV, comedy and movie star is here for two nights of shows (Friday and Saturday) on his Doin’ Time Tour as he puts together his next concert film.
Decade of Funny Tribute Show at Jokes and Notes, 4641 S. King Drive, 8:30 p.m. Surprise celebrity line-up. I hear the line-up includes Erica Clark and Damon Williams. Come celebrate and pay tribute to Mary Lindsey and Jokes and Notes on its last weekend.
Yeah Buddy Awesome Time at Brainstorm, 1579 N. Milwaukee, 8:30 p.m. Free show. Donations appreciated. Featuring Timmy Williams, Lucas O’Neil, Byron Stamps, Shannon Noll, Cleveland Anderson, Mike Knish, Andrew Stuart-Cline, James Doyle and Justin Bulver. Hosted by Jason Melto.
11th Annual Snubfest at Under the Gun Theater, 956 W. Newport, 9:00 p.m. Snubfest features comedians rejected from festival over the past year. Go to Snubfest and laugh at how mistaken those festivals were! Snubfest alums include Nick Vatterott, Cameron Esposito, TJ Miller and Vanessa Bayer. Snubfest is at Zanies and Under the Gun Theater all this week.
Rory Scovel at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 10:00 p.m. Presented by the Lincoln Lodge which says, Rory Scovel is “without a doubt one of the Lodge-iest off-the-wall, innovative comedians we have had the pleasure of presenting.” He has appeared on Modern Family, Those Who Can’t, Conan and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and you can also see him in the movie, The House with Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell which just finished shooting.
Sherman Edwards at WIP Theater, 6670 N. Northwest Highway, 10:00 p.m. Sherman Edwards is in demand around the country and has been featured at some of comedy’s most prestigious festivals from here to Scotland.
Porn Minus Porn at Under the Theater, 956 W. Newport, 10:30 p.m. Real scripts, just the dialogue. So what will you hear? You don’t know and neither do the actors … until showtime. Creator Ben Bowman keeps the script a secret until then. He says, “When a line is so stupid that our actors start laughing, the audience inevitably follows along. It’s a ticking time bomb of laughter and I know exactly when it’s going to explode.” Recommended by Redeye, The Chicago Reader and New City Stage. Behind the scenes interview with Ben Bowman here.
SUNDAY, JUNE 26
Kids In the Hall’s Kevin McDonald at CIC Theater, 1422 W. Irving Park Rd., 8:00 p.m. Stand-up by Kevin plus a sketch show he directed, then he’ll do improv with some of CIC’s best.
[LAST DAY] 11th Annual Snubfest at Under the Gun Theater, 956 W. Newport, 8:00 p.m. Snubfest features comedians rejected from festival over the past year. Go to Snubfest and laugh at how mistaken those festivals were! Snubfest alum include Nick Vatterott, Cameron Esposito, TJ Miller and Vanessa Bayer.