Chicago Comedy Spotlight for July 5–10

This week is a stand-out for returning hometown stars. They include Jeff Garlin, Michael Palascak, Jeffrey Sweet, Ian Abramson, Jonathan Kite and Jack Benny. Yes, Jack Benny.

Brad Zimmerman is here to begin his long anticipated month-long run in My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy. Penn & Teller are in Chicago for a film premiere and Q&A, then they’re off to Horseshoe Casino (Indiana) for a show. Kevin Smith is also in town.

All details below.

Breaking ticket alert! Tim Allen will be at The Laugh Factory on July 14th. Tickets here. Tim Allen doesn’t tour very often, so this is a rare opportunity to see his stand-up live.

In the news: today’s Chicago Tribune has a very interesting article about how Chicago comedians employ talent, wit and initiative to become opening acts for headliners such as John Oliver and Maria Bamford. Includes details from comedians like Rebecca O’Neal who you can see tonight, Natalie Jose who is performing at the benefit for Orlando on Wednesday and Adam Burke who is headlining at the Comedy Bar later this week. If you’re a regular reader of this calendar, you’ll also recognize many other names.

I’m changing things up this week. I’m streamlining my weekly post from a calendar to a spotlight. I just gots to make it shorter. But there’s so much comic greatness in Chicago every single day it feels wrong to leave anything out. So I’m supplementing with a new feature: a permanent list of recurring showcases and productions for each day of the week.

How will it work? Say you’re looking for comedy on a Tuesday. And who isn’t! Click on the “Comedy each day of the week” tab above and then click “Chicago comedy on Tuesday.” These posts will go up over the coming week, so please continue to check back.

I’ll continue to post a weekly spotlight of unique, limited-time events and line-ups which you’ll continue to find under the “calendars” tab.

If you have a show you would like me to include anywhere, please email me at

Please confirm all details when making plans. Venues and times may change and sometimes I may have been distracted and woozy from the incomprehensible cacophony of four straight nights of fireworks from across the street.

Thank you to the Chicago comedy community for making this blog possible.


Secrets, Lies and Alibis at The Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln, 8:30 p.m. Comedy inspired by the audience’s secrets.Featured Performers: Ali Clayton, Sydeny Adeniyi, Grace Lusk, Samuel Priest, Amanda Lynn Deal, Brian Lirot and The Angriest Magician in the World.

Chicago Underground Comedy at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 9:00 p.m. ChUC’s summer series continues with headliner Rebecca O’Neal and featuring Stephanie Weber, Nicky Martin, Dan Sheehan, J. Michael Osborne, Actual Murderers and surprise pop-ins.



Kevin Smith at Zanies, MB Financial Park, Rosemont, 7:00 and 9:30 p.m. Kevin Smith is a screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, podcaster and comic book author. His films include Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Chasing Amy and more.

Chigaygo: Benefit for Orlando at The Laugh Factory, 3175 N. Broadway, 8:00 p.m. Featuring Scott Duff, Martin Morrow, Gwen La Roka, Seth Davis, Natalie Jose and more TBA.

Dave Maher II at The Annoyance Theatre, 851 W. Belmont, 9:30 p.m. The premiere of Dave Maher’s new comedy series. New show each week through August 24. Unique interactive experiences for comedy fans with behind-the-scenes discussions you won’t hear elsewhere.

This week: “Dave invites the best improv group in Chicago, Sand, to perform a set to which he adds live commentary. Then, the three of them turn the tables and add live commentary to a set of Dave’s stand-up. Finally, Sand and Dave sit down for a panel discussion about how both sets went as well as their individual approaches to improvisation.”

Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights with the Grant Park Orchestra at Millenium Park, 7:00 p.m. This 1931 classic comedy still strikes true life chords about love, longing and doing what you can. The live musical accompaniment makes it feel even more immediate. Pre-concert lecture 7:00-7:30 p.m. Movie begins at 8:00 p.m.



My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy at The North Shore Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays thru Sundays thru August 7. Brad Zimmerman begins a month-long run of his one-man show which the New York Times called, “Delicious! Distinctly original… powerfully poignant and a great comedy.” He is also known for his work with Joan Rivers who said, “I’ve had three great opening acts in my lifetime: Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling  and Brad Zimmerman.”


Jeffrey Sweet at The Annoyance Theatre, 851 W. Belmont, 5:30 p.m. Free preview. Award-winning author and playwright Jeffrey Sweet presents his one-man show about the history of improv. Jeffrey Sweet authored the definitive history of Second City,  Something Wonderful Right Away. In tonight’s show, he weaves the history of improv with the history of anti-Semitism in Europe and reveals how racism and hardship inspired an art form that would change comedy forever. I was fortunate to speak with Jeffrey Sweet a few years ago and to see an earlier version of the show which is most excellent. Interview here.

Laugh Riot Showcase at 350 Brewing Company, 7144 W. 183rd St., Tinley Park, 6:30 p.m. With Last Comic Standing finalist Michael Palascak, WGN’s Next Big Comic winner Calvin Evans, Jeff Kowalczyk and Bill Brady. Dinner and a show.

Congrats on Your Success at Uncharted Books, 2620 N. Milwaukee, 7:00 p.m. Felonious Munk (The Nightly Show) headlines. Featuring Sean White, Charlie Rohrer, Caitlin Checkeroski, Max Friedman, Toby McMullen and Ali Clayton.


the kates Birthday Bash at Diversey River Bowl, 2211 W. Diversey, 8:00 p.m. Happy nine years and congratulations to the kates and to creator and producer Kelsie Huff! Tonight’s celebration includes stand-up, raffles, trivia, a 10 second dance party, cake, a lip synch contest and a special showcase of the kates’ new cast. Featuring Kelsie Huff, Alexandra Tsarpalas, Adrienne Gunn, Amy Sumpter, Brittany Meyer, Denise Medina, Elizabeth Gomez, Mona Aburmishan and Soli Santos.


Adam Burke at the Comedy Bar, 500 N. LaSalle, 8:oo p.m. Adam Burke will be headlining at The Comedy Bar this Wednesday thru Saturday. Check site for all show times. Adam Burke’s comedy is unforgettable, cerebral and relatable. He is in demand at festivals around the country, was named The Chicago Reader‘s best stand-up and is a popular panelist on NPR’s Wait  Wait … Don’t Tell Me!

Penn & Teller at The Siskel Center, 164 N. State, 8:30 p.m. The Chicago premiere of the film Director’s Cut with star and writer Penn, director Adam Rifkin and Teller who has a rare speaking cameo appearance. Includes post-show discussion and a cupcake.

Interesting facts: Penn & Teller have been together for 41 years. They have been answers on The New York Times crossword puzzle, Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire. They first performed together as “Othmar Schoeck Memorial Society for the Preservation of Unusual and Disgusting Music” and then as “The Asparagus Valley Cultural Society” (both with Wier Chrisimer who introduced them). They became “Mrs. Lonsberry’s Seance of Horror” when Chrisimer left. They reportedly consider themselves business colleagues, but not friends. In case you’re wondering as I was, Penn Jillette is 6’6’’ tall.

(Note: Penn & Teller are at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond tomorrow night.)

The Attic Comedy at Lincoln Tap Room, 3010 N. Lincoln Ave., 9:00 p.m. This showcase is unique in featuring four headliners, meaning a full twenty minute set from each. Tonight: Joel Boyd, Sonia Denis, Brandon Kieffer and Joe McMahon. Hosted by James Fisher.

Seth Thomas with Susan Messing at Messing with A Friend at The Annoyance Theatre, 851 W. Belmont, 10:30 p.m. Wow, two of improv’s most celebrated and award-winning performers together for one-night only. Seth Thomas, of the critically acclaimed, HBO Aspen Comedy Fest-winning Defiant Thomas Brothers and Susan Messing, named “Best Improviser” by the Reader and “Improviser of the Year” at the Chicago Improv Festival. Just to name a few of these two’s accolades.



Jeff Garlin at Zanies, MB Financial Park, 5437 Park Place, Rosemont, 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Also Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Comedian, actor, writer and director Jeff Garlin is a Chicagoan and star and executive producer of Curb Your Enthusiasm (coming back for a 9th season) and The Goldbergs He is also the writer, director and star of the films I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With, Dealing With Idiots and a Pixar voice artist. His latest project is the film Handsome, recently acquired by Netflix. He’ll star and direct. He has a live show in L.A. called By the Way: In Conversation with Jeff Garlin where guests have included Larry David.


Will You Accept This Rose? at Under the Gun Theater, 956 W. Newport, 9:00 p.m. Tonight, the most dramatic parody show ever features Jonathan Hollaway an actual Bachelor contestant from Kaitlyn’s season and from Bachelor in Paradise. Check out this article for interesting details about this Under the Gun show of every Bachelor/ette fans’ dreams. Here’s Jonathan’s profile from The Bachelorette. (Do I watch The Bachelor/ette? Why are you asking? No. Absolutely not. I wasn’t crushed about the July 4 airing of a re-run, either,  though I did ask myself what kind of holiday pre-empts Jojo?)



Jonathan Kite at Niles North High School, 9800 Lawler Ave., Skokie, 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Jonathan Kite (Oleg from 2 Broke Girls) returns to his alma mater to record his comedy special. Milk and cookies free to the 9:30 p.m. audience. Check out this Chicago Tribune article for more details.


Mr. Benny at The Skokie Theater, 7924 N. Lincoln, 8:00 p.m. Saturday night and also Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Tim Newell stars in this one-man show celebrating Jack Benny who was born on Valentine’s Day 1894 in Chicago. He grew up in Waukegan. Interesting facts from Kliph Nesteroff’s 2015 book, The Comedians: In Waukegan, Jack Benny met the Marx brothers and rejected a request from Marx Mom Mimi to join the brothers as their accompanist. Jack Benny went from Waukegan to Vaudeville to radio and was named Best Radio Comedian of 1934. He is renowned to this day for his comedic timing including the ultra-effective use of silence. Another timely fact these days: Jack Benny was on Hitler’s hit list for his role in Ernst Lubitsch’s anti-Nazi film, To Be Or Not To Be. Comedians who cite Jack Benny’s as a major influence include Bob Newhart, Albert Brooks and Jeff Garlin.


Bell Hop at Virgin Hotels, 203 N. Wabash, 9:00 p.m. Presented by Ian Abramson and the A.V. Club, this is an eclectic, perennially popular and sold out show. Amazingly, the show is free. Tonight: celebrate Bell Hop’s one-year anniversary with stand-up from Ron Lynch (Bob’s Burgers, Home Movies). With special guests Rebecca O’Neal, Fran Hoepfner, Charlie Rohrer, Sarah Sherman, and more TBA.


Neutrino Project: The Instant Movie at Laugh Out Loud Theater, 3851 N. Lincoln Ave., 5:00 p.m. An original improv experiment. Minutes before the show, a film crew embarks on a neighborhood adventure, recording then editing. The audience then gets to see and react to the footage.


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