Fourteen ways to give back to Chicago comedy now!

From improv to stand-up, Chicago is where great comedy is born! During these hard times, we have an opportunity to give back to the folks who have uplifted our spirits, inspired and kept us laughing every day of the year through blizzards and heat waves, celebrations and turmoil, and everything in between – this includes performers and all the hardworking people who keep the clubs and theaters going. But now, the majority have lost their income and face catastrophic times. Some venues may be in danger of  closing permanently. Here’s our chance to make a difference and tell them “We won’t let you go away and THANK YOU!” Click on the links below for details about each emergency relief fund. Let me know what I should add and I’ll update!

Thank you to Prateek Srivastava, one of comedy’s best, for helping me compile this list.


The John Fox Memorial Fund This Fund helps Chicago comedians pay for medical costs, rent, groceries and other critical needs. Dr. Bill Miller told me about it here: who John Fox was and why this fund deserves the support of all comedy fans.

Zanies Zanies is one of the world’s great stand-up venues, so it may be surprising to think of  it as a small business – but remarkably, it is. Zanies’ staff is an important part of bringing the best headliners and feature acts to the stage night after night. Now they need our help. Every dollar helps.

Lincoln Lodge  Lincoln Lodge is home to many singular comedy assets, including phenomenal stand-up classes. You do NOT have to wait to sign up! Feminine Comique and Stand Up Seminary are now being offered online via Zoom. What’s the tuition to attend these world-class workshops? A $5 suggested donation which can be waived if it’s hard to pay now.

You can also support the Lincoln Lodge through its GoFundMe page here. The Lincoln Lodge has launched some of today’s greatest comedians, including Cameron Esposito and Kumail Nanjiani.

The Playground Theater  “The Playground Theater is a 501(c)3 non-profit, artist-led theater with its roots in improvisational comedy. Our mission is to provide a home for artists to grow as writers, directors, performers, producers, and people. We are committed to entertaining audiences with successful shows that reflect our core values: diversity, freedom, opportunity, and outreach.”

Riddles Comedy Club  Support this historic South Side comedy club co-owned by nationally touring headliner, television personality and Chicago treasure Damon Williams. A short list of the comedians who performed at Riddles over the past twenty-nine years: “Richard Jeni, Larry Miller, Ellen DeGeneres, Drew Carey, George Lopez, Martin Lawrence, Gabe Kaplan, Louie Anderson, Dom Irrera, Jeff Dunham, Jimmy “JJ” Walker, Tom Dreesen and Paul Rodriguez. Riddles is also home to fresh up and coming local comics in the area!”

iO “…  the most important group work since they built the pyramids.” Bill Murray

“Considered to be the Mecca of improvisation, the iO Theater boasts an Improv Training Center that has helped train and develop the talents of an entire generation of America’s best and brightest comedic entertainers for over 30 years.”

This GoFundMe supports iO’s theater staff.

The Annoyance Theatre  “Anyone who knows the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago knows we’re not afraid of anything. From our alternative shows and original musicals to naked improv and live drag, we imprint our “fuck it” attitude on everything we touch. But right now, we are afraid. We’re not only concerned for the health and safety of our staff, directors, performers & students during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also for the well-being of our audiences & patrons. In response, we have closed our doors indefinitely.  You can help us guarantee that the doors to our theatre will not close forever.”  Follow the link to discover the very unique thing that Annoyance is doing now. (Hint: no one’s getting in, but no one’s getting out, either.)

Second City   “The Second City Night Staff–the servers, hosts, bartenders, food runners, dishwashers, and box office staff–are without the shifts we depend on to cover our bills and rent, feed ourselves, and pay for any medications/resources we need more than ever. At the end of every show, the cast calls our team the “hardest working people in the room. ” We would greatly appreciate your support to get us through this period while we are out of work.” This GoFundMe began with a $25,000 contribution from Second City itself, but still needs more donations. An opportunity to give back to the theater where improv was born and which continues to inspire across the globe.

Follow Second City on social media for announcements about special online shows.

The Laugh Factory  The world famous Laugh Factory is known in Chicago for bringing internationally touring headliners as well as the city’s top talent to its stage along with innovative interactive programming. Please help support the Laugh Factory employees who make it all possible.

Chicago Underground Comedy  “We’re glad you’re staying home and being a cool chill community member. You rule! But you know who it’s bad for? Service industry workers. Like our beloved staff at Beat Kitchen. With Gov. Pritzker closing all bars and restaurants, this is a VERY precarious time economically for industry folk  … if you’d like to support our amazing staff at BK, we’re selling “tickets” for however much you can afford ($5 would be amazing), with ALL PROCEEDS going to our bartender Sam and waitress Betty. We adore them and anything you can give helps a lot! To donate, please PayPal, or if you don’t have PayPal you can Venmo meredith-kachel (because CHUC doesn’t have a Venmo), and we will pass it along.”

ChUC is one of the cornerstones of Chicago stand-up. People who’ve been on ChUC’s stage: Adam Burke, Cameron Esposito, Paul Thomas, Dan Telfer, Kumail Nanjiani, Beth Stelling, Puterbaugh Sisters, Kyle Kinane, Nick Vatterott and many more.

Comedy Sportz  CSz is one of the few venues in the country that is still open, albeit virtually. CSz has shows streaming online and is even offering Spring Break Camps for Kids. All that information is here. CSz is paying its people for going above and beyond, so please consider contributing at its GoFundMe page.

The Comedy Clubhouse During its twenty-five year history, the Comedy Clubhouse became known for innovative comedy in a warm and personal setting.  But now, without our support, this institution may not be able to continue. The theater is also known for its support of local and national causes, including “the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Girl Scouts of America, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Hillel Foundation, Esperanza Health Centers, Young Associates Board …

Please consider donating and help us to continue doing the good work we do for our members, audience, and community. Once we get through this complicated time, we have no doubt that fans will crave live events more than ever before – looking to connect with one another and come together through the power of comedy. We can’t wait to host and laugh with you! Thank you!” 

Westside Improv This growing theater provides class and performance opportunities for Chicago’s western suburbs. Responding to popular demand, Westside Improv was in the midst of expanding when the CoVid catastrophe hit. Please support this valuable comedy resource by contributing to its GoFundMe. Follow Westside’s online offerings (classes and shows) here.

The Hungry Brain The Hungry Brain offers just the kind of sustenance its name implies. During better times, they offer gatherings with comedians, musicians and writers. They care so much about all of  us that right now, even with no revenue, they’re “doing some behind the scenes projects to help make the space even better by the time we re-open.” Let’s show our appreciation with any dollar amount we can!

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