Chicago's Best Improv Spots

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Monday, January 14, 2013 - 12:26pm

It’s well known that Chicago is one of the best cities around the globe for improv comedy. With so many choices and options it can be a bit overwhelming for visitors and locals to really know where to spend an evening at the improv. Never fear – The Local Touirst is here to direct you in the right…direction? Here are some top spots I have come across during my time in Chicago. 

Before we begin: A very quick understanding of improv. Improv is a style of theater that is thought up on the spot and performed for an audience. Usually beginning with a suggestion from the audience the actors construct characters, a plot and of course comedy all right then and there with no rehearsal. There are two basic forms of improv: long form and short form. Long form improv creates multiple scenes that interlink and last a bit longer than short form. Short form is more of what you see on TV with shows such as Whose Line is it Anyway, and…the British version of Whose Line is it Anyway. Sketch comedy can also been seen at a few improv theaters around the city, which we are all familiar with from shows such as Saturday Night
Live, and MadTV. (Yes. I just referenced MadTV)
The Classics:
Improv Olympic / iO: Founded by one of the fathers of modern day improv Del Close, this Wriglyville location focuses on long form improv. Asking only for a short suggestion from the audience they will construct hour long shows that take you places you could never dream! Be sure to catch TJ & Dave, one of the longest
running and most successful shows iO has to offer.
Second City: Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Steve Carell, the list goes on and on. Located just north of Old Town these shows mix improve with sketch comedy. Hilarious and entertaining, these shows are a bit more expensive than iO, but if you have yet to experience a Second City show – go now!
ComedySportz: The only spot in town that only performs short form improv, this Lakeview improv theater is fun for the entire family. With ComedySportz theaters all around the world, the Chicago location is the top gun – and they will not hesitate to tell you so!
Other Gems:
Baby Wants Candy: Every Friday evening these guys put together an entirely new, thought up on the spot musical. That’s right. Accompanied with an improv band, and using a title given by the audience, the cast of Baby Wants Candy performs a one night only musical. It is truly amazing to watch, and the talent of the singers will surprise you. Enjoy!
The Annoyance Theater: This Logan Square theater is another great option for seeking improv in the city. Often times a bit more mature audiences and shows – there is often times a cringe or two.
pHproductions: Just moving into a brand new space up in Andersonville pHproductions mixes improv, sketch and even stand up comedy. Known as “the peoples theater” this non-profit theater bleeds with passion and hilarious comedy.
UPcomedy club: Right down the street from Second City, the UP comedy club features some of the best stand up acts in the midwest and from time to time features Second City performers for improv shows.
The Playground: Want to try improv yourself? Come Monday nights for an open-mic style improv show.
Gorilla Tango: While most of the comedy is sketch, they have improv at least once a week.
If you are interested in taking improv classes, every “Classic” improv theater mentioned offers them starting from the 101 level. Who knows - maybe YOU could be the next Tina Fey, Chris Farley or Steve Carell!
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Mark Lawrence
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