Chicago laughs it up
Comedy fest takes over the city
06/13/2012 10:00 PM
Chicago is a funny place. No, really.
The city’s history as a comedy incubator runs deep. From Jack Benny and Bob Newhart, to John Belushi and Bill Murray, to Bernie Mac and Tina Fey, the world’s funniest individuals have emerged from the Chicago comedy scene. Though many leave to find fame on the west and east coasts, Chicago remains a mecca with The Second City, Improv Olympics, Zanies and a mad mass of other clubs and spaces devoted both to celebrating comedy and to fostering up-and-coming talent.
It’s no surprise that Canada’s Just for Laughs production group would pick Chicago to host the only U.S.-based installation of its wildly successful, long-running comedy festival franchise (Toronto and Montreal play host, as well). Now in its fourth year, Just for Laughs Chicago — or TBS Just for Laughs Chicago, to be specific, referencing the group’s new partnership with the cable television giant — is one of the country’s largest events devoted to comedy.
From June 12 to 17, 185 performers hit stages at 18 venues across the city, among them marquee talent such as Janeane Garofalo, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Vince Vaughn, Marc Maron, Reggie Watts, Stephen Merchant, Aziz Ansari, Brian Posehn and tons more. The action doesn’t stop at stand-up, though.
Filmmaker, author and overall funny guy Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) presents an evening discussion of his life and work. The Gene Siskel Film Center features related screenings.Big names draw crowds and notoriety, of course, but Just For Laughs Chicago would be nothing without a local focus. Events highlighting some of the city’s best talent run throughout the week.
Chicago Journal favorite Sean Flannery presents his one-man show, Never Been to Paris, at Lakeview’s The Playground Theater on Friday and Saturday. Those who have ever felt extreme hangover guilt will find Flannery’s hilarious reminisces of past drunken excesses soothing.
Locals-done-good Hannibal Buress and TJ Miller return to Chicago for solo shows.
Buress (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock) holds court at Park West in Lincoln Park on Friday and Miller (the films Cloverfield, Extract, Our Idiot Brother and TV’s Carpoolers) brings his hit show, Performance Anxiety, to Old Town’s Up Comedy Club for special shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Both comics have “Top 10 Comics to Watch” accolades from Variety under their belt and both shows are Just For Laughs Chicago must-sees.
For those looking for more laughs for their buck, showcase nights are the way to go.
New Faces Chicago on Friday at The Comedy Bar in River North, ALONE: Chicago’s Best Solo Acts at The Playground Theater on Saturday and Best of the Midwest on Saturday in Bronzeville, among others, feature eight to 10 of Chicago’s freshest comics. These shows are the best opportunity to catch large numbers of Chicago-area talent in one flail swoop. They are also the raison d’etre for Just For Laughs and any other comedy festival, shining lights on home-grown talent on a national stage.