Economic blues make more people seek out comedy clubs
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media March 7, 2013 10:02AM
Comedian Mike Ostrowski pokes fun at book titles during an appearance at ComedyComedy at the Tap House in Oswego. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 7, 2013 10:02AM
Hey, did you hear the one about the priest, the rabbi and the Elvis impersonator?
If not, chances are good you’ll be able to hear it soon at a night club near you. Comedy, it seems, is making a comeback.
Sure, Zanies in St. Charles and The Improv in Schaumburg have been around for awhile, but more bars are hosting stand-up comedians and more community theater groups are putting on improv nights than ever before.
True, comedy hasn’t ever really died. But like everything, it’s cyclical. And people will always love to laugh.
“Comedy has cycled up and down for decades,” said Tony Baldino, owner of The Improv in Schaumburg. “Going back into the ’80s, it was extremely big; then got overbuilt where comedy clubs were opening up on every corner and (a lot) shows were on TV. Everybody tried to start doing comedy, and it diluted the product. Comedy went through a downturn in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Then it rebounded again in the mid-’90s … Then it had a little slow down again, and then it picked up one more time.”
In spite of — or perhaps because of — the economic downturn, his club is thriving.
“Even in bad economies, we still do well because it can be an inexpensive evening out and people still like to laugh,” he said. “This year, our sales are up considerably over last year so far, so things are looking real good for us.”
The Chicago market has seen a big increase in comedy clubs in the last few years, he noted.
He brings in comedians from New York and Los Angeles each weekend, and their demographic changes weekly depending on who’s performing, he said. Think urban to ethnic to blue collar to family comedians.
“It changes week to week, so that’s one of the advantages that keep comedy going in rougher times,” he said.
In addition to booking professional comedians, he puts on showcase nights with 10 to 15 comedians who are given the chance to perform.
Coming up at The Improv are Ralphie May in April, and Dave Coulier and Louie Anderson in May.
A new comedy club, ComedyComedy at the Tap House, opened last October at the Tap House Grill in Oswego. Owners Ritas Ziupsnys and Bert Borth offer two shows a week at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, plus an open mic and amateur night the first Tuesday of the month.
“It’s going pretty good — the response we’re getting,” he said. “Every month or so we’re adding probably 20 percent to our crowd. We’ve been selling out some shows, which is nice.”
While Ziupsnys is new to the comedy scene, Borth ran the Funny Bone in Naperville from 1990 to 1999.
“It’s going really well,” he said. “I think the advantage we have … is that we offer a full menu. The Tap House menu is available to everybody, which I think really helps us. It sets us apart.”
Acts coming up at ComedyComedy at the Tap House include impressionist Bob Jay on March 9, Vince Carone on March 16 and Ken Savara on March 23.
Elgin’s GreenRoom Theatre has been doing Improv shows for years at the Cosman Theater in Huntley, and more recently at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin. It’s an evening of unscripted comedy that is completely clean and appropriate for the entire family. The next improv show is at 7 p.m. March 9 at the Cosman Theater in Huntley.
Here are some places to go for a laugh:
Ashbury’s: This restaurant owned by the Bolingbrook Park District offers a comedy night on Fridays. Jimmy McHugh performs March 8. 335 E. Boughton Road, Bolingbrook. Call (630) 739-2377 or visit Bolingbrookparks.org.
Center Stage Theater: Kidz Kabaret will perform a night of improv comedy for kids by kids on March 20 at Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Ave., Suite 143, Naperville. Call (630) 355-9212 or visit http://centerstage.fairladyproductions.net.
“Classless”: Independent Players of Elgin present an evening of original sketch comedy, improv and digital shorts at 8 p.m. March 9, 15, 22-23 and 3 p.m. March 17 and 24 at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St., Elgin. Tickets are $12-$15. Call (847) 697-7374 or visit Independent Players on Facebook.com.
ComedyComedy at the Tap House Grill: Stand-up comedians appear at 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; upcoming performers include impressionist Bob Jay March 9, Vince Carone March 16 and Ken Savara March 23. The next open mic night is April 2. Located at 123 W. Washington St., Oswego. Call (630) 857-9658 or visit http://comedycomedy.net.
Comedy Shrine: The Comedy Shrine is hosts stand-up comedians and a “Whose Line?” improv show (similar to ABC’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”) at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. A “naughty” version runs at 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. There’s an open mic night at 8 p.m. Mondays, a teen improv group; and a new improvised, interactive comedy experience called The Bar Show that combines comedy and drinking at 10 p.m. Saturdays. Also, stand-up comedians: Bryan Cork performs March 8-9; and Chris Fonseca performs March 15-16. 4034 Fox Valley Center Dr., Aurora. Call (630) 585-0300 or visit Comedyshrine.com.
GreenRoom Theater: Improv comedy shows are at 7 p.m. the first Saturday of the month at the Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin; and at 7 p.m. the second Saturday of the month at the Cosman Theater, 12015 Mill St., Huntley. Call (847) 931-4233 or visit Greenroomtheater.com.
The Improv: Upcoming performers are Ian Bragg March 8-10, Charlie Murphy March 14-17, Yannis Pappas March 22-24, Lynn Koplitz March 28-30 and Ralphie May April 4-7. The Streets of Woodfield, 5 Woodfield Road, Schaumburg. Call (847) 240-2001 or visit Chicago.improv.com.
River’s Edge Theatre: PR Productions presents improv comedy at 8 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month; next show is April 6. Located at 217 S. Bridge St., Yorkville. Call (630) 882-0035 or visit Riversedgetheatre.com or Wewantpr.com.
Zanies: This signature comedy club has locations at Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles, and in MB Financial Park, 5437 Park Place, Rosemont. Upcoming performers include the one-named Landry, the 2012 World Series of Comedy winner, March 6-9 at St. Charles; Michael Isaac March 13-16 at St. Charles and Sarah Colonna March 23 at St. Charles and March 24 at Rosemont. John Caponera performs March 6-9 at Rosemont. Call or visit Zanies.com.