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A Daily Guide to Chicago Comedy Shows In December

Chicago Flag Watercolor by Mike Maher

It's getting cold, which means (unless you love ice-skating around the ribbon in Maggie Daley Park or running races in crazy cold weather) it's time to find some stuff to do inside for a while. Luckily, Chicago's got plenty of indoor fun to offer, including its incredible comedy scene. Here we've got a stand-up show picked out for every day of the month - from national tours to local open mics and showcases to returning Chicagoans on their way up.


December 1: Iliza Shlesinger at The Vic

Iliza Shlesinger Live Shlesinger last performed at The Vic in April of 2016 when she recorded her third special - "Confirmed Kills" - for Netflix (I reviewed that performance for the Chicago Tribune). This month the accomplished comedian is back with a new tour and a new book to promote ("Girl Logic", which was released on November 7). Shlesinger's energy translates well in a large space and The Vic is a perfect venue for her tales of partying and drunkenness.

December 2: Faded by T. Murph at The Revival  

Chicago's T. Murph hosted a monthly showcase at Jokes & Notes for two years; when that storied venue closed he started this "Lit Ass Comedy Show" at The Revival in Hyde Park and built up a dedicated following (while continuing to build his own name as well). Murph will be in LA from November 26-December 2 performing and taking meetings as a finalist for Standup NBC. He'll be flying back just in time for the one-year anniversary of "Faded," where he'll be recording a 30-minute set to submit to Comedy Central for their Half Hour Series.

December 3: Liza Treyger at Zanies

As part of Zanies' "Welcome Home Series" (which this year has highlighted comedians like Emo Phillips and Michael Palascak), former Chicagoan (and current New Yorker) Liza Treyger is back in town for seven shows from November 30-December 3. Check out her Comedy Central Half Hour and killer album ("Glittercheese") to see why earlier this year Rolling Stone named her one of the "10 Comedians You Need to Know" and Vulture named her one of the "20 Comedians You Should and Will Know."
 
December 4: Afterthoughts: A Comedy Roast at Laugh Factory
 
Every first and third Monday of the Month, Laugh Factory hosts this showcase that differs from other showcases in one important way: "as comics are performing, their fellow comedians get a chance to write mean jokes about them on little note cards. And then the host reads everything out loud, and it's all completely anonymous." On December 4, Adam Burke - who has been performing in Chicago for over a decade and opened for dozens of big names - will be part of the impressive Afterthoughts line-up.

December 5: Top Ten Tuesdays at Laugh Factory

I know we were just at Laugh Factory last night for "Afterthoughts," but it's worth heading back to Lakeview to catch 10 Chicago comedians in one night. There are two shows (7:30PM and 9:30PM), hosted respectively by Chicago comedians Lainie Lenertz and Reena Calm, and whether the featured comics are working their best material or trying out something completely new, this is a great way to take in a ton of top-notch local comedy in one sitting and get a better understanding of the level and variety of talent the Chicago stand-up scene is currently working with.


December 6: Comedians You Should Know - Aaron Weaver at Timothy O'Toole's

Comedian Aaron Weaver - former Chicagoan (and current resident of "The Angeles") - is coming back to the town where he started in 2008 for two shows at Timothy O'Toole's presented by venerated comedy collective Comedians You Should Know. But this won't just be two "amazing" shows, this will also be where Weaver records his debut album "Cosmic Joke."

December 7: Beth Stelling at Thalia Hall

Another Chicagoan coming back to make us laugh through the cold months! As the title of her second album makes clear, this comedian is "Simply the Beth." Along with her two albums, this former Chicagoan has a Comedy Central half hour and, more recently, a half hour on Netflix's "The Standups" that was released this summer. She also writes for HBO's "Crashing." Keeping the Chicago theme, her opening act is former Chicago duo The Puterbaugh Sisters.

December 8: The Kates at The Book Cellar

This "all female comedy showcase" features all kinds of comedy, including stand-up and storytelling. Each show highlights a top notch line-up of comedians and the December 8 performance will mark the final show for the kates in 2017. Included in this show's line-up is the multi-talented Erica Reid who is not only hilarious but, full disclosure, is an all-around great person. (Side note: Mike Birbiglia is performing at The Chicago Theatre this night - I'll be reviewing that show for the Tribune)

December 9: Jaboukie and + Sarah Do Half Hours at The Hideout 

For $5 you can see both former Chicagoan Jaboukie Young-White (who's known even more for being Twitter famous than being stand-up famous) and local comedy killer Sarah Sherman (host of Cole's Open Mic - which I recommend as well! - and the creator of experimental comedy show Helltrap Nightmare). Each of them will be doing a half hour at The Hideout. Young-White will be recording his, while Sherman will likely be working material to prepare for her hour-long show at The Empty Bottle in February.


December 10: Mark Curry at Chicago Improv

The star of the mid-90s sitcom "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" hangs at the Chicago Improv for five shows from December 8-December 10. Back in March, Curry opened for Katt Williams at the UIC Pavilion and showed that he still knows how to kill.

December 11: Manic Music Mondays at Frances Cocktail Lounge

Comedian Taneshia Rice (who performs under the name Just Nesh, has been featured twice on Kevin Hart's tv shows and headlined Zanies in August) co-hosts this weekly open mic. The native Chicagoan also recorded a set for the new HBO series "All Def Comedy" and her episode will air on December 8. Head to the bar on a Monday night to catch her locally while you still can!

December 12: Comedy Cocktail at House of Blues

Every Tuesday at 7:30PM and 9PM, House of Blues Chicago hosts two comedy showcase sets featuring some of the best comedians in the city. On December 12 the early lineup features Erica Clark (who hosted for Jerrod Carmichael last year at UP Comedy Club and was featured on Kevin Hart's "Hart of the City") And the late show gives you a second chance to check out Just Nesh if you missed her at Manic Music Mondays. Don't miss out twice in the same week!

December 13: Cole's Open Mic at Cole's Bar

If you're going to hit up an open mic in the city, this is the one to hit. Hosted by Sarah Sherman (the previously recommended (on 12/9) creator of experimental comedy show Helltrap Nightmare) and Alex Kumin (who opened for Aparna Nancherla at The Hideout last year) in the backroom at Cole's Bar in Logan Square, it goes from 9:30PM to 2AM. If you're not sure about this open mic, here's somebody else raving about it seven years ago when it was co-hosted by Cameron Esposito and Adam Burke.

December 14: Tuxedo Cat Comedy at Beauty Bar

Yes I've got another showcase on the list, but Chicago seriously has so many good ones! This show - which happens the second and fourth Thursdays of the month and moved to the trendy Beauty Bar in Noble Square in July - bills itself as "Swanky" and "Scrappy and (like the city itself) manages both.

December 15: A Dope @ss Holiday Show at North Bar

Comedian, former teacher and former Chicagoan (another one we lost to the west coast) Dave Helem returns to the city for the holidays to host this show at North Bar. Helem has hinted on Twitter at a "top secret line-up" promising "you should just trust and know that it will be fire." When this writer for "Hood Adjacent with James Davis" makes a promise like that we believe him.

December 16: Matt Braunger at Lincoln Hall

Speaking of former Chicagoans coming back for killer shows, Lincoln Hall - where the brilliant Neil Hamburger performed in May - is featuring Matt Braunger tonight. Braunger was a cast member on "MadTV" and came up in the Chicago scene doing improv and stand-up (calling it "a great place to spend my 20s"). He's often considered one of the comedians who helped create the alternative stand-up scene in Chicago (along with Hannibal Buress, Kyle Kinane and Kumail Nanjiani).


December 17: Mike Lebovitz at Comedy Bar

Okay, okay. One more returning Chicagoan you shouldn't miss! The holidays means we get the gift of having all kinds of pros back in town and Comedy Bar is featuring Mike Lebovitz three nights in a row (December 15 - December 17). If you've gotten this far in the list without realizing what a crazy good scene Chicago has please scroll back up and read through again.


December 18: CAMP: A Comedy Show at The Village Tap

This free weekly comedy showcase promises "seasoned stand up comics, character comedians, games, and fresh talent." Basically, everything you want from a summer camp-themed stand-up show that takes place (year-round) in a Roscoe Village beer garden.


December 19: The Comedy Bowl at Diversey River Bowl

December 19 marks the finale of the sixth season of this family-friendly "stand up comedy and trivia" show that takes place in a bowling alley (yes, comedy can happen anywhere). Hosted by comedian Mona Aburmishan (who also produces The Southside Comedy Show) the show closes out with a lip sync competition.


December 20: Peter Gwinn's Launchpad! at iO (The Mission Theater)

Overall the concept for this show - which started in September - sounds like a good one: former "Colbert Report" writer Peter Gwinn highlights local comics, saying "I'm proud to help these hilarious performers get the momentum they need to get out of town to a place where they can finally be recognized." It sucks our best comedians have to leave to make it, but at least they come back from time to time! I'm excited for the December 20 show because it features the hilarious Dewayne Perkins, who was a finalist for Standup NBC and opened for Joel Kim Booster last month at Schubas.


December 21: The Lincoln Lodge Christmas Feztacular at Under the Gun Theater

This show is billed as a "70s style variety special" but since it's "ho ho hosted" by the legendary Lincoln Lodge I'm still calling it a stand-up show. For three nights (December 21-December 23), the Lincoln Lodge will be hosting this fundraiser to raise money for their 18th season. And who doesn't want to see an 18th season from the nation's longest running independent comedy showcase?!? (Just check out the alumni page for comedians who have been part of the group or have been hosted by them - including last year's Aparna Nancherla show at The Hideout.)

December 22: Dave Helem at The Comedy Bar

You missed "A Dope @ss Holiday Show" on December 15th? Well don't make the same mistake twice in the same month Chicago. You're being given another chance to check out Dave Helem, this time headlining at The Comedy Bar (above Gino's East) for two nights (December 22 & 23).

December 23: Marilee: The Rebirth at North Bar

Aside from absolutely having the best promotional poster and the most intriguing title of any other show this month, "Marilee: The Rebirth" also has a ton of promise. The titular Marilee (who co-hosts the previously recommended "Manic Music Mondays" with fellow comedian and Chicago native Just Nesh) is not only the solo performer here but also the writer, producer and director of this show, billed as "an evening of comedy and live music."

December 24: Fun Simulation 2000 at Reed's Local

Yes, it's Christmas Eve, but rather than sitting around waiting to catch Santa coming down your chimney (that's not a euphemism) head out to a dive bar in Avondale for this free weekly open mic. which promises to offer comedy that is of the "stand up, sketch, improvised and musical" variety.

December 25: Christmas for the Jews at City Winery

A stand-up comic, a rabbi and a guitarist walk into a bar... and entertain you for the night! After selling out the City Winery last year, author, comedian, former combat soldier, and Chicago native Joel Chasnoff brings the show back to the swanky West Loop venue this Christmas with all-new guests.


December 26: Chicago Underground Comedy: Comedy Secrets at Beat Kitchen

Every 4th Tuesday - including, thank baby Jesus, the day after Christmas - "alt-comedy haven"institution Chicago Underground Comedy brings top-notch comedians on stage in the back room of Beat Kitchen  - where Beth Stelling recorded her second album - to tell jokes (and maybe reveal their untold secrets). Holiday cheer will abound.

December 27: Monkey Wrench at The Hideout

This comedy show bills itself as "little more than a leftist plot against the ruling class and the worldview they underwrite" and that's reason enough to check it out. Add in that this particular show takes place at The Hideout, will be hosted by Chicago comic Arish Singh (who opened for Hari Kondabolu at the first "Woke Up Stand Up" show earlier this year) and features Felix Biederman of political comedy podcast Chapo Trap House, and it's not to be missed. 

December 28: Dwayne Kennedy at Zanies

Comedian, writer and Chicago native Dwayne Kennedy - who I profiled for the Chicago Tribune in August - is the quintessential Chicago comedian. He's playing Zanies - where he first did stand-up - from December 26-28 and if you miss every other show on this list get to Zanies on one of those nights. Kennedy says, "Chicago is a great place to get good. It's not a place to get famous." And he is proof of that - his comedy is next level while his level of fame is not. Celebrate another year that the coasts haven't claimed him.

December 29: Hannibal Buress at Lyric Opera House

If you're a world-class, nationally-touring comedian (and borderline movie star) and you move back to your hometown, what kind of party would you plan for the end of the year? Whatever you had in mind, Hannibal Buress - who has used his hometown living situation to show up unannounced and kill at both Chris Rock and Ilana Glazer/Phoebe Robinson stand-up shows this year - has one better, with a show at the Lyric Opera House featuring musician Thundercat that, apparently, has a beer tasting beforehand. Just pretend like it's New Year's Eve a few days early.

December 30: Mike E. Winfield at Zanies

Mike E. Winfield may not be from Chicago but any Los Angelean crazy enough to come to Chicago at the end of December is worth recommending. Winfield, a native of Baltimore who you might recognize from "The Office," has three shows at the Chicago Zanies on the 30th (and is also performing at the other two Zanies locations on the 29th and 31st).

December 31: DeRay Davis' Annual Funny & Famous Chi Town Comedy Countdown at Arie Crown Theater

Now this is a comedy show to ring in the new year with! On top of host and Chicago native DeRay Davis, who's worth seeing on his own, this show has a full lineup of stars, including Chicagoan Lil Rel Howery, Michael Blackson and national treasure Tiffany Haddish - who absolutely destroyed in the summer hit "Girls Trip," released her first stand-up special in August ("She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood") and just this month published a book ("The Last Black Unicorn"). She cancelled her previously scheduled show at Zanies in October due to a conflict with her filming schedule and Chicago's not on her 2018 tour list, so don't miss her here!

That's your month of comedy in Chicago. Happy New Year!

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