In a comedy-centric city like Chicago, stand-up is a staple and open mics are a veritable rite of passage. Though there aren’t many full-time stand-up clubs in town, open mics can be found throughout the week in an array of venues, from basement bars to movie theaters. The key is just knowing where to find them and how to sign up for a slot. Whether you’re looking to take the stage or just sit back and laugh, here are the best stand-up open mics in Chicago.
The Comedy Bar
Out of the three full-time stand-up clubs in the city, only two of them offer an open mic, and The Comedy Bar is one of them. To keep things more interesting, the venue implements a game show-style “spin the wheel” element, where each comedian spins the wheel to determine their set time as well as determine what gimmick they have to adhere to, such as no microphone allowed and people being encouraged to heckle. It’s a component that sets this place apart from other mics in the city while making it more fun to watch for the audience.
Details: Every Thursday at 9:30 p.m. Free. Sign up at 6 p.m. sharp for a fixed amount of spots; return at 8 p.m. to guarantee a spot on the list.
Manic Music Mondays at Frances Cocktail Lounge
Run by two of the best comics in Chicago, Just Nesh and Marilee, this outing feels more like a produced showcase than your typical open mic. While the performers are predominantly comedians, they include a couple music acts each week to keep things fresh, and it’s prone to solid drop-ins from established comics.
Details: Every Monday at 9 p.m. $5, but free for comics. Sign up list goes out at 8:30 p.m.
The legendary mic at Cole’s is a Chicago staple for any comedy-lover. As this mic pushes closer to it’s tenth birthday, the style and vibe have remained essentially unchanged since its inception. Each Wednesday, it’s kicked off at 9 p.m. by Foz the Hook, a fun, ragtag band that belts out original boozy ballads and the occasional cover song. The comedy starts at 9:30 p.m. and goes all the way until 1:30 a.m. or 2 a.m., at which time (not surprisingly) things start to devolve a bit.
Details: Every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. Free. Sign up list goes out at 6 p.m., but people can sign up throughout the night.
Three Dead Moose at Will’s Northwoods Inn
As far as open mics go, this is another longrunning go-to for Chicago comics. Started in 2011 by David Drake and Reena Calm, “3DM” takes place in a back room of this wood-paneled, Wisconsin-themed bar in Lakeview. The mic is still hosted by Reena, as well as a rotating cast of fellow comedians of her choosing. Come for the comedy, stay for the cheese curds, which are routinely ranked among Chicago’s best.
Details: Every Sunday at 8 p.m. Free. Sign up list goes out at 7 p.m.
Power Hour at Gallery Cabaret
It’s no secret that stand-up comedians like to drink, and Power Hour is proof. The gimmick here is each week a comic (always a friend of the show) is chosen to be the designated “drinker” for the evening, wherein they sit just off-stage and drink aggressively for the first hour of the mic, sometimes for the duration. The mic fits in perfectly at the offbeat and quirky Gallery Cabaret. Sometimes there’s a crockpot of free food, sometimes there’s a cowboy-hatted old man bartending, sometimes there are blackout drunk comedians. Point is, you never know what it’ll bring, but it’ll be fun and interesting.
Details: Every Friday at 7 p.m. Free. Sign up list goes out at 6 p.m.
Rathskellar Open Mic at Lottie’s Pub
Started in 2012 by Mike Joyce (now in NYC), the Rathskellar mic has changed hands more times than anyone can keep track of, but still remains one of the better versions in the city. Currently helmed by a crew of up-and-coming comics, the weekly event takes place in the basement of Lottie’s Pub, making it the perfect setting for some stand-up with its dark environs, low ceilings, full bar and zero cell service. That might sound like a nightmare to some, but for comics, it’s ideal.
Details: Every Tuesday at 9 p.m. Free. Sign up list goes out at 8 p.m.
Beer Belly Open Mic at @North Bar
Originally taking place at Pint in Wicker Park, this longstanding mic now resides at nearby @North Bar. The bar itself is almost a miniature version of a comedy club, as it has comedic offerings five to seven nights a week, so the move for this mic was almost a no-brainer. Run by local jokester Jason Melton, the mic is on the later side (11 p.m.), which is good for comics trying to perform multiple sets on a Thursday, and also great for non-comics who like to drink late.
Details: Every Thursday at 11 p.m. Free. Sign up list goes out at 10:30 p.m.
The Chicago location of this famed comedy club hosts its open mic every Wednesday at 6 p.m., but sign up starts at 5:30 p.m. and the line starts well before that (the list is capped at 15 spots). Comics are a mix of new local performers, as well as out-of-towners looking to get “passed” at the club for future paid work. It’s always hosted by a seasoned comedian to keep it running smoothly, and it’s free. Even better, it’s a little known secret that if you attend the open mic, you’re allowed complimentary entry to that evening’s main show as well. For most people that would be too much comedy for one night, but for true comedy nerds, it might be better (certainly more engaging) than bingeing four hours of Netflix stand-up at home on the couch.
Details: Every Wednesday at 6 p.m. Free. Sign up at 5:30 p.m., first 15 comics in line make the list.
Logan Theatre Open Mic
This mainstay mic has been running since 2012 and it’s a mainstay for good reason. Started by Lia Berman, the mic takes place in the back lounge of Logan Square’s homey, throwback theater. It’s a small, intimate room that’s great for new comics getting their feet wet or for veteran comics working out new material, plus it’s the perfect spot for non-comics to grab a beer and watch some stand-up before a movie; assuming you fall into the specific niche of being a non-comic who’s early for a movie and likes stand-up comedy.
Details: Every Monday at 8:30 p.m. Free. Sign up list goes out at 8 p.m.