From superstars like John Cleese and Jane Lynch to burgeoning comics, SNL staples, and some Christmas-themed specials, comedians are descending on Chicago en masse this season. Here are some of the shows, performances, and events not to miss.
Bert Kreischer: Body Shots Tour at the Chicago Theatre
The comedian, podcaster, and Travel Channel host brings his larger-than-life personality to Chicago for one night. Known as the original inspiration for National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Kreischer has been performing stand-up for years, having released an hour special on both Comedy Central and Showtime. His podcast, Bertcast, which finds him interviewing some of the biggest names in comedy and Hollywood in general, is also widely popular.
Details: November 9, 7 p.m.; $39–$59
John Cleese at the Genesee Theatre
Comedy legend Cleese will be appearing in a one-man show titled John Cleese Is at It Again… The Monty Python creator and star will be offering a humorous and historical perspective on the past 50 years that he’s spent in the entertainment business. Any fan of British humour would be silly to miss an evening with the man who essentially brought the genre into the American mainstream.
Details: November 15, 8 p.m.; $45–$95
Ari Shaffir: Jew at the Vic Theatre
Veteran comic Shaffir has been referred to by L.A. Weekly as a “gifted, unyielding comic…a real force to be reckoned with.” He recently released a Netflix special called Double Negative, presented in two 45-minute episodes, in what he calls his version of a Smashing Pumpkins double album. Prior to that, he hosted three seasons of the Comedy Central storytelling show This Is Not Happening, as well as appeared as a regular guest on the network’s @midnight.
Details: November 16, 7 p.m.; $34
David Sedaris at Auditorium Theatre
The bestselling author and NPR contributor presents an evening featuring all new stories, an audience Q&A, and a book signing. Sedaris, one of the country’s most iconic contemporary humor writers, has published a dozen books and essay collections, including Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. He’ll be reading from his newest collection, Calypso, which has been described as “his most deeply personal and darkly hilarious” one yet.
Details: November 21, 7:30 p.m.; $54–$74
Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! at Chase Auditorium
NPR’s weekly, news-based quiz show is taped predominantly in Chicago; however, tickets can be awfully hard to procure. Whenever the show is in town, it’s held at the Chase Auditorium on Thursday nights (with the occasional summer exception of Millenium Park). The show is hosted by playwright-actor Peter Sagal and features a rotating panel of comedians, authors, and actors.
Details: November 21, 7 p.m.; $30–$85
Maria Bamford at 350 Brewing
Bamford is one of the (if not the) most beloved stand-up comedians working today. She has performed in five different hour-long specials (including two on Comedy Central); she recently wrote and starred in Lady Dynamite, a Netflix show based on her life; and she has voiced characters on dozens of animated series. On top of all that, Stephen Colbert called her his “favorite comedian on earth,” and Judd Apatow said she is “the funniest woman in the world.”
Details: November 22, 7:30 p.m.
Nick Kroll: Middle-Aged Boy Tour at the Vic Theatre
The actor-writer-comedian behind Comedy Central’s Kroll Show and Netflix’s Big Mouth is coming to Chicago for a run of performances that will certainly sell out. In addition to the wildly popular aforementioned series, Kroll has a long history at UCB New York and has made appearances in countless TV shows and movies, including The League, Sausage Party, and The Secret Life of Pets.
Details: November 20–22, 7:30 p.m.; $28–$38
Christela Alonzo: My Affordable Care Act at the Vic Theatre
Alonzo made history in 2014 when she became the first Latina to create, write, and star in a network television sitcom called Christela. She’s a regular guest host on The View, and recently put out an hour-long special on Netflix titled Lower Classy. Look out for her soon-to-be-released book, Music to My Years: A Mixtape Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up.
Details: November 23, 8 p.m.; $29–$59
Kyle Kinane: Spring Break Tour at Thalia Hall
Originally from Chicago and currently one of the best comics in the country, Kinane regularly tours internationally. He’s got a TV credit on any program that’s featured stand-up comedy in the past decade, and has appeared on Drunk History, Workaholics, Comedy Bang! Bang!, and Netflix’s Love. He has three one-hour specials out on Comedy Central and is not to be missed. Don’t be surprised if this show sells out and he adds a late one.
Details: November 26, 8:30 p.m.; $27–$40
Pete Davidson at the Vic Theatre
Actor, comedian, and current Saturday Night Live cast member Davidson seems to constantly be in the news for who he’s dating, but he’s been a breakout stand-up since his late-teen years, when he first caught the attention of the higher-ups at SNL. His affable, stoner style of comedy has been popular as desk pieces on the show’s “Weekend Update” segment, as well as his specials available through Comedy Central. Seeing as he’s only doing one show, it will likely sell out.
Details: November 30, 7:30 p.m.; $48
The Blackout Diaries: Live Pilot Taping at the Newport Theater
Chicago’s original drinking-storytelling show has been running for a decade, and it’s commemorating the milestone with a live pilot taping. The show features some of the best comedians in the city (and beyond), as well as one or two noncomedians (professors, doctors, firefighters, etc.) telling true stories of being blackout drunk—replete with pictures and videos from their misadventures.
Details: November 30, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.; $10
A John Waters Christmas at Thalia Hall
The legendary filmmaker and author returns to Chicago this holiday season for his annual show, A John Waters Christmas. The event is different each year yet always promises to be rapid-fire, bizarre, crazy, and, most important, hilarious. This one will find Waters with “…a bag full of tricks for the despised and depraved, spreading Yuletide corruption and cockeyed piety.” He’ll answer questions like “Is Mrs. Clause a chubby chaser?” and “Is Santa a bear or a silver fox?” Clearly the questions to which everyone needs answers.
Details: December 3, 8 p.m.; $35–$55
Jane Lynch’s Swingin’ Little Christmas Featuring Kate Flannery, Tim Davis, and the Tony Guerreo Quintet at City Winery
Three-time Emmy- and Golden Globe–winner Lynch is bringing her holiday-themed comedic concert to Chicago along with friends Flannery (Meredith from The Office) and Davis (from Glee and Boy Band). The trio, along with the Tony Guerrero Quintet, also have an album of the same name available on iTunes and Amazon.
Details: December 15, 8 p.m.; $55–$78