Chicago Traveler Blog

Chicago Traveler Blog

The Playground Theater: A Top Chicago Comedy Venue

Chicago has a storied history of improvisation comedy groups making the Windy City their home. From lauded groups like Second City, to staples like the Annoyance Theatre and improvised musicals like Baby Wants Candy, aspiring comedians have always been drawn to Chicago for the wealth of opportunities to make an audience laugh out loud at some made-up on the spot material.
The Playground Theater is part of that same history, and has been entertaining audiences with its improv shows since 1997. It has the distinction of being the only non-profit cooperative dedicated to improvised comedy, and a stop at the Playground Theater is an amusing activity to include during an evening on a trip to Chicago.

What to Know

Where: This comedy club is nestled in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood on North Halsted Street, and is easy to get to from public transportation. It is conveniently located close to the Belmont and Wellington stops on the L, which makes navigation to this Chicago hot spot simple.

When to Go: The Playground Theater puts on hilarious comedy shows seven nights a week, so there is no excuse not to fit an evening of laughter into your Windy City itinerary. Every Sunday, the improv shows are free and open to the public. On Sundays, three separate improv groups perform for about 30 minutes each, and no matter which subject matter is selected for the evening, theatre-goers are bound to be left in a fit of giggles. 
Almost every other show is $10 or less, so any night's a good night no matter what your budget is.

Who To Bring: Most shows are appropriate for ages 16 and up. Whichever night guests choose to go this comedy club is bound to be a good time, but perhaps the best night to go for any traveler on a tight budget to attend a show would be Sunday night.

What You Should Definitely Bring: The club is also BYOB, which is another way to save some money on a night out instead of having to purchase overpriced drinks like at some other Chicago clubs and theaters.

What to see: We suggest checking the Playground Theater calendar to see when the different shows are going to be playing during your vacation. Some examples of the types of upcoming popular performances are:

  • The Mixer - Mondays - If you ever thought you were a comedian, the Mixer allows new improvisers to hop on stage with some of Chicago's veterans.
  • Out of Character - This critically acclaimed show headline Friday night and combines improv and the solo sketch comedy that is taking Chicago by storm!
  • Big Yellow Bus - Check this one out when you want to see the best the Playground has to offer! This fun and fast-paced show features the best of the Playground

The venue itself is small, charming and intimate, and the stage places audience members about 15 feet away from the comedians, making everyone feel invested and immersed in the comic antics of the performance. In fact, you may feel so involved that perhaps you’ll feel inspired to join in on the improv fun on your next trip to Chi-Town! One tip for prospective visitors is to bring cash to the Playground Theater, as they only accept cash for purchasing tickets on site. Otherwise, it may be a good idea to order the tickets ahead of time online to avoid the hassle of needing to bring a certain amount of cash and cutting down your waiting time.

For a Chicago night-out that is fun, humorous and affordable, catching a show at the Playground Theater is a wonderful option. There are not many venues in the Windy City that provide free entertainment and are “bring your own beverage” friendly, but this comedy theater is one of them. Since a hilarious experience is all but guaranteed, definitely make a stop at the Playground Theater on any trip to Chicago.