Chicago Improv Festival

6 Shows Not to Miss at the Chicago Improv Festival

It’s spring in Chicago and that means the Cubs have our hopes up, it could snow at any moment and the Chicago Improv Festival will be taking over the city.

This year, the Chicago Improv Festival is taking place from May 2-8 at venues all over the city and will feature tons of shows from groups from Chicago, around the country and even around the world.

If you’re newer to improv, you may not realize that the Chicago Improv Festival was one of the first national improv festivals in the country, and after 19 years, it’s still one of the largest festivals around. That sounds great on paper, but when you’re looking at the schedule and trying to decide what to see, it can be pretty overwhelming.

So I thought I would  help you out and give you my 6 favorite picks of this year’s shows and save you some time. Think of it as my little service to you.

  1. Improv Nerd with ‘Hello from The Magic Tavern’ Podcast
    Ok, I know I’m plugging my own show first, but so what? If you’ve never listened to this popular podcast, you should. Yes, it sounds bizarre – a show about a guy who falls through a magical portal behind a Burger King into another dimension that’s sort of Dungeons and Dragons-esque. But trust me, it’s hilarious! Come see me interview the cast and ask them about how they came up with this idea and how they make an improvised podcast really work.
    Friday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. at The Second City Blackout Cabaret, 900 N. Wells 
  2. SAND
    SAND is easily one of the best improv groups on the Chicago scene today. This three-person independent group consists of Mike Brunlieb, Thomas Kelly and Scott Nelson and is known for realistic characters and a documentary-inspired form. If you only have time to see one show (other than Improv Nerd), check this one out. I mean it, they are great!
    Friday, May 6 at 11 p.m. at The Den Theater, 1333 N. Milwaukee 
  3. Bronis and Thornton
    I love playing with Jack Bronis, a reknown Second City teacher, not only because of the great Irish brogue he can do, but also because of his warmth and emotional range. In this show, he’s paired up with actor Michael Patrick Thornton, who just finished playing the title role in Steppenwolf’s production of Richard III, for a night of dramatic improv. This will be two greats at their best.
    Thursday, May 5, 10:30 p.m. at The Annoyance Theater, 851 W. Belmont 
  4. Messing with a Friend with Rachael Mason
    I have been playing with Susan Messing for more than 25 years, and I never have more fun than when I’m on stage with her. She’s fearless, bold and emotionally grounded all at the same time. And this will be an extra special show because it features another one of my favorite performers, Rachael Mason. Unfortunately, this show is at the same time as the one above, so you’ll have to choose.
    Thursday, May 5 at 10:30 p.m. at The Annoyance Theater, 851 W. Belmont 
  5. Improv Boston
    Mike Descoteaux is a musical improv genius, and I honestly believe whatever he directs turns to gold. After directing musical improv at Second City for years, Mike decided to move to Boston to take over as Artistic Director there, and he’s shaped his group into one of the best musical improv groups around.
    Friday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. at The Second City Blackout Cabaret, 900 N. Wells
    Saturday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at MCL Chicago, 3110 N. Sheffield
  6. Susan Messing and Norm Holly are… Molly
    You know how I feel about Susan Messing above. Now let’s talk about Norm Holly, he’s an amazing teacher and director and head of Second City’s Conservatory Program. Norm has recently returned to improvising, and he and Susan have incredible chemistry together which means there improv can go anywhere. And I mean anywhere.
    Tuesday, May 3 at 10:30 p.m. at iO, 1501 N. Kingsbury


Want to study with Jimmy Carrane? His Advanced Art of Slow Comedy Class starts May 18, and the Early Bird deadline ends May 4! Sign up before the deadline and pay only $259.

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