At The ComedySportz Theatre, audience suggestions keep an all-ages, family-friendly and fast-paced vortex of scenes, games, and songs spinning in competitive shows that pit two improv teams against each other. Inside the intimate, 149-seat theater, spontaneity rules as a referee moderates the all-ages-appropriate hilarity pitched between the Chicago Bosses and The Evanston Express. At the end of each comedic duel, the points and audience votes are tallied to determine the winning team, sentencing the losers to feed the doves that live inside the winners' top hats.
The ComedySportz Training Center's seasoned instructors also teach six-week courses in the art of improvised hilarity and the essential virtues of spontaneity, risk taking, and engagement with the moment. Through scene work, ComedySportz games, and short- and long-form improv, students learn to keep audiences roaring in order to jump-start a career or become a more affable bank robber.
As vaudeville heaved its last breaths in the late 1920s, RKO's Riverside Theater opened in 1928 and served as a performance hall for just a few years before Warner Brothers took it over to screen their films. Decades of neglect followed, reaching a nadir in 1966 when a carelessly tossed cigarette butt incinerated the proscenium's drapery, prompting the cash-conscious owners to replace the opulent teal velour with workmanlike duvetyn. A slated demolition in 1982 nearly replaced the theater with a shopping mall before a coalition of citizens convinced philanthropist Joseph Zilber to save the space. In the subsequent renovations, craftsmen installed plush red drapery, overhauled the obsolete lighting, and repainted the faded French Baroque gilding of the auditorium, restoring the elegant space to its former glory and inspiring it to get back out on the theater dating scene.
Behind the headlining comic, dots of light slowly change color, a hypnotic alternative to the brick wall of many other comedy clubs. Long tables stripe the dim room, giving guests plenty of space to savor a menu of burgers, salads, steaks, and other pub grub. But what makes the cabaret of Jokerz Comedy Club really stand out is its gallery of larger-than-life caricatures. Lushly rendered and outlined by shimmering gold frames, the portraits of some of the biz's most legendary names serve as muses for the up-and-comers taking the stage: Sam Kinison, Jerry Seinfeld, the Blues Brothers, and even Cheech and Chong's iconically smoky joyride are immortalized in the baroquely rubber-faced paintings.
Amid the tangy aroma of buffalo wings and the clink of beer glasses, patrons at Karma Bar & Grill gather around 20 HDTVs with MLB, NHL, NFL, and UFC packages, eyes locked on the match. Servers keep the atmosphere inviting as they deliver pitchers of beer, hefty 1/2-pound Angus steak burgers, plates of six-cheese mac or house-smoked brisket and pork, Friday fish fries, and other from-scratch specialties. During baseball season, Karma offers patrons a Brewer shuttle during every home game, and stand-up comedians appear on select Wednesdays and Fridays. The private Karma Lounge is also available for rental for groups of 10?80, and sports a giant projection screen along with a private bar.
Seasoned boat captains and crustacean prospectors Sig Hansen, Johnathan Hillstrand, and Andy Hillstrand gather to share with audience members their tales of struggle and survival during crab season on the high seas, as partly documented by the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. Fishing the Bering Sea in the middle of winter demands strong wills—which can come together in times of treacherous weather and 100-foot waves or come to blows about who performs better in the three-legged crabwalk race. Selected audience members will also have the chance to don the survival suits from the Time Bandit. Following the story-swapping and previously unreleased video footage, greenhorns and avid fans will have the opportunity to launch questions at the captains, wave giant foam claws, and learn how to communicate in claw-snap Morse code.
For more than two decades, laughs have permeated the space within Comedy Cafe. On its stage, a rolling list of local and nationally acclaimed comedians—such as Tommy Chong and Bobcat Goldthwait—launch into schticks or go about repairing minor damage to brickwork. Audiences can work on their spit takes thanks to a menu of margaritas, martinis, and snacks such as popcorn.