TBS Just for Laughs Chicago Review - Celebrating 5th Anniversary With 100+ of the Funniest People on the Planet

A funny thing happened on the way to TBS Just for Laughs Chicago - and Stephen Sondheim lyrics aptly apply to Chicago’s comedy forum:


Something familiar, something peculiar

Something for everyone: a comedy tonight

Something appealing, something appalling

Something for everyone: a comedy tonight


Anjelah Johnson performs at The Vic Theatre

Just for Laughs Chicago kicked off its fifth anniversary celebration with a spectacular line up, featuring many of comedy’s living legends, brightest stars and fastest-rising talent.   Taking place June 11- June 16, this sprawling, six-day event featured some of the funniest people on the planet.


Comic legend Bob Newhart performs at the Chicago Theater. Photo Credit - WireImage

The lineup for America’s biggest comedy festival included Russell Brand, Bill Maher, Seth Meyers, Bob Newhart, David Cross, Nick Swardson, John Hodgman, Artie Lange, Hannibal Buress, Al Madrigal, Maria Bamford, Dylan Moran, Anjelah Johnson, the stars of TBS’s “Sullivan & Son,”  truTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” and IFC’s “The Whitest Kids U’ Know.”


Super-funny Brian Posehn performs (Photos by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage) Photo Credit - WireImage

Wherever you looked – you could find someone to tickle your fancy, whether a show-biz icon, rising talent, alt-comedy king, pod cast subversive, or shock jock.  And whatever venue you ambled into, you were sure to get a sharp dose of comedy ranging from wry to dry, blue to burlesque, deadpan to self-deprecating, farcical to satirical, slapstick to stand up.  


Something convulsive, something repulsive

Something for everyone: a comedy tonight

Something aesthetic, something frenetic

Something for everyone: a comedy tonight


From historic nightclubs to the hottest modern theaters, the Just for Laughs Chicago venues included the Chicago Theater, Stage 773, The Park West, The Vic Theatre, ShowPlace ICON, Constellation, and the UP Comedy Club.

Just For Laughs Comedy Festival 2013: Chicago - David Cross and His Super Duper Pals: Photo Credit - WireImage

To underscore the disparate tribes of humorists who crossed paths at the revolving doors of venues around town – try matching the quote to the comedian:  Russell Brand, David Cross, Artie Lange, or Bob Newhart

  1. “I’m three-quarters Irish and the humor is about three things: d­­­­­­rinking, death, and Catholics.”
  2. “You know what’s weird?  I hate yogurt-covered raisins, but I love Go-Gurt-covered Craisins.”
  3. “Hey, I’m in Chicago – I’m actually semi-attractive here.”
  4.  “Twenty percent of your ticket price today is for insemination.”
  5. “I got $55 and they got $65, and soon I smartened up and was on the other side of the counter.”  - regarding working in a Chicago unemployment benefits office.
  6. “I once watched Fox News for 12 hours.  There were no foxes.”
  7. “I was a big Cubs fan. It prepared you for life.  You can get ahead and still blow it.”

(answers in backwards order G-A are Newhart, Brand, Newhart, Brand, Lange, Cross, Newhart)

Steve Heisler, a consultant and producer for Just for Laughs Chicago, was charged with overseeing the grassroots programming at the shows happening in local, comedy-friendly venues with relatively small capacities and budgets.  On his blog, he called out some of the not-to-miss acts that deserved attention, even if they didn’t garner the same attention up front as the headliners.   

In 2009, Just For Laughs partnered with TBS to produce a comedy festival in Chicago. Five years later, TBS Just For Laughs Chicago is America's single largest comedy festival, Presented in collaboration with Chicago-based JAM Productions and Outback Concerts, this annual event has established itself as an integral component of Chicago's rich cultural heritage, and a must-see for thousands of comedy fans and industry executives alike.   


TJ Jogodowski and Scott Adsit from the Second City Alumni perform at UP Comedy Club. Photographer: Mark Hill

The 2013 Just for Laughs Chicago was funded in part by presenting sponsor State Farm.  Says Lewis Lazar, a long-time fixture in the Chicago ad and marketing scene, “Comedy is a natural tie-in for State Farm, as the Bloomington, Ill.-based insurance behemoth has made humor a staple in the company's advertising and marketing for several years now.”


Just For Laughs Chicago Stage 773 Chicago

So when you’re looking for some folly next year at this time, remember that the funny things Stephen Sondheim described over half a century ago can be found right here in Chicago, if you know where to look. 

Pantaloons and tunics, courtesans and eunuchs

Funerals and chases, baritones and basses

Panderers, philanderers, cupidity, timidity

Mistakes, fakes, rhymes, crimes

Tumblers, grumblers, bumblers, fumblers


Mike Stanley performs a stand-up routine at Stage 773

Photos courtesy Just for Laughs Chicago

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