Piper’s Alley has long been a destination for Chicago comedy fans, with Second City bringing in sold out crowds for nearly every performance. Now you can get even more laughs under one roof by visiting the third floor UP Comedy Club, which opened last December.
The spot hosts nightly shows, plus matinee performances Saturday and Sunday. The acts include stand-up, improvisation, sketch comedy and family-friendly shows. The space is lovely, with plush black and red chairs set at a mix of intimate cabaret tables and sleek bar tops. The mellow illumination comes from lights embedded in the walls and above the stage along with tiny lamps at the tables. Televisions flanking the stage both display previews of upcoming acts and are used for multimedia aspects of the shows. The club is also the new home of Booth One, which was Frank Sinatra’s private booth at The Pump Room in the Ambassador East Hotel.
As with Second City, guests are shown to their seats after presenting their tickets. A server came over soon after to take food and drink orders; although she was very friendly, her recommendations were of the “everything is good” variety. We ordered the restaurant’s signature UP burger ($10.95), which is served on a pretzel roll topped with onion strings, sharp cheddar and garlic mayo, and a chicken parmesan sandwich ($9.75). Both come with seasoned fries, though we subbed them out for sweet potato fries for one order. We also took advantage of the excellent beer menu by ordering pours of Half Acre, Bridgeport IPA and Goose Island Matilda.
Food came out once the show had already started, which would have been fine if there hadn’t been a mix-up in our order. Our server was quick to change things out, reassuring me multiple times that my order was on the way. When it came back, it had sweet potato instead of the regular fries we ordered, but the sweet potato fries turned out to be the best part of the meal, crispy outside, soft inside, and so good they didn’t need the apricot dipping sauce they’re served with. I was disappointed to find that instead of the promised house made marinara, my chicken parmesan sandwich was topped with sliced tomatoes. The fresh baguette and chicken were good, but without sauce it just wasn’t right. The UP burger was fine, but nothing special, and the mayo really didn’t have much garlic taste.
The food might not have stood out, but the comedy did. We saw the Sullivan & Son Comedy Tour, stand-up performances by four cast members from the new TBS series. The comics were truly outstanding, inspiring fast-paced laughs that left me short of breath. Owen Benjamin was particularly excellent, offering hilarious insights on why he loves dogs for keeping him grounded in life. He envies how they are so insanely thrilled by catching a ball or going for a walk and their ability to claim ownership of something by peeing on it, at least until the next time it rains. He also showed off his keyboard skills while poking fun at Rihanna and other musicians.
The highlight of the night was the finale by Sullivan & Son star Steve Byrne, who formed a boy band dubbed Sausage Party by pulling guests out of the audience and having them serenade a tiara-wearing bride-to-be, who was at the show with her bachelorette party. While some of the members proved too nervous to do much, enough got into the spirit that it produced an act so funny that Byrne’s costars poked out from backstage just to watch. It was just one of the many forms of audience interaction and heckling that happened during the show, including a ton of jokes at the expense of a 16-year-old in the front row. A word of advice: If you don’t want to be part of the show, try to sit in the back.
Some upcoming shows at UP include sketch comedy group FrankenMatt Aug. 9-12, Top Gear’s Adam Ferrara Aug. 30-Sept. 2 and MADtv’s Tommy Davidson Sept. 13-16. If they’re even close to as entertaining as the Sullivan & Son tour, you’ll be in for a treat.
UP Comedy Club
230 W. North Ave, 3rd Floor (Piper’s Alley) in Chicago
for more show info and tickets, call (312) 662-4562 or visit http://upcomedyclub.com