Recommended for kids 5 and up
UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North Ave.,
3rd Floor, Chicago
(312) 662-4562, secondcity.com
Music blares, lights flash, and servers circulate with trays of
beverages and appetizers before the comedians take the stage.
Sounds like your typical comedy club, with a few key
differences: It's 11 o'clock on a Saturday morning and the audience
is made up primarily of the elementary school crowd.
After all, Improv Extravaganza Explosion! by Chicago's famous
Second City, is just for kids (although moms, dads and grandparents
are welcome, too).
When the four actors take the stage, they launch an hour-long
show that's high-energy and hilarious-even for the adults in the
Words are yelled in rapid succession-"Pencil!" "Jamaica!"
"Spinach!"-as the actors solicit suggestions for school supplies,
vacation destinations, and things you hate.
The kids, especially boys in the fourth- and fifth-grade range,
relish the chance to shout out suggestions, and a few lucky
volunteers (and even one dad) take to the stage. Fortunately for
quieter kids, no one is pulled up on stage who doesn't raise their
The show integrates skits and games with puppets, rapping, pop
culture references, and even iPads. There are a few running jokes
through the show, and use of some "typical" improv tools, like a
bell and a blonde wig.
Fans of the now-defunct "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" might even
recognize a few of the improv "games."
Though a few jokes may go over some kids' heads, there's no need
to worry the humor will be inappropriate.
"The actors know who they're performing for," says Diana
Martinez, president of The Second City, Inc. "Improv can be done in
any environment. You can keep it clean. … That doesn't mean it's
In fact, Martinez says kids are an "underserved market" in
comedy, and since Second City's theater is empty during the day, it
was the perfect opportunity to grow the audience. Besides the
weekend shows, there are also midweek matinees for school
"There's something about improv and its fundamentals that really
transcends all art forms," she says. "It's a creative educational
But more than that, it's a big, loud hour of fun, wrapped in a
comedy club package. At the end of the show, I couldn't help but
agree when I heard a little girl say with a giggle, "That was
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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