Intimacy is what you'll find at this tip-top, strictly stand-up, Chicago comedy club, which has spotlighted up-and-coming jokesters like Colin Quinn, Kevin Pollak and Mitch Headberg before they entered the pop-culture catalog for good. Other obvious greats who have elicted a chuckle or two include Jerry Seinfeld, Sinbad, Tim Allen and Jay Leno. This particular Zanies, the original of four (St. Charles, Vernon Hills and Nashville), has been a raucous hotbed of stand-up entertainment (and classes as well) on an otherwise tame strip of Old Town for nearly 30 years. And the stage, with its single-level cabaret closeness to the tables, sets the club apart from its multi-leveled neighbor, Second City.
Have a plan of attack for this one: Get yourself a reservation and arrive as early as possible to snag one of the 100 seats, awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis; especially important on Friday nights when there are three waves of shows. Parking is just as choosey. Circumvent the headache by paying a little extra for a spot in one of many parking garages in the area.
Tickets, a bit pricey at an average of $25 a show, will only get you through the door. Though there's a two drink or food item requirement per table, nothing on the menu will dent the wallet. Drinks are of the full-service bar variety, with a notable, moderately priced Goose Island draft available. Food options are slim and carnivalesque: nachos, personal-sized pizzas and a pretzel-ladden snack mix. But since sets typically run an hour-and-a-half to two hours, you'll just need something to tide you over anyway. You must be 21 to enter, but the easily shocked shouldn't write this one off; all shows come with a film-like rating.
Centerstage Reviewer: Gavin Paul