Second City’s 300 seat UP Comedy Club bows Nov. 17

Diana Martinez, president of Second City, Inc.

Ever since Tony and Tina finally blew town on that long-delayed honeymoon, there’s been a vacancy at Piper’s Alley. But Second City is saying “ciao” to the interactive wedding crowd and hello to UP Comedy Club.

The cozy new 300-seat venture is slated to open in previews on Nov. 17, with a grand opening on Dec. 1.

The space will be dedicated to stand-up, improv, kids’ comedies, romantic comedies, and just about everything under the comedy umbrella – except sketch shows.

According to Diana Martinez, the president of Second City, Inc., discussions about opening a cabaret-style room for non-sketch offerings began in March of 2010. Since the space formerly used for the long-running Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding was available under the same roof where Second City, Second City e.t.c., and Donny’s Skybox are located, it was, says Martinez, “accessible and doable.”

Second City, despite having produced many fine stand-ups over the years, has traditionally steered clear of the notion that they are a comedy club, rather than a comedy theater – and that distinction is why, says Martinez, “UP Comedy Club is its own brand. It’s not ‘the Second City Comedy Club.’ Andrew Alexander (Second City CEO and executive producer) was very conscious about not confusing the Second City brand.”

UP Club interior renderingUP will feature scripted comedies

In addition to a rotating line-up of stand-ups, UP will provide a home for full-length scripted comedies. On deck for December is Sex & The Second City: A Romantic Dot Comedy, which focuses on dating in the digital age.

It had a try-out at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights this past summer, and is currently undergoing rewrites on the road in Denver.

Kids’ shows, which were once a weekend matinee staple on Wells Street but have been absent in recent years, will be resurrected at UP, and full-length improv shows (which, notes Martinez, are never on tap at the other Second City venues) will also be produced.

Second City will partner with Robert Hartmann, CEO of Levity Entertainment Group, which specializes in managing and marketing comedians and comedy writers, for booking UP.

Space reminescent of classic Chicago night spots

Ryan Nestor of the architecture and design firm Barker Nestor designed the space, which Martinez describes as “very warm, very intimate.” (In a press release, Alexander promised that UP will “evoke the memories of the days of Mister Kelly’s and the Gaslight Club” – classic-and-now-gone Chicago nightspots.)

In addition to the usual cabaret tables, a rounded back wall provides booths with a bit more privacy. Technically, says Martinez, the space will offer state-of-the-art lighting and sound, as well as multimedia capabilities, to accommodate the variety of programming hosted there.

Patrons can order from a menu featuring Chicago favorites such as Lou Malnati’s Pizza and Eli’s Cheesecake. And one big difference between UP and other comedy clubs? No drink minimum.

Kerry Reid is a freelance theater critic and arts journalist. Her work appears regularly in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Reader. Please send news items to