It’s the first Thursday of the month and you’re in need of a stress release, maybe a good laugh. Unfortunately, you just paid the rent and now you’re broke – all you have is enough loose change for the bus and that old bottle of wine on your kitchen counter. Here’s where you probably resign to a night of Netflix and drinking alone in the dark. But, if you’re lucky enough to be in Chicago, you go to Congrats on Your Success: a free, BYOB comedy showcase in the heart of the city’s Logan Square neighbourhood. And you are completely satisfied with your choice.
By 7pm, Uncharted Books on Milwaukee Ave. is buzzing with welcoming energy. Walking into a room of strangers is usually uncomfortable, but this feels different. These strangers are friends. Pockets of people, including handfuls of Chicago comedians, fill the aisles. They casually float from group to group, mingling in an almost explosive manner – you can see that there’s a lot of catching up to do. Standing alone, you absorb the palpable closeness in the air. Even though you don’t recognize a single face, the comfort and familiarity they share with each other washes over you.
Then you see the beer.
In addition to being a free, BYO showcase with top–notch performers, Congrats offers an extra special treat: beer from Powell Brew House. Throughout the night everyone gravitates toward the beverage table which offers 2 seasonal selections to sample. As you slurp your first sip music starts to play and the roar of the crowd dwindles. Some people linger in the back, while the super fans sit on the floor at the feet of the performers, like little kids gathering for story time. As the audience chuckles their way through different sets, you begin to see what makes this show so different from any other. “The great thing about Uncharted from a comedian-producer’s point of view is that it’s not a bar. I’ve done an open mic at a bar and you spend so much time worrying about selling drinks to make a minimum that you can’t focus on what goes into putting on the best possible comedy show” says producer Rebecca V. O’Neal. “And the space is so intimate when it’s packed every month for the show. I think there’s a real family feel. We have regulars who come back every month and really love Congrats’ entire atmosphere.” In fact, the show just celebrated its 1-Year anniversary in November.
This comedy potluck, flawlessly produced by a team of Chicago comedians, feels more like an intimate gathering at a friend’s apartment than anything else. The performances are no different: casual and interactive, but still polished. “We pride ourselves on booking openers we know are doing great work, but may not have been booked a ton around town – and headliners who are the city’s top comics. We also love booking diversely, so that’s what you can expect from Congrats” says O’Neal. With trivia and general goofballing between sets, the laughs don’t stop until the last person is out of the building.
Even if you have a million dollars to spend, this show should be on your must-see list. The zero-cost/high-quality combination is hard to come by, so be sure to see it before the too-good-to-be-true gravy train runs dry. You can see Congrats on Your Success the first Thursday of each month at Uncharted Books, 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60647.