The strength of Chicago's small but lively stand-up scene is its make-your-own-show mentality. Long overshadowed by a storied improv tradition, local stand-up comics have essentially been forced into adopting a DIY approach to producing and booking shows. This naturally results in some pretty unconventional venues, but the success of something like the Lincoln Lodge—the venerable showcase that spent 13 years in a North Center pancake diner before moving to Subterranean this spring—proves that as long as the comedy is good, the location is irrelevant. In fact, the best places to see stand-up in this town remain bars, bookstores, and anywhere else that doesn't require a two-drink minimum.
Case in point: Entertaining Julia, the free comedy/variety show started in 2007 by Jena Freidman (currently a field producer for The Daily Show) that's located in the back of a Boystown dive. Now hosted by local staples Danielle and Tiffany Puterbaugh—aka the Puterbaugh Sisters—the weekly show at Town Hall Pub promises not only the best in local stand-up but anything that fits the sisters' absurd, irreverent, and queer-friendly ethos. A night at Entertaining Julia—so named because the point of the show is to get Julia Pishko, the bartender, to crack a smile—might include stand-up, sketch, improv, music, burlesque, performance art, or a one-person show. It's up for grabs. The only thing that's certain about EJ is its reputation. Chicago expats like TJ Miller, Cameron Esposito, and former cohost Beth Stelling are sure to pop in whenever they're in town, and even national acts (Bobcat Goldthwait, Robin Williams) have been known to drop by. For this upcoming show (Sun 7/6), stand-ups Adam Burke, Martin Morrow, and Candy Lawrence are among those being tapped to entertain Julia.