Go local for big-city laughs

“You can’t get those kinds of prices in Chicago, but here in our backyard, you can.”

Go local for big-city laughs

Written by: Jane Bokun
February 1, 2018


Little-known comedy clubs dot Northwest Indiana. Here, there are places to laugh every day without spending big-city prices. We profiled some of the best places who get the biggest name acts that will help you get your laugh on in the area. The rest is up to you.

Beatniks on Conkey
418 Conkey St, Hammond
beatniksonconkey.com

The small Hammond club Beatniks on Conkey has been entertaining residents for years and celebrated its 10th anniversary on January 13 at the club.

 

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Little-known comedy clubs dot Northwest Indiana. Here, there are places to laugh every day without spending big-city prices. We profiled some of the best places who get the biggest name acts that will help you get your laugh on in the area. The rest is up to you.

Beatniks on Conkey
418 Conkey St, Hammond
beatniksonconkey.com

The small Hammond club Beatniks on Conkey has been entertaining residents for years and celebrated its 10th anniversary on January 13 at the club.

 

Photo Credit: Penny Frazier
Rip and Bonnie Johnson, owners of Beatniks on Conkey

The shows at this aptly named venue feature not only improv comedy and skits, but songs and dance. In fact, the shows are like Saturday Night Live, but easily accessible. “It’s like Carol Burnett; it’s a comedy show,” says Bonnie Johnson, who founded Beatniks with her husband Rip. “It’s loosely scripted and fun.”

Beatniks on Conkey is open most weekends and features coffee, cookies and cake with the variety shows. The atmosphere is so loose that walk-ins who buy tickets at the theater are encouraged.

Big Frank’s Sausage
1417 Carrol St, East Chicago
bigfrankssausage.com

Polish food and comedy go together like rum and coke. Coincidentally, you can have all three at Big Frank’s Sausage in East Chicago.

Owner Stan Stefanski, an affable Regionite, brings in comedians to share humor and pierogi at his small bar and restaurant, located right next to the South Shore train. The comedians have been known to stand next to the sausage case in Big Frank’s while doing monologues. With small floor space, it’s truly an intimate experience. Many big-name acts are doing comedy shows in Chicago and stop to do Big Frank’s. “People love the food and the live shows,” Stefanski says.

Local comedian Nick Gaza sometimes hosts the comedy nights. Recently Big Frank’s showcased Dwayne Kennedy, a stand-up comedian, actor and writer whose TV writing credits include The Arsenio Hall Show, The Orlando Jones Show, and Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.

 

Photo Credit: Provided by Big Frank's Sausage
Stan Stefanski, owner of Big Frank's Sausage in East Chicago
Photo Credit: Provided by Big Frank's Sausage
Stan Stefanski, owner of Big Frank's Sausage in East Chicago

The shows at this aptly named venue feature not only improv comedy and skits, but songs and dance. In fact, the shows are like Saturday Night Live, but easily accessible. “It’s like Carol Burnett; it’s a comedy show,” says Bonnie Johnson, who founded Beatniks with her husband Rip. “It’s loosely scripted and fun.”

Beatniks on Conkey is open most weekends and features coffee, cookies and cake with the variety shows. The atmosphere is so loose that walk-ins who buy tickets at the theater are encouraged.

Big Frank’s Sausage
1417 Carrol St, East Chicago
bigfrankssausage.com

Polish food and comedy go together like rum and coke. Coincidentally, you can have all three at Big Frank’s Sausage in East Chicago.

Owner Stan Stefanski, an affable Regionite, brings in comedians to share humor and pierogi at his small bar and restaurant, located right next to the South Shore train. The comedians have been known to stand next to the sausage case in Big Frank’s while doing monologues. With small floor space, it’s truly an intimate experience. Many big-name acts are doing comedy shows in Chicago and stop to do Big Frank’s. “People love the food and the live shows,” Stefanski says.

Local comedian Nick Gaza sometimes hosts the comedy nights. Recently Big Frank’s showcased Dwayne Kennedy, a stand-up comedian, actor and writer whose TV writing credits include The Arsenio Hall Show, The Orlando Jones Show, and Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.

 

Photo Credit: Jennifer Ginger
Ben Konowitz, founder of Big Comedy LaPorte, at the LaPorte Little Theatre

Big Comedy LaPorte
bigcomedylaporte.com

Big Comedy LaPorte is a group that puts together shows and comedy-related fundraisers that have benefited several organizations in LaPorte.

“We put on two stand-up or improv shows per year at the LaPorte Little Theatre,” says comedian and proprietor Ben Konowitz. “We’ve sold out eight in a row and all the proceeds go to different local charities.”

After Konowitz started trying stand-up himself, he needed a venue. The LaPorte Little Theatre is a community theater, but Konowitz and his friends rent it out for their shows. Now, for the huge cost of about $15, people can see first-rate comedy in LaPorte. “You can’t get those kinds of prices in Chicago, but here in our backyard, you can,” Konowitz says.

Their stand-up shows have featured such well-known comedians as Felonious Monk, a comedian and social commentator currently based in Chicago. He was a contributor on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central and appears regularly at the legendary Second City in Chicago.

The shows began in 2013 and have grown stronger ever since. The most important thing is the comedy group and its events have 501(3)(c) nonprofit status and all the monies raised go to charities.

Konowitz says there are also adults-only events held in LaPorte’s Civic Auditorium, such as an ’80s Prom with “all those classic ’80s things.” The trivia events, in January 2016 and 2017, attracted more than 600 participants the first year and more than 800 the second. And 275 prom-goers sported some ’80s-appropriate formal wear in October last year.

Konowitz says he’s giving back to the community with things like donations to the State Street Food Pantry and the Little Theatre itself. So far, Konowitz and his group have donated a respectable $51,000 to charity.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Ginger
Ben Konowitz, founder of Big Comedy LaPorte, at the LaPorte Little Theatre

Big Comedy LaPorte
bigcomedylaporte.com

Big Comedy LaPorte is a group that puts together shows and comedy-related fundraisers that have benefited several organizations in LaPorte.

“We put on two stand-up or improv shows per year at the LaPorte Little Theatre,” says comedian and proprietor Ben Konowitz. “We’ve sold out eight in a row and all the proceeds go to different local charities.”

After Konowitz started trying stand-up himself, he needed a venue. The LaPorte Little Theatre is a community theater, but Konowitz and his friends rent it out for their shows. Now, for the huge cost of about $15, people can see first-rate comedy in LaPorte. “You can’t get those kinds of prices in Chicago, but here in our backyard, you can,” Konowitz says.

Their stand-up shows have featured such well-known comedians as Felonious Monk, a comedian and social commentator currently based in Chicago. He was a contributor on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central and appears regularly at the legendary Second City in Chicago.

The shows began in 2013 and have grown stronger ever since. The most important thing is the comedy group and its events have 501(3)(c) nonprofit status and all the monies raised go to charities.

Konowitz says there are also adults-only events held in LaPorte’s Civic Auditorium, such as an ’80s Prom with “all those classic ’80s things.” The trivia events, in January 2016 and 2017, attracted more than 600 participants the first year and more than 800 the second. And 275 prom-goers sported some ’80s-appropriate formal wear in October last year.

Konowitz says he’s giving back to the community with things like donations to the State Street Food Pantry and the Little Theatre itself. So far, Konowitz and his group have donated a respectable $51,000 to charity.