When Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, announced on April 1 it was closing, many of its comedian followers believed the announcement to be a horrible April Fool’s Day prank. The abrupt notice left many fans confused and speculating about whether the news was actually true.
In the days following, it became clear the sudden announcement was no joke, and owner Chris Ritter would be shutting the theater down due to financial turmoil after a final show by Jim Jeffries on April 10, with local closing acts on April 8.
The closing came as a shock to many unaware of the theater’s financial situation because tickets have been selling better than ever. According to Ritter, even though the revenue is more than enough to keep day-to-day operations running, not enough money was put into the theater when it was opened. Past debts and future growth expenses began building up, and it was Ritter’s own hopeful mindset that kept the theater open as long as it was.
“I suppose a more responsible businessman would have announced closing six months ago,” Ritter said. “I have been hanging onto the idea that something positive would happen for too long.”
Acts are booked and tickets are sold months in advance, so Ritter never felt it was the right time to pull the plug. There was always something to look forward to and someone would always be disappointed. On April 10, the final act was house favorite Jeffries, an Australian comedian who, many, passed through Lakeshore Theater several times before landing an HBO comedy special.
“I would call it serendipitous that we are ending with Jim Jeffries,” Ritter said. “I think it’s great that it worked out
Another house favorite, a group called Comedians You Should Know, performed at the theater every Friday and many comedians from the group, including Marty DeRosa, performed the closing acts show, the final performance for local comedians, on April 8. DeRosa said the atmosphere for the performers was what greatly set Lakeshore apart from all the other comedy clubs in Chicago. Local acts were able to interact with the national headliners, comedians were never pushed to do things such as announce drink specials, and the staff was a fun, cool group of people to work with.
“It was hands down the best place to perform stand-up in the city,”
Elizabeth McQuern, a comedy blogger and producer of Chicago Underground Comedy, has acted as both colleague and fan of Lakeshore Theater and its brand of comedy since it was introduced to Chicago. While she will be mourning the loss of the theater, she knew Lakeshore would go out with a bang.
“People will be crying tears and blowing off steam and having as much fun as they can,” McQuern said. “I’m pretty sure [they turned] their last weekend with Jim Jeffries into a giant party.”
Both McQuern and DeRosa agreed that Lakeshore Theater did things for stand-up comedians that no other venues in Chicago did. Everyone who performed there benefited from the experience, becoming better comedians and being skyrocketed into levels of fame they couldn’t have conceived. According to McQuern and DeRosa, the community that Lakeshore Theater created is not going to be seen at any local venues anytime soon.
Since the announcement, the out pouring of support the theater and its staff have received leaves Ritter with a sense of satisfaction because the theater accomplished what it set out
“Ironically, the act of closing Lakeshore has brought about the most rewarding aspect,” Ritter said. “I know in my heart now, that I may not have told you two weeks ago, that people get it.”
Lakeshore Theater has cancelled all shows after April 11 and all tickets purchased for shows past that date will be refunded. Questions regarding refunds should be directed to the box office at (773) 472-3492.