Last night, I made a little trip to Wrigleyville to get some late night Taco Bell (I have a weakness. Don’t judge.) On my way to satisfy my cheesy gordita crunch craving, I made a little detour to check out 3541 N. Clark St., the previous home of the iO theatre. Call it boredom, or curiosity, or nostalgia, though it might be a bit too soon for nostalgia, but I suddenly just really wanted to see it. What can I say, I’m a sucker for living in the past.
Before moving on, a quick recap for the uninformed. For 30+ years, 3541 N Clark Street was the home of long form improvisation in the City of Chicago. Formerly Improv Olympic, the iO theatre boasted not only the distinction of training some of comedy’s greats, but also being the single flickering light of artistic expression amidst a pitch-black ocean of pig-headed, jock douchebaggery known simply as Wrigleyville. This long stretch of bar-lined, vomit-caked road basking in the glow of historic Wrigley Field is a bastion of comedic debauchery, filled with both college kids from Chicago’s various institutions of higher learning, as well as the loud, overbearing middle-agers that many of the aforementioned “kids” are destined to become. Wrigleyville is the Chicago hotspot for all the guys and gals that, though graduated, never really left college. They still yearn for the all-night keggers, the week-long beer pong tournaments, and the ever-pathetic 2AM “Booty Hunts”. On weekend nights, one could spend an entire evening just listening to the many native calls of Wrigleyville. These calls can range from the common, “Mikayla! Mikayla! Come get in the taxi!”, to the less frequent, “Oh my God, he’s such a jerk! I don’t know why we’re still together.”, to the increasingly rare, “No way, bro! We’re gonna be (HERP!) gonna be friends forever, bro!” I could keep spouting off examples until time stops, but I’m beginning to digress. The point I’m trying to make here is that the iO was the comedic receptacle that all of this human refuse fell into, yielding an unending battery of inspiration. If ever you felt stagnated, or just flat-out needed a quick shake of the funny bone, all you needed to do was step out the doors and take a 5-10 minute stroll through the bar-rio (see what I did there?) and take in all the rich sights. Hell, if there was a Cubs game going on, you’d get enough material for a whole show by simply walking from the train to the theatre, assuming you didn’t get puked on during the trip. 3541 N Clark was the protecting force for creativity in that ovum of opulence. Like the Spartans of old, iO provided a shield, for artists and writers alike, against the torrential onslaught of tasteless dick jokes and not-so-subtle racist remarks – yeah, I mean you, overweight bald guy in a Cutler jersey. You’re loud. But, again, I find myself digressing.
That was then. Now, the old blue brick building simply sits there, surrounded by dusty posters of shows long since gone. Well, moved, actually, to the new location in Lincoln Park. The majority of the shows in the old glass case are still in production BUT THAT IS BESIDE THE POINT! 3451 N Clark St is now a shell, an empty ruin of a proud comedy empire that has been reclaimed by the untamed masses. As I walk by the old place, I am greeted by the unbelievably foul odor of stale urine wafting through the air. It was as if the alley to the left of the theatre had become Wrigleyville’s unofficial toilet. It was sadly clear that, much like the prison at the end of Walking Dead Season 3, N Clark St had been reclaimed by the douche zombies of Wrigleyville.
But I don’t want this to be a sob story. I shed no tears, for iO has a new home at 1501 N Kingsbury! It’s bigger, with more performance spaces, allowing for many more people to get a chance to play. The bar is bigger, the food is better, and there’s even a fantastic Beer Garden outside!
Not only have we traded up in size, but we’ve traded up in class of douche as well. Before, we had the loudmouthed, overcompensating, fratty-esque, questionably employed, douche.
But now, we at the iO have OPTIONS! Option 1: Across the street from the new iO is, in fact, the largest Whole Foods in the Midwest. This gives us access to the refined, grain-munching, meat-denouncing, ironic shirt-wearing, hipster-esque class of douche. This is arguably the most preferable of the douche classes because, despite their blathering and general air of superiority, they at least try to improve society with their habits. Bravo, Hippy Douche! Bravo!
Then, of course, there’s option 2:
Next door to the iO theatre sits VIP, a notorious (*ahem*) Gentlemen’s Club. Here, we have the flashy, suited, cigar-puffing, spendthrift, fake mafia, objectification douche, also known as the “High Roller”. While just as obnoxious as the Wrigleyvillian douche, this one is much less pronounced about it, often claiming his reserved nature as “cool”. Often referring to the female clientele, or most females for that matter, as “The Ladies”, he possess what can be defined as “Old World Chauvinism”.
However you wish to call it, it’s look but don’t touch. And they let iO employees into VIP for no cover, which is a nice gesture. So I believe iO will have a bright future in Lincoln Park.
Plus the Whole Foods has wifi.