Six Chicago Open Mics for Newbie Artists

Charli Renken Charli Renken

Six Chicago Open Mics for Newbie Artists

Take the mic, Chicago!

From popular musicians like Muddy Waters, Smashing Pumpkins, and Chance the Rapper to famous writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Shel Silverstein, Chicago has always been home to a thriving art scene. Famous artists all got their start by sharing their work in the community. If you’re looking to do the same, here are some great open mics to get your feet wet. [Feature photo: Grandma’s House]

1. Grandma’s House

Photo: Grandma’s House

Chicago’s coziest poetry show, Grandma’s House is an intimate, warm open mic. Caroline M. Watson first started hosting poetry readings on her deck in 2016. The show has since grown and once a month occupies The Martin, a performance space in West Town. This open mic almost always has a featured reader who is actually paid for their time and work through suggested donations. The love just keeps on coming!

Location: The Martin, 2515 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Date: Usually the last Thurs of the month.

Time: Around 7:30pm or 8pm. Times vary.

Cost: $5 suggested donation


2. After Hours’ Chicago Speaks Literary Open Mic

Photo: Uncharted Books

Organized by the literary magazine of the same name, After Hours is a new, friendly open mic for writers of every genre and skill level. After Hours believes that writing should always be shared among friends, which is why they don’t have a featured reader; just a group of friends coming together for some great poetry. This open mic runs every third Weds at Uncharted Books. The venue is a little small, but that makes it all the cozier! 

Location: Uncharted Books, 5140 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 

Date: The third Wed of every month.

Time: 7pm

Cost: $5 cover


3. Chicago Laugh Factory’s Open Mic

Photo: @lf_chi_fans

If comedy is more your style, Chicago Laugh Factory’s Jackpot showcase and open mic is a great place for newbie stand-up comedians to get their name out there. Sign up is at 7:30pm with a lottery to be featured in Jackpot, Laugh Factory’s weekly showcase. Those picked have an option of either going on at the end of this week’s Jackpot or being featured at next week’s show. Those not picked are welcome to perform a 2-3 min set at the free open mic later that night. G-Rated jokes only, please.

Location: 3175 N Broadway Street

Chicago, IL 60657

Date: Every Tues

Time: Sign up at 7:30pm. Jackpot Showcase at 8:00pm. Open mic at 9:30pm

Cost: $20 for Jackpot Showcase. Free admission to the open mic.

Note: Laugh Factory’s website lists this event as every Weds, but Chicago’s team has informed us that information is wrong. The show is on Tues. Trust us.


4. iO Theatre’s Open Mic

Photo: @macy_calder

Oldtown’s improv theatre, iO Theatre is another great option for aspiring comedians. Unlike Laugh Factory, iO Theatre welcomes more adult material, so if dirty jokes are your thing, this is the place for you. There’s also no lottery at this open mic, so be sure to show up early to get a spot every Mon.

Location: Chris Farley Cabaret, 1501 N. Kingsbury St. Chicago, IL

Date: Every Mon

Time: Sign up at 8pm. Show at 10pm.

Cost: Free!


5. Uncommon Ground’s Open Mic

Photo: @mikaelabrielle

If you’re a musician looking to win some cash, Uncommon Ground is a great venue. With two locations, Uncommon Ground hosts weekly open mics for a variety of music genres. A top performer is picked from each week and invited to compete in the Open Mic competition hosted twice a year in Jan and July. The winner gets a cash prize, recording equipment, radio play, a feature show, and more! 

Lakeview Location: 3800 N Clark St, Chicago, IL

Date: Every Mon

Time: Sign up at 7pm. Show at 8pm-10pm

Cost: Free!


Edgewater Location: 1401 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL

Date: Every Tues

Time: Sign up at 7pm. Show at 8pm-10pm

Cost: Free!


6. Subterranean’s 606 Open Mic Hip-Hop

Photo: @jorynorman9

If hip hop is more your style, Subterranean music venue hosts Chicago’s longest-running genre-specific open mic every Tues. Since 1998, 606 Open Mic Hip-Hop has brought together some of the best freestylers and DJs in Chicago. Pick up the mic and become a part of Chicago’s hip-hop history!

Location: 2011 W North Ave Chicago, Illinois (Downstairs)

Date: Every Tues

Time: 10pm

Cost: Free!

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