Comedian Kelsie Huff explains how women are owning Windy City comedy—and how you can get in on the act.
Kelsie Huff
Kelsie Huff

Early in a comedy class led by the kates, students get an assignment: Stand in front of the room and tell really bad dad jokes. "I make everyone applaud like crazy, like you're at the Apollo Theater, for these terrible jokes," says Kelsie Huff, creator of the kates University, the educational arm of her all-female Chicago comedy showcase. It's all about building women's confidence through stand-up comedy, and many are braving it for the first time.

We talked with the bubbly, arm-waving, over-caffeinated Kelsie about the female comedy scene, her love of Illinois native Melissa McCarthy and the uncomfortable stand-up show that always makes her laugh.

Kelsie Huff
Kelsie Huff photo by

MWL Are there more women in comedy now in Chicago?

KH Yeah, there's a shift in the landscape. I always make the joke onstage, "Women are taking over comedy. Math and science, you're next!" More women are producing, more women are out there getting better at their craft. That's the beauty of Chicago. You can find five comedy shows every night of the week here.

MWL Which comedians have helped move female comedy along?

KH: Well, I'm, of course, drawn to (Plainfield-born) Melissa McCarthy. I mean, are you kidding me? A gal with cheeks from the Midwest, makin' good? I'm like, "Heck, yeah!" Her portfolio is insane. Chelsea Handler is someone who's doing something interesting-she has given so many women opportunities. That's the thing that I like about female comedians. When they open a door, they bring other women with them.

MWL Where do you go to see a funny show?

KH There's a show called We Still Like You (in the Fine Arts Building across from Grant Park). A lot of comics do it. You tell your most shameful story. Like, embarrassing, confessional, horrible. It's vulnerable, and it's funny. At the end, everyone yells, "We still like you!"

Find the Scene

The kates perform twice a month at The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square and once a month at Lakeview's Laugh Factory Chicago. The kates University is $215 for a seven-week class.

The Chicago Women's Funny Festival in June at Lakeview's Stage 773 offers stand-up, improv and sketch comedy.

Female Funnies at Zanies Chicago features all-female stand-up during a monthly Monday night show hosted by WGN Radio's Patti Vasquez.

In The Riff at Bucktown's Gallery Cabaret, people sign up to pick a topic out of a hat (perhaps "pets" or "chestnuts") and then figure out how to make it funny.