Good Times at the Lakeshore Theater Must End

April 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Courtesy of Chicago Tribune | Abel Uribe

Some very sad news broke on April Fool’s Day and it turned out to be no joke.  One of Chicago’s top comedy venues will host its final show this Saturday night before closing its doors for good.

The Lakeshore Theater has been home to a fantastic assortment of comedy acts big and small and it’s painful to see it go.  Definitely a blow to the alternative/underground stand-up scene most of all.

Why is this successful, popular venue shutting down?  Well, it hasn’t been successful enough, or successful fast enough, to outrun the debt incurred to launch the business in the first place.  My friends at A.V. Club Chicago have the best coverage I’ve seen with this interview of Lakeshore Owner Chris Ritter.

The final act to play the Lakeshore will be offensive Aussie stand-up Jim Jefferies on Friday & Saturday, but I’m more interested in Thursday night’s “Closing Sets.”  The best of the local comedy scene will perform as a farewell to the venue they loved.  As Mr. Ritter said in a recent newsletter, “This will be a very special show. Probably going to be as many tears as laughs.”

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My strongest memories of the Lakeshore center around the 5th Anniversary Birthday Bash of pH Productions back in 2007, when I was still its gung-ho Marketing Director.  Always supportive of up-and-comers in the comedy community, Mr. Ritter generously sponsored the event and let pH have the theater for the night. He was also patient and kind in the face of my eager wheelings & dealings to land additional sponsors, which finally included Centerstage Chicago, Gapers Block, Yelp, and even the Beachwood Reporter. (Honorable mention to A.V. Club Chicago, who sent me a tiny bag of Onion merchandise.)  As with most things pH, the Bash was a glorious fiasco.  We had a wonderful turnout, we performed snippets of our shows with some fun guest stars, we gave an award to Jonathan Pitts, and the company leaders took turns saying a few too many words about pH.  There was also no intermission for this 2 hour marathon, during which a small army of homeless people snuck into the lobby and took away all of the free food supplied by our restaurant sponsors.  Then there was the mislabeled “trip to Disneyworld” auction prize, and the less said about that, the better.  When I look back, I clearly see that night at the Lakeshore as my pH high water mark.  And it was a night full of what the Lakeshore was all about: comedy, music and good times.

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After the Bash, I only made it out a handful of times to enjoy some of the great things regularly happening at the Lakeshore, and of course I’ll always kick myself for not catching more shows.  But you know what they say about regrets: they’re the iron chains that bind us to our failures. (Isn’t that what they say? I don’t know.)

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Sayonara, Lakeshore.  You’ll be missed.

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