The Top 10 Up-and-Coming Comedians In Chicago

Inspired by Splitsider's controversial coast-centric list of rising standups, comedian C.J. Toledano assembled a top 10 list of Chicago-based comics who most deserve a spot on your radar. C.J. is a rising performer himself, he recently finished a string of dates opening for Todd Barry and has worked as a staff writer on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and consulting writer for The Onion News Network. Who better than someone embedded deep within the scene to shed light on the stars of tomorrow?

As an avid reader of comedy news, I recently came across Splitsider’s piece, “The Next Wave: The Top 10 Up-and-Coming Comedians on Each Coast.” I thoroughly enjoyed the piece and happened to actually agree with their choices as I’ve seen and know a lot of them. Although, as a comedian who, over these past eight years, has resided in cities all over the country -- including New York and Los Angeles -- I felt like the piece was lacking the insight of a stand-up scene that I feel is most always overlooked: Chicago.

Now, I may be biased as Chicago is the scene I’ve been involved with the most over the past few years, but, as some may or may not know, it is where comedians like Hannibal Buress, Kyle Kinane, TJ Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Pete Holmes, Matt Braunger, Nick Vatterott and many, many others got their chops. That being said, rather than complain that people who write about comedy aren’t holding Chicago at the standards of New York or Los Angeles, I thought I’d do one better: using the same methods as Splitsider, I, too, surveyed the local bookers, club higher-ups, and hosts and punched in the numbers to compile a list of the top 10 up-and-coming comedians in America’s third largest city, Chicago. Without further ado, the list:

10. Jim Belushi
Despite being the brother of the already über-famous Belushi (Billy), Jim has made a name for himself and risen through the ranks in Chicago rather quickly. In addition to a few television and film appearances, he can regularly be seen doing his most famous bit where he sings classic songs live onstage all over the country. Here he is at, according to the camera guy, an “Orlando thing,” singing “Sweet Home Chicago."

9. Jim Belushi
Like many comedians before him, Jim Belushi honed his craft at the historic Second City theater.  Here he is at Second City Hollywood, the most famous location, singing “Sweet Home Chicago."

8. Jim Belushi
When you see a comedian perform the same jokes over and over again, you may grow tired of them or even see them grow tired of themselves. Unfortunately, that is not the case for local up-and-comer Jim Belushi. If you ever get a chance to catch him in a more intimate setting, I highly suggest you do. For now, check out rare footage of him performing fan favorite, “Sweet Home Chicago."

7. Jim Belushi
While many comedians aspire to tour and perform in the Carnegie Halls or the Madison Square Gardens of the world, up-and-coming comedian, Jim Belushi, has been known to pour the same level of excitement into a hometown performance.  Here’s an appearance of his on CBS, in which he is singing ““Sweet Home Chicago" behind a podium.

6. Jim Belushi
Known for his trademark sunglasses, Jim Belushi commands the stage with the utmost confidence. Raised in Chicago, he shows his loyalty with the signature piece of his act where he sings “Sweet Home Chicago.” Here he is performing that while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and goatee.

5. Jim Belushi
Jim is an interesting choice for the list because, while he grew up in Chicago, he’s also not afraid to dig deeper into his family’s roots in Albania. Here he is in front of his entire homeland of Albania, doing a bit that you think would only work here in the states called “Sweet Home Chicago."

4. Jim Belushi
We all know the story. Some guy named “John” couldn’t make the performance and Dan Akroyd, known for not wanting to cash in on franchises, didn’t feel it was right to carry on with the ever-popular “Blues Brothers” bit. All of a sudden, in came the up-and-coming Jim Belushi, who was willing to step in and accept the responsibilities of the character. Here he is as “Joliet” Jake Blues singing “Sweet Home Chicago” in 2009, aka the height of "The Blues Brothers."

3. Jim Belushi
According to me, Chicago comedian, Jim Belushi, is number 3 on this list. According To Jim…”Come on! Baby don’t you want to go! Back to that same old place! Sweet Home Chicago!"

2. Jim Belushi
If you were to accidentally walk into an arena, plugging your ears while also ignoring all the band members, instruments, and fancy lights, you would swear that the guy onstage who is dressed in all black is Bill Hicks. Unfortunately, it’s not. Fortunately, though, it’s none other than Jim Belushi. He probably won’t make this list in the future as he’ll be off to one of the coasts to hit it big anytime now but until then, let’s just relish in this performance where Jim, probably in his most unique performance yet, sings “Sweet Home Chicago."

1. Jim Belushi
No list is complete without Chicago staple, Jim Belushi. Here he is, where he can most regularly be seen, in a commercial talking about eagles.

-C.J. Toledano