The Annoyance Theater is not your typical bar, because it is first and foremost an improv theater. Similar to IO or Second City, The Annoyance offers improv classes and performances, and realizes the need for a full bar and comfort food options to complement.
As far as improv and drinking are concerned, The Annoyance is easily the most accessible option when compared to its popular competitors – IO and Second City. It’s less than a block from the Brown/Red Line Belmont CTA stop, which means when you’re done drinking for the night, or you decide to leave a performance prematurely, transportation is easy and cheap.
Speaking of performances, they can be very hit or miss. More than likely, you’ve decided to check out The Annoyance because a friend is performing, and they’ve nudged you into supporting them. Upon entering the theatrical halls of The Annoyance, you need to realize that most of the performers are just getting started in their craft (just like actors at the other aforementioned improv theaters).
Improv actors at this theater are here to test out a concept. In many cases, you’ll get a taste of budding talent at a fraction of the cost they’ll charge once they “make it.” In other cases, you might suffer through an entire performance without so much as a laugh, and leave feeling just a bit uncomfortable. In either situation, it’s all part of Chicago’s improv scene.
From performers, expect lots of enthusiasm, talent (or perhaps a lack thereof), and experimentation. After (and between) shows, the actors tend to hang around for a drink or 5, which contributes to a nice community feel. If you’re averse to near nakedness, you might want to skip The Annoyance since it’s known to be a tad raunchy at times (even after the shows are over).
Improv shows at The Annoyance tend to start on time, and don’t last too long (with most being less than an hour). You can relax here for a bit, or make an entire night out of your time at The Annoyance. If you have no idea what to see, you can either show up without a specific plan (there’s stuff happening every day), or check out their events calendar. If shows overlap and you decide to stick around, you may be able to see the next one for cheaper than the full ticket price.
The Annoyance is 25 years old, and finds its figurehead in Artistic Director Mark Napier. You could say that he wrote the book on improv, specifically, Improvise. Scene from the Inside Out.
As far as the food and beverage offerings, they’re super reasonable and pretty basic. For ~$5, you can get a jumbo portion of chicken tenders that would be hard for two people to finish. And if you check in on Yelp, they frequently offer food specials (like free fries with a food purchase). Drinks are much more fairly priced than the cocktails of River North, though expect more standard fare than the typical River North bar! Whether you stay for a show or not, The Annoyance’s prices and proximity to public transit make it the ideal place to pregame a night out or have a cheap Chicago date.
Before bar hours, The Annoyance offers classes if you want to improve your craft. You can also rent the bar, small theater space, or the main stage for a reasonable fee. For more information, check out the Annoyance Theater website.