Stand-up comedy + improv in Kansas City

Picture of comedian Kailee Karr

KC comedian Kailee Karr during Laugh Lab at The Rino in NKC. Photo via Kailee Karr

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Here at KCtoday, we gave April Fools’ Day some very sincere consideration. But instead of pulling a prank or telling a joke ourselves (do puns count as jokes?), we decided we best leave the tomfoolery in the hands of our local comedy scene.

The metro has a lot of spots to cop a laugh, and we’ll get to those, but in order to include a variety of venues, we want to first take you back to the very beginning — and what that looked like here in the Paris of the Plains.

Stand-up’s origin story

Picture of Folly theater

It’s a beautiful day to crack a smile, Kansas City. | Photo by @therealzachzieg

What if we told you that stand-up is actually only a phenomenon of the last century? Don’t laugh, we’re serious. Comedy shows started in the late 1800s and gained popularity in the early 1900s, first as vaudeville + burlesque performances featuring risque displays, slapstick sketches, and scripts that spoke to the inner city working class.

It was during that time that Kansas City developed a robust show circuit — 12th Street was once called KC’s Las Vegas. Grand performance venues rose to meet the demand, like The Folly Theatre in 1900 (Standard Theater at the time), Main Street Theater in 1921 (now B&B Theatres), The Midland Theatre in 1927, and the Uptown Theater in 1928.

Variety shows have since fallen out of mainstream popularity (Thanks, movies.), but comedy survived. Check out these metro spots today, and help keep comedy alive.

KC comedy spots

Improv Comedy Club, 7260 NW 87th St., Kansas City, MO | Dinner and a show, featuring American fare, specialty drinks, and lots of laughs.

The Comedy Club of Kansas City, 1130 W. 103rd St., Kansas City, MO | We’ve got our eyes on the Bad Ass Nachos, the 4 Layer Chocolate Cake, and Gilbert Gottfried later this month.

The KC Improv Company at The Kick Comedy Theater, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, MO (Westport Coffeehouse Theater) | Games, improvised Shakespeare, and improvised murder mysteries.

The Rino, 314 Armour Rd., North Kansas City, MO | Host of the weekly comedy open mic night, Laugh Lab, hosted by comedian Kailee Karr.

The Groundhog Day Theatre, 6906 N. Oak Trfy., Gladstone, MO | This theater offers regular standup + classes for kids and grownups.

The Bird Comedy Theater, 103 W. 19 St., Kansas City, MO | A new Crossroads venue featuring improv, sketch, and stand-up.

Legends Comedy Club & Sports Lounge, 6151 Blue Ridge Blvd., Raytown, MO | Regular open mic nights + scheduled comedy shows and events.

Harley’s Hideaway Bar & Grill, 12200 Johnson Dr., Shawnee, KS | Comedy shows, open mic competitions, and charitable standup events.

Knuckleheads Saloon, 2715 Rochester Ave., Kansas City, MO | KC Comedy night is the last Sunday of every month.

Barrel of the Bottoms, 1427 W. 9th St., Kansas City, MO | A recording studio, writing office, and open mic comedy venue in the West Bottoms.

The Mockingbird Lounge, 204 Orchard St. Kansas City, KS | An industrial pub + eclectic performance venue with a view of the KC skyline.

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