Walking down Milwaukee Avenue, it is hard not to notice the fur covered red velvet chair placed peculiarly, as if on display for those passing by. Oftentimes in the chair lies Ramona, Uncharted Books owner Tanner McSwain’s dog and the most popular employee, staring through the storefront window illuminated by the radiant glow of the red and blue open sign just above her.
You might know of Uncharted Books as the sedated bookstore near the intersection of Kedzie and Milwaukee. However, you may not know that every first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. the store hosts a comedy show, “Congrats on Your Success,” welcomed to all and any for a night of laughter and enjoyment.
This BYOB event has been running almost as long as Uncharted Books has opened its doors in 2012. The performance was born when a group of Comedians decided they had a different view on how to run shows and decided to create their own. With a connection from a former employee of Uncharted Books, the group ultimately decided to have their show in Logan Square’s most beloved book store.
“The show is very emblematic of the neighborhood. It is thoughtful and intelligent without being pretentious,” said producer and comedian Eunji Kim. “It’s people who care about the neighborhood, it’s people that care about Chicago and it’s people who care about being challenged in some ways.”
It should be to no surprise that Chicago is in no short supply of laughs. Researcher Dr. Peter Mcgraw and journalist Joel Warner found Chicago to be the number one spot for comedy in America after their nine-month journey across the country to find the funniest cities. The study was conducted by the Humor Research Lab in connection with the University of Colorado. In fact, many comedic giants such as Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Bill Murray and many more got their start from Chicago based comedy club Second City alone.
Odinaka Ezeokoli, original producer of “Congrats on Your Success” said the comedy scene here is quite big.
“Chicago has a huge scene and it is almost like the DIY scene is the mainstream scene,” Ezeokoli said. “I feel like the blue-collar attitude of the city really permeates in the creative spaces; where people are like, ‘Let’s make shit happen.'”
Ezekoli and the show was featured in an episode from Netflix’s “Easy” back in 2017 (Season 2, Episode 3).
Standing shoulder to shoulder in between grand wooden bookshelves and wherever else one might squeeze themselves in, the show is nothing short of being cozy and cordial. The crowd, made up of first-timers and die-hard comedic thrill hunting veterans eagerly fill in, wait for the next comedian.
“The way that they set it up, it is amazing. It’s the best free show I would say if not in Chicago in America,” said Michael McCormack, a longtime fan who was at the April 4 show. “The past 20 times I have been here I haven’t not laughed once and most the time I’m brought to tears.”
“Congrats on Your Success” at Uncharted is the home for weekend-driven nine-to-fivers and casual deviants to escape another mundane Thursday night to a place of refuge, filled with a lingering sense of community: An aspect of life in Logan Square that is thriving behind the walls of storefronts and bars.
All photos: Zack Keltner