Comedy Shrine expands in Fox Valley Mall in Aurora
The Comedy Shrine is placing a bigger bet on laughter.
The 16-year-old suburban comedy institution is nearly doubling in size to 14,000 square feet within the Fox Valley Mall in Aurora. It's up from its previous 7,400 square-foot location in the northwestern quadrant of the mall's property.
"This is not your grandfather's shopping mall," Comedy Shrine owner David Sinker said during a media preview Wednesday.
The Comedy Shrine's new home now features a 400-seat standup theater, a 200-seat improv comedy theater and a 60-seat black box theater (though upon inspection, it was closer to a gray trapezoid).
Sinker also relishes The Comedy Shrine's new lobby, complete with a bar with beer on tap. There's also loads of extra space for the venue's mind-boggling comedy museum.
Just like its previous Naperville and Aurora locations, The Comedy Shrine's walls are festooned with memorabilia stretching from the silent movie age to today's streaming sitcoms. Sinker hopes in the coming months to develop a self-guided smartphone audio tour of the exhibits.
Sinker came up with the idea to expand when he noticed Centennial Real Estate, which operates Fox Valley Mall, shaking things up beyond retail by building residential housing. So Sinker was pleased that Fox Valley Mall was willing to partner on a bigger Comedy Shrine.
"If we wanted to compete, we had to become one of the big boys," said Sinker about attracting big-name entertainers in the standup community. "This is now the largest comedy theater in the Midwest now."
The Comedy Shrine was originally set to move in September 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed those plans. But in a way, Sinker said the pause allowed The Comedy Shrine to get everything it wanted in the new location.
Sinker said The Comedy Shrine is awaiting to hear capacity guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health before opening. Chicago standup comedian Rocky LaPorte (NBC's "Last Comic Standing," Showtime's "The Godfathers of Comedy") is set to be The Comedy Shrine's official opening act with four shows at 8 and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 21 and 22.
But along with attracting well-established talent, Sinker stresses how The Comedy Shrine is a great crucible for new comic performers. Many hopefuls hone their craft via the venue's Monday evening Open Mic and Open Improv shows that are free with a two-drink minimum purchase.
"Some Mondays we have up to 40 comedians waiting to perform," Sinker said. "A lot of people come to do improv or standup for the very first time with us."
Sinker also wants to expand daytime activities in the venue, including extra comedy writing and performing classes to corporate rentals of the theater spaces. And though The Comedy Shrine is famous for "The Naughty Show" (a very blue late-night weekend show), Sinker would like to offer extra family programming and rentals for visiting theater companies, too.
"We're just chomping at the bit to get The Comedy Shrine up and running again," Sinker said.