Hannibal Burress
Hannibal Burress Credit: Seth Olenick

Hannibal Buress at the Vic Theatre (January 25)

Nine months before he created a stir when a video in which he calls Bill Cosby a rapist went viral, Buress performed twice at the Vic Theatre for the taping of his second Comedy Central special. At one point the Chicago-born emerging stand-up did several takes of the same musical routine; with each do-over the laughs progressively died down, but the comedian’s infectious energy kept the evening on course. “You just watched a man live out his dream,” he said after finally nailing the pesky bit. Witnessing that dream made for one of the best stand-up sets I’ve ever seen. For those that missed out, Live From Chicago is a must-see. Brianna Wellen

Stand Up Stand Up during the Comedy Exposition at Crocodile Lounge (July 11-13)

The weekly stand-up showcase’s events hosted as part of the inaugural Comedy Exposition epitomized what made the grassroots fest so pleasant—and provided at least one example of why the expo should give a second year a shot. The basement setting was low-key and the price of admission a steal to watch top-notch locals (CJ Sullivan), rising stars (Nore Davis), and the occasional surprise guest set from a headliner. During the July 12 show I attended, LA comic Jackie Kashian popped in to work out some material. Kevin Warwick

iO’s Clark Street farewell (July 19)

The Armando Diaz Theatrical Experiment and Hootenany that closed out iO’s final night at 3541 N. Clark was not only a master class in the long-form improv style perfected by Charna Halpern and Del Close, it also was an unusually reverent night of comedy. Deep love for the Wrigleyville location—the operation’s home for nearly 20 years before the shiny new Lincoln Park location opened—fueled expertly crafted scenes and memory-rich farewell speeches that made me laugh and cry, and laugh so hard I began to cry. Brianna Wellen

Brian McCann

Brian McCann’s Leisure Hour at iO (August 27-29, October 8-11, October 15-18)

Donning silk pajamas, the longtime Conan writer and iO alum guzzled wine and pitched his hilariously harebrained tutorial for cultivating a life of sophisticated spare time. Through much nonsensical comic bufoonery, McCann gradually revealed his one-man show’s darkly funny core as a farcical self-portrait of an underemployed comedy writer with a minor alcohol problem and more than a shade of regret. Kevin Warwick

John C. Reilly as Dr. Steve BruleCredit: Clark Reinking

Tim and Eric & Dr. Steve Brule at the Athenaeum Theatre (September 23-24)

Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s deliberately antagonistic brand of comedy is even more abrasive live than onscreen. And for good measure, Tim and Eric brought along Dr. Steve Brule, the bumbling cable-access talk show host played with inspired stupidity by Chicago native John C. Reilly. Onstage, Reilly’s Brule resembled an impossibly nervous third-grader hosting a variety show. The good doctor’s trademark mispronunciations (he referred to Chicago as “Chigrayngo”) and sweet-natured instability were completely on point, a testament to Reilly’s mastery of improvisation. Drew Hunt