A year ago, it was announced by Charna Halpern, who founded iO Chicago back in the 1980’s with Del Close, that she was closing the doors on the improv venue, due to both COVID-19 as well as controversy surrounding harassment from former students and staff. But now, it seems like iO Chicago will be coming back, under new management.
This past week, Halpern announced that local real estate execs Scott Gendell and Larry Weiner have purchased the space and the brand for an undisclosed sum. While not much is known about the pair, Halpern commented in a statement that they are looking forward to continuing “the cultural gem that is this iconic theater.” As for Halpern, she may stay on board in some capacity, but is quoted as saying “I don’t want to be a boss or anything like that.”
Over its 40+ year history, iO – formerly Improv Olympics – has become something of an institution in the comedy world. Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, Chris Farley, Jordan Klepper, Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Tim Meadows, Bob Odenkirk, Cecily Strong, and Ike Barinholtz make up just some of the legendary alumni. From 1997 until 2018, there was a Los Angeles location, titled iO West.
As of now, no reopening date has been announced. It may take a bit, as there’s the matter of new city licenses for the restaurant and bar, as well as costly repairs to the roof of the venue. But the good news is, another Chicago improv venue has been saved.