Banking on Laughs

Appears in the March 2023 issue.

By Mike Thomas

Batavia’s Comedy Vault welcomes both new and seasoned performers

The Comedy Vault
The Comedy Vault, 18 E. Wilson St., Batavia

Comedy clubs perhaps have seen their heyday. Once commonplace in the entertainment landscape, many in the Chicago area have closed up shop, leaving especially scant suburban options for standup fans.

So it’s no joke that the opening of a new standup venue is cause for celebration. Stepping into something of a humor void, the aptly named Comedy Vault in Batavia opened for business in October 2021 in a 114-year-old building that once housed the Batavia National Bank.

Comedian Sam Comroe
Comedian Sam Comroe

Getting the fledgling club up and running hasn’t been easy, co-owner Liz Valaitis admits, but it’s often rewarding. As head of business development and operations (her partner is Geneva’s EvenFlow Music & Spirits owner Michael Knuth), putting butts in seats is Valaitis’s top priority. It’s not solely about the bottom line, though. It’s also about creating a space in which comedy mentorship and connections can thrive.

She’s especially heartened by the emergence of a tight-knit comedy community that’s populated by novices and veterans alike. Whenever possible, she makes introductions between the two. “There are so many comics that try to champion each other, and it’s really cool,” she says. “Even when the headliners come in, we’ll have a local host and feature, and a lot of [the headliners] will take their time to try and help them out and give them some pointers.”

Comroe and James Frey in the green room
Comroe and James Frey in the green room

While the 200-seat club is still finding its way, Valaitis says it’s doing increasingly well. That certainly appears to be the case from a talent perspective. Booked for six months out, the Vault’s roster includes nationally and internationally known names. One of them, area resident and Police Academy star-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwait, is slated to perform April 21 and 22 (see our Spotlight conversation with Goldthwait).

Other comics taking stage this spring include The Office’s David Koechner (March 2–4), Finnish comedian ISMO (March 9–11), Abbott Elementary’s Lisa Ann Walter (April 27–29), and YouTuber Kvon (May 11–13). Most shows run about an hour and a half. Check the schedule for open mic nights as well. (Note, the Comedy Vault enforces a zero-tolerance policy for heckling.) For tickets, visit

Outside The Comedy Vault

Weekend shows, Valaitis says, consistently sell out. Patrons are largely from the nearby suburbs, but some have driven in from Michigan and Indiana to have a few laughs and forget about life for a while. “You have a place to go to just get away and focus,” Valaitis says. “The thing I love best is there’s no cellphone use, so you can really be present. It’s a little escape. And who doesn’t want or need to laugh?”


Photos courtesy of Leo Kowal