The former child star appeared before a Saturday night crowd of about 400 at the gala held at the Museum of Science and Industry, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday.
"There's something so positive about the energy here. It's so positive, more than any other big American city," he said. "But the X factor here, I always say, is the people. They're great," Howard said about being in Chicago.
Howard, known for films such as "Apollo 13," "Backdraft," "A Beautiful Mind," and "Cinderella Man," is making his first comedy in 10 years.
"I'm ridiculously happy getting up each day and going to the set to work with Vince Vaughn and Kevin James and creating laughs," Howard said.