What’s new with the 11th annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival? Plenty—this year, there are more acts (138) and more shows (163) than ever. But the big news is the venue.
While Sketch Fest has occurred in the same venue since its inception, the building itself underwent a $2 million renovation earlier this year, which transformed the lobby, added four theaters in a space that formerly housed three and doubled the number of bathrooms (good news, since there’s also a nice, large lobby bar). We checked in with Sketch Fest founder and Stage 773 artistic director Brian Posen for details.
How do you like your new home?
A brand new building, a working air conditioner, new bathrooms that are free from odor, light actually coming into the building, four theaters instead of three, an open box office, no Ticketmaster fees, a new office, a big-ass sign—I am pleased as punch! There is still one light switch that we don’t know what it does, though.
How will the new theater design affect Sketch Fest?
Four theaters! More funny, more opportunity. We now can host even more groups. This year we broke all our records. We will have 138 Sketch comedy troupes performing 163 shows in eight days. That’s about 1,000 artists making lotsa funny for you.
What does $2 million buy?
Not enough. We are a not-for-profit and even 100 percent filled, we are still in the red and need the support from the people that are reading this right now: smart, fun, good-looking, generous people.
What's the coolest thing about the new theater?
The door thingie…it’s a fob that you wave and the door unlocks. It’s so freaking cool!
Also, because of the new theaters, we now can host so many more theatrical mediums. Before, many companies could not afford to perform here. Now, besides hosting theater, dance and musical theater, we are also a happy home for cabaret, stand-up, sketch and improv, burlesque, magic, storytelling, solo performances—just to name a few new friends we are making here.
What are the new challenges for producing a festival of this scope in the renovated space?
I will let you know on Jan. 16.
Go: Thursday through Jan. 15 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Tickets: $14-$15 per show, $160 all-festival pass; 773-327-5252; chicagosketchfest.com
BEST BETS FOR LAUGHS
With 138 groups and 163 shows, it’s impossible to see everything. But we’ve got one sure-bet show per night to get you started.
Jan. 5: The Puterbaugh Sisters
The local sister act—and yes, they’re actual sisters—kicks off Sketch Fest with a high-energy vaudeville-style set. 8 p.m.
Jan. 6: Sweat
This five-person (four dudes and a lady) troupe sold out both last year’s Sketch Fest show and an extended run this year in their hometown of Portland with their rambunctious physical comedy. 9 p.m.
Jan. 7: Reformed Whores
Brooklyn-based duo Marie Cecile Anderson and Katy Frame’s hipster hootenanny features humorous country music songs about venereal diseases, drunk dialing and other things that can go awry when you’re “wookin' pa nub” in all the wrong places. 8 p.m.
Jan. 8: The Late Live Show
This popular talk show parody ran for more than a year at the Second City de Maat Theatre before its abrupt and unexpected eviction last summer. Expect an opening monologue, sketches, an interview and musical guests—all with a twist. 8 p.m.
Jan. 12: An Ironic Sorrow, or Life in Your Twenties
These up-and-coming comedians from The Second City’s Directing Program remount their hit summer show about attempting to face adulthood—sort of—while dealing with a recession and other angst-y grown-up situations. 10 p.m.
Jan. 13: FUCT
The ribald New York City troupe returns with raunchy sketches, outrageous physical stunts, R-rated song and dance and most likely some nudity along with the crudity. 10 p.m.
Jan. 14: Cupid Players
These perennial Sketch Fest favorites (“Cupid Has a Heart On: A Musical Guide to Relationships”) debut a brand-new show under the direction of Sketch Fest founder Brian Posen, who also provides keyboard accompaniment. 8 p.m.
Jan. 15: Madre Mia
Local funnymen Ramon Charriez and Michael Villareal don wigs, dresses and nightgowns for humorous vignettes about issues that get lost in translation between Latina mothers and their offspring. 6 p.m.
Julia Borcherts is a RedEye special contributor.