Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival: Day Two Reviewed, Part Two

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Jerks
  • Jerks

Last night the city looked like a dirty cruller covered in powdered sugar. Cold, icy, slippery, dog-turd-laden powdered sugar. Thoughts of gardening, rollerblading, downing Jello shots at Castaways on North Avenue Beach, and a bunch of other things I don't do when the weather's warm crossed my wind-chilled brain.

That being said, Who’s ready for some sketch comedy?

According to their PR, the members of Salsation look at life through an "unflinchingly Latino lens.” It's true, too—and a relief, since most sketch comedy is whiter than Lincoln Square's shopping district on a Saturday morning. Even better, Salsation's comedy is based on relationships rather than strings of jokes. The characters are fully formed, and the sketches they inhabit—a white girl getting trained to work the counter at a ghetto McDonald’s, a Latino son coming out to his mother (she doesn't get it until he tells her he’s a "Ricky Martin")—create the sense that you’re dropping in on their lives.

Celebrating their seventh year at the Fest, The Cool Table delivered Python-esque silliness, complete with pillow flights, blown bubbles, and tossed popcorn. A sketch about a spelling bee—the entire English language having been exhausted, judges create words out of shrieks, howls, and odd gestures—was very funny. So were the recurring commercials for the Father Figure line of fragrances: Obscene Touch, Utter Disappointment, and Sensitive Stepdad. The show moved quickly among sketches involving drunken lawyers, girls encountering guys who look like “Lenny Kravitz meets Jeff Goodblum,” and bullies who hurl complimentary taunts at their victims. TCT perform again Saturday, 7 PM.

You know you’re in for a treat when a troupe starts off their show by leading the audience in a prayer to Belial, Beelzebub, and Satan, and Space Program were fucking great. Every bit in their pop-culture-heavy show worked—especially the one about what happens after The Goonies ends and Sloth has lived with Chunk and his Mom for three days. Among my other favorites: Nicholas Cage wishing he could star in the Kelsey Grammer classic, Down Periscope; a woman telling her flawless friend why she pooped in her birthday cake; and a post-apocalyptic birds-and-bees talk with serious incestual overtones. They’re back Saturday, 9 PM.

There was a delay before the 10PM shows, and to kill the lonely wait in the lobby, I started thinking about which songs I’d pick to replace the ten-second bursts of Lady Gaga that generally punctuate sketches. My list: “Cut Your Feet Off” by the Tyrades, “Manimal” by the Germs, “Insufficient Funds” by Eddy Current Suppression Ring, “Blow Dumb” by Nobunny, and definitely something upbeat by the Beatles.

Maybe I was sketched out after Salsation, The Cool Table, and Space Program, but I wasn’t feeling New Excitement—and it’s not because they wore matching white t-shirts and pants. A bit in which a dramatic confession gets interrupted by audience plants trying to find each other via cell phones and whistling was entertaining for a little while but went on too long. Other sketches outlived their premises by as much as ten minutes. The best moments—an awkward boy and girl get unwanted advice from the stars while trying to kiss one romantic night, a subway ride turns into a musical interlude—were more cute than anything. New Excitement returns Saturday, 10 PM.

Jerks supplied an awesome end to the night. There's absolutely no dicking around with the duo of Jamie Hoggson and Nick Ehart—they know what they're doing. The set started with a spot-on parody of motivational speakers working a high school gymnasium (they “weren’t always this cool”), which culminated in the funniest line of the night: The "Spanish aren’t a threat to anyone except bulls and productive afternoons.” Among the highlights, the Successful Man’s political party, whose members include Kevin Federline, Mario LeMieux, and Rod Blagojevich, and a conversation at a ten-year high school reunion between the third best catheter salesman in Illinois and a guy who works at the Live Cat Theatre in San Francisco's Castro District. There was simply no denying the f-u-n in the writing and the collaboration. Their next show is Saturday, 11 PM.

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