The fourth annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, presented by Lukaba Productions, features more than 80 local and out-of-town ensembles, including folks from Toronto, Vancouver, New York, LA, Seattle, Cleveland, Portland, Dallas, Denver, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Some well established, some new to the scene, they represent a remarkable range of styles and viewpoints. SketchFest runs through 1/16 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, in the venue's west, south, and north theaters. (In addition to the schedule below, comic puppeteer Harvey Finklestein entertains in the lobby before shows.) Admission is $12 per show except where otherwise noted; $30 provides admission to all performances any single Friday or Saturday evening; and a festival pass costs $75. For reservations, call 773-327-5252; tickets are also available through Ticketmaster at Hot Tix booths (www.hottix.org for information) or online at www.ticketmaster.com. For updated fest info, visit www.chicagosketchfest.com.
The Backrow and Whizgiggers
The Backrow promises "a commitment to sincerity in character, dialogue, and theme." The Whizgiggers insist "the energy level will start high and continue to go up" in their show. 8 PM, west theater.
Flambango and Big Kids Comedy Hour
"Our shows range from smart to silly, realistic to absurd, fat to very fat," says a mission statement from Flambango. Big Kids Comedy Hour offers "a children's television show that's adult-themed," hosted by ventriloquist John Baptista Jr. and his dummy, the Amazing Luggah (played by Marz Timms). 8 PM, south theater.
Alamo Basement and Jazz Hands Across America
Alamo Basement invites the audience to decide what sketches it will perform. Jazz Hands Across America performs Warfield, USA, a scripted musical developed through "improvisation, reimprovisation, some more improvisation, and a boatload of editing." 8 PM, north theater.
Real Good Turbo and Malice
Two local groups perform. 9:30 PM, west theater.
The Patel Leads and Outsiders
Molly Hale and Bryan Irzyk, aka the Patel Leads, promise "sketch comedy that deconstructs the underdog and raises him up to the heavens as a sacrifice to the gods." The Outsiders is an improv group making its first foray into sketch comedy; T.J. Jagodowski directs. 9:30 PM, south theater.
Asterisks and A Million Monkeys
Asterisks promises "characters and moments that are awkward, ridiculous, and funny." A Million Monkeys performs its most recent show, Sketchual Harassment. 9:30 PM, north theater.
Three actors perform contemporary satire in an old-fashioned radio format. 8 PM, west theater.
Uphill Both Ways
This six-person group promises "sharp-witted insightful commentary" and "fast-paced physical comedic timing." 8 PM, south theater.
The Traveling Susans
The Denver group performs Divided by Whoopee. 8 PM, north theater.
Defiant Thomas Brothers
This delightfully dysfunctional duo features brainy black comic Seth Thomas and his lunkheaded, not-so-silent white sidekick Paul Thomas (no relation). (LB) 9 PM, west theater.
This self-described "Iranian-Jewish combo" performs Weapons of Pants Destruction. 9 PM, south theater.
This all-male troupe started out in Seattle and now is based in LA. 9 PM, north theater.
The 3rd Floor--Portland
This group has been based in Portland since 1996. 10 PM, west theater.
This ensemble describes itself as "a band of six TV-raised minds and five bachelor's degrees." 10 PM, south theater.
The group makes its SketchFest debut with American Dream Fights Like Hell. 10 PM, north theater.
The Animal Club
This sketch comedy collective formed in Pittsburgh four years ago and relocated here last year. The artists claim to be inspired by vaudeville as well as by contemporary sketch comedy. 11 PM, west theater.
This group has been performing in New York for the last two years. 11 PM, south theater.
Barrel of Monkeys
This children's theater presents That's Weird, Grandma, songs and sketches based on the work of local public school kids. Performed by a troupe of adult hipsters whose talent and abandon are matched only by their altruism and expertise, the madcap show is cheerfully produced with the shabby budget of a Charlie Brown Christmas pageant. (CP) 11 PM, north theater.
SketchFest 2004 Documentary
Screening of a 50-minute documentary about last year's festival. Midnight, west theater. Free.
Comedy Writing Workshop
John Vorhaus, author of The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even if You're Not, leads a workshop in sketch writing. 10 AM-1:30 PM, south theater. $30 ($25 for students and SketchFest participants).
Panel of Experts
Tim Kazurinsky, John Vorhaus, Carlos Alazraqui, and Cedric Yarbrough offer anecdotes and field questions from the audience. 2 PM, west theater. $5.
Dark Eyed Strangers
The group makes its second consecutive SketchFest appearance. 7 PM, west theater.
The company presents Adventure Programme. 7 PM, south theater.
Dolphins of Damnation
DoD guarantees "character-rich, non-topical, relationship-based sketch comedy." 7 PM, north theater.
See listing for Fri 1/14. 8 PM, west theater.
Uphill Both Ways
See listing for Fri 1/14. 8 PM, south theater.
The Traveling Susans
See listing for Fri 1/14. 8 PM, north theater.
In Superpunk Live, this local group promises, it won't "get hung up on through lines, forced opinions, and a message." 9 PM, west theater.
See listing for Fri 1/14. 9 PM, south theater.
See listing for Fri 1/14. 9 PM, north theater.
The 3rd Floor--Portland
See listing for Fri 1/14. 10 PM, west theater.
See listing for Fri 1/14. 10 PM, south theater.
This two-man group features Mychal Utecht and Aaron Gingrich. 10 PM, north theater.
This ensemble, directed by SketchFest producer Brian Posen, features surprisingly sophisticated musical sketch comedy. (MSB) 11 PM, west theater.
See listing for Fri 1/14. 11 PM, south theater.
The group presents A Very True Pilsner Show, featuring all-new material. 11 PM, north theater.
Late-night open mike for SketchFest participants. Midnight, west theater. Free.
Commedia Delle Principesse and The Yoga Show
The all-female Commedia Delle Principesse offers "a high-energy, intellectual perspective on womanhood and everyday crap." The Yoga Show: Wealth and Hellness satirizes the "inherent hedonism and irrationality" of the New Age movement. 4 PM, west theater.
Fishing With Dynamite and Off-Off Campus
Two student groups, from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago respectively. 4 PM, south theater.
Coup Nouveaux and New Batch of Genes
New Batch of Genes promises that "none of our sketches are over two minutes in length." Coup Nouveaux is a new local group. 4 PM, north theater.
Bootleg Islam and Katie Nahnsen
Iranian-born Negin Farsad teams up with Chicagoan Katie Nahnsen for this evening of solo comedy by women. See Critic's Choice for Bootleg Islam. Nahnsen describes My New Solo Show as "a quirky look at different characters' motivations and points of view." 5:30 PM, west theater.
Carla Wold and The Humperdink Family Reunion
Wold offers tales of "dating men of all ages and stages in recovery." The Humperdink Family Reunion features Stacey Hallal portraying ten different people at a family get-together. 5:30 PM, south theater.
Buck/Link and Sex, Lies, and Asparagus
Buck/Link offers sketches about "the absurd sweetness in people that fills our hearts and lives." Sex, Lies, and Asparagus features vignettes about "disillusionment, social commentary, and plain ol' everyday life." 5:30 PM, north theater.