In its 15th year, SketchFest is bigger than ever | Comedy Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Comedy Critic's Choice

In its 15th year, SketchFest is bigger than ever

The comedy festival features reunions, breakouts, and plenty of comedy.


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


In 2014, when famous improvisers TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi relinquished control of the Mission, the duo's theater, Tribune critic Chris Jones all but announced sketch comedy outside of the walls of the Second City to be dead. Comedian (and artistic director of Stage 773) Brian Posen's brainchild, the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, disputes that notion. This year's fest features more than 180 different sketch groups, its largest lineup yet.

SketchFest's 15th edition is nearly an even split of new and returning groups, with many of the latter reuniting after spending years not even speaking. "When we approached this landmark we said, 'Let's dream,' " Posen says. "We looked back over the last 15 years and created our dream list." And with only a few phone calls, they were able to book nearly every act on that list.

T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley) and Danny Pudi (Community) return with their original groups—Heavyweights and Siblings of Doctors, respectively—along with other reunited acts like Superpunk, Brick, and Party Central USA.

"The festival keeps redefining itself because every year we get new people," Posen says. "Sketch comedy is exploding. The first couple of years we really had to seek out to get just 30 groups. Now we have hundreds and hundreds that we turn away." Groups making their SketchFest debut include female-positive Bevvy and brand-new Creamy Barracuda.

In the past couple of decades that Posen has been in the biz, he has noticed a few emerging trends, like solo sketch acts and more involvement with technology—for example, the Laser Comedy Show, in which one man uses lasers to create scenery and characters. But the core of sketch comedy, just as during the days of The Carol Burnett Show, remains the same—it's the perspective that changes. And despite what Mr. Jones had to say, there are still plenty of new, entertaining perspectives.

"What's always new is presentation and the group's voice—that's what's interesting," Posen says. "Twenty years of watching sketch comedy I still go, 'Ooh, look at that!'  v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment