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Chicago SketchFest

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The second annual edition of this showcase of sketch comedy, presented by Posin' at the Bar, features more than 50 local and out-of-town ensembles--some well established, some new to the scene--representing a remarkable range of styles and viewpoints. The festival runs through January 25 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont. Performances are Wednesdays-Thursdays at 7:30 and 9 PM; Fridays-Saturdays at 7, 8, 9, and 10 PM; and Sundays at 4, 5:30, 7, and 8:30 PM. (A free video screening follows the last shows Fridays-Saturdays at 10:45 PM.) Admission is $12.50 per show (exceptions are noted below); a festival pass costs $60. For reservations, call 773-327-5252; for more information, call 773-868-0226.

Following is the schedule through January 23; a complete schedule is available on-line at www.chicagoreader.com.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 16

Monsters From the Id and Brick

Monsters From the Id is a collective of actors, writers, and filmmakers who studied at the Second City Training Center. They're paired with the Chicago ensemble Brick. 7:30 PM.

Maximum Party Zone and Cupid Players

The Cupid Players specialize in musical sketch comedy; they're joined by the local trio Maximum Party Zone in Cowboys and Indians and Vampires. 9 PM.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 17

Some Kind of Cult

This ensemble hails from Seattle. 7 PM.

Troop!

The LA-based group performs. 8 PM.

Gary Austin

Austin, cofounder of LA's Groundlings comedy group and a veteran of San Francisco's fabled improv troupe the Committee, performs Church, a solo piece based on his childhood experiences in the First Church of the Nazarene in Corpus Christi, Texas. 9 PM.

Flaming Box of Stuff

Flaming Box of Stuff describes itself as "a brand-new group comprised of Seattle sketch comedy veterans." 10 PM.

All Filler

The evening is capped by a free screening of a video segment from the Seattle TV show. 10:45 PM.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18

Panel Discussion

Local comedy directors Mick Napier, Anne Libera, and Norm Holly join out-of-towner Gary Austin for a talk on the director's role in developing a sketch comedy show. This event takes place at the Second City, 1616 N. Wells; call 773-868-0226. 1:30-3:30 PM; special $5 admission.

Flaming Box of Stuff

See listing for 10 PM Friday, January 17. 7 PM.

Gary Austin

See listing for 9 PM Friday, January 17.

8 PM.

Some Kind of Cult

See listing for 7 PM Friday, January 17.

9 PM.

Troop!

See listing for 8 PM Friday, January 17. 10 PM.

All Filler

See listing for 10:45 PM Friday, January 17. 10:45 PM.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 19

Suspicious Clowns and The Almond Company

The Viable Theatre Company's sketch comedy group Suspicious Clowns is a "young, edgy...troupe [that] takes plenty of risks, but under director (and company member) Vincent Truman, the ensemble has trouble at times working as a team. [The] humor is dark, physical, and often quite funny, though at times the actors seem awkward, unfocused, or unsure of when a sketch should end....For the most part,...the seven ensemble members don't go for easy gross-out laughs, preferring to comment on issues like abortion, drug use, gender roles, and prostitution in a way that's fresh and even startling," says Reader critic Jennifer Vanasco. Also on the bill: the Almond Company in Ignorence Is Bliss, which satirizes "unintelligible relationships at work, home, and on the streets of Chicago." 4 PM.

Free Pudding and Dolphins of Damnation

Free Pudding consists of local improv performers Jordan Klepper and Rocky Russo; the Dolphins of Damnation is also a local group. 5:30 PM.

Eclectic Muse Productions and Liquid Sketchbook Productions

Eclectic Muse Productions' show Girls on Guys tackles such themes as "gender, identity, self-analysis, body image, relationships, sex, and yes, chocolate." Liquid Sketchbook Productions presents Mystery and Romance: Another Day Down the Crapper. 7 PM.

Twist the Knife and Louisville Fluffers

Twist the Knife presents Mutiny of Perverts. Also on the bill is Chicago's Louisville Fluffers improv group. 8:30 PM.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22

Strictly Sketch and The Meek Shall Inherit...

The Meek Shall Inherit...presents The Meek Show, directed by Joe Janes. Chicago-based Strictly Sketch features comedy written and directed by Don Regal. 7:30 PM.

AfterTaste and Level Four Productions

Level Four Productions, a trio of ImprovOlympic alums, presents Less Than a Feeling, which combines new material with excerpts from last summer's debut production, On the Verge of Caring. AfterTaste offers a set of "character-based, satirical vignettes." 9 PM.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 23

Monsters From the Id and Maximum Party Zone

See listing for 7:30 PM Thursday, January 16, for information on Monsters From the Id; see listing for 9 PM Thursday, January 16, for information on Maximum Party Zone. 7:30 PM.

Head Cheese Fat Boss Productions and Free Pudding

Head Cheese Fat Boss Productions features Patrick Zielinski, Tyler Bohne, and other performers. See listing for 5:30 PM Sunday, January 19, for information on Free Pudding. 9 PM.

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