Every January since 2002, local and out-of-town comedy groups have gathered in Chicago--birthplace of the pioneering Compass and Second City companies, and mecca to the world of sketch and improv--to showcase their work at the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. The first SketchFest featured some 30 ensembles; this year, SketchFest, presented by Lukaba Productions, presents almost 100 groups from Toronto, New York, LA, Seattle, Cleveland, Portland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Des Moines, and Ypsilanti. Some well established, some new to the scene, they represent a wide range of styles and viewpoints. SketchFest runs 1/5-1/15 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, in the west, south, and north theaters (supplementary venues are listed below). Admission is $12 per show except where otherwise noted; $40 provides admission to all performances any single Friday or Saturday evening, all-show passes are $20 for Thursday evenings and $25 for Sundays, and an all-festival pass costs $100. 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. Following is the schedule for opening night, a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.
Flambango and Heavyweight
Two local groups share an opening-night bill. a West theater, 8 PM.
Asterisks and The Embassy
Asterisks features three writer-performers who try to focus on "what happens in the footnotes of life." The Embassy presents The Best of the Embassy, an evening of scenes directed by Dave Buckman and Bobby Mort. Both groups are Chicago-based. a South theater, 8 PM.
Train of Thought and Jesters Ink
Seattle-based Train of Thought performs In Laid Off, about the traumas of job seeking after being laid off. Jesters Ink hails from Richmond, Virginia. a North theater, 8 PM.
Commedia Della Principesse and Real Good Turbo
The four-woman group Commedia Della Principesse presents Disconnected. The comic duo Real Good Turbo offers live bits and short films. Both groups are local. a West theater, 9:30 PM.
Dolphins of Damnation and The Waitstaff
Chicago's Dolphins of Damnation specialize in relationship-driven scenes. The Waitstaff hails from Philadelphia. a South theater, 9:30 PM.
The Animal Club and Boiled Wieners
The Animal Club, a local group, is inspired by vaudeville and clowning as well as sketch comedy. Toronto's Boiled Wieners is in town to promote its debut CD. a North theater, 9:30 PM.