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Chicago SketchFest

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The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival is the largest event of its kind in the nation, cementing the city's reputation as the mecca of the improv and sketch world. The sixth annual edition, presented by Lukaba Productions, features more than 100 ensembles. Established and emerging artists from across North America (including a large Canadian contingent) merge with local talents for two weeks of performances and workshops. Founding producer Brian Posen, a teacher at the Second City Training Center and at Columbia College, says, "We preach fairness across the board" to ensure stylistic, thematic, racial, and gender diversity.

SketchFest starts Thursday, January 4, and runs Thursdays-Sundays through January 14 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, filling the venue's three auditoriums with back-to-back sets by four to six acts per night. Posen says Thursdays feature "seasoned local groups," Fridays and Saturdays "showcase the best sketch comedy groups from Chicago and across the continent," and Sundays are reserved for "up-and-coming groups." Among the 12 acts on opening night are the Leeder Company in Sandy Takes a Break, which uses twisted humor to explore awkward situations; Kevinda, a politically oriented duo; Teatro Bastardo in Teatro Bastardo Presents . . . Life Is a Joke; and The Fowler Family Radio Hour, a comic variety show parodying southern culture.

Tickets are $12 per show; one-night passes are $20 on Thursday, $40 on Friday and Saturday, and $25 on Sunday. A limited number of festival passes are available for $100. A full schedule is online at www.chicagosketchfest.com. For reservations, call the Theatre Building at 773-327-5252 or Ticketmaster at 312-559-1212 (www.ticketmaster.com).

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