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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 from Chicago and across North America, selected on the basis of stylistic, thematic, racial, and gender diversity as well as quality.

SketchFest runs January 4 through 14 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, filling its three auditoriums with back-to-back sets by four to six acts per night. Founding producer Brian Posen, who teaches at the Second City Training Center and Columbia College, says Thursdays feature "seasoned local groups," Fridays and Saturdays "the best sketch comedy groups from Chicago and across the continent," and Sundays "up-and-coming groups."

Dozens of acts are slated for opening weekend. Among those from out of town is LA's politically oriented Big News (Fri 10 PM, Sat 9 PM). Created by Second City and Saturday Night Live alum Michael McCarthy (now heard mornings on Q101), the revue has been running since 2002 at I.O. West. Also from LA is the two-man clown show Ten West (Fri-Sat 10 PM). New York-based Freedumb appears in It Takes a Village Idiot (Fri 9 PM, Sat 8 PM). From Vancouver comes Canadian Content (Fri-Sat 11 PM), a mix of live and video sketches; Canada's also represented by Toronto-based duo Ms. Chickaburns (Fri-Sat 11 PM).

Local troupes include √ĀSalsation! (Fri 8 PM), which views universal truths from a Latino perspective; the Cupid Players (Fri 9 PM), who specialize in witty satirical songs; Sketchcore (Sat 10 PM) in a remount of its hit Deep Inside Your Box; the all-female trio Triplette (Sat 11 PM), lauded for their fast pacing as well as their creative material; and Chick Magnets (Sun 7 PM), two women who promise to "take lovable lesbian characters and make them universal."

Next Thursday's bill includes the Galileo Players (8 PM), whose revues are grounded in science and philosophy; Improvidate (9:30 PM), which complements its routines about dating with opportunities for the audience to mingle; a double bill of comedy-rock bands Your Little Ponies and the Mike and Duane Show (9:30 PM); and a set by top improv directors Don Hall and Joe Janes (9:30 PM).

Tickets are $12 per show; one-night passes are $20 Thursday, $40 Friday and Saturday, and $25 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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