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Theatre Wed Jan 06 2010

A Chat With SketchFest Creator Brian Posen

Thumbnail image for jerks.jpgA cavalcade of sketch comedians will bum rush The Theater Building on West Belmont on Thursday for the opening of SketchFest, a two-week sketch comedy festival featuring an amalgamation of comedy talent from across the country.

"Every hour on the hour you get to choose between one of three great shows," said Brian Posen, SketchFest's executive director. "You get to ask yourself, 'Should I go see the lesbians from Portland or the black and white group from New York or the group from here who sings?'"

The world's largest sketch comedy festival just keeps getting bigger, too. The ninth installment brought in more submissions than ever, plus 100 new groups wrangled for debut slots, according to Posen, who dreamt up the idea nearly a decade ago.

"It's just exploding," Posen said. "Flash back to the first three years when we had to research groups all over the country and heavily court them -- now we're in a position where the bar's so high and we're training people so well that we have to turn people away, which we hate to do, but that just builds the festival and makes it stronger."

Groups from all over -- Indy, North Carolina, LA, New York, Virginia, Maryland and Canada -- are in this year's mix. Check Slowdown for our daily SketchFest picks or see the full schedule here. But with 113 groups performing, you'll likely find something up your alley.

The niche world of sketch comedy often stumbles into "For Us, By Us" territory, but Posen wants SketchFest to feel more like "To Sir, With Love."

"I don't think theater begins when the curtain rises," Posen said. "Theater begins when you pull up and the valets are happy to see you and there's a staff that greets you and people who want to know what you're interested in. When that happens to me as a patron, I feel cool."

That's the glad-handing atmosphere he promises: A box office staff that offers a personal touch -- from show recommendations to genuine customer service -- and a happy, playful theater staff.

"We want people to feel honored here, and to feel like this is a place to laugh," Posen said.

It's not all altruistic, of course. A senior faculty member at Second City, Posen likes to geek out on a good sketch show and he's high on cramming loads of talent into one building.

"Honestly, there's a vibe that just happens that's just so wonderful in this building for two weeks," he said. "Every group is honored, there's no ego. We all just get to see each other's work and celebrate the art form and build a sense of community."

SketchFest, the world's largest sketch comedy festival, covers two long weekends with more than 100 sketch groups and 125 shows. See the entire schedule here. For tickets, call the box office at 773-327-5252 or physically go to the theater building and avoid Ticketmaster fees. (We're talking a $12.50 ticket pumped up to $20.) SketchFest runs through Jan. 17 at the Theater Building, 1225 West Belmont.

 
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