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Comedy Wed Jan 09 2013

SketchFest 2013: Big Event with Even Bigger Laughs

SadOnVacation.JPG
Today I read (most of) this really interesting article in Psychology Today, the only magazine that I get in the mail. It was a really good article, but I'm not here to tell you about my PT read -- even though it was really insightful and may have changed the course of my life -- I'm here to tell you about the 12th annual Chicago SketchFest (#ChiSketchFest) at Stage 773.

SketchFest is "the largest sketch comedy festival in the nation," and it is also a time where lots of warm bodies cram into one space and laugh until they aren't cold (or depressed) anymore. The event is a blessed two weeks -- the 3rd (my bday, btw) through the 13th of this month -- where sketch comedy groups, from Chicago and beyond, come together and do their thing. Shows take place Thursdays through Sundays while Mondays through Wednesdays are reserved for recovery, which is much need because each day different teams simultaneously perform in each of Stage 773's four theater spaces -- the Cab, Pro, Box and Thrust. You can check out the schedule here.

Last Friday was my first time going to SketchFest and the lobby of Stage 773 was basically -- as described by my photographer -- "anarchy." On the hour, people clamored toward the bar and waited in tight groups to be let into their desired theater. At first, the whole crowd was a little overwhelming, and I wanted to run for my life. Here's the thing though, I thought it was pretty well organized for what it was -- there are a lot of groups, you can do the math because, well, math.

Also, after I got my senses about me, I liked the crowd's energy. Some people dressed in costumes (although I'm not sure they were performing) and it all added to the Fest feel. The point is sketch -- scenes that people write and then act out to make people forget they are sad. And people want to see it. You are probably one of them. Don't be afraid, and if you get nervous just read this SketchFest survival guide.

On Friday, I saw four shows (starting at 8pm, ending around midnight) and they were all -- oh wait, you have to read my mini-reviews for that part.

8p, -- Snooty Pageant in the Cab

Written by Katie Dufresne and Stacey Smith, Snooty Pageant was what Honey Boo Boo Child (who I will defend 'til I die) will probably grow up to be: funny, impolite, and right on. Dufresne and Smith were hilariously irreverent in this beauty pageant parody. In between the let's say "rounds," the two also did more personal sketches that dealt with themes like friendship and insecurities; this was cool and showed a more vulnerable side of the performers.

I always love a good pageant girl, and I'd vote this onto the next round.

9pm -- Oh Theodora in the Pro

OhTheodora2.JPGOh Theodora was a really smart team -- a lot of their jokes were multi-layered like a red onion that has been sauteed and served on a steak. I also liked how self-referential they were, because, well, this.

After one of their sketches, they showed a video of them winning an imagined award for that sketch -- the "best sketch" of the year. We then saw how success ultimately only leads to demise and demise ultimately only leads to redemption. The team even jokingly (I think) called out Exquisite Corps -- another SketchFest team -- to some kind of sketch off to see who is the funniest team in Chicago. Hopefully, this will come to light and we can see the teams battle it out sometime soon.

Oh Theodora was a lot of fun and had great energy, and they are performing again Friday, Jan. 11 in the Cab.

10pm -- Two shows: What Would Carol Do? and Thunderstood

In the one-person show What Would Carol Do? Katy Colloton lets us get awkward with her. The show's opening number was a hilarious bit where she basically Gollum-crawled her way onto the stage and rapped about what it's like to be a quiet person who continually gets pushed over in life. There was a smart self-awareness to this scene, and I was immediately into it. My favorite thing about her performance was that Colloton isn't afraid to look Lifetime movie-of-the-week crazy -- getting wide-eyed and twisting her body into gangly positions.

Her YouTube-style videos -- she incorporated multimedia projection into the show -- were the perfect sendup to all the duck-face girls who really make the internet worthwhile. Blonde hair and bright Thank You lipstick made the videos just extra and everything. I could not stop laughing at these bits, seriously I was annoying. Thank You.

In the blurb for Thunderstood, it says that the show's performer A.J. Schraeder has a "fascination with how technology influences communication." Unfortunately for us, we didn't get to see much of this idea explored because technology failed him. Most of his set was based on a media projection that never quite synced up or worked. There's irony there, folks, but let's not talk about it.

Thuderstood.jpgWith all the technology mess-ups, Schraeder handled himself very well. He did a few monologue pieces and kept things moving, which any good comedian has to learn how to do. At the end of the show, a lot of the crowd gave him a standing ovation, because we all know that no matter how well laid the plans, sometimes shit happens.

11pm - Sad on Vacation

Reuniting from far-off make believe places like LA and NYC, the gang got back together. As expected, this show was packed and of course the guys didn't disappoint. The team pushed their material from odd to dark to Beatles. My favorite sketch involved a Scooby Doo type crew and about a hundred euphemisms for semen. It's as vulgar as it sounds but also pud-poundingly poetic.

They all might not live in Chicago anymore, but they still have a lot of fans left in the city. Hopefully they'll come back and see us again soon and we can all be sad on vacation.

~*~

The first week of SketchFest is in the books, but four whole days of shows remain, so go buy your passes now because it looks like stuff is selling out.

There are a lot of groups at SketchFest and the program gives a little blurb about each one of them. Pick some. Here are two shows that I want to see for each remaining night. You can listen to me or look at the website and make your own decision here (don't be afraid, you can do it).

Thursday, Jan. 10
9pm: Just the Tip -- The Box
10pm: Dark Humour Productions -- The Thrust

Friday, Jan. 11
10pm: GayCo -- The Pro
11pm: Exquisite Corps -- The Cab

Saturday, Jan. 12
9pm: Reformed Whores -- The Pro
10pm: FUCT -- The Thrust

Sunday, Jan. 13
3pm: Nerdologues -- The Box
7pm: The Pop Tarts -- The Cab

photos courtesy of Carol Bontekoe of Colorful Cow Photography (top photo -- Sad on Vacation)

 
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