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Events Next 7 Days – Member Picks

17 total results

The Armando Diaz Theatrical Experience & Hootennany

Open run: Mon 8 PM

An old standby, this weekly show originated by David Koechner, Adam McKay, and, yes, Armando Diaz during the trio’s heyday at iO Theater remains as entertaining as ever, using performer monologues as inspiration for a night of masterful long-form improv. $12

iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North

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Set to Scene

Open run: Mon 8 PM

Stand-up comedians perform without a set list. $5

iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North

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Dummy

Open run: Tue 8 PM
,

Colleen Doyle and Jason Shotts, no strangers to the Chicago improv scene, continue to cook up subtle, spontaneous scenes to order in their new Tuesday-evening slot at iO. The night I went they played out the story of a recently married couple enjoying a brief, romantic stay at a bed-and-breakfast. Both actors played two characters—a honeymooner as well as an inkeeper—and both had an excellent sense for navigating their constantly shifting roles. The performance was slow to start, but ended up being unexpectedly elegant; a plot emerged that was as tidily made as a hotel bed. The production managed to find laughs in minute details and dark discoveries. —Hannah Gold $12

iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North Dummy

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Carl and the Passions

Open run: Wed 8:30 PM

Though it's only been a few weeks since the grand opening of iO's new location, the performers have already made themselves at home. The hosts of the handful of shows I've seen introduced the new venue with great joy, giving directions to the two bars, bathrooms, and emergency exits near each of the four theaters. Those four theaters double iO's capacity for shows including original sketch comedy like Trap, T.J. Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi's inaugural work in their own theater; experiments like The Boise Shuffle, in which a new show is written and performed every week; and twists on iO's classic improv games like The Sharold, which groups comics at random to improvise with people they may never have performed with before. These innovative performances are certainly worth checking out, but the theater knows what it does best, and most of the stage time is still dedicated to good old-fashioned long-form improv. Continue reading >>

iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North Carl and the Passions

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Felt

Open run: Wed 8 PM

There's just something about cussing puppets--and this improvised puppet show by the Atticus Finch ensemble suggests bitter, rejected prototypes of Elmo, Chewbacca, McGruff the Crime Dog, and Crank Yankers/Muppets characters ganging up in a dark alley off Sesame Street. But the troupe's nine members exceed the old, easy laugh of vulgar-talking innocents: after tutorials from professional puppeteers and a few months of practice, they display sophisticated physical control as they wield the puppets from behind the curtains of a bilevel ministage. Seamlessly creating gestures and quick takes (hilariously deadpan on the perfectly blank cartoonish faces), they also smoothly execute difficult maneuvers like sliding a quarter across a bar or crossing the stage via motorized scooter. Sharp timing and self-mockery point to the performers' long experience together, though the motley mob of puppets takes center stage: Felt is improv cut from new cloth. —Ryan Hubbard $5

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iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North Felt

TJ & Dave

Open run: Wed 10:30 PM

Veteran comedians TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi perform a long-form improv show each week. $5

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3033

Open run: Thu 8:30 PM

A comedy supergroup consisting mainly of former members of People of Earth, 3033 creates some of the liveliest, most consistently solid improv around. Members Andy St. Clair and Alex Fendrich have been highlights of recent Second City E.T.C. shows; Rush Howell, a lawyer by day, is one of the scene's wittiest performers; and Bill Arnett and Danny Mora are personable comedians with off-beat senses of humor. Unlike most troupes at iO, 3033 doesn't stick with the Harold improv format. Instead, they play it loose, letting an audience suggestion and Jason Chin's playful music and light effects steer them. At a recent show the topic of gangs inspired a hilarious 70s-era game show. —Ryan Hubbard $5

http://chicago.ioimprov.com/
iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North 3033

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The Experts

Open run: Thu 8 PM

The late, great Severn Darden had a character named Professor Walther von der Vogelweide, who improvised answers to heady questions like "Do fish think?" This iO show takes Darden's idea a step further. Instead of making stuff up, the resident ensemble invite genuine authorities to give short lectures on some topic within their areas of expertise. Then cast members improvise around what we just learned. On the night I attended, astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz held forth on the sun and its weird emanations. Her talk was followed by short scenes—including a quietly hilarious one in which a couple, facing solar extinction, decide it's time to defrost the chicken in their freezer—and some Q&A. Walkowicz was delightful, the scenes hit-and-miss. With the welcome exception of T.J. Jagodowski, the seven performers tended to push too hard, using their now-I'm-going-to-be-funny voices. —Tony Adler $10

http://missiontheaterchicago.com
iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North

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The Improvised Shakespeare Company

Open run: Fri 8 PM

Seven strapping men in swashbuckler shirts improvise a two-act Shakespearean play based on a title suggested by the audience. At the show I saw, "The Taming of the Jew" inspired the Bard's usual themes (religion, family, betrayal) and plot devices (murders, disguises, fortunes gained/lost) as well as an uncomfortably funny circumcision. Director-performer Blaine Swen, a veteran of long-form Shakespearean improv who swears they don't conspire during the intermission, has assembled a vigorous ensemble of actors and proven improvisers. Their experience doing Shakespeare flowers in the language: they relish iambic dialogue, execute perfectly timed asides, occasionally utter rhyming couplets (some hilariously forced: "Let us be quick-sa, and get to the bar mitzvah!"), and drop parodic phrases ("scurvenous knave," "midfortnight report") and well-placed anachronisms (the bar mitzvah had a DJ). Even the ending echoed the real plays: story lines resolved tidily—and uproariously. —Ryan Hubbard $14

http://www.improvisedshakespeare.com/
iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North The Improvised Shakespeare Company

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The iO Musical Featuring the Deltones

Open run: Sat 8 PM

Like the Cupid Players, another musical comedy act that performs at iO, the Deltones have a penchant for the nasty and the absurd. But unlike the Players, the Deltones improvise. Accompanied by veteran iO keyboardist Dave Asher, they create varied song structures and impressively catchy lyrics, and demonstrate a good feel for when to turn scenes into tunes, capitalizing on fortuitous openings in plot or character development. At the show I saw, the suggestion of "couch" led to an authentic long-form piece with intertwining characters--including a hilarious couch potato who fell onto a plumber, prompting her husband to beg, "Aw, don't pull tools out of your folds, hon!" —Ryan Hubbard $14

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iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North

Whirled News Tonight

Open run: Sat 8 PM

The fact that this fully improvised show has lasted ten years is impressive enough—most improv troupes are good for a season or two at most. Even more impressive, though, is how well the ensemble functions under the direction of creator Jason Chin. They listen to each other, play well together, and never resort to the kind of cheap, quick laughs that can wreck a scene. Instead, as the best improvisers do, they build slowly, adding to one another's improvisations and in the process creating fascinating, funny scenes with the ease of an ace jazz ensemble. The improv bits here are loosely based on items taken at random from the newspaper, as well as on questions submitted by the audience. —Jack Helbig $14

http://chicago.ioimprov.com
iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North

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Deep Schwa

Open run: Sun 8 PM

One of iO's longest-running ensembles. A rotating roster of two improv ensembles opens. $12

iO Theater (map)
1501 N. Kingsbury
Other North

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Undressed

Open run: Fri-Sat 8 PM
,

In a city awash in improv and sketch comedy, it's heartening to find there are still performers out there eager and able to produce new variations within these well-worn genres. Not all of the pieces in this revue directed by improv virtuosos TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi are laugh-out-loud funny—though most are—but even when bits miss their mark it's because the actors are trying something difficult or new—an eccentric character, a divergent point of view. The title refers to what sets this show apart most: the performers are undressed metaphorically, displaying a vulnerability that's too rarely seen in contemporary comedy, where feelings are more often cloaked or beside the point entirely. The result is a show that not only entertains and edifies, but leaves the audience feeling lighter and less burdened. —Jack Helbig $20, $12 students

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Trap

Open run: Thu and Sun 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 10:30 PM

David Pasquesi and TJ Jagodowski have been doing a long-form improv show called TJ & Dave together, off and on, for 12 years. The two of them get onstage at iO and look at each other for a while until something inscrutable is triggered and they start improvising. It's like that moment in Tombstone where the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday are facing down the Clanton gang and everybody's tense but nobody knows what to do until Val Kilmer's Doc catches Billy Clanton's eye and winks at him and all hell breaks loose. Only Pasquesi and Jagodowski don't shoot each other to death. Instead they construct a series of scenes, often characterized by a quiet, cracked ordinariness, from which a quiet, cracked coherence often emerges.

Now that iO has moved into a huge new complex on Kingsbury Street, Jagodowski and Pasquesi have been granted their own space and started a company called the Mission Theater, which just opened its first revue, Trap.

Codirected by the founders, Trap seems designed to recall the Second City of the early 60s—that classic era before the institution in Old Town brightened up its shows with higher tech, louder music, and more Belushi-style freneticism. The seven cast members dress rather funereally, in black business attire. They perform on a small stage, bare except for two doors, an unglazed window, and some chairs. Though Ed Smaron provides music for the 24 sketches, it's mostly unobtrusive. The pace is relatively unhurried. And the material is almost perversely lacking in topical immediacy. Not a single Rahm bomb did I hear. "Let's tackle the small things," goes one song, and that seems to be the philosophy overall. The captain of a nuclear submarine worries about having to leave his car parked in a lot for three months. A young woman attempts to bond with her boyfriend's implacable mother. Things get very dark at times, as when a waitress befriends the wrong regular, a son pours venom into his father's ear, or—particularly—when a combat veteran gets too specific about what he did in the war. (Another song: "Not everything's gonna be all right.") But even the creepy bits tend to invoke a quiet, cracked ordinariness.

The style takes some getting used to. Come prepared not to laugh at every third word. Like TJ & Dave, Trap is built to reward patience. Tony Adler

$20

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