The Chicago Improv Festival, now in its 13th year, is also in transition. Artistic director Mark Sutton, who's been with the fest in one capacity or another since the beginning, will step down after this go-round, to be replaced by Jet Eveleth, a mainstay of improv ensemble the Reckoning. The pair shared artistic duties for 2010, focusing on reenergizing the festival. Gone are the star–driven main-stage shows. Instead, the emphasis is on homegrown and upstart out-of-town groups—64 of them in all, playing a dozen rooms throughout the city. Sure, it's not as flashy, but regardless of when you venture out this week, there'll be something exciting to see.
The lone show on Monday, opening night, is Uncle's Brother. The popular combo of SNL vet Tim Meadows and Second City main-stagers Joe Canale and Brad Morris performs at Annoyance Theatre (8 PM, 4830 N. Broadway, $12) for the first time. Also on the bill: 4 Horsemen, featuring Sutton and Annoyance founder Mick Napier.
Tuesday brings One World on One Stage, an "international jam" at ComedySportz (8 PM, 929 W. Belmont, $10), featuring improvisers from eight countries.
On Wednesday the CIF pays homage to the scene's past and present successes with its Lifetime Achievement Awards, at Second City E.T.C. (6:30 PM, 1608 N. Wells, $50). Honorees include two living legends—Harold Ramis and Dick Schaal—and a dead one, Severn Darden.
Groups from all over the globe perform Thursday as part of International Night at iO, but be sure to catch Stockholm's Improvisation & Co. (10:30 PM, 3541 N. Clark, $15) for a glimpse of Mr. Bon-Bon, their resident "scary clown."
Austin-based Dusk: Improvised Tween Erotica adds a little Twilight to Friday night (7 PM, Second City Skybox Studio, 1608 N. Wells, $15).
The resurrected local Harold team, Rattlesnake High School, stands out in the packed Saturday-night lineup because it includes Ben Johnson and Paul Brittain, two of the straight-up funniest guys in town (7:30 PM, Playground, 3209 N. Halsted, $15).
And the scene's finest will gather at the CLOSING NIGHT FESTIVITIES to roast Sutton, Sunday night at Martyrs' (8 PM, 3855 N. Lincoln, $10). Pals like Susan Messing and Joe Bill bring the friendly fury.
The CIF runs 4/19-4/25. Call 773-935-9810 or visit chicagoimprovfestival.org to see a complete schedule. —Steve Heisler