Our three top comedy picks for fall 

Improv Nerd, McDonald & Thompson, Anthony Jeselnik and more

Improv Nerd, Jim Carrane

Improv Nerd, Jim Carrane

Improv Nerd

"I hope Improv Nerd opens up the world of improv both to people who already perform it and to those who've only just been in the audience," says Jim Carrane of his live weekly show, set to premiere September 18 at Stage 773. "For people who've only watched improv before, I'd like them to see it as a true art form—theater created in the moment, from pure emotion. For people who already improvise, I'd like them to realize that we're all afraid on some level when we perform. We all get in our heads from time to time, we all make a choice we wish we could take back, we all do shows that sucked so bad that afterward we either wanted to kill ourselves or get drunk at the bar. I'm doing the show to save lives."

Host of WBEZ's show-biz interview feature Studio 312 for seven years, Carrane will use the Q&A format first to create a scene between himself and his guest and then to delve into the process behind how the scene was made. Carrane has some of local improv's heaviest hitters scheduled for Improv Nerd's first month of Sundays: Noah Gregoropoulos (9/18), Susan Messing (9/25), TJ Jagodowski (10/2), and Jet Eveleth (10/9). —Brian Costello Opens Sun 9/18, 7:30 PM. Through 11/27: Sun 7:30 PM, no show 10/16, Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, 773-327-5252, stage773.com, $15.

Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson

Two Kids, One Hall supplies just two-fifths of cult Canuck comedy troupe the Kids in the Hall, but it's a powerful two-fifths. Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson have paired up to tour the U.S. with new stand-up, music, and sketches. For three nights, Chicago fans of KITH's eponymous TV series (1988-1995) can revel in McDonald's wry, twisted wit and Thompson's over-the-top delivery at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. No word yet on whether McDonald will unleash Dean, his vapid king of empty promises, or Thompson will revisit effeminate socialite Buddy Cole, but the possibility is darned enticing.

It's a safe bet, by the way, that this won't be Grandma's cup of comedy: Two Kids, One Hall plays on the title of a coprophagic viral video, Two Girls One Cup, which you must not google while eating. Or after or before. Seriously. —Joanné von Alroth Thu 10/20, 8 PM, Fri-Sat 10/21-10/22, 8 and 10:30 PM, Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse, 773-381-4554, maynestage.com, $22-$32.

Anthony Jeselnik

Anthony Jeselnik is expertly offensive, smoothly employing beats, intonation, and a broad, shit-eating grin to get away with saying the worst things imaginable. "Yesterday I accidentally hit a little kid with my car," he told a Late Night With Jimmy Fallon audience. "Wasn't serious. [pause] Nobody saw me." He takes surprising turns on a dime, and since his jokes are all so tight and brief, his set is a barrage of filthy one-liners delivered with absolute confidence. He's as imaginative as he is precise, too, gleefully painting his family, his girlfriend, and himself in the darkest tones. ("My body is a temple, but only because it hates Palestine.") And every once in a while, he steps out and comments on how well he's doing. It all works harmoniously. Jeselnik has crafted an onstage persona that mocks political correctness, playing with the worst impulses of the audience until there's nothing to do but laugh. —Steve Heisler Thu 11/17, 7:30 PM, Fri 11/18, 8 and 10:15 PM, Sat 11/19, 7 and 9:15 PM, Sun 11/20, 7 PM, the Improv, Woodfield Mall, 5 Woodfield Rd., Schaumburg, 847-240-2001, improv.com, $17-$20.

Read our profile of Comedian Adam Burke or check out the rest of our Fall Arts coverage

Also this fall . . .

SEPTEMBER

The Stevens Family Hillbilly musical improv. 9/23-10/21, Donny's Skybox Theater, 1608 N. Wells, 312-475-3556, secondcity.com, $10-$12.

Tim O'Malley's Phantasmagorical Three Ring Circus Side Show Performances by comedy troupes RK47, Shoelace Academy, and Clowning to Infinity. Second City alum Tim O'Malley directs. 9/24, Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., 773-445-3838, beverlyartcenter.org, $18-$20.

The Nerdologues A sketch show written and performed by comedians from both the iO and Second City Training programs, reveling in all things nerdy. 9/25-11/6, The Pub Theatre, 3220 N Lincoln, 773-904-8777, thepubtheatre.com.

Andy Eninger and John Loos 9/30-10/21, Donny's Skybox Theater, 1608 N. Wells, 312-475-3556, secondcity.com, $10-$13.

Garfunkel and Oates Comedy folk duo. 9/30-10/1, Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse, 773-381-4554, maynestage.com, $15-$20.

Kate & Mike: The Musical An improvised musical comedy. 9/30-10/21, Donny's Skybox Theater, 1608 N. Wells, 312-475-3556, secondcity.com, $10-$13.

Wisconsin Death Trip The 1979 book is transformed into a performance. 9/30-10/21, Donny's Skybox Theater, 1608 N. Wells, 312-475-3556, secondcity.com, $10-$13.

OCTOBER

Sovereign A sketch comedy duo that touts its raucous performances. 10/3-10/31, Upstairs Gallery, 5219 N. Clark, upstairsgallery.tumblr.com.

Doug Stanhope 10/5-10/6, Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse, 773-381-4554, maynestage.com, $25-$40, 21+.

Bobcat Goldthwait 10/6, Viper Alley, 275 Parkway Dr., Lincolnshire, 847-499-5000, www.viper-ally.com, $15-$20.

James Adomian 10/7, 8:30 PM and 10:30 PM, Lincoln Lodge, 4008 N. Lincoln, 847-863-4898, thelincolnlodge.com, $15.

Maria Bamford 10/7-10/8, Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse, 773-381-4554, maynestage.com, $20-$27.

Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood Improv featuring stars of Whose Line Is It Anyway? 10/14, Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin, 847-931-5900, hemmens.org, $20-$65.

Bill Engvall 10/22, Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, 630-896-6666, paramountarts.com, $59.50-$69.50.

Monster Mash Family-friendly improv games with Halloween characters. 10/22-10/29, Chemically Imbalanced Theater, 1422 W. Irving Park, 800-838-3006, cicomedy.com, $10.

NOVEMBER

Joan Rivers 11/15, Centre East Theatre, 9501 N. Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300, northshorecenter.org, $.

The Flying Karamazov Brothers 11/26, Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, 630-896-6666, paramountarts.com, $28.50-$38.50.

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