Framed as something of an ode to the city's fabled improv comedy scene (from which SNL just plucked three more performers, Tim Robinson, Aidy Bryant, and Cecily Strong), the Four-star Comedy Fest makes its debut Saturday at the east end of Navy Pier, with an afternoon of workshops, an evening of performances, and a live podcast taping for good measure. Organized by Chicago School of Comedy cofounders Ben Capraro and Jimmy Carrane, the festival offers 12 free—I repeat, free—workshops (50 minutes each, 1-4 PM) led by teachers from well-known institutions like Annoyance Theatre, ComedySportz, and iO. The latter is offering a class on long-form improv called "Yes, and . . . and More!" And the Actors Training Center is doing three "Improv for Kids/Teens" sessions geared for third graders on up.
At 5 PM, Carrane hosts a live—and, yes, free—taping of his podcast, Improv Nerd, featuring Charna Halpern, who started iO in 1981 with ascended improv master Del Close. Then SNL alum Tim Kazurinsky emcees a four-hour improv extravaganza in the Pier's Grand Ballroom. The performance schedule includes sets by Baby Wants Candy (7 PM), Cook County Social Club (8 PM), long-form Elizabethans the Improvised Shakespeare Company (9 PM), and crafty Uncle's Brother (10 PM), which boasts the festival's marquee name, Tim Meadows. Expect a curveball or six as the night barrels forward.