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The third annual edition of this showcase of sketch comedy, presented by Lukaba Productions, features more than 70 local and out-of-town ensembles. Some well established, some new to the scene, they represent a remarkable range of styles and viewpoints. The festival runs January 8-18 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, in the venue's west, south, and north theaters. Performances are Thursdays at 8 and 9:30 PM; Fridays at 8, 9, 10, and 11 PM; Saturdays at 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 PM and midnight; and Sundays at 4, 5:30, and 7 PM. Admission is $10 per show except where otherwise noted; a festival pass costs $60. For reservations, call 773-327-5252.

Following is the schedule through January 15; a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com

THURSDAY, JANUARY 8

Hans & Robyn and Giants in the Sky

"Comedy team Hans Holsen and Robyn Norris are both attractive young people, the former exhibiting a Wodehouse-ian aplomb and the latter an elfish allure. Most of their material is pretty clever too, and what isn't is redeemed by its quirky charm," said Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge of Hans & Robyn's show at ComedySportz last summer. Giants in the Sky present Darnit You're Special, Charlie Brown. West theater, 8 PM.

Maximum Party Zone and Mantasticks

"On the one hand, the Mantasticks undeniably know their way around a joke. On the other, they're so well schooled in these mechanics that every idea, whether desperately offbeat or tried-and-true, threatens to dissipate into a comedic equation. But rather than turning up the volume or jiggering the show's structure ... these guys dish out their shtick like the meat-and-potatoes fare it is," said Reader critic Brian Nemtusak when he reviewed the troupe's run at Victory Gardens Theater last fall. Local trio Maximum Party Zone's show features "superheroes, vampires, doctors, children's folksingers, and an administrative assistant." South theater, 8 PM.

Dolphins of Damnation and Big Kids Comedy Hour

Big Kids Comedy Hour features Marz Timms as the dummy in an adult-oriented tale of a ventriloquist trying for a comeback. "The show is silly and unfocused ... but overall this is an audacious, bizarrely inventive, and amusing production," said Reader critic Jenn Goddu when the show played last year. Dolphins of Damnation is a local group also. North theater, 8 PM.

The Backrow and Real Good Turbo

The Backrow "examines what it means to get older when you clearly have no business doing so," according to a press release. Real Good Turbo presents Adolph Fishler, the Hillbilly Racist Fish. West theater, 9:30 PM.

Supper Club and Anton Chekhov's Bastard Child

Anton Chekhov's Bastard Child features writers and improvisers creating a show based on an audience suggestion and a line of the playwright's dialogue. Supper Club makes its debut at this year's SketchFest. South theater, 9:30 PM.

Patriautism and !Salsation!

The all-Latino comedy group !Salsation! "aims to be political and timely. However, their sometimes sharp insights are buried within sketches too keen on easy laughs," said Reader critic Jenn Goddu when she reviewed the troupe's revue at Teatro Luna last fall. Patriautism's stated goal is to "turn our nation's sacred cows into hamburger patties." North theater, 9:30 PM.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 9

Basketcase

Basketcase is a sketch troupe from New York. West theater, 8 PM.

Madame Funnypants

Negin Farsad and Alexander Zalben present a set of two-person sketches. South theater, 8 PM.

Comedy Helper

The Colorado troupe presents a "best-of" revue from its nine-year history. North theater, 8 PM.

Meat

This quartet of New York women describes itself as "the answer to America's search for smart, fresh, unapologetic sketch comedy." West theater, 9 PM.

Lester McFwap

The California group aims to take a "more cerebral approach" to sketch comedy in Lester McFwap: A Spectacular Failure! South theater, 9 PM.

Latino Comedy Project

This group hails from Austin, Texas. North theater, 9 PM.

White Noise Radio Theatre

These California comics offer what their Web site claims will be their "last shows for the foreseeable future." West theater, 10 PM.

Elephant Larry

This New York-based team features five former Cornell University students. South theater, 10 PM.

Dolphins of Damnation

See listing for 8 PM Thursday, January 8. North theater, 10 PM.

Coyote Pretty

Dori Goldman and Margaret Hicks, veterans of Chicago's ImprovOlympic, team up for a show about romantic relationships. "Goldman and ... Hicks are mistresses of the bizarre situation. [They're] such a strong, charismatic team, smoothly alternating verbal wit and goofy physical humor, that even skits that shouldn't be funny are," said Reader critic Jennifer Vanasco of the pair's run at WNEP Theater in August 2002. West theater, 11 PM.

The Factory Theater Presents

The local company performs a program of sketch comedy. South theater, 11 PM.

Defiant Thomas Brothers

Seth and Paul Thomas perform an evening of comedy. "Even the Annoyance brand of taboo-busting comedy rarely creeps past a seven or eight on the bad-taste-o-meter--and the Defiant Thomas Brothers never turn the dial any higher in this sketch collection. Still, watching the two gore sacred cows generates the same feverish excitement as stumbling on a stack of old Richard Pryor or Bill Hicks records.... There's enough indecorous filth that sizable portions of this hour-long show come across as pandering to college kids. But ... the performers' comic timing is exquisite," says Reader critic Nick Green. North theater, 11 PM.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 10

Quagmire

The improv troupe comes to SketchFest fresh from a run at Second City's Donny's Skybox Studio. West theater, 7 PM.

Galileo Players

"This five-person ensemble provides smart, distinctive comedy inspired by the practices and personalities of science," says Reader critic Jenn Goddu. South theater, 7 PM.

Eclectic Muse Productions

The Chicago company performs. North theater, 7 PM.

Basketcase

See listing for 8 PM Friday, January 9. West theater, 8 PM.

Madame Funnypants

See listing for 8 PM Friday, January 9. South theater, 8 PM.

Comedy Helper

See listing for 8 PM Friday, January 9. North theater, 8 PM.

Meat

See listing for 9 PM Friday, January 9. West theater, 9 PM.

Lester McFwap

See listing for 9 PM Friday, January 9. South theater, 9 PM.

Latino Comedy Project

See listing for 9 PM Friday, January 9. North theater, 9 PM.

White Noise Radio Theatre

See listing for 10 PM Friday, January 9. West theater, 10 PM.

Elephant Larry

See listing for 10 PM Friday, January 9. South theater, 10 PM.

Bad Astronauts

Hannah Cabell, Simone Perrin, and Greg Pierce describe themselves as a "saucy East Village sketch comedy trio." North theater, 10 PM.

Brick

"Those who prefer sketch comedy with a more transparent purpose may find Brick's cerebral approach alienating, but the company wins hearts with its unwavering determination," said Reader critic Nick Green of this group's show at ImprovOlympic last summer. West theater, 11 PM.

The Animal Club

This ten-member ensemble, based in Pittsburgh and Chicago, blends video with live sketches. South theater, 11 PM.

Defiant Thomas Brothers

See listing for 11 PM Friday, January 9. North theater, 11 PM.

Sketchubator

Performers get five minutes to try out new scenes in this late-night showcase. West theater, midnight. $5.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 11

Hans & Robyn and Harvey Finkelstein's Institute of Whimsical, Fantastical and Marvelous Puppet Masterage

The "Harvey Finkelstein Method" of puppetry is brought to bear on reality TV in this adult-themed show. See listing for 8 PM Thursday, January 8, for information on Hans & Robyn. West theater, 4 PM.

Mantasticks and The Uncomfortables

The Uncomfortables are a local group. See listing for 8 PM Thursday, January 8, for information on Mantasticks. South theater, 4 PM.

Me Brain Tiny Dumb Dumb Donkey and Off the Radar Productions

Two local groups take the stage. North theater, 4 PM.

Giants in the Sky and The Backrow

See listing for 8 PM Thursday, January 8, for information on Giants in the Sky. See listing for 9:30 PM Thursday, January 8, for information on the Backrow. West theater, 5:30 PM.

Suspicious Clowns and Liquid Sketchbook

"Suspicious Clowns . . . is a marvel.... If the troupe ever drops its occasional overreliance on formulaic novelty . . . it's clearly capable of putting something luminous together. But yet another commentary on the twentysomething singles scene may prove too hard to resist," said Reader critic Nick Green of the group's appearance at WNEP Theater last spring. Locals Liquid Sketchbook round out the bill. South theater, 5:30 PM.

Patriautism and Funemployment

Funemployment explores life as a "jobless schmoe." See listing for 9:30 PM Thursday, January 8, for information on Patriautism. North theater, 5:30 PM.

Real Good Turbo

See listing for 9:30 PM Thursday, January 8. West theater, 7 PM.

Supper Club and Anton Chekhov's Bastard Child

See listing for 9:30 PM Thursday, January 8. South theater, 7 PM.

Jazz Hands Across America and Monsters From the Id

Jazz Hands Across America improvise musical theater pieces. Monsters From the Id is a collective of actors, writers, and filmmakers who studied at the Second City Training Center. North theater, 7 PM.

MONDAY, JANUARY 12

Octo-Sketch: The 8 Hour Project

Four teams composed of five actors and a director are each given eight hours to compose a sketch show; the results are performed that evening. 8 PM.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 15

True Pilsner and The Good Time Hour

The ten members of True Pilsner present Tennis Balls on a Walker. The Good Time Hour--featuring Dunbar Dicks, Ryan Gowland, and Katie Nahnsen--offers "sketch comedy with a dark twist." West theater, 8 PM.

pH Productions and Head Cheese Fat Boss Productions

pH Productions performs the sketch revue What's Your Problem, Owl? Head Cheese Fat Boss Productions features the social satire of Patrick Zielinski and Tyler Bohne. South theater, 8 PM.

Flambango and Monsters From the Id

The comedy troupe Flambango promises a show that ranges from "fat to very fat." See listing for 7 PM Sunday, January 11, for information on Monsters From the Id. North theater, 8 PM.

Dark Eyed Strangers

"Mostly the players tackle the same topics as everyone else: cell phones, dating, TV. But the ensemble plays well together, and all six performers are both funny and genuinely likable. Even when their material is merely OK, it's hard not to root for them," said Reader critic Jack Helbig of the Dark Eyed Strangers' recent run at Second City's Donny's Skybox Studio. West theater, 9:30 PM.

Perfect Gentlemen and Peel the Onion

Perfect Gentlemen are Dave Taylor and Jeff Madden. "The duo's familiar material--used-car dealers, small-town politicians, TV-style cops and robbers--isn't really the problem. It's the fact that Taylor and Madden never create believable characters we can care about. Even when they play people faced with high-stakes problems ... they don't convey a sense of urgency," said Reader critic Jack Helbig of the duo's recent show at Second City's Donny's Skybox Studio. Peel the Onion describes its show as "sketch comedy that is true--more or less." South theater, 9:30 PM.

Jazz Hands Across America and Stir-Friday Night!

The Asian-American ensemble Stir-Friday Night! "tries to capitalize on the fact that it represents a whole handful of Asian cultures: Chinese, Indian, Filipino. [But] the ensemble seems terrified of offending anyone.... Just once I wanted to see the players show a little anger or do something extreme or even discuss something that mattered to them," said Reader critic Jack Helbig of the troupe's recent run at Raven Theatre. See listing for 7 PM Sunday, January 11, for information on Jazz Hands Across America. North theater, 9:30 PM.

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