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Chicago SketchFest 

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Every January since 2002, local and out-of-town comedy groups have gathered in Chicago--birthplace of the pioneering Compass and Second City companies, and mecca to the world of sketch and improv--to showcase their work at the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. The first year's confab featured some 30 ensembles; this year SketchFest, presented by Lukaba Productions, presents almost 100 groups from Toronto, New York, LA, Seattle, Cleveland, Portland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Des Moines, and elsewhere. Some well established, some new to the scene, they represent a wide range of styles and viewpoints. SketchFest runs through 1/15 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, in the west, south, and north theaters. Admission is $12 per show except where otherwise noted; $40 provides admission to all performances any single Friday or Saturday evening, all-show passes are $20 for Thursday evenings and $25 for Sundays, and an all-festival pass costs $100. For reservations call 773-327-5252; tickets are also available through Ticketmaster at Hot Tix booths (www.hottix.org for information) or online at www.ticketmaster.com. For updated fest info visit www.chicagosketchfest.com.

FRIDAY 13

Freedumb

Freedumb presents Oui, the Peep Hole, a new show that explores "America's moral fiber--or lack thereof." a West theater, 8 PM.

Bad Hair

This group features alumni of ComedySportz Philadelphia. a South theater, 8 PM.

The Patsies

This company comes from Des Moines. a North theater, 8 PM.

The Distractions

"Please don't embarrass them with poor attendance," requests the publicity blurb for this Toronto company. a West theater, 9 PM.

25th Century Heroes

"These three cybernetic life-forms from the 25th century have been charged with the task of saving humanity by a doctor of nano-molectronics. But to do so, they must travel back five hundred years to learn from the people of the 21st Century." That's the premise of this comedy show from Los Angeles. a South theater, 9 PM.

The Habit

This seven-member Seattle troupe specializes in "strange scenarios." a North theater, 9 PM.

Troop!

Troop! consists of six LA writer-performer-directors. a West theater, 10 PM.

Slow Children at Play

Slow Children at Play is the resident sketch group at Boston University. a South theater, 10 PM.

Knock Knock. (Who's There?) Comedy!

This group hails from Toronto. a North theater, 10 PM.

The 3rd Floor

The 3rd Floor, based in Portland, Oregon, salutes such artists as Abbott and Costello, Sid Caesar, Steve Allen, and Benny Hill in That's Entertainment? a West theater, 11 PM.

The Cupid Players

This local group specializes in musical sketch comedy. Tonight's show features all-new material. a South theater, 11 PM.

Harvard Sailing Team

Ten alumni of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts show off their "theatrical sketch comedy" in Tuck Your Shirt In. a North theater, 11 PM.

SketchFest 2005 Documentary This film chronicles last year's festival. a West theater, midnight. Free

SATURDAY 14

Master Sketch Workshop

SketchFest participants perform in front of a panel of experts, including Second City's Mick Napier and Mary Scruggs. Participation is limited to SketchFest performers, though members of the public are welcome to observe free of charge. a West theater, 1 PM. F

Maui

Chicago's Maui "uses music, movement, and sharp-edged absurdist comedy to plumb man's most childish fears," says a press release. a West theater, 6 PM.

25th Century Heroes See listing for Fri 1/13. a South theater, 6 PM.

The Animal Club

The Animal Club, a local group, is inspired by vaudeville and clowning as well as sketch comedy. a North theater, 6 PM.

The Dark-Eyed Strangers

This local group fuses theater and sketch comedy. a West theater, 7 PM.

Bad Hair

See listing for Fri 1/13. a South theater, 7 PM.

GayCo Productions

Chicago's gay- and lesbian-centered GayCo Productions presents a tribute to its resident director, Jim Zulevic, who died January 7. "Zulevic, a white, straight, Catholic south sider would not seem like the most likely director for a group created to promote the gay agenda," notes GayCo in a statement. "But he was perfect. As a director, he guided with an open hand, welcoming the opportunity to work with a group bringing a specific perspective. When asked in a recent interview about working with GayCo, he said, . . . 'I like to learn new stuff as much as the next white, hetero male guy. Wait--let me rethink that last comment.'" a North theater, 7 PM.

Freedumb

See listing for Fri 1/13. a West theater, 8 PM.

Uphill Both Ways

This troupe is based in San Francisco. a South theater, 8 PM.

HeadCheese Fat Boss

The local company performs. a North theater, 8 PM.

The Distractions

See listing for Fri 1/13. a West theater, 9 PM.

Slow Children at Play

See listing for Fri 1/13. a South theater, 9 PM.

The Habit

See listing for Fri 1/13. a North theater, 9 PM.

Troop!

See listing for Fri 1/13. a West theater, 10 PM.

R The Defiant Thomas Brothers

Chicagoans Seth Thomas and Paul Thomas (no relation) offer a crackerjack hour of comedy. (LB) a South theater, 10 PM.

Knock Knock. (Who's There?) Comedy!

See listing for Fri 1/13. a North theater, 10 PM.

The 3rd Floor

See listing for Fri 1/13. a West theater, 11 PM.

The Mantasticks

The four-man Chicago-based group offers an all-new collection of material with help from a live band, the Bandtasticks. a South theater, 11 PM.

Harvard Sailing Team

See listing for Fri 1/13. a North theater, 11 PM.

Sketch-U-Bator

Late-night open mike for SketchFest participants. West theater, midnight. Free

SUNDAY 15

Characterization Workshop

Actor and voice-over artist Carlos Alazraqui leads a workshop. a West theater, 10 AM, $25 in advance (register at www.chicagosketchfest.com), $30 at the door.

Don't Worry We'll Be Gentle and The Corner

Don't Worry We'll Be Gentle, an ensemble of "improvising juvenile delinquents" from Chicago, performs Everybody Hurts. The Corner, a troupe from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, presents Debbie Does Calculus. a West theater, 4 PM.

Fishing With Dynamite and Off-Off-Campus

Fishing With Dynamite Raffles Off an Atomic Bomb is performed by students from the University of Illinois; Off-Off-Campus consists of students at the University of Chicago. a South theater, 4 PM.

Shakespeare's Trousers and Ton Def

Chicago-based Shakespeare's Trousers presents The Fancy Pants Flicker Show. Ton Def, an ensemble of Second City Training Center alums, combines musical theater and improv. a North theater, 4 PM.

Brian and Patrick Productions and Alamo Basement

Brian and Patrick Productions is Chicagoans Brian Henning and Patrick Michalak. Alamo Basement, from Milwaukee, presents It's Like Brigadoon! a West theater, 5:30 PM.

Charlie Don't Surf and Uphill Both Ways

The Chicago group Charlie Don't Surf's show Intentions is inspired by the phrase "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Uphill Both Ways is based in San Francisco. a South theater, 5:30 PM.

Children of the Absurd and The Sean Miller Explosion

Children of the Absurd is a female comedy duo from Chicago. The Sean Miller Explosion: Chaos! Mayhem! Famine! features "the trials of a fledgling sketch comedy troupe." a North theater, 5:30 PM.

State and Dearborn and Team Submarine

State and Dearborn, a Chicago group with roots at Second City, makes its SketchFest debut. Team Submarine, also local, presents The Negotiable Truth. a West theater, 7 PM.

Eclectic Muse Productions and The Uncomfortables

Chicago's Eclectic Muse Productions presents Black Is the New 40. The Uncomfortables, also local, present Best of the Uncomfortables, Vol. 1, a sampling of the group's work from the last two years. a South theater, 7 PM.

Brain Humor and Dear Pope

Chicagoan Jimmy Callahan's autobiographical Brain Humor (presented here in an abridged version) is based on his surgery to remove a brain tumor. Dear Pope, a local group, has previously performed under the names Hammerfist and the Final Four. a North theater, 7 PM.

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