MADtv Improv Jam 

MADtv--an LA clone of Saturday Night Live--epitomizes everything I hate about west coast-style sketch comedy. The often poorly written material depends way too much on funny wigs, awful clothes, and wild prosthetic devices: bad teeth, weird glasses. Worse, most MADtv sketches are not about regular people or situations but about celebrities or TV shows or the irritating, unbelievable repeating characters the cast have created to maximize their on-camera time. In a valiant attempt to keep the show "fresh"--or at least less stale--the producers have over the past few years been importing some of Chicago's best comic improvisers, among them Stephnie Weir, Tami Sagher, Jordan Peele, and Keegan-Michael Key. These brilliant comedians are now slogging through--or creating--the show's lame scripts. Weir has been buried under wigs and layers of makeup to get easy laughs as Anna Nicole Smith, as others have been fashioned into Donald Trump or whoever the celebrity of the week is. Happily there are events like the Chicago Improv Festival's MADtv Improv Jam, which features all 11 cast members from the TV show, most from Chicago, including the ones named. For one night only, these ill-used actors and writers have the chance to prove they're funnier, quicker, more original, and better informed than their TV material would lead you to believe. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500 or 773-935-9810. Thursday, May 6, 8 PM. $25.

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