Your guide to SketchFest and Ex Fest | Comedy | Chicago Reader

Your guide to SketchFest and Ex Fest 

Must-see shows at the rival comedy festivals

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

click to enlarge Rachel Joravsky will perform Rachel Joravsky Is a Thirsty White Ally at SketchFest.
  • Rachel Joravsky will perform Rachel Joravsky Is a Thirsty White Ally at SketchFest.

Update: As of Friday evening, Ex Fest has been canceled, according to a post on the festival's Facebook page.

For 17 years, the two-week-long Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival has served as a brass ring for rising talent—the opportunity to perform for a much larger audience and to network with like-minded comedians from across the globe. This year's SketchFest, taking place at Stage 773 from January 11 through 14 and picking up again January 18 through 21, includes reunion shows, groups from other countries, and an array of styles.

Now Ex Fest, conceived as an alternative to SketchFest, has packed 25 acts over three days, January 12-14, an impressive feat for the first-time event, which is happening at the Crowd Theater. Here's some of what we recommend for both festivals:


All shows at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont,, $15-$250.

click to enlarge Salsation
  • Salsation

Salsation The all-Latinx members of Salsation have plenty to say about Donald Trump's new immigration policies and not-so-subtle racism. This sketch show focuses on Trump's policies, specifically those about discrimination against folks of Latin American descent. Fri 1/12, 8 PM

click to enlarge Hot Thespian Action
  • Hot Thespian Action

Hot Thespian Action From Canada come Winnipeg sketch darlings Hot Thespian Action, a troupe specializing in physical comedy. In one bit, a member curls up in the fetal position, the rest of the group wrapping their bodies around her to form a womb. Their accolades include recognition from the Canadian Comedy Awards, where they've received three nominations for best sketch troupe. Fri 1/12-Sat 1/13, 8 PM

click to enlarge Fratwurst
  • Fratwurst

Fratwurst This all-male group excels at cleverness and wordplay. One online video features two people playing the board game Scrabble at a bar after work, blowing off steam by speaking in sentences whose letters phonetically double as words. Example: "I N V U." Fri 1/12-Sat 1/13, 9 PM

click to enlarge Fuct
  • Fuct

Fuct Revel in raunch with this late-night sketch group, known in their native New York for four-letter words, ribald content, and occasional full-body nudity. Fri 1/12-Sat 1/13, 10 PM

click to enlarge Rachel Joravsky and Rachel Pegram
  • Rachel Joravsky and Rachel Pegram

Rachel Joravsky Yep, New York-based comedian Rachel is the daughter of Reader staff writer Ben Joravsky. Rachel wrote and will be performing her one-woman show Rachel Joravsky Is a Thirsty White Ally, deriding self-proclaimed "white allies" who are vapid and naive to what white privilege really means. Rachel Pegram joins in a supporting role. Fri 1/19-Sat 1/20, 8 PM

The Cool Table This high-energy ensemble returns to Chicago for a 12th appearance at SketchFest. The group has remained intact out in Los Angeles, and currently produces videos for Funny or Die. Fri 1/19-Sat 1/20, 9 PM

click to enlarge GayMe Show!
  • GayMe Show!

GayMe Show! Dave Mizzoni and Matt Rogers (full disclosure, Rogers was once a colleague) lampoon gay stereotypes by hosting a trivia game show as exaggerated, flamboyant versions of themselves. The winner is awarded the moniker "Gay as fuck," and hints can be requested from such characters as Woman Who Gets It and Wise Queer. Fri 1/19-Sat 1/20, 9 PM

Ex Fest

All shows at the Crowd Theater, 3935 N. Broadway,, $15-$100.

click to enlarge Reilly Willson and Shelby Quinn are comedy duo Jim and Melissa
  • Reilly Willson and Shelby Quinn are comedy duo Jim and Melissa

Jim and Melissa The duo's horror spoof Bloodlust includes a song titled "Everyone Wants to Fuck a Vampire." Reilly Willson and Shelby Quinn populate their show with kooky, campy, Halloween-themed ghouls in addition to the aforementioned fang bangers. Fri 1/12, 7 PM

click to enlarge Becca Brown
  • Becca Brown

Update: After publication Becca Brown announced in a Facebook message that she would not be performing in Ex Fest.

Becca Brown Remember the bassist from the movie School of Rock? That's Becca Brown, a musician and humorous songwriter. "Remember that time I clogged your toilet / It wasn't poop, it was a tampon," she sings, wondering if her beau will still be interested in her after learning this sordid detail. Fri 1/12, 8:30 PM

Flanders Josh and Sheri Flanders are a mixed-race couple, and in their show they laugh at the kinds of reactions they receive from strangers. Fun fact: They met through a personal ad in the Reader. Another fun fact: the pro-life website gave the Flanders's abortion-themed Choice—the Musical a scathing review sight unseen. Fri 1/12, 8:30 PM

click to enlarge Laser Improv Show
  • Laser Improv Show

Laser Improv Show Chris Fair remains backstage during his one-man improv show, doodling scenery and characters with a laser pointer onto a white curtain. The audience only sees these drawings and hears Best's voice. He's a crude illustrator, but all facets of improvisation are meant to be messy. Fri 1/12 and Sat 1/13, 10 PM

Abby Vatterott Vatterott is game to play around with the mundane. In one video sketch she purports to demonstrate how to open a bottle of wine, but she's already drunk and makes the corkscrew do "jumping jacks." Sat 1/13, 8:30 PM   v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
October 02
Galleries & Museums
August 20

Popular Stories