The 15 sets to see at A Jangleheart Circus

These are the most promising picks at the second annual comedy festival

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The Den Theatre

The Den Theatre


While the Andersonville-based performance space Upstairs Gallery will be shuttering at the end of this month, the proprietors of this haven for DIY sketch and improv are throwing themselves a hell of a going away party. The second annual Jangleheart Circus, a three-day comedy festival produced by the Gallery featuring well over 100 acts, is set to take over four stages at Wicker Park's Den Theatre this weekend.

For those hoping to take in a few shows, we've narrowed things down slightly, picking out 15 of the most interesting, unique or otherwise notable showcases happening at the fest.

Thursday, August 21st

Rachael Farmer, Meg Johns, and Jo Scott comprise the exuberantly physical, fearlessly weird improv trio WiseSnatch, which was recently and justifiably named by Chicago magazine as one of the best teams in town. Though their roots are as an Upstairs Gallery house team, they're now regulars at iO and The Annoyance. Crabby Cove, 8pm.

Baltimore-based comedy/art/music collective Wham City's avant-garde approach to goof-em-ups has understandably grabbed the attention of Adult Swim, which regularly features their shorts on their website and aired their horrifying 15 minute special Live Forever As You Are Now last year. Their live show is a hallucinatory blend of video, solo sketch, and standup comedy and promises an appearance by Memime, "the only Christian mime who wears a baseball cap." Scraps Castle, 9pm

Local writer/director/improvisor Irene Marquette's Curio Show has staged a slew of charming concept-driven shows at the Gallery over the last year. Like a live version of your most interesting friend's Tumblr feed, Curio Show pays tribute to underappreciated cultural nuggets like Stairway to Stardom (the public access television answer to Star Search) and the discography/legacy of Kate Bush. The Jangleheart edition pays tribute to muses "from the ancient time up to the present." Charles Honnet Real Good Time Stage, 9pm

In the world of Spend Some Time With Jamison Webb, the recurring series of self-aware one-man-shows is in trouble. Just in time for Jangleheart, greedy developers want to bulldoze Webb's clubhouse and the only way to stop them is to put on the ultimate comedy show, full of song parodies, throwback comedy sketches, and more. In a festival full of high concepts, Spend Some Time is a standout. Scraps Castle, 11pm

The ecstatically dark improv collective Dead$$$ (pronounced "Dead Money") is one of the most entertaining, most consistently bizarre teams going, and was an audience favorite at last year's Jangleheart. Their left-field characterizations and unexpected bursts of violence make their 2014 set a must-see. Crabby Cove, 11pm


Friday
Jangleheart offers plenty of killer double bills throughout the weekend, with Friday offering up some of the strongest matchups of the fest. For example, The Dirty Shame, an excellent sketch and improv duo made up of brothers Matt and Lee Barats, which skews towards the blackest of black comedy, is coupled with the latest incarnation of Onion writers Daniel Kibblesmith and Sam Weiner's comedic instructional guide How To Win At Everything, How To Win At Improv. Wolfs Den, 9pm

The pairing of a faux comic-con style panel featuring the author of the cultishly adored webcomic/Facebook art project Little Boys Room and The Shock-Ts, the city's finest musical comedy act, is nothing short of a master class in scheduling. The Shock-Ts' accessible, yet deeply sardonic friendliness pairs perfectly with the deliberately obtuse narrative that makes up the LBR mythos. Crabby Cove, 8pm

Few of the weekend's double bills are as complementary and intriguing as Claymore and Feldmanowski. The Claymore fellas are award-winning sketch/improv comics with a taste for the darkly absurd, generating material for their critically acclaimed sketch shows (both live and filmed) through improvisation, while improv duo Feldmanowski's literate approach to the craft demonstrates the emotional depth and range that can be achieved during a single extended scene. Wolfs Den, 12am

Though the form dominates many of Chicago's best-known improv stages, it's unlikely you'll catch many Harolds at Jangleheart. One of the few times you'll be sure to see Del Close's iconic structured approach to long-form improv performed will be during the Meridian/Namaste Harold Exchange, which features Harolds from Chicago's own Meridian and the NYC-based Namaste, with the goal of seeing "how the schools of thought taught in these two improv metropolises lead to distinct pieces evolved from a shared form."  Scraps Castle, 10pm

The three performers behind Snack Time, a weekly late night sketch show at iO, have a scrappy, sloppy charm that crystalizes a certain aspect of the Upstairs Gallery's M.O. They know how to fill out a lineup, too, regularly pulling in heavyweight performers from the worlds of improv and standup for guest appearances and drop-in sets. Scraps Castle, 12am


Saturday
Each month at the Public House Theatre, two sinister sketch groups, Sovereign and Two Bunnies Eating Flowers, join forces to create H I J I N K S, a series of one-off, go-for-broke sketch shows that test the limits of the performers physically, mentally, and comedically. The shows vary in tone from dark to pitch black; past installments have featured cast members drinking each others' (real) urine, staging five one-man shows at the same time in the same room, and bringing the entire audience on an hour long trolley ride around the North Side. Though details on their Jangleheart set are deliberately sketchy, they promise to pay tribute to some of the greatest works of literature. Scraps Castle, 9pm

Though much of its cast and crew has relocated to Los Angeles in the past year, the critically adored Late Live Show still pops up in Chicago once in a while. They’re appearing twice at festival, once with a late night all-character showcase on Friday at 1am and the other with a full scale talk show complete with an opening monologue, desk piece, and special guests Scott Tobias and Keith Phipps from The Dissolve on Saturday. Scraps Castle, 10pm

Two of the finest teams to come out of the Upstairs Gallery join forces up for an unbeatable double feature; the coupling of the silly nice guys in Pizza Party and the powerhouse all female megatroupe Super Human is a total dream. Scraps Castle, 11pm

The UCB New York-bred Girls is one of a handful of out of town improv teams appearing at the festival, and they're paired up with one of Chicago's best for their second set of the weekend: the deeply felt, artful Sand, who had one of the most buzzed about Jangleheart performances last year. Charles Honnet Real Good Time Stage, 11pm.

Aside from their inaugural comedy festival earlier this year, you'll rarely see the cultural forces behind America's greatest satire publication, now a fully-Chicago based operation, put their heft behind a live event. Those willing to hang until the wee hours of the morning will be treated to a special live, late night appearance by the Onion News Network Writers like Cullen Crawford and David Sidorov. Wolfs Den, 1am

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