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12 acts to check out at SketchFest 2017

The Defiant Thomas Brothers
Photograph: John Abbott The Defiant Thomas Brothers

The onslaught of Facebook invites from your comedy buddies indicates it’s almost that time of year again: SketchFest. Lakeview’s Stage 773 will soon be flooded with sketch groups from across the United States and Canada, making ours the nation’s largest sketch comedy festival. And of course, with so many acts it can be hard to decide which are worth braving the January air to go see. To alleviate that feeling of helplessness looking at a 154-group, 180-show lineup, we’ve rounded up the 12 acts we’re most looking forward to this year.

Danny Pudi: In Progress (January 5 at 8pm)

SketchFest kicks off with the always hysterical Danny Pudi (Community, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Star Trek Beyond) in a one-man show. Pudi’s a Chicagoland native and a huge talent, so this one’s sure to be a hot ticket.

Heavyweight (January 6, 7 at 10pm)

Silicon Valley’s T.J. Miller is one-fourth of this sketch team, along with Mark Raterman, Nick Vatterot and Brady Novak. The group was formed back in 2004, while the guys were cutting their comedic teeth here; it’s always fun to watch comedians who know each other inside-out.

Hot Thespian Action (January 6, 7 at 9pm)

Get it? Get the name of the group? Do you get it? This Winnipeg-bred sketch group has been working together for a decade, and has picked up three Canadian Comedy Award nominations along the way.

Vest of Friends (January 13, 14 at 8pm)

This year’s Toronto SketchFest’s “Best-of-the-Fest” group is hopping across the Great Lakes to show us their stuff. Unless Canadian humo(u)r is totally whack (which it’s not—haven’t you seen Degrassi?), Vest of Friends should have us in stitches.

The Defiant Thomas Brothers (January 7, 12 at 10pm)

Ah, “political correctness” in comedy. How does one artistically joke about the sensitivity spectrum? Let the winners of Best Sketch Group at HBO’s U.S. Comedy Festival show you.

Rehner and Nixon (January 7 at 8pm)

Mollie Rehner and Katie Nixon make up this Chicago-based sketch duo, which churns out consistently fresh, funny, feminist comedy.

The Cupid Players (January 7, 14 at 7pm)

Stage 773’s house musical sketch team, known for their audience favorite Cupid Has A Heart On, is debuting an all-new sketch show at this year's SketchFest. 

Pop Roulette (January 6, 7 at 9pm)

New York City’s Pop Roulette is bringing their fun, loud, slightly dark and not-for-kids sketch comedy to Chicago. The group features SNL writer Sudi Green and Chicago comedy veteran Rachel Wenitsky.

Peter n’ Chris (January 6, 7 at 8pm)

Toronto-based comedy duo Peter N’ Chris have won a Canadian Comedy Award for their extremely polite, good-natured comedy.

HOT RAW FIRE (January 13, 14 at 9pm)

Voted Best Local Troupe at Montreal Sketchfest in both 2015 and 2016, HOT RAW FIRE uses live video onstage and intersectional mime-cycles (come again?), so we’re excited to see whatever that means.

Cigarette Sandwich (January 7 at 11pm)

Cigarette Sandwich is the kind of comedy that either makes you really uncomfortable or has you peeing your pants in laughter. Find out what kind of person you are by seeing these Chicago guys perform.

Hard Candy (January 5 at 9pm)

Though video sketch is Hard Candy’s bread and butter, the duo’s punchy, high-energy, relatable comedy still hits on stage. Catch them the very first night of the fest.

But honestly, you really can’t go wrong at SketchFest. And if you somehow do, you can just pop into another theater at 773.

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Sandra M

I LOVE Chi Sketchfest/ Sketchfest-taculor, as me and my comedy-loving husband call it lol. This year has been great so far. I saw Heavyweight (hilarious!)  Pop Roulette (funny, upbeat) and Cigarette Sandwhich (hilarious and fast ) last week. This weekend, I'm seeing Produnktion (saw them last year and OMG they are SO funny! They do skits and rap songs. Excited to see them again this year, I think they'll be famous and out of Chicago soon!), The Stuntmen (I've heard good reviews about them from people I trust! I hear it's like watching an action movie thats also the funniest thing ever), and Waiting for Huffman (Saw them last year, very funny stuff! Haven't heard of them doing any other shows around town so excited to see them again at Sketchfest!!!). I'm so excited and plan on writing longer reviews on my blog. 

Lauren H

@Sandra M Thank you for mentioning "Waiting for Huffman".  Hope you got to see yesterday's show.