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Eight glorious days, 169 hilarious shows and one packed house. You won’t be able to see everything at this year’s Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, happening Thursday 3 through Sunday 13 at Stage 773 (1225 W Belmont Ave, 773-327-5252), but consider these troupes essential viewing for the sketch aficionado.
The Southern belles
In reality they’re New Yorkers. But Reformed Whores (Friday 11, Saturday 12 at 9pm) left an indelible impression at last year’s fest in character as a duo of Christian folk singers breaking all the rules with sly songs like “Drunk Dial,” “Girl Crush” and “Southern Cumfort.”
The nutty professors
Don’t be thrown by the energetic and loose-limbed antics from sketch duo Andrew Bentley and Chris Blake, a.k.a. Rabbit Rabbit (Saturday 5 at 10pm). Their best feats aren’t the physical ones but rather the mental gymnastics they perform, which result in scenes that are cerebral, unexpected and a joy to watch.
Its scenes alternately hit and missed when we saw the group at Sketchfest a couple of years ago, but 4 Days Late (Saturday 5 at 6pm) won us over with its sly parody smash Jersey Shore: The Musical in 2011. At this year’s fest, expect excerpts from its most recent outing, It’s a Wonderful Pro-Life.
Keep your eye out for the Business (Saturday 12 at 7pm), a group of fearless youngsters who exhibit impressive comic chops and were one of the great discoveries at last year’s fest. We’re looking forward to seeing what they do with their prime Saturday slot at this year’s fest.
As one sixth of improv troupe the Katydids, Katy Colloton plays it both grounded and bizarre each week. In the troupe’s Web series Teachers, she and her cohorts hilariously navigate grade-school bureaucracy. But only in What Would Carol Do? (Friday 4 at 10pm) do we get our full Colloton fix with an hour of unadulterated solo pleasures.
When it comes to portraying a smorgasbord of freaks, perverts and social pariahs, nobody does it better than Paul Thomas, the man behind Paul Thomas: Comedogenic (Thursday 3 at 10pm). His laser-like attention to character work results in compelling scenework that is hilarious (and kinda disturbing).
We rave about them all the time, so just go see surrealist weirdos the tim&micah project (Saturday 12 at 10pm); queer comedy mainstays Gayco (Friday 11 at 10pm); T.J. Miller, Nick Vatterott, Brady Novak and Mark Raterman as imaginative sketch comedy supertroupe Heavyweight (Friday 11, Saturday 12 at 9pm); masters of disguise the Puterbaugh Sisters (Friday 4 at 11pm); and the improv-centric gabfest Improv Nerd (Saturday 5 at 5pm).
The motto for fearless New York troupe FUCT (Friday 11, Saturday 12 at 10pm) should be “no butts, no glory.” There’s nothing this troupe won’t do for a laugh including a naked cockfight or a diaper-clad ensemble member getting spanked by an audience member. If you don’t see at least some ass, consider yourself ripped off.
The nine hilarious dudes who make up Sad on Vacation (Friday 4 at 11pm) are among the best and brightest to come out of the local scene in a while but are currently scattered across the country. That’s why we’re champing at the bit to see this supertroupe (Jon Barinholtz, Mort Burke, Wes Haney, George McAuliffe, Conner O’Malley, Andrew Peyton, Mark Vannier, Sam Weiner and Chris Witaske) reunited right here in Sweet Home Chicago.