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  1. Arrested Development

  2. Lucas Brothers

  3. Levi MacDougall

  4. Ali Wong

Just for Laughs Chicago dream lineup

We imagine a dream lineup at this year’s funny fest.


April showers bring May flowers. They also bring headliner announcements for the (take a deep breath) fifth annual TBS Presents A Very Funny Festival…Just for Laughs Chicago happening June 11–16 at venues around town. The entire smorgasbord of stand-up, sketch, improv and alt comedy will be announced gradually over the next few months, which gives us ample time to nudge the producers in the direction of our dream lineup.

There are two words at the top of our wish list: Mitchell Hurwitz. His dense, winky and inside-joke-driven sitcom Arrested Development returns for a fourth season beginning in May on Netflix, so June’s fest is perfect timing for a panel discussion and Q&A featuring Hurwitz and the entire cast (including Ron Howard and Liza, please). We propose the title Motherboy: An Evening with the Cast and Creators of Arrested Development.

In 1995, a cast of young rebels kicked the Second City’s familiar sketch formula (scene, blackout, scene, etc.) in the crotch by injecting it with rock music, a genre-bending framework and a subversive take on McCarthy-era conformity. Since comedy nerds are still talking about Pinata Full of Bees, let’s remount it at this year’s fest with every original ensemble member including Jon Glaser and Scott Adsit (who both wound down series this year), Rachel Dratch, Jenna Jolovitz, Scott Allman and Adam McKay. Second City’s UP Comedy Club would make a perfect venue (nudge, nudge, Kelly Leonard).

Speaking of avant-garde sketch, please get Mike Klasek and Clayton Margeson (a.k.a. local sketch duo Sovereign) to remount their immersive, Sleep No More–esque sketch show In Sovereign We Trust at the fest and throw in masochistic bizarro trio Two Bunnies Eating Flowers as well as a greatest hits show from maverick Chicago collective Kill All Comedy.

Brandon Ogborn’s Tinsel Town satire The Tomkat Project is the funniest and most alive work I’ve seen in a long time and keeps getting extended at the Playground Theater, where it’s enjoying a remount through May. It would be a no-brainer for JFL to pick up this whip-smart retelling of the courtship, marriage and divorce of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise that goes unexpectedly and delightfully off the rails at the end of Act II. Tomkat ensemble member Brianna Baker also deserves a slot to show the world her exuberant solo show Bede.

At the UP Comedy Club last week, Demetri Martin’s opener Levi MacDougall was so laid-back I thought he would fade away on stage, but his memorable twists on Swiss cheese (you had to be there) and the hokey Christian allegory “Footprints in the Sand” earn him a return ticket to Chicago this June. Speaking of low-key delivery, please bring us self-effacing identical twins the Lucas Brothers to the fest and let’s round out the alt stand-up category with Ali Wong, Chelsea Peretti and Harris Wittels.

In Nathan for You, Comedy Central star Nathan Fielder offers troubled businesses risky (and often risqué) advice on how to save their failing enterprises. It would be awesome to see a Chicago version of this. We’d also like to see the indefatigable Billy Eichner hit the Loop with his Web game show Billy on the Street.

Chicago comic turned Angeleno Cameron Esposito is helming a new podcast and stand-up night at UCB LA (formerly occupied by the legendary Comedy Bang Bang) called Put Your Hands Together that has already attracted megawatt names like Maria Bamford and Paul F. Tompkins. We propose a Chicago version featuring former locals Robert Buscemi, Beth Stelling, Ken Barnard and James Fritz. We’ll also take a reunion version of Brooklyn’s celebrated Big Terrific hosted by Jenny Slate, Max Silvestri and Gabe Liedman.

The ball is in your court, JFL; don’t let us down.

TBS Just for Laughs Chicago happens June 11–16.

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