A raconteur who melds stand-up comedy with live theater to deliver stories about his life with drowsy and punch-drunk delivery, Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend (7:30pm, Victory Gardens) would make an excellent way to kick off the fest. His film Sleepwalk with Me hits theaters in August, so here’s your chance to see him live first. Afterward, cerebral slacker and former Chicagoan Kyle Kinane returns for a night of solo stand-up (10:30pm, UP), although you may want to wait and see the Wednesday 13 show coheadlined with Janeane Garofalo.
Catapulted into the big time by appearances on Last Comic Standing and Comedy Central’s Roast of Charlie Sheen, Amy Schumer (7:30pm, Park West) has matured into a ballsy, brilliant joke teller. This is her only JFL appearance, so grab your tix now. You’ll also want to check out Team Coco Live (9pm, Comedy Bar) featuring the folks behind Conan, since you probably didn’t get a seat for the live tapings at the Chicago Theatre. For a late-night treat, hit Janeane Garofalo and Kyle Kinane (11pm, UP) or stick with local sketch duo My Manns (10:30pm, Playground Theater). Although Comedy Central declined their pilot, stars Mark Raterman and Tim Robinson are definitely worth watching.
With more than a dozen shows to choose from, things get a little sticky. Do this: Start with Hello Ladies (7:30pm, Park West), the first stand-up tour from Extras and Office cocreator Stephen Merchant. Afterward, stroll over to Old Town for the Nerd Show (9:30pm, UP) starring Pete Holmes, with Brian Posehn, Mike Lawrence and the always weird Brent Weinbach. Stay put for TJ Miller Presents Performance Anxiety (11:30pm, UP) with former-Chicagoan-turned-movie-star Miller hosting an evening of stand-up pros and up-and-comers. Alternatively, improv nerds will be in great hands with dream team trio Scott Adsit, Jon Glaser and Kevin Dorff (8, 10:30pm, iO).
Tonight is a tangle of comedy goodness, and it’s hard to know where to start. Our money is on Daily Show regular and Brit wit John Oliver (7:30pm, Vic Theatre), who will serve up a dose of political humor during an important election year. Afterward, join festival headliner and Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari for his latest stand-up offering, Buried Alive. (10:30pm, Chicago Theatre). If time permits, hit Wrigleyville for Scott Adsit and Jet Eveleth (Midnight, iO). We saw them play together in New York, and this show will be awesome without breaking the bank.
If both Oliver and Ansari are sold out, don’t sweat it. Instead, hit TBS LOL Lounge (7:30pm, Comedy Bar) for a night of stand-up featuring rising stars like hilarious impressionist James Adomian and Chicago’s own Lil Rel, who was just scooped up for the In Living Color reboot. You may also want to check out the always enjoyable Matt Braunger (9pm, Hideout). Chase either show with Set List (11:30pm, Lincoln Lodge), a night of stand-up free fall hosted by director and comedy nerd Paul Provenza and featuring a grab bag of visiting comics.
We couldn’t be more excited for super Saturday, which we’ll be kicking off with Sarah’s Pro-Choice (7:30pm, Chicago Theatre) starring Sarah Silverman, nerd comic Chris Hardwick, stellar podcaster Marc Maron, beatbox comedian Reggie Watts and sassy chick (and Rockford native) Natasha Leggero. Afterward, we’re hitting American Ham (10pm, Vic Theatre), a solo show about how to live starring Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman (with a cameo from wife Megan Mullally).
However, we’re kicking ourselves that we can’t be in two places at once and a droolworthy plan B includes The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About An Hour (7pm, Hideout) followed by the insane Brody Stevens (11pm, Hideout).
Spend the Sabbath soaking up one of two most unholy comic treats. The perverted puppets of Stuffed and Unstrung by Henson Alternative (7pm, Bank of America Theater) are delightfully adult-oriented. More R-rated pleasures abound with Vince Vaughn’s Comedy Showcase (Chicago Theatre, 8pm), a night of unadulterated filth featuring Vaughn, Steve Byrne, Angelo Tsarouchas, Colin Jost and the grumpy good comic musings of Bill Burr.
TBS Just for Laughs Festival happens Tuesday 12 through June 17.