The fourth edition of this annual celebration of the art of improvisational comedy brings together performers from around the U.S. and abroad. Current and former Chicagoans–including members and alumni of the Second City, ComedySportz, the Upright Citizens Brigade, Schadenfreude, Annoyance Productions, and ImprovOlympic–are joined by artists from Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and other U.S. cities as well as Canada and Japan. In addition to the shows there’ll be discussions, forums, workshops, and a minifestival of improvised “movies.”

The Chicago Improv Festival, produced by Chicagoan Jonathan Pitts and LA-based Second City alum Frances Callier, runs May 1 through 6, with events taking place at nine different venues. The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, serves as the festival’s main stage; tickets for shows there cost $20 (except where noted otherwise) and can be purchased through Ticketmaster (312-902-1500 or or at the box office. The Playground, 3341 N. Lincoln, will host the festival’s “Showcase” performances; tickets for these shows are $15 and can only be purchased at the Playground box office the day of the show. The WNEP Theater, 3209 N. Halsted, will house a marathon “Improv ‘Til Dawn” on May 5; tickets for that event are $5 and can only be purchased at the WNEP box office the day of the show. Festival passes, good for all performances at the Athenaeum, Playground, and WNEP, cost $100; they’re available at or by calling 773-395-8440.

In addition, special events will take place at the Second City, 1616 N. Wells; the Second City E.T.C., Piper’s Alley, 1608 N. Wells; Northwestern University Settlement House’s Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble (third floor); the Chicago Academy for the Arts, 1010 W. Chicago; and the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. Prices for events at these locations are shown in the listings below; visit the festival Web site or call the festival office for more information. The Lincoln Taproom, 3010 N. Lincoln, will function as the festival’s official bar, hosting postshow parties and serving discounted drinks to audience members and performers.

Following is the schedule for April 30 through May 3.


Multimedia Lecture/Q&A With Bernie Sahlins

This auxiliary event the night before the festival’s opening features Bernie Sahlins, cofounder and former producer of Second City (and author of a new memoir), discussing his career and his insights on improv. Reader critic Jack Helbig moderates. Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 7 PM. Free.


Colin Mochrie, Brad Sherwood, Ian Gomez, Slap Happy, and Boom Chicago

The festival’s opening night is headlined by Colin Mochrie, Ian Gomez, and Evanston-bred Brad Sherwood of Whose Line Is It Anyway? The LA-based entertainers are part of an evening that also features the Toronto-based trio Slap Happy, which performs game and long-form improv, as well as Chicago-based alumni of Amsterdam’s Boom Chicago troupe. Bill Leff hosts. Athenaeum Theatre, 8 PM. The show is followed by a free opening party at the Lincoln Taproom at 10 PM.


LA Theatresports, Feature Feature, and SAK Comedy Lab

The Los Angeles Theatresports company performs “Triple Play,” a midlength improv form in which a ten-minute scene is performed three times, in the style of different film, TV, and theater genres. Also on the bill: New York’s Feature Feature, which creates spontaneous movies for the stage, and the Chicago debut of SAK from Orlando, Florida. John Bolger hosts. Athenaeum Theatre, 8 PM.

Tribute Performance to Dr. Martin de Maat

See Critic’s Choice. Second City E.T.C., 10:30 PM. $10.


Slotnick Katz & Lehr

Joey Slotnick, Lauren Katz, and John Lehr, LA-based alumni of the fabled Chicago comedy group Ed, are joined by Toronto’s Sin City, which performs a fully improvised soap opera, and the Yellow Man Group, two women and one guy from Tokyo. John Bolger hosts. Athenaeum Theatre, 8 PM.