Chicago Improv Festival

The Chicago Improv Festival runs March 31 through April 5. Most events take place at the Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark; a complete schedule of times, prices, and venues is listed below. Tickets for performances range from $10 to $15; a festival pass (good for many but not all shows) costs $75. Call the festival hotline at 773-862-5082 for information or TicketMaster at 312-559-1212 for advance ticket sales.


Zeitgeist Theatre, Free Associates, and Upright Citizens Brigade

Zeitgeist, a collective of Improv Institute and Relative Obscurity alumni, is best known these days for its long-running Irish parody Flanagan’s Wake (see regular theater listings). The Free Associates, who specialize in spoofs of literature and television, are currently presenting three shows in rotating repertory: B.S., Back in the Shadows Again: The Lighter Side of “Dark Shadows,” and Chancing at Lunacy: The Completely Improvised Irish Country Play (see regular theater listings). And the Upright Citizens Brigade, formerly based in Chicago and now headquartered in New York, has just been hired to create shows for the Comedy Central cable channel. The three groups perform on the festival’s opening night. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7:30 PM. $10.


ComedySportz, Disco Bob, and The Armando Diaz Experience, Theatrical Movement & Hootenanny

ComedySportz presents short improv games, played for laughs by two teams in competition. “[Though] the relentlessly manic pace can be wearying . . . the company’s originality and agility more than redeem the occasional dull spots,” says Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge. Disco Bob is a program of improv presented by the Factory Theater. And The Armando Diaz Experience features veterans of Lois Kaz, Jazz Freddy, Second City, the Family, and other improv troupes. “Every time I think nothing new can be done with long-form improvisation, a show comes along to remind me just how inspired and entertaining pure improv can be,” says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7:30 PM. $10.

Improv Jam

The ImprovOlympic team Baby Wants Candy hosts an open stage. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 10 PM to midnight. Free.


Novel Ideas

Very Special Arts Chicago presents an audience-participation children’s show. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 10:30 AM. Free.

Whitney Houston, We Have a Problem, Nomenil, and Jane

The emphasis here is on gay/lesbian and feminist comedy. Whitney Houston, a sketch comedy revue developed by Second City Outreach Program alumni, “keeps its focus tight and its humor accessible to audiences gay and straight, in the know and out of touch,” said Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge when she reviewed the show’s original run. Nomenil, founded in 1994 by Courtney Evans and Allen Conkle, is known for such campy extravaganzas as That’s the Way It Is, By Golly and Like Our Parents Smoking Cornsilk. And Jane is an all-woman ensemble specializing in long-form improv. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7:30 PM. $10.



This day of seminars and workshops runs from 11 AM to 6 PM at ImprovOlympic, 3541 N. Clark. Each session is $20. The schedule is as follows. 11 AM to 1 PM: “Know Your Business!,” a lecture by talent agent Joey Edmonds, Vikki Keszey, and Alexandra Malbin. 1 to 3 PM: “How to Survive Your Love Affair With Improv,” a lecture by actor-screenwriter Tim Kazurinsky, an alumnus of Second City, Saturday Night Live, and the Police Academy movies. 3 to 5 PM: “Story Theatre Techniques,” led by Piven Theatre Workshop instructor Thomas Green. 3 to 6 PM: “Make a Musical,” a workshop on improvising musicals by Nancy Howland Walker.

ImprovOlympic Road Show, Free Associates, and Brave New Workshop

The ImprovOlympic Road Show features teams from ImprovOlympic performing the Harold, Del Close’s pioneering long-form improv style. The Minneapolis-based Brave New Workshop, founded by noted actor-director Dudley Riggs in 1958 and recently purchased by new owners, presents a program of vintage and current sketches and long-form improvisation. See listing for Tuesday, March 31, for a description of the Free Associates. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7 PM. $15.

Brainwaves Improvisational Comedy, Sheila, and The Screw Puppies

Based in Portland, Oregon, Brainwaves specializes in audience-interactive improv games. Sheila, based in the Hyde Park neighborhood (which gave birth to the pioneering Compass Players 40-odd years ago), offers a program of “raw improvised comedy” performed “with such joy that even the weakest improvisations are fun,” says Reader critic Jack Helbig. And The Screw Puppies is the Annoyance Theatre’s evening of experiments in long-form improvisation. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 9:30 PM. $15.

Improv ‘Til Dawn

The Zeitgeist Theatre hosts an all-night improv marathon following their regular performance of Flanagan’s Wake. Royal George Theatre Center, 1641 N. Halsted. 10:30 PM to 4 AM. Free.

Slotnick Katz & Lehr

Joey Slotnick, Lauren Katz, and John Lehr, alumni of the comedy group Ed, perform an evening of improvisation. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, midnight. $10.


Master Class Weekend

A two-day sprawl of workshops and lectures begins today at the Franklin Elementary School, 225 W. Evergreen. The price for all Master Class Weekend events today and tomorrow is $150; this price includes one free elective (see listings for Friday, April 3), one free ticket to a festival performance, and light meals both days. Today’s classes run from 10 AM to 6 PM; participants can select three two-hour workshops led by Second City Training Center artistic director Martin de Maat, Second City resident director Michael Gellman, ImprovOlympic coach Noah Gregoropoulos, ImprovOlympic producer Charna Halpern, Brave New Workshop education director Jenni Lilledahl, Annoyance Theatre cofounder Susan Messing, actor David Pasquesi, and teachers from the Actors Gymnasium.

Theatresports, The Neighbors, and The Impromptones

Theatresports, performed by the Broad Shoulders Comedy troupe, features teams of actors competitively improvising audience-suggested scenes. “The results are as unpredictable as any ball game, and less bloodthirsty,” says Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge. The Neighbors improv ensemble is currently represented on local stages by their show Evolve or Die (see regular theater listings). And the Impromptones, based in Los Angeles, mix music and comedy by improvising in harmony reminiscent of street-corner doo-wop groups. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7 PM. $15.

Boom Chicago Alumni, The Impromptones, and Second City National Touring Company

Boom Chicago is the company that transported Chicago-style improv to Amsterdam. The Second City National Touring Company doesn’t usually go that far afield, but these itinerant improvisers perform vintage Second City songs and sketches for audiences across the country. See the listing for 7 PM tonight for a description of the Impromptones. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 9:30 PM. $15.

Coed Prison Sluts

See description in regular theater listings for the Annoyance Theatre’s long-running prison spoof. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, midnight. $10.


Master Class Weekend

This two-day series of workshops and lectures moves over to the main stage of the Second City, 1616 N. Wells, today from 11 AM to 6 PM; see listing for Saturday, April 4, for a description of pricing policies. Today’s lecture/demonstration events bring all students together in a large group environment for sessions with Annoyance Theatre cofounder Mick Napier from 11 AM to 2 PM; a panel of VIPs discussing “Going From Stage to Page: Creating Film & TV Projects” from 2 to 3 PM (panelists include Mick Napier, Second City executive producer Andrew Alexander, TV writer-producer Kim Clarke, screenwriting team Denise DeClue and Tim Kazurinsky, Factory Theater director Amy Seeley, Bo Blackburn, and Joe Keefe); and ImprovOlympic guru (and Second City/Compass Players/Committee veteran) Del Close from 3 to 6 PM.

The Have Nots!, Moe Green’s Other Eye!, and Second City Black Comedy Workshop

The Have Nots! are a southern sketch and improv comedy troupe; Second City’s Black Comedy Workshop features a cast of African-American and Latino performers under the direction of Aaron Freeman. See regular theater listings for a description of Moe Green’s Other Eye! Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7 PM. $10.

Jeff Garlin

Now based in Los Angeles, this onetime Chicago comedian presents his one-man storytelling program That Jeff Garlin Thing. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 9 PM. $10.

Improv Jam

The Chicago troupe Eight Degrees Below Normal hosts an open stage. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 10 PM to midnight. Free.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Sheila photo by Kenneth Lee.