With teams in 20 cities, ComedySportz may be improv’s most recognizable franchise; the number of teams nationwide has more than doubled in the past decade, and demand only grows stronger. This weekend the funny folks at ComedySportz Chicago will be taking a break from duking it out among themselves to battle 14 teams from around the country at the ComedySportz Intra-National Tournament 2001, the first time in the contest’s 13 years that Chicago has hosted it. Of special note are two Saturday afternoon performances that kick off the final day of competition. At 2 PM an all-star group of teenagers from area high schools–Glenbrook North, New Trier, and Benito Juarez–will match wits with young players from Milwaukee, Houston, and Los Angeles. Young improvisers are always a blast: they may not be drawing on a pool of knowledge quite as deep, but they approach the craft with hard-nosed determination and the sort of infectious enthusiasm that’s sometimes absent among their more seasoned peers. Older players reclaim the spotlight at 5 PM with a four-team exhibition match that benefits Gilda’s Club Chicago, a support center for cancer patients and their families and friends. The competition culminates at 10:30 PM in a high-flying championship match, where the smart money’s on Chicago, with its home-field advantage–and after all, this is the birthplace of modern comedy improv. ComedySportz, 2851 N. Halsted, 773-549-8080. Through August 11: see listing for the complete schedule (subject to change). Saturday, 7:30 PM: this performance takes place next door at Coyle’s Tippling House, 2843 N. Halsted; see listing for teams. Admission is $15 to all shows except Saturday’s 2 PM show, which costs $10; audience members are invited to bring their own refreshments to all shows except the one on Saturday at 7:30 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jeff Ellis Photography.