Schadenfreude comes from a long line of Chicago comedy iconoclasts. Like the Annoyance and the Upright Citizens Brigade, this six-member troupe won’t leave the theater until boundaries are broken, taboos are shattered, or–at the very least–the audience is doused with fake blood as an unsuspecting patron’s still beating heart is ripped out in a ritualistic sacrifice to the gods of offbeat sketch comedy. At last year’s Chicago Improv Festival, Schadenfreude transformed their headlining slot into a full-on theatrical happening with their own warped take on Andy Kaufman’s landmark Carnegie Hall performance, inviting guests that included a professional cheerleading squad from Naperville. This year the troupe is poised to take the Athenaeum by storm once again with a lineup that closely resembles a three-ring circus: an African drumming ensemble, a gay flag corps, and a group of Scottish bagpipers. Frequent collaborators East Village Project will be returning to provide background and incidental music. With a cast of dozens to juggle, it remains to be seen whether the troupe can trump the inspired lunacy of their performance last year. Still, with friends like these, how can they possibly go wrong? Also on the program are Mission Improvable and Baby Wants Candy. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500 or 773-395-8440. Friday, May 4, 10 PM. $20.

–Nick Green

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Suzanne Plunkett.