Shut Up and Laugh!

Let me make a New Year’s resolution for you: take some bigger risks with your theatrical dollars in 1998. Lord knows Chicago is full of dicey, hole-in-the-wall performance spaces–which often provide a hefty artistic return on a meager admission charge. You can start your year with one of the biggest, most promising gambles in town, the Factory Theater’s “Shut Up and Laugh!” festival. Now in its second year, it’s open to all local comedy wannabes, who vie for $250 and a full run of their show at the Factory in the fall. Last year’s festival produced three smart, irreverent winners; this year’s opening contestant, Jane Nolan, also works in that tradition. She transformed her 45-minute generically structured autobiographical stand-up routine, David Duchovny or the Socio-Economic Implications of a Celebrity Hungry Society, into an ingenious critique of Hollywood’s fame factory. Sure, you’re paying five bucks to watch an audition, but you can cart along a six-pack as a hedge against boredom. And if it’s too awful, you can always laugh at the performers–and no one will know the difference. Factory Theater, 1257 W. Loyola, 773-274-1345. Through January 31: Fridays-Saturdays, with a schedule to be announced. $5 for each individual show; $10 per night; $15 for a whole evening of “Shut Up and Laugh!” plus Alive or White Trash Wedding and a Funeral (see separate listings) the same night.

–Justin Hayford