This two-month showcase of Chicago sketch comedy features more than 30 local ensembles–some well established, some new to the scene–representing a remarkable range of styles and viewpoints, with two or three groups sharing the bill at each performance according to the schedule below. Participating troupes include Stir-Friday Night!, Annoyance Productions, Weaselicious, Brick, ÁSalsation!, GayCo Productions, Teenage Sports Parade, and many others; the festival is presented by Posin’ at the Bar. Sketch Fest runs January 12 through March 2 at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont. Performances are Thursdays at 7 PM, Fridays-Saturdays at 7 and 9:30 PM, and Sundays at 6 PM. Admission is $18 per show, $26 for a Friday or Saturday double bill, and $75 for a festival pass. For reservations, call 773-327-5252.

Following is the schedule for the festival’s first week.


Sirens and Paper Monkeys

The all-female comedy group Sirens presents Chicken Scratch, a program of character-based improvisation. “Most improv troupes use audience suggestions, but the Sirens have invented their own form. Each of the nine women has a binder filled with monologues she’s written and that no other ensemble member has seen. She picks one, reads it in character, and her cohorts offer several sketches riffing on the underlying themes. . . . The monologues are hit-and-miss. . . . But the talented ensemble twists the ideas in the monologues into fresh, exciting comedy about relationships, family, sex, and beauty. The sketches are so perfect in their specificity . . . and boast such well-realized characters that they sometimes resemble scenes from a well-written play. There are some outrageous moments . . . and many ribald ones, but they arise naturally from the characters. It turns out the Sirens are as enticing as their name suggests,” says Reader critic Jennifer Vanasco. Also on the bill is Paper Monkeys, whose show The Monkey in Winter combines live and video segments. 7 PM.

Stir-Friday Night!

and Maximum Party Zone

The Asian-American comedy troupe Stir-Friday Night! performs Woktoberfest! “[The] material is . . . sharp, intelligent, and wickedly funny. . . . Under the direction of Brian Posen, these guys segue from one blackout to another with the speed and grace of Second City,” says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Also on the program is Maximum Party Zone, a three-man sketch comedy show that “tackles the ups and downs of revolutions and anarchists and miscarriages of justices,” according to the press release. 9 PM.


Funny Now, Monsters From the Id, and Off the Radar Productions

Funny Now, a group of recent Second City training center graduates, performs a 30-minute preview of its forthcoming production Postpartum Recession. Also on the bill: Monsters From the Id in a self-titled sketch show and Off the Radar Productions in The Night of Naughty Narcissism, a mix of vaudeville and music that blurs the cast’s onstage performances and backstage blunders. 7 PM.


The Roosters Pist, Monsters From the Id, and Off the Radar Productions

The Roosters Pist cites 1950s motorcycle and rock movies as the inspiration for its show Varicose Veins. Also on the bill: Monsters From the Id and Off the Radar Productions (see listing for Sunday, January 13). 7 PM.