Posted inArts & Culture

The Best of the Second City

The title suggests that Second City luminaries got together and pored over the comedy institution’s hundreds of sketches, then picked the funniest for restaging. That’s not what happened. Each of the SC touring companies–GreenCo, BlueCo, and RedCo–programmed its own show, which can change, and alternates performances with the others. They all favor sketches they can […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Funny Ha-Ha

Funny Ha-Ha is a literary-humor reading series staged roughly quarterly since 2005. It’s “slightly more highbrow” than Zanies, says cofounder Claire Zulkey, a freelance writer and blogger (zulkey.com) who hosts and occasionally performs, because it focuses on “laughing and using your brain.” At this installment James Finn Garner (Recut Madness) and Wendy McClure (poundy.com, Bust) […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Tracy Morgan

If there’s a thin line between madness and genius, Bronx native Tracy Morgan has been delicately walking it for years–as Hustleman on Martin, as unaccredited zoologist Brian Fellow on Saturday Night Live, as Oprah Winfrey on 30 Rock, or as a ghetto nerd in ESPN video game commercials, telling an unamused Ben Wallace, “The way […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Beer Shark Mice

As improv goes, this offering in iO’s Homecoming series (a showcase of performers from around the country) packs star power. David Koechner (Anchorman, The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show), Neil Flynn (Scrubs), and Pete Hulne (American Body Shop)–all trained at iO Chicago–are three of five veteran comedians in a long-form group that’s been headlining iO […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The People Under the Stares

This one-year anniversary show of Drag City’s monthly comedy series, known for its indie vibe and strong, eclectic programming of national and local acts, is also its last. It might go out with a bang: headliner and Saturday Night Live player Fred Armisen will perform, possibly as Jens Hannemann, an ambiguously German drummer and unambiguously […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Stop Not Going

After wowing audiences with a self-titled show last year at Steppenwolf, Shenoah Allen and Marc Chavez–aka the Pajama Men–return with a sketch revue that reprises their improvisational feel and many of their winning, quirky characters. This show’s not really about anything either, but again they create a surreal world of situations and creatures and toy […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Pratfall of Civilization

Second City E.T.C. highlights some of the city’s defining flaws–the unfinished Dan Ryan, the E. coli-infested lake–in “We Are Chicago,” the opening song of its new show. But the rest of this solid revue addresses the nation’s woes in more than 30 bits, including a scene about the president’s blunders that gives the show its […]

Posted inArts & Culture

This Day in History and Heartbreaker

A strong double bill opens with This Day in History, a sketch show rewritten each week around news linked to the month and day of the performance–such as a magnificent hailstorm in Nebraska on July 6, 1928. Written, performed, and directed by four siblings–onstage are Pat O’Brien and Meagan O’Brien Flanigan, who are savvy enough […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Our Feature Presentation

Veteran iO director Jason R. Chin impressively reimagines the movie-improv form, even recapitulating the cinema experience: before the show a performer displays film trivia on posters and popcorn is handed out. Then, with a title suggestion, Chin and the cast–who’ve been together since fall 2006–rev up their well-oiled comedy-making machine. Chin handles the lights and […]

Posted inArts & Culture

An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein

Born Naked Theatre Company’s courageous cast can’t save noted children’s author and Playboy writer Shel Silverstein from his theatrical weaknesses in this collection of seven short pieces. “One-act” doesn’t have to mean one setup or one joke, but too often with Silverstein it does, as one-dimensional characters milk transparent conflicts, then achieve unenlightening resolutions. And […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Baron Vaughn

Since graduating in 2003 from Boston University, where he studied acting, Las Vegas native Baron Vaughn has appeared on Broadway (Drowning Crow) and VH1 (Awesomely Oversexed) and made the rounds of the New York stand-up scene. With a rabid theatricality a la Chris Tucker, Vaughn sings, creates sound effects, and jumps in and out of […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Janeane Garofalo, Patton Oswalt

This double bill features feisty, politically fed-up comedians best known for their TV and film work (both can be heard in Disney’s forthcoming animated adventure Ratatouille). After making more than 40 movies, Janeane Garofalo still gives off the vibe she did in 1996’s The Truth About Cats & Dogs, relying heavily on hard sarcasm and […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Suspicious Clowns 9

The name fits: Viable Theater Company’s Suspicious Clowns is a sketch ensemble that uses a lot of physical comedy to communicate a cynical, at times anarchic worldview. Under director-performer Vincent Truman’s nuanced direction, their ninth revue showcases tight, clever writing and loose, confident performances. It’s refreshing to watch a show move along so unpredictably and […]

Posted inArts & Culture

I Saw You

Bruised Orange Theater Company’s I Saw You is a charming theatrical interpretation of “I Saw You,” “Matches,” and “X-Matches” listings from the Reader. Performed in bars, on stages or stools in the back, each show (they’ve done five since last November) features a rotating cast of three actors presenting ads published in the past year, […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Billy the Mime

“I hate mimes,” Billy the Mime has said. Blaming “bad practitioners” for the form’s reputation as pretentious and boring, he says mime can challenge and amuse. Watch his scene in The Aristocrats, cocreated by longtime friend Penn Jillette, and you’ll likely agree–mimes are known for pressing their palms against invisible boxes, not gleefully humping small […]