Chicago Improv Festival

Monday kicks off the 17th Annual Chicago Improv Festival (CIF), one of, if not the largest, improv festival in the world. This year CIF will host 204 ensembles in 95 individual shows from nine countries and 21 venues throughout Chicago. I know it's overwhelming trying to decide which of the 95 shows to attend, and to each their own, but here are my recommendations for this year's Chicago Improv Festival.

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MONDAY, MARCH 31ST

The Best of Chicago Improv, Stage 773 at 8pm
You have some of the best improv ensembles all in one place, this show is a must see. With Baby Wants Candy, Improvised Shakespeare and The Boys, you can't ask for a better show. Honestly, this is a killer line-up. If you're free Monday night, find a way to get yourself to Stage 773. You won't regret it.

TUESDAY, APRIL 1ST

Deep Schwa, Trainwreck - The Second City e.t.c at 8pm
Deep Schwa is one of the great Harold teams that has managed to survive cuts at iO for the better half of a decade. Anyone looking to witness the best Harold you've ever seen, this is it. Trainwreck is Dan Bakkedahl (Veep, Community, Legit) and Ed Furman (Second City Alum and current writer). These two worked together about on Second City's Mainstage in 2003 and then started this two man show. Two of the best and most unique, seasoned perspectives you will one stage together. These two adopt an "Annoyance style" form to agree to disagree and wade their way through a one single scene. Not to be missed.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2ND

3 Peat, Jet Eveleth & Paul Brittain - The Second City e.t.c at 8pm
Jet Eveleth recently left Chicago to make the move to Los Angeles, and in doing so, left a gaping hole in the Chicago comedy world, taking her vast commitment to character with her. She commonly performs a two person show with 30 Rock's Scott Adsit, but takes every chance she can to team back up with Paul Brittain. Jet and Paul bring something to the stage that truly is a unique experience. 3 Peat is a Chicago-based all African American improv team and I could not adore them more. They play fast, hard and smart. Slipping into characters and supporting each other's initiations better than most improv teams I've seen, 3 Peat will dazzle you and leave you a charmed audience member.

One World, One Stage, ComedySportz at 8pm
As mentioned above, this year's festival hosts teams from nine different countries and this is where you will be able to catch them. Get a taste for how the art of improvisation has been adopted throughout the world at ComedySportz.

Brouhaha, Felt, iO at 8pm
Stacey Smith and Kate Dufresne are an unstoppable, dynamic duo. I've seen these two perform in Snooty Pageant, so I can only imagine what would happen when you add puppets to these two ladies. But I'd be willing to investigate. Felt is an iO staple and SNL's Vanessa Bayer used to perform with them before getting snatched up to SNL.

THURSDAY, APRIL 3RD

d'Hôtél Winñetkå, Thor - One Group Mind Theater at 10pm
d'Hôtél Winñetkå is a group of seasoned improvisers that blossomed out of the Chicago Improv League. One of the most consistent and strongest groups I've ever seen, this team can do just about anything you throw at them. They tend experiment with all types of forms and I have never been disappointed. I've seen them knock shows out of the park in the dark using only sound (The Bat) and I've seen them excel equally in a silent set. If they can do that, when given the opportunity to have both sight and sound to their advantage, I have to ask - "what can't they do?" I suggest you go check it out for yourself.

FRIDAY, APRIL 4TH

rebound, HOME, Fackliss & Hildreth - Bughouse at 8pm
HOME, an improvised play is comprised of some of Chicago's greatest that have now all fled to Los Angeles, so we are very excited to welcome them HOME. Sorry, I had to. Brett Elam, Erica Elam, Ian Forester, Jet Eveleth, Kate Duffy and Kristina Johnson make up this improvised play. It was a hit on the west coast, I have a hard time imagining it to be anything less than that here as well.

Jimmy Jet Johnnie, Sheldon - Stage 773 at 10pm
Jimmy Carrane has been part of the Chicago comedy community for years and has grown up with some of the greatest comedians to come out of Chicago in the last decade or so. Jet Eveleth, again, contributes some of the best character work I've ever seen. Johnnie Hildreth currently teaches at The Second City and provides a great sense of grounded truth to this animated trio. This was one of the best shows I saw last year, with guest improviser - Scott Adsit. Completely unexpected, grabby and very physical. Hilarious.

Switch Committe, Work Spouse - One Group Mind Theater at 11pm
Switch Committee just wrapped a year run at iO last night and it makes me very sad to see them go. When I first saw these five guys take the stage, I claimed they could be the next Cook County Social Club and I mean it. They will be performing at a few more festivals this year, but this could be your last chance to see them for a while. These guys are fun, fast, physical and leave everything on stage. They're one of my favorite groups to watch.

SATURDAY, APRIL 5TH

Geeking out with UCB - Playground Theater at 5pm
Pam Victor will be sitting down with the gentlemen of Upright Citizens Brigade for a little interview at 5pm. Have questions? Want to hear more about their story? Go see what they have to say.

BASSPROV, Maribeth Monroe & Andy Cobb - Stage 773 at 7pm
BASSPROV is Joe Bill and Mark Sutton, a Chicago comedy classic. Both have been around the industry for years and put up a great, unfiltered two man show. Maribeth Monroe and Andy Cobb are Chicago vets, currently residing in Los Angeles. So again, we are excited to have them back in Chicago!

Improv4Humans - Stage 773 at 8:30pm
Improv4Humans is Matt Besser's (UCB/ASSSSCAT) podcast. Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts and Betsy Sodaro will be his guests. If you're a fan of the podcast, a fan of UCB, a fan of ASSSSCAT or a fan of comedy, check out this show.

Messing with a Friend, Horatio Sanz & The All-Stars of Comedy - Stage 773 at 10:30pm
Susan Messing is an improv legend. Her guest will be Mark Sutton. SNL vet, Horatio Sanz will be performing with Michael Delaney and Anthony Atamanuik.

Buffalo, Improvised Sondheim Project - pH Comedy Theater at 10:30pm
I have not yet seen the Improvised Sondheim Project, but I have heard nothing but rave reviews. I know a few of the people associated with this project and based on their talent, and their talent alone, I would recommend going to see the musical magic they put up on stage.

Sweet Tease, Hello Laser - One Group Mind Theater at 11pm
I can't vouch for Hello Laser, but I'm a big fan of Sweet Tease. These ladies have a camaraderie and chemistry that you can't teach, you can't learn, you just own. These ladies own it. I've only had the privelege to see them once before but based on that, I would recommend them time and time again.

SUNDAY, APRIL 6TH

ASSSSCAT - UP Comedy Club at 8pm
If this show is not already sold out, it will be in the very near future. The gentlemen of Upright Citizens Brigade will be joined by Tim Meadows, Horatio Sanz and Betsy Sodaro. This show is legendary and will undoubtedly be some of the best improv you've seen in a while. Don't miss this opportunity to get to watch some incredibly talented people.