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CIF10: Improving Once Again

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 26, 2007 7:08PM

The best excuse to see TV stars sans makeup, The Tenth Annual Chicago Improv Festival continues through Sunday at The Athenaeum, Park West, and sites all over the north side. (Yes, south siders, they do hate you, get over it…)

danishimprov.jpgChicagoist attended the opening show Monday night at the Cultural Center, featuring the only three performers dedicated (or crazy) enough to perform at all 10 festivals: Joe Bill, Susan Messing, and Mark Sutton. They brought slides and guided us through the first nine fests, ticking off a roster of now-famous TV and film stars and pouring a little metaphorical liquor out for the late Del Close and Jim Zulevic. They ceded the stage to two Scandinavian troupes who improvised the heartwarming tale of a meddling poodle trainer.

CIFtrio.jpgBill, Messing, and Sutton then returned for a brief set, reminding us why they’re always invited back to CIF. Juggling characters, nailing transitions, and establishing rich back stories in under 15 seconds, the trio put on a clinic for the dozens of attending comedy students who were trying, less successfully, to entertain their friends and neighbors pre- and post-show.

Post-shows, we’re told, are a major reason to attend the fest, as they’re your best chance to meet (and get soused with) your favorite performers. The funny folk and funny folk in training will take over Lincoln Tap Room and Sedgwick’s after writers and performers from the coasts and local companies like Improvised Shakespeare and ComedySportz have killed, died, or something in between. Tonight at the Athenaeum, SNLer Seth Meyers reunites with Jill Benjamin for “Pickups and Hiccups,” the show that launched Meyers’ TV career.

schadcif.jpgIt all winds down Sunday night at Martyr’s where friends of Chicagoist Schadenfreude present an all-star lineup including Mike and Duane, GayCo, Bassprov, Pimprov, John Barinholtz and Rob Belushi and, we’re told, surprise guests. They’ll be reenacting classic TV scenes from Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, Saturday Night Live and other favorites. The Schad knows how to throw a party and this shouldn’t disappoint.

CIF10 invades multiple venues through Sunday. Admissions range from $10-37.50. Full schedule and ticket info at

Photos courtesy of Johnny Knight