Buffy, Star Trek And Other Very Uncool Things Cap Off Nerd Comedy Fest
By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 18, 2015 7:50PM
This weekend had no lack of activities for those who were searching. And while many found themselves at the beach for the Air and Water Show or in the bleachers for the Crosstown, we headed to Stage 773 for the Third Annual Nerd Comedy Festival.
We began our fest experience with Once More With Feeling, a stage rendition of the critically acclaimed musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Going in, we were just a bit concerned that Whedon's already funny, quirky material would be hard to present in a fresh, hilarious way. We were wrong. The casting was fantastic and the devil was in the details with this show, from the way they compensated for no special effects (copious glittering!) to the great way they understood and amplified the characters. The character of Anya, known for her maniacal greed, represented that trait with a comically large pile of money. As the show progressed she began to eat away at it, subtly at first, then shoveling it in with frightened eyes for a finale. Any Buffy fan would have felt that the show respected the material, but also speared it lovingly to great effect.
Next, we headed to see Improvised Star Trek, which follows the adventures of the USS Sysiphus, a lesser known and perhaps underperforming starship with a rather rowdy crew. We went in buoyed by our confidence in Trekkies to know the material inside and out, and while the opening emcee led with some great in-jokes, overall we found ourselves wishing for more. We're fans of improv, but felt like the premise of the improv "episode"—a high stakes stand-up comedy contest—was a little too on the nose. The show had some good laughs, but left us feeling like opportunities were missed. There are plenty of other Sisyphean adventures on the improv group's podcast, so we'll give them another chance and check that out.
Our final stop of the evening was the long-running comedy musical, Cupid Has a Heart On. We'd missed this in its prior home at iO, and were interested to see what's kept it on playbills for over a decade. As it turns out? Talent. Pure, raw talent. Every single player in Brian Posen's show possesses a voice that won't quit and comedic timing to beat the band. It's raunchy, it's interactive, it's frenetic, and it's fun. It was the longest of the shows we saw at the festival but the one we could least look away from. This is a definite "recommend," and as it happens, the show plays every Saturday at Stage 773, so you've got no excuse not to make plans to see it at some point.
The bottom line? The Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival, while still in its infancy, is a unique mix of things. Theater, comedy, and pop culture come together to make a very manageable weekend of fun. Friends can catch a few shows, have a few drinks—even step out for dinner—hen come back and close out the night with a familial feeling drink-a-long. The organizers are enthusiastic and ever-present, and their excitement creates a warmth you can't mass-market. It's got things for all sorts of fandoms without the sprawl, heat and hustle of a con, and we hope to see it grow but hang on to that in years to come.