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The laughs are right on track at Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival

By Selena Fragassi | For the Sun-Times

The laughs keep coming at the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. Now in its 15th year, it’s become the largest fest of its kind in the world, welcoming more than 200 shows over an eight-night span, all at Stage 773.

While talent from across the country and abroad participates, the volume of local troupes involved perpetuates the city’s integrity as a live comedy capital. Here are five homegrown acts — including two reunions — not to miss this year:

CHICAGO SKETCH COMEDY FESTIVAL

When: January 7-17

Where: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont

Tickets: $37-57 for one night passes (the all-festival pass is sold out)

Info: (773) 327.5252; stage773.com

Superpunk

“Break’s Over!” After 10 years, Superpunk is returning to the SketchFest stage for the first time since 2006. The comedy duo was originally formed in Chicago by Phillip Mottaz and future “Epic Rap Battles of History” director Mike Betette (see one of the “Battles” written and co-directed by Betette below) after both worked the same temp job and started “e-mailing ‘Simpsons’ quotes back and forth,” says Mottaz. “We shared the same attitude about writing comedy, which was getting the scripts right with shows [that had] little to no downtime.” Superpunk is returning with an “old and new” “Best Of” show for good reason, says Mottaz. “Mike and I love this one really ridiculous bit [we want] to do one more time.” Jan. 8 and Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. in Pro Theater

Cholesterock! The Dark Side of the Spoon

The rock opera has been conquered. Now comes rock comedy from this eight-member troupe (accompanied by a three-piece band) founded at The Second City Training Center in 2014. “[Producer/writer] Tim O’Neil and I wanted a musical sketch show that centered on food and love,” says co-founder and cast member Preston Parker. The ensemble, directed by the award-winning Jonald Reyes, debuted “Love in the Time of Cholesterol” at SketchFest 2015. “We cover ‘80s hair metal and punk, singer-songwriter tunes and doo-wop,” says Parker of 12-plus scenes. “[And we have] the best looking Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks impersonators in the world.” Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. in Cab Theater

Cholesterock| SUPPLIED PHOTO
Cholesterock| SUPPLIED PHOTO

The Defiant Thomas Brothers

The ‘brothers’ are back. After meeting in a Second City Outreach program in the early aughts where they bonded over a shared last name, Paul Thomas and Seth Thomas’ socio-political satire wowed HBO, scored them a deal with Regency Television and then, in 2006, they just disappeared. “The last few years we had talked a bit, then the opportunity came up,” says Paul about reforming DTB, still based in Chicago. “Pretty much nothing is happening in America right now on the racial front,” he chides, “so hopefully there is still a demand for the two­man black/white comedy act.” The intensity is still there, he promises, conceding, “a decade of experience has definitely sharpened us.” Jan. 9 at 10 p.m. and Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. in Pro Theater

Dead Broads Yapping

Women have been dominating the comedy scene the last few years, but the three friends behind Dead Broads Yapping go even farther back in time for inspiration. “Right around the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination we started talking about our love of history and [pitching] a show playing dynamic, well-known and already dead historical women hosting a ‘View’-style talk show in The Afterlife,” says member Marie Maloney of forming the group with Courtney Crary and Caroline Nash, all of whom trained at iO, Second City and The Annoyance theaters. Though Jackie O, Amelia Earhart and Joan of Arc have long been featured, all new dead broads are planned who will discuss how to deal with that holiday hangover. Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. in Pro Theater

Stars and Gripes

Military life is often no joke, a reason why these five veterans were inspired to share their experiences in a variety of sketches, monologues and songs. “[We] had the idea of forming a troupe after [realizing] there essentially was no voice for [us] in the theater community,” says cast mate Crystal Clark of forming a year ago in Second City classes; this is their debut at SketchFest. “The war theme has made it to the stage plenty of times, but we had never seen it presented from [our] point of view.” Subject matter ranges from government bureaucracy, PTSD and difficulty integrating back into society as well as “surprises you wouldn’t expect from a cast of combat vets,” says Clark. Jan. 17 at 1 p.m. in Pro Theater

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.

Sketch comedy troupe Stars and Gripes | SUPPLIED PHOTO
Sketch comedy troupe Stars and Gripes | SUPPLIED PHOTO