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A field guide to The Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival

LiteratureGamingBattlestar Galactica (tv program)Star Trek (movie, 2009)Jane Austen

Have friends or family expressed wonder—or concern—about your encyclopedic knowledge of "Battlestar Galactica?" Ever passed up a date to avoid ending a role-playing game marathon? Does your idea of a perfect weekend include binge-viewing "Dr. Who"? If you answered "yes" to any of the above—or even if you just have a passionate interest in what others who don't own lightsabers or 20-sided dice might call geeky pursuits—the second annual Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival is for you.

"There are just a ton of wonderful nerd comedy groups in Chicago," said Katie Johnston-Smith, who co-produces the festival with fellow comedian Fin Coe. "You have The Nerdologues, Improvised 'Star Trek,' Improvised 'Dr. Who.' And I love comic book conventions so much that I was like, maybe if we did that with theater, it would have the same vibe. And it did, which was great."

The four-night niche festival, which grew out of Stage 773's monthly "Hey, I'm a Big Fan" show of comedic fan fiction readings, features 15 events ranging from comic book-themed stand-up to Improvised Jane Austen, plus three free interactive late-night events. Each show is $10 or you can binge-view all 15, convention-style, for $50—and you don't have to be a math whiz to know that $3.33 per show is a great deal. We rounded up some of each night's highlights to get you started.

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Go: Wednesday through Sunday at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

Tickets: $10 per show; $50 all-fest pass. 773-327-5252; stage773.com
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WEDNESDAY

7 p.m.: "The Best of 'Hey, I'm a Big Fan': A Night of Fan Fiction Readings"
The fest kicks off with a showcase where Johnston-Smith and Coe host humorous—and sometimes weirdly sexual—5-minute pieces from writers, comedians and everyday folks (one performer makes chain mail jewelry professionally) about such topics as "Final Fantasy," "Full House," Harry Potter, Han Solo, Magic the Gathering and, of course, Joss Whedon.


THURSDAY

7 p.m.: "Jack and The Nerds: A Nerdy Cabaret"
The ensemble—which includes fest co-producer Johnston-Smith—performs non-hit songs from such geektastic TV shows, films and Internet series as "Battlestar Galactica," "Star Trek," "Lord of the Rings" and "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," plus—to cement their status as nerds—a number from "The Muppets."

8 p.m.: Michinoku Driver and Mrs.
This sketch comedy double-header features Michinoku Driver—the name itself is a wrestling reference—who performed a bit at SketchFest featuring an accountant and a werewolf hunter trying to lure prospects to their career fair table. Mrs. is a four-woman group who've been known to perform dressed as Vikings.

 

FRIDAY

8 p.m.: Chi Nerd Fest Stand-up Showcase
See sets about everything from gaming to comic books from headliner Cody Melcher, comedians Dave Losso and Kris McDermott and host Fran Hoepfner, all of whom were selected from a pool of 20 auditioners.

10 p.m.: Who Prov
Not only does the cast perform humorous improvisations of "Dr. Who" episodes, their technical director (and yes, the fact that they have a technical director certifies their nerd cred) has built a great-looking Tardis, which you will see on-stage.

SATURDAY

6 p.m.: Planetary Defense Force
In this interactive comedy-adventure game show, an audience volunteer joins the cast—which includes actors, comedians and game designers—for an on-stage rendition of Dungeons & Dragons blended with—wait, what?—dodgeball.

7 p.m.: Pretty/Windy
Festival co-producer Fin Coe is a member of this nine-actor sketch troupe which has appeared at SketchFest, LaughingStock, the Chicago Women's Funny Festival and other series and festivals including Stage 773's Comedy Cage Match—which they won with their oh-so-smart humor.

11 p.m.: Plan 9 Burlesque
Brains meet beauty—and boobs!—in this nerdlesque extravaganza from the troupe who brought you such revues as "Insert Evil Laughter Here" and "Attack of the 50 Foot Stripper," where the ladies not only display an excellent reference level but also make their own nerdtastic costumes.


Free interactive events

11 p.m. Thursday: "The Nerdologues Presents Your Stories: Chicago Nerd First Edition," in which the comedy group hosts an open mic for nerd-themed stand-up, sketches, songs and stories.

Midnight Friday: Game Night, where the Stage 773 lobby transforms into a playground of table games where you can save or destroy the world one move at a time.

Midnight Saturday: "Once More, with Whedon!," a party where cosplay (which translates to "costume play" for those with substandard nerd dialect skills) rules in activities such as a Dr. Horrible-themed drinking game, a ladies' evil laugh competition, a men's tightest shirt contest and, of course, a costume contest, with prizes from Cards Against Humanity and Ript Apparel.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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LiteratureGamingBattlestar Galactica (tv program)Star Trek (movie, 2009)Jane Austen
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