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The Chicago Women’s Funny Festival brimming with hilarity

Brouhaha: An Improvised Puppet Musical

Brouhaha: An Improvised Puppet Musical

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Chicago Women’s Funny Festival

◆ June 6-9

◆ Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago

◆ Tickets, $14-$15

◆ (773) 327-5252; stage773.com

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Updated: July 2, 2013 6:36AM



In a 2007 Vanity Fair article, Christopher Hitchens expounded on “the superior funniness of men” and the “inferior funniness of women.” His entire premise was laughable then and even more so now thanks to the ever-growing number of high-profile comedians (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Plainfield native Melissa McCarthy, etc.) and the many lesser-known women working the stand-up, improv and sketch circuits in cities around the United States.

With Chicago being the hub of comedy, it was fitting that 2012 saw the debut of the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival. After an overwhelming response, the four-day event returns June 6-9 at Stage 773.

“Our goal is to put all these women in one venue and showcase the magnitude of what is happening in the comedy world,” festival co-founder Jill Valentine said.

Filling the venue’s four stages are 80 shows featuring more than 400 performers. It’s an exciting scene, Valentine said of the vibe that resonates throughout the festival.

“What’s so great is that the lineup covers so many different art forms,” she said. “Whatever your flavor is, we have it.”

Valentine, executive director of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, co-founded the female-
centric festival with Liz McArthur. Both are veterans of the Chicago comedy scene and will debut their two-woman show “Feminine Gentleman” at the festival.

According to Valentine, the only other festival of its kind is Boston’s Women in Comedy Festival. Chicago, with its burgeoning female comedy scene, was a natural site for a similar event.

“The Chicago scene is exploding,” Valentine said. “So many people are moving here to learn and be educated in comedy. When I started 15 years ago, maybe there were two women in a class. Now women make up half the class and are also teaching the class. We are literally breeding comedians.”

Here is a sampling of performances from the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival. For a full list, go to chicagowomensfunnyfestival.com.

Brouhaha: An Improvised Puppet Musical (8 p.m. June 7): Katie Dufresne and Stacey Smith perform the opening and closing night of a musical featuring a cast of humans and puppets.

Claudia Michelle Wallace is …. Older, Blacker, Bolder, Wiser? (10 p.m. June 8): The Second City alum dissects the aging process in a series of character sketches and personal observations.

I’m Different, Not Dumb (8 p.m. June 9): Ali Clayton grew up with learning disabilities and in this one-woman show she takes aim at her shortcomings.

Kristen Toomey (10 p.m. June 8): The Chicago-based comic’s brand is hilarious and brash on topics ranging from parenting to truckers.

The Flashlites (10 p.m. June 8): A Los Angeles-based collective, composed of players from Chicago and New York, whose calling card is raw, high-energy character-based improv.

The Pop Tarts (8 p.m. June 6): Musical sketch comedy featuring “British” pop stars Beatrice (Bente Engelstoft) and Evelyn (Jennifer Cumberworth) as they tour America performing their “classics” such as “Can’t Take Me Anywhere” and “Cowboy Fantasy.”

Jess Beaulieu (9 p.m. June 8): The Toronto-based stand-up tells hilarious, overly personal and inappropriate stories. Her mother does not approve.

Michele Durante (8 p.m. June 8): The former New York City detective shares her experiences with the N.Y. Police Department including being one of the few females on the force and openly gay.

Say Hello To Your Friends: The Improvised Baby-Sitters Club (5 p.m. June 9): Get the answers to all the burning questions that were never answered in “The Baby-sitters Club” books.

Shakespeare’s Female Women (8 p.m. June 7): Ever Mainard and Alicia Queen’s absurd romp that delves into the feminine mystique of the Bard via interpretations of both the famous and obscure ladies in the canon.

Mary Houlihan is a local freelance writer.



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