The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival is an annual nonprofit sketch comedy festival held in Chicago. It is the world's largest sketch festival. It combines over 100 events of shows, workshops, and discussions over a two week period. The festival is sponsored by Budweiser, The Onion, The Second City, Red Bull, and more.
The tenth installment will take place January 7-17, 2010 @ Stage 773, 1225 West Belmont at the Stage 773.
The idea of The Chicago Sketchfest was born in October 2001. Chicago teacher/director Brian Posen wanted to create a venue to showcase the city’s best sketch comedy troupes, and provide a venue for up-and-coming troupes, all free from financial burden. A theater was leased and sketch groups from around Chicago were invited to perform at no cost. The festival opened in January 2002, and ran for 7 weeks. Over 30 sketch comedy groups performed, nearly 2000 patrons attended.
Building on the success of the first festival, The Chicago Sketchfest became an annual event.
Sketchfest 2003 was host to 53 groups, this time from all over the nation. The festival was shortened to 3½ weeks. A panel of sketch comedy experts was added to share their knowledge with performers and the public. Weekly forums were put together so that groups from all over the country could come together and share information.
The Chicago Sketchfest 2004 expanded to three theaters and 120 performances. It ran two weeks, and attracted close to 5500 patrons. 71 groups performed that year. Besides the panels and forums, 2 new events were added: Sketchubator & Octasketch-The 8 Hour Project. Sketchubator ran Saturday nights at midnight, and provided a free-for-all for sketch groups to perform experimental work. Octasketch was an experiment modeled after ‘The 24 hours project’. Four seasoned directors were randomly assigned Five writer-performers, all from different sketch groups, and given 8 hours to create a 30 minute sketch show performed that night. The festival also gained the sponsorship of Budweiser, WBEZ, Days Inn, Kinkos, & National Photo.
The Chicago Sketchfest 2005 had 83 groups over the 2 weeks. In addition to the events, writing workshops were added, including Joe Garden- head writer from the Onion, and John Vorhaus-author of "The Comic Toolbox". Budweiser was back. Red Bull joined the sponsors. New sponsors included WXRT, The Onion, and Whole Foods, American Airlines and Avis. In 2005, the Chicago Sketchfest officially changed its name to “The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival”. Some patrons had actually called the box office to see if it was a festival about drawing. We needed the word ‘Comedy’.
January 2006 marked the 5-year anniversary with 92 sketch comedy groups performing. Over 700 artists came together to perform, collaborate, share information. An event called Master Sketch was added. Participating groups performed a scene in front of some of the masters in our industry and received their feedback. Chipotle joined as a sponsor.
2007- The festival was one shy of 100 groups (approximately 800 performers) and hit 10,000 patrons. OctaSketch entered its 4th year, and honored four the major comedy institutions The Second City, iO, Annoyance and ComedySportz by having each of them supply a director who created under their specific style. Sam Adams came on board as a sponsor.
In 2008, the 7th year, 100 groups signed on. Lou Malnatis’ Pizza was the new sponsor.
In 2009, the festival added Children’s programming. Sketch by kids, Sketch for kids and sketch educating kids.
In 2010, the children's programing was expanded.
The 2011 festival marks the 10 year anniversary of The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival.