If you're planning on attending the 2010 Just for Laughs Chicago Festival, here are suggestions for 10 shows you won't want to miss (and be sure to check out the complete 2010 Just for Laughs Chicago Festival schedule).
1. Alt Comedy
For me, this is the must-see show of the Just for the Laughs Chicago festival, with a lineup that includes a bunch of my favorite comedians currently working: Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford, John Mulaney, Kyle Kinane and Chris Hardwick. I don't quite get the "Alt Comedy" label, since most of these comedians are no longer "alternative" comics and are totally mainstream, but I guess the Comedians of Comedy moniker has been retired (though that's essentially what this show is). An incredible lineup.
"Alt Comedy" will perform 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 19 at the Vic Theater.
2. Aziz Ansari
Hot off Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, one of the year's best comedy albums, and his (less impressive) stint as host of the MTV Movie Awards, Aziz Ansari is performing four shows of his Dangerously Delicious Tour as part of this year's Just for Laughs Chicago festival. As funny as Ansari has been on Parks and Recreation or as part of Human Giant, I think I like him best as a stand-up, where his insanely high energy and pop culture riffs make him endlessly entertaining. I think he's right on the cusp of exploding, so this is the best time to catch his live act.
Aziz Ansari will perform at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16 and Thursday, June 17 at the Vic Theater.
3. The Nasty Show
Last year's Nasty Show was a highlight of the 2009 Just for Laughs Chicago festival, and though this year's lineup is different it still offers the opportunity to see the great Greg Giraldo totally uncensored (he performed with "Let Freedom Hum" last year, but had to clean it up as that show was being taped for TBS). He's partnered with Jim Norton and Mike Wilmot for what promises to be a really dirty, really dark, really funny show. Don't miss Greg Giraldo. He's one of the best.
"The Nasty Show" will perform at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday, June 18 at the Vic Theater.
4. Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn't
Though a feature film based on the Saturday Night Live "Superfans" sketch (Chicago sports fans sit around eating sausage and cheering on "Da Bears") sounds like a terrible idea on paper, this live script reading of that (thankfully) unproduced film is exactly the kind of unique show you'll only get to see at the Just for Laughs Chicago festival. George Wendt, Joe Mantegna, Robert Smigel and Bob Odenkirk will be joined by film critic/journalist Richard Roeper and former Bears head coach Mike Ditka for a reading of the script. I guarantee this one will be a lot of fun.
"Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn't" will perform at 7 and 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 19 at Park West.
5. Cedric the Entertainer's Urban Circus
In the past, I've recommended the Ellen Degeneres variety show put on annually at the Just for Laughs festival, but that seems to have gotten a little tired. Instead, this year I'm hoping to check out Cedric the Entertainer's Urban Circus, which promises to be a variety show of a different sort -- it will feature sketch comedy, stand-up, music and even an appearance from comedian Jerry Seinfeld. if you can't make this one, it will air on TBS on Wednesday, June 23 at 9 p.m. CST.
"Cedric the Entertainer's Urban Circus" will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 18 at the Chicago Theater.
6. Drinking Buddies with T.J. Miller
This stand-up showcase featuring four up-and-comers (though two have arguably already arrived) from Chicago includes T.J. Miller, Kyle Kinane, James Fritz and Mike Bridenstine, and will be followed by a screening of the Sundance festival hit short film Successful Alcoholics, starring Miller. Those looking for some great comics and a show that's a bit more off the beaten path should check this out. Plus, the Lincoln Lodge -- essentially the back of a restaurant converted into an intimate comedy club -- is a cool place to see live stand-up.
"Drinking Buddies with T.J. Miller" will perform on Wednesday, June 16 at 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Lodge.
7. The Adam Corolla Podcast
This live taping of The Adam Corolla Podcast -- the most successful podcast currently on the internet -- is another of those rare festival opportunities it would be foolish not to check out. Corolla's a very funny, fast-on-his-feet guy, but more than that the show offers the chance to see a type of comedy totally different than any of the stand-up or sketch comedy at the festival.
"The Adam Corolla Podcast" will perform at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 17 and Friday, June 18 at Park West.
Also worth checking out is the Comedy Death-Ray live podcast featuring Scott Aukerman, taping Wednesday, June 16 at 10 p.m. at the Annoyance Theater.
8. Double Threat
This one's pretty straightforward: no gimmicks or "festival-only" hooks. Just nightly pairings of some really great comedians. It's a total toss-up between which night has the strongest bill -- Kristen Schaal/John Mulaney or Patrice O'Neal/Hannibal Buress -- so I would recommend trying to make them both. Each "Double Threat" peforms twice a night, making it easier to fit into your schedule. You won't be disappointed.
"Double Threat" with Kristen Schaal and John Mulaney will perform at 7 and 9 p.m. on Friday, June 18 at Mayne Stage. Patrice O'Neal and Hannibal Buress will perform at 7 and 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 19 at Mayne Stage.
9. Children's Hospital
Here's a live preview screening of the upcoming Adult Swim series Children's Hospital, featuring Rob Corddry (last seen stealing Hot Tub Time Machine), Jonathan Stern, Erin Hayes and the great David Wain of The State (and director of Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models). I can wait to see the show when it premieres, but wouldn't want to pass on the chance to see this group live in front of an audience.
"Children's Hospital" will perform at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, June 18 at Park West.
10. The Not Inappropriate Show
This collection of sketches featuring Bob Odenkirk consists of pieces produced for adults but which feature material that's totally appropriate for kids. That makes it a rarity in the Just for Laughs festival -- it's the only show to which it's safe to bring the whole family. And, since it's got Bob Odenkirk, you know it will still be really funny. It's also early enough that you can catch a performance and it won't interfere with anything you want to to see at night. "Not Inappropriate" also features Kate Micucci (half of Garfunkel and Oates) and a group of L.A. sketch performers.
"The Not Inappropriate Show" will perform at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 18 and at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 19 at Mayne Stage.