Preview: NERD ALERT!! Bring Your Friends and Your Pets for the Virtual Chicago Nerd Comedy Fest

Shirley Blazen at Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival 2018. Photo by Marielle Shaw. Way back when, when I was, I guess, a "cub" writer, I was unofficially assigned the "nerd beat." This was in no small part due to the fact that my senior editors noticed I loved things like museums and science and Star Trek and conventions and Doctor Who...and..well, the list could go on for another paragraph. And so it was I got "assigned" to the wonderful thing that is the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival. When I got to the festival, I still didn't know what to expect, but what I found was a group of people who understood and loved the same things I did. There was comedy, there was burlesque, and there was a Buffy singalong at the end of the night that made me all teary-eyed. Everyone knew the words, everyone knew the context, and everyone was there drinking drinks with scifi names, laughing and telling stories about all the things I loved, and playing games like Fluxx in the lines waiting to get in to the next show. I still have that first press pass from Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival on my camera bag and it will always remind me of a time I felt like I'd found the exact crowd I belonged to. This year, the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival has branched out on its own, no longer associated with Stage 773, and due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 in the entertainment world, it's also gone virtual for the second year in a row, kicking off last night with the talents of the folks from Lex & Matt's Excellent Adventure, a Chicago based pop culture podcast, Locked Into Vacancy Entertainment, which produces old timey style radio shows live (and virtually, obvi) and the ever amazing, every sultry and still silly talents of the burlesque syndicate known as The Screwbelles . While I will love coming back to a physical meeting space for the festival in the future, it has to be said that some of the groups representing this year's lineup have made the most innovative, hilarious and heartwarming video performances I've seen pre-or mid-pandemic, and I can't wait for more. Lucky for you, NERDS, the festival has 2 full days of lineup left. So, in case you missed it, now you have no excuse NOT to miss tonight and Saturday's nerdy fun. It's free and all you need to do to attend is fire up your Zoom--we promise it'll be way better than the work calls you're probably subject to day in and day out. Here's the info you need to know: Night 2 begins in a mere few hours, and we're looking forward to all of it. New for this year is Into the Wikiverse, a podcast whose conversations are guided by the random article generator on Wikipedia. As you might expect, that means the possibilities are endless, and we think tonight's show is a great way to dip your toes in if you're new to it.  After that it's Vom Com, a sketch comedy duo who is going to "make jokes about dying and living in this beautiful century." Then at 8 pm, we've had particular fun in years past with the standup showcase, which will feature a feast of awesome comedians we should all get to know, including Mark Rosenthal, Marie Salter and Vik Pandya, this year's headliner. At 9, one of our festival favorites, The Patti Vasquez Experience featuring Elliot Serrano will be on to do what they do best--fantastic podcasts tailored to the nerd crowd that cover everything from Marvel vs DC to movies, politics and food. Just after that, Cosplay Comedy is a CNCF staple, with a bunch of your favorite characters across a myriad franchises stepping up to the virtual mic to do their take on superhero (or Disney character or...well, the worlds are your oysters..) life. Finally, rounding it out in the best way is another comedy fest standby, with good reason--Plan 9 Burlesque, who always brings a well thought out, sexy and silly show to enjoy. Night 3 also features some new faces, and we're excited. Start Saturday night off with Negro Jump, the podcast for and by black fans of anime, who can get together and talk all that's new, good or bad in anime.  At 7, a bit of a variety act comes to the virtual stage with The Misplays, a group of players loosely (and probably hilariously) interpreting the lore of Magic: The Gathering, immediately followed by the amazingness that is Klingon Pop Warrior, who with extreme talent and heart manages to belt out all sorts of pop culture hits in Klingon, as it should be, and for great honor. Finally, Tague Zachary brings his own nerdy musical talent to the stage to round out the hour, before The Stuntmen and Clown Car take the stage for some sketch insanity.  At 9, look forward to Make It Up Media and Separate Beds, for even more sketch comedy goodness, and at 10, another standup showcase, this time featuring Brett Singer, Kelly Reilly and Zach Funk. Cap that off with the fantasticness of PS Burlesque, and that's a wrap on another amazing Nerd Fest. If you want our advice--get some local beer, good takeout and comfy pants on and sit yourself down in your most comfy chair near your computer or other Zoom related device, put on your nerdy finery, and join the fun.   THE BEST PART: YOU, yes you, can support the local theater community when you attend Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival, as CNCF 2021 is hosting a split fundraiser both to sustain the nerd comedy festyness we all have come to love and to donate to the amazing Stepping Stone Theater Chicago, an organization dedicated to a mission of "equity, inclusivity, diversity, and affordability in comedy" Even better: whether or not you are able to make all the festival fun, you can find all the info you need to donate to the fundraiser by clicking here.
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Marielle Bokor