Geneva native Bianca Shaw and St. Charles native Chris Fair will do their best to make people laugh next month as part of the 14th annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival.
The festival will run Thursday, Jan. 8, to Sunday, Jan. 18, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. Shaw, a 2012 Geneva High School graduate, is part of the group Beer Bottle Aristotle. And Fair, a 2003 St. Charles East High School graduate, will bring his endeavor, The Laser Comedy Show, to the festival.
Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to both of them about the upcoming festival.
Q-and-A with Bianca Shaw
Eric Schelkopf: You are going to be doing the skit “Batteries Not Included: A Sketch Revue for Throwback Toy Fans.” Have you been rehearsing?
Bianca Shaw: Yes. That was actually the first show we did last fall and winter. It’s an incredible show about Furbies and all the games people know and love from the ’90s.
Schelkopf: For people who come out to the show, what should they expect?
Shaw: Actually, what I like about our show is that I think it’s very creative and nostalgic. Maybe it’s because I’m a ’90s baby, but I find there’s something really magical about the ’90s in particular.
I just think the ’90s just got it right with toys and games and Furbies. I will say that the Furby is pretty creepy and awesome in the show.
Schelkopf: So, for you and your group to be included in the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, that must be quite the honor for you?
Shaw: Oh, my goodness. This has been a dream of mine for years. I am so incredibly excited. You have no idea.
Schelkopf: You have a pretty long resume, including being part of Moves Dance Studio in North Aurora.
Shaw: I danced with them from 2006 until 2008 or 2009. I was in their dance company.
Schelkopf: What did you get out of that experience?
Shaw: Well, I’ve been dancing since I was 2 years old. It was kind of my first passion in the performing arts.
I really found my heart in dance at Moves Dance Studio, I think. It’s when I really found a passion for movement, and I really think that’s helped me with my acting, because I feel like I move really well as a performer.
Schelkopf: Were there any teachers at Geneva High School that kind of inspired you to do what you are doing now?
Shaw: Lori Dowd – she was the drama director and drama club teacher. She helped me so much with my acting career and really helped me find my place in high school and on the stage. And she’s an incredible inspiration of mine.
Q-and-A with Chris Fair
Eric Schelkopf: You founded the Laser Comedy Show. Is some of what you do improvisation or do you have set ideas?
Chris Fair: For a normal show, I usually go out and I do mostly improvisation. But for the Chicago Sketch Festival, I take a show that I really like and I rewrite it.
Schelkopf: So, what are you going to do for the festival?
Fair: I have a couple of shows in mind that I would like to rewrite. I haven’t done it yet.
Schelkopf: Are you talking about rewriting movie scenes or play scenes?
Fair: I’ve done shows before [where] I’ve gotten a Western film-type of suggestion, and then I just take the beginning of the movie “Maverick,” and I just redid the movie in my own way.
I’ve redone movies, and then I’ve done totally original scenes. I come up with the character, and then I kind of go with the character. I put him in a scene.
Schelkopf: Do you have any favorite characters?
Fair: I do different ones every time, for the most part. I developed a unicorn that I have put in three different shows.
In one show, I had a unicorn being hunted by pirates.
Schelkopf: What are the challenges? I guess you have to be a pretty good artist, for one thing.
Fair: Yeah. Writing backwards is a challenge. I learned it on the fly.
Some letters are hard to do backwards. It’s actually just kind of funny when I get it wrong.
Schelkopf: It seems like the audience is pretty receptive to what you are doing. Why do you like doing what you do?
Fair: I like it because it gives me a chance to access all of my creative output. I’ve been drawing since I was 3 years old, and I had been doing stand-up [comedy] for a number of years.
With this, I’m doing monologues, but at the same time, I’m drawing scenery and making every single scene in my laser show. I’m making my own little movie.