When Jessica Hardy moved to Chicago 15 years ago and started making films, she noticed something: Comedies were getting snubbed. The 37-year-old Indiana native, who began performing at Second City's conservatory and has since made three feature films with her husband, Brent Kado, says that despite Chicago's rich comedy scene, standard fest fodder kept trumping comedic flicks. "It became clear to me that festivals that aren't [exclusively] comedy-based select drama and experimental films over comedy," Hardy says.
So in 2010, Hardy and Kado decided to produce a fest of their own, the two-day Chicago Comedy Film Festival. Now in its fifth year, the festival will feature half a dozen full-length films and about 50 shorts, all of which are tied together by little more than their broad sub-genre. Hardy selected six highlights to check out this year.
The Historically Hysterical Shorts
This 90-minute selection of six shorts features the 27-minute Raise the Toygantic, which Hardy calls a Waiting for Guffman–type mockumentary starring Mindy Sterling (Frau Farbissina from Austin Powers). Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The Gender Narrative Shorts
Saturday afternoon's selection of 12 shorts "highlight the struggles of whatever gender pronoun you associate with—and they're all hysterical," says Hardy. (The shortest film, A Hunter's Best Friend, clocks in at only one minute.) Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Girl quits day job and moves to Los Angeles to pursue acting full-time despite questionable talent. If that sounds like a familiar trope, Hardy promises that veteran director Cindy Baer brings something new to the story. "The film has a Royal Tenenbaums feel to it." Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Up on the Wooftop
One of just a half dozen feature-length films at CCFF, this children's movie starring Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding in Saved by the Bell) will screen here before its wider release later this month. "It's the first time we've had a kids' movie," says Hardy. And trust, it is a kids' movie: "It's [got] Christmas, Santa Claus, and a talking dog." Saturday at 6 p.m.
"It's like Princess Bride meets Lord of the Rings," says Hardy of this fantasy/adventure comedy. Saturday at 8 p.m.
CCFF's headlining romantic comedy stars Rick Gomez (Justified) as a man left by his wife during their anniversary week. "He’s kind of all by himself going through a midlife crisis," says Hardy. But, she promises, it's funny. Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
GO Nov. 6 to 7 at the New 400 Theater, 6746 N. Sheridan Rd., chicagocomedyfilmfestival.com; $12–$75