The Best of the Best Sketch Fest

Artists Repertory Theater, 1516 SW Alder, 258-1681, Fri-Sat 8-midnight, $8 single ticket, $28 four-show pass, $54 festival pass

Sketch comedy is the thing that doesn't quite fit in. It's not exactly theater, but it's definitely not improv either. We like to say it's like Saturday Night Live, but funny."

So says Ted Douglas, cast member of Portland's 3rd Floor sketch troupe, and also, along with fellow cast member Andy Buzan, mastermind behind this weekend's second annual Best of the Best Sketch Fest. Last year, to combat their chosen art form's outsider status, the duo brought together eight practitioners of the craft from around the country, for one big weekend of sharing and camaraderie.

"We thought we were going to get 30 people and be embarrassed in front of our national friends," says Douglas. Instead, both nights of the show were sold out, and this year should be no different, as six of the original eight groups will be back, with a ninth one thrown in for good measure. Quality, however, has not been sacrificed in the name of quantity. Douglas and Buzan didn't use "best" in their event's title just because it rhymes with "fest"; it has practical value, too.

"We've gone out to all these various festivals [with 3rd Floor]," says Douglas, "and the good to bad ratio is oftentimes less than favorable because the festivals accept taped submissions and on tape you can make yourselves look as good as you want. So we picked groups that we have seen in person, and can attest to being great."

Said groups include the Chicago group Elephant Larry, whose every sketch is performed as a musical; and the two-man Los Angeles act Brychael, whom Douglas describes as "a sketch comic's favorite" because "they're so weird and out there." Every group is of course guaranteed to be good, however, so you can't really go wrong. Or you can just buy a festival pass and see all of them... JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS

FRIDAY: 8 pm, Bald Faced Lie; 9 pm, Brychael; 10 pm, Meat; 11 pm, Flaming Box of Stuff; Midnight, Scramble Bamble (a sketch comedy open mic, free). SATURDAY: 8 pm, Elephant Larry; 9 pm, Kasper Hauser; 10 pm, Cupid Players; 11 pm, Troop!; Midnight, The 3rd Floor.