Don’t Spit the Water!

Fri. @ 8 p.m., Sat. @ 7 p.m., Theatre 99

A comedy recipe: Gather five comics (give or take), one audience member, and one glass of water, preferably half-full. Place all ingredients on stage, mix well, and watch the laughter – and the water – fly.

While sitting in the front row at as many Charleston Comedy Fest shows as possible might sound like a good idea, you may want to rethink that proximity at a Don’t Spit the Water! show. Why? Every Saturday at the Playground Theater in downtown Chicago, emcees and “International Comedy Sensations” Steve “Sasha” Gadlin and his literally silent partner The Noob lead a cadre of comics as they attempt to crack a random audience member, getting him or her to laugh so hard that they – you guessed it – spit out a mouthful of water.

In Oct. 2004, creator Gadlin put together this fast-paced, riotous “game show” that combines elements of the ancient TV show Make Me Laugh, The Gong Show, and the zanier bits of old-school Saturday Night Live.

“We just started it on a whim,” Gadlin says. “We had a group of us who were on an improv team together who had signed up for a sketch slot at the Playground, but no one had written anything. I couldn’t cancel the slot, so in three weeks I wrote an outline, got in touch with everyone, we bought some sparkly curtains, and we put together the show … we didn’t even think we’d make it to the end of our four-week run.”

Now in their third year of Saturday-night residency at the Playground, DSTW! has evolved into the place to spot some of Chicago’s improv glitterati as the ever-changing cast, charged with coaxing chuckles from the lucky audience members chosen to try to hold a mouthful of water through a round-robin onslaught of three costumed comics.

If you have a friend/coworker/relative you’d like to see in the hot seat during the Comedy Fest, visit the DSTW! website and drop an e-mail to Gadlin – and make sure to bring a poncho to the show. –Sara Miller