2013 Fall Guide: Comedy and variety shows to see this fall

Rob Zabrecky

How many alternative rock lead singers go on to a successful career in stage magic? The answer is just one: Rob Zabrecky. In the '90s, Zabrecky fronted the Los Angeles band Possum Dixon, which released three albums through Interscope Records. After Possum Dixon disbanded, Zabrecky's hobby-level interest in sleight of hand became an obsession, to the point of him being twice named stage magician of the year by the Academy of Magical Arts. His dark, cabaret-inspired performances avoid the cliches of top hats and rabbits — L.A. Weekly once described his act as "more akin to the slightly foreboding style of David Lynch." 7:30 p.m. Sept. 11; Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.; $25 at 773-327-5252 or magicchicagoshow.com

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross

The rule of comedy nerdom states you can't achieve nerd status unless you've name-check "Mr. Show" as an inspiration. Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have graduated to more visible roles ("Breaking Bad" and "Arrested Development" respectively) since closing shop on their influential HBO sketch series in 1997. But they're reuniting on a six-city stand up and sketch tour (alongside comedian Brian Posehn) that includes two shows at the Vic Theatre. 7:30 p.m and 10:30 p.m. Sept. 20 (sold out); The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-472-0449 and jamusa.com

Lisa Lampanelli

Lisa Lampanelli today occupies the role Don Rickles played for many years on the Dean Martin roasts — that of the lovable machine-gun insult comic. She's making more headlines today for having dropped 100 pounds, but her shows have become no less caustic. If you're a member of a disenfranchised group, sitting in the first three rows at her show all but guarantees you'll be in her crosshairs ... all out of love, of course. 8 p.m. Dec. 7; The Venue at Horseshoe Hammond, 777 Casino Center Drive, Hammond; $36-$67 at 866-711-7463 and horseshoehammond.com.

Alonzo Bodden

Alonzo Bodden has been diversifying his portfolio since winning "Last Comic Standing' in 2004. He's hosted car shows for Speed TV and Travel Channel, become a voice-over actor, produces a smooth-jazz radio show and appears regularly on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." He stops by Chicago often as a panelist on "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" but will extend his stay in October for a four-night run at The Improv in Schaumburg. Six shows from Oct. 24-27; The Improv, 5 Woodfield Road at Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg; $19-$22 at 847-240-2001 and chicago.improv.com

Nick Offerman

Most people buying tickets to Nick Offerman's "American Ham" show probably have zero expectations other than the novelty of seeing the "Parks & Recreation" totem of manliness appear in the flesh. They may hear music, receive life advice and experience bare man chests, but for most, being present for some Ron Swanson mojo might be worth the price of admission. 8 p.m. Oct. 3; The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St.; $35.50 at 312-462-6300 and thechicagotheatre.com

'The Paper Machete'

Here's the living color version of an alt-weekly arts section: Journalists, stand-up comics, songwriters, puppeteers and storytellers, assembled at The Green Mill every Saturday afternoon to put on a live staging that feels like "This American Life" hosted by Dick Cavett. Since premiering in 2010, the show has only attracted bolder-named guests — Michael Shannon and Marc Maron, among others, have recently dropped by. 3 p.m. Saturdays (open run); The Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; free, 773-878-5552 and thepapermacheteshow.com

Dick Gregory

Dick Gregory's October appearance at Laugh Factory will come 52 years after first performing at the Playboy Club in the Gold Coast, becoming one of the first black comics to successfully cross over into the national comedy scene. In that half century, Gregory's focus has largely remained constant: race, gender and social activism. The moniker "living legend" is overused, but there may be no comic more befitting that title than the 80-year-old Dick Gregory. 8 p.m. Oct. 9; Laugh Factory, 3175 Broadway; $20-$30 at 773-327-3175 and laughfactory.com

'Comedy Bang! Bang! Live!'

What began as a humble podcast for "Mr. Show" alumnus Scott Aukerman has grown into a comedic franchise. At its heart is a freewheeling, hour long-plus podcast with the essential names of American comedy today. IFC turned it into a television series in 2012, and its second season premiered in July. Aukerman brings along "Bang! Bang!" regular Paul F. Tompkins to The Vic Theatre for a live podcast taping. 8 p.m. Oct. 8; The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave.; $30 at 773-472-0449 and jamusa.com

Kyle Kinane

For a decade, Addison native Kyle Kinane toiled in dumpy jobs around Chicago while building his stand-up experience at night, which is likely where he gets his morose perspective. Even his gravelly voice (you hear him in all the Comedy Central commercials) lends to a certain Steven Wright-tinged flavor to his sets. Now, Kinane is based in Los Angeles, an established headliner at last, and he returns to Chicago for three nights at Second City's UP Comedy Club. Five shows from Nov. 14-16; UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North Ave.; $20 at 312-662-4562 and upcomedyclub.com.

'The Fun House'

Those seeking theatrical entertainment from a simpler, weirder time should consider visiting Lakeview's Stage 773, where for one night they'll transform its 13,000-square-foot space into a vaudevillian fun house. Halls of mirrors, bearded ladies, fortune tellers, dueling barbershop quartets, staffers dressed up as 1920s carnies — no other theater fundraiser this year will feature, as Stage 773 artistic director Brian Posen said, "weird human acts." 6:30 p.m. Sept. 29; Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.; $35-$125 at 773-327-5252 and stage773.com

kpang@tribune.com

Twitter @pang