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Chicago Comedy Film Fest finds it’s no laughing matter

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When: Friday through Sunday

Where: DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media, 247 S. State

Tickets: Prices vary


Updated: December 3, 2012 6:06AM

‘Dying is easy,” as the saying goes. “Comedy is hard.”

So is staging an all-comedy movie orgy. Jessica Hardy knows this first-hand.

As director of the fledgling Chicago Comedy Film Festival — which is back for its second edition Friday through Sunday — she realized early on that sustaining such an undertaking would require a good bit of creativity, inventiveness and resourcefulness.

“The first year was very difficult,” she admits.

Not least of all financially. Because CCFF’s budget of less than $10,000 isn’t much to work with, the expanding event relies in large part on marketing help, strategic cross promotion and corporate partnerships.

“But I’ve always been a spearheading director-producer by nature,” Hardy adds. “So I didn’t feel I couldn’t do it again.”

This time around, besides featuring another slew of indie films (35) that range in length from two to 88 minutes, CCFF is working on getting an Internet “channel” up and running so those films can enjoy an extended shelf life beyond any limited theatrical releases that follow this weekend’s screenings.

“It’s a struggle,” Hardy says of the movie business in general. “It’s a struggle for comedy especially, and that’s why we’re doing this.”

Aside from being a potential (if modest) moneymaker for CCFF, the online presence also could spur distribution deals by making the films more visible to a wider audience that would potentially include industry big shots.

Says Hardy, “This is definitely just another means to an end for these filmmakers.”

A couple of the roughly 50 on CCFF’s 2012 roster include Allegra Huston and Caytha Jentis. Descended from Hollywood royalty, Huston is the daughter of late and legendary director John Huston and the younger sister of distinguished thespian Anjelica Huston — onetime girlfriend of actors Jack Nicholson and Ryan O’Neal. Her 15-minute film, “Good Luck, Mr. Gorski,” kicks off the festival Friday and stars veteran Chicago actor and former Sun-Times staffer Gary Houston.

The latest retelling of an urban legend is based on a phrase that is erroneously reported to have been uttered by astronaut Neil Armstrong at his 1969 moon landing and the sexual act that supposedly was promised to Armstrong’s supposed neighbor, “Mr. Gorski” (or “Gorsky,” as it is also spelled), by Gorski’s wife “if the kid next door walks on the moon.”

“This was just a chance to play a title role in a short,” says Houston, who is in his mid-60s and also appeared in the award-winning film “Fargo.” “I love to play a central role in anything, because I’m still a young man trying to make it.” (That’s a joke, folks.)

Chicago-bred actor and Western Illinois University grad Michael Boatman (“Spin City,” “Arli$$”) touches on his own greenhorn days when he talks about his CCFF film “Bad Parents,” which sends up sports-crazed mothers and fathers, and closes the festival Saturday.

Raised near 76th and Halsted before moving to Harvey in his teens, Boatman plays a man who’s desperate to be the head coach of his young daughter’s soccer team — and settles for an assistant role.

“I’m a little nervous, because I’ve told so many people about the movie and all the crazy characters,” says Boatman en route to L.A. from New York, where he lives an hour north of Manhattan with his wife of nearly two decades and their four children. Shuttling to soccer practice and other activities is part of his fatherly duties when he’s not on a movie shoot or in L.A. working on Charlie Sheen’s sitcom “Anger Management.”

“What a lot of them don’t know is that while I was telling them, I was thinking, ‘And you are that guy.’ ”

Here’s what else Boatman had to say.

Q. Is there a wide chasm between you and your character?

A. I could relate to everything that Gary [his character] experienced. There’s a horrible moment where he chooses to really humiliate himself, but with the aim of securing his daughter’s place on the soccer team. And while the crew was laughing hysterically while I was doing this moment, there is a part of me as a person that [went], ‘God, would I ever do this? Maybe I would, if it made my kid happy.’”

Q. Have you curbed any of his own behavior through what you discovered while playing this character?

A. I did find myself backing off of some of the more competitive elements of myself as a parent. It really is about the kids. It’s not about your raising of the kids or how well you did or the things that you were able to provide those kids.

Q. Competition is good for kids to a degree, isn’t it?

A. To a degree. [But] my son plays baseball, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a kid miss a play, stumble, drop the ball because a parent was yelling at them on the sidelines, “You were supposed to go left!” and the kid goes, “huh?” and then gets nailed by 12 other players because he was hearing his parents shrieking on the sidelines. Now I try to go and be a little more zen and a little calmer about it.

Q. Do you have to stuff a sock in your mouth?

A. If by sock you mean a bottle of Jack Daniels (laughs).

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