The theme of this year’s Bentzen Ball comedy festival is, well, themes. “A lot of the shows are special, one-of-a-kind shows with themes,” says Svetlana Legetic, founder of Brightest Young Things, which produces the event. “We really felt it would be fun to push ourselves creatively, instead of booking shows in a straightforward fashion.” For Bentzen Ball’s fourth edition since 2009, each show has some unifying factor: the format, the topic or the lineup. Tying the whole event together, as usual, is the festival’s curator, comedian Tig Notaro, who’ll arrive in Washington on the heels of her first HBO special and documentaries on Netflix and Showtime. Read on for a rundown of this year’s Bentzen Ball slate.

‘Dr. Katz’ Live
Lincoln Theatre 1215 U St. NW; Thu., 8 p.m., sold out.
Theme: ‘Dr. Katz’
Performers: Jonathan Katz, Jim Gaffigan, Janeane Garofalo, Morgan Murphy, Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne.
What it is: A live staging of the seminal Comedy Central cartoon “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.”

NOT FUNNY! True Tales of the Hilariously Tragic
Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW; Fri., 8 p.m., $20 in advance, $25 on Friday.
Theme: Tragedy plus time equals comedy.
Performers: Vijai Nathan, Adam Ruben, Jacqueline Novak, Allison Steinberg, Phill Branch, Phoebe Robinson, Sara Armour, Graham Campbell and Amy Saidman.
What it is: A storytelling show (produced by Story District) with (mostly) local over-sharers and comedians telling funny stories about horrible things.

The Bosom Buddies Mmmystery Show!
Lincoln Theatre, Fri., 8 p.m., $25.
Theme: Surprises!
Performers: Mary Lynn Rajskub, Karen Kilgariff, Drennon Davis, Morgan Murphy, John F. O’Donnell, Tig Notaro and more.
What it is: A stand-up showcase presented by Planned Parenthood (the festival’s nonprofit partner) that promises some unannounced special guests, a set from Notaro and unexpected antics. It’s the
kind of show guaranteed to give you FOMO.

You, Me, Them, Everybody! Live
Wonderland Ballroom, 1101 Kenyon St. NW; Fri., 7:30 p.m., $5 suggested donation at the door (must to be 21 or older to attend)
Theme: Locals.
Performers: Brandon Wetherbee hosts with help from Allison Lane; guests include: Gavin Holland, Ian Abramson and Haywood Turnipseed Jr.; Jessy Morner-Ritt and Norm Quarrinton are the warmup acts; Ryan Little serves as house band.
What it is: Wetherbee, BYT’s managing editor, hosts a special edition of his popular live talk show/podcast (which turns 6 this year) that will put a spotlight on local performers including comedian Haywood Turnipseed Jr., DJ/producer Gavin Holland and musician Ryan Little.

Seven Minutes in Purgatory
DC Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW; Sat., 3:30 p.m., $15.
Theme: Putting comedians through hell.
Performers: Ian Abramson, Nore Davis, Brett Gelman, Steven Wilber, Morgan Murphy, John F. O’Donnell and more.
What it is: For the Bentzen Ball’s first-ever show at the DC Improv,
comedian and The Onion contributor Ian Abramson guides comics into a soundproof room and asks them to perform their set while the audience watches a live feed in a different room. It’s a bizarre, high-concept comedy show that’s the equivalent of eavesdropping on stand-ups while they practice their routines in front of a mirror.

The Show of No Return
Lincoln Theatre; Sat., 10 p.m., $25.
Theme: Getting weird.
Performers: Tim Heidecker, Brett Gelman, Wham City Comedy, Motherknuckle, Church Night.
What it is: If you’re not already familiar with Adult Swim regulars Brett Gelman and Tim Heidecker (of “Tim and Eric” fame), this show probably isn’t for you. Both actors/comedians lean on the extreme side of alt-comedy, delivering odd, alienating and often unpredictable sets. If you’re already a fan of Gelman and Heidecker, you’ll enjoy the bonus bizarre performances from Baltimore weirdos Wham City Comedy and the equally strange D.C.-based troupes Motherknuckle and Church Night.

The Most Very Specialest Evening With Tig Notaro
Lincoln Theatre; Sun., 8 p.m., sold out.
Theme: Tig Notaro.
Performers: Notaro and some very special friends.
What it is: The festival’s final show features a full stand-up set from Notaro, the woman who makes the Ball happen every year.

More on this year’s Bentzen Ball: