To the uninitiated, San Francisco’s Sketchfest is probably the most overwhelming 2 1/2 weeks out of the entire year, in terms of live entertainment booking. Its closest cousin is probably Austin’s SXSW festival, where you have a wide array of up-and-coming talent mixed with veterans, all playing some very intimate spots.
As a person that considers himself to be an expert of sorts on taste, I am going to sift through this year’s line-up, and let you know what you should be going to at this year’s Sketchfest. I will guide you through which Emmy winners or CSI corpses (both of which are well represented by this event), in my humble opinion, is most worthy of your hard earned dollar.
Friday, January 14th
Celebrity Autobiography at Marines Memorial Theater
Celebrity Autobiography is, well, exactly what they title says it is. It’s where famous people read from the autobiographies of other famous people. And, well, you end up with rather silly results. This year’s Sketchfest includes Will Forte, Rachael Harris, Laura Kightlinger, Eugene Pack, Joe Pantoliano, Dayle Reyfel, and Jonathan Silverman reading from books that could range from the brilliant & twisted Beneath The Underdog by Charles Mingus to the brilliant & twisted Here’s The Situation by Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino.
Porchlight is an awesome monthly event that is kind of like NPR’s This American Life. You basically get people from every walk of life telling stories, and each month it all relates to a particular theme. This is the first time this event has been done in with Sketchfest, so expect a lot of funnier stories to be told. Also, this is happening at The Purple Onion, one of that classic North Beach comedy clubs, and any excuse to check out the place that introduced Phyllis Diller to the world is a good thing.
Saturday, January 15th
Invite Them Up at Cobb’s Comedy Club
Delocated Witness Protection Program at Cobb’s Comedy Club
Yes, these are two different events at the same club on the same night. The first one is at 8 pm, and the second one is at 10:30 pm. They have virtually the same cast, right down to the same musical guest (AC Newman of Superconductor, as well as another band that isn’t nearly as famous called The New Pornographers) but they will be two completely different shows. Invite Them Up is a caberet-styled comedy show, whereas Delocated Witness Protection Program is, well, I’m not sure what is it, but we’ve got Mynx D’Meanor doing burlesque dancing, and you will learn that it’s way more interesting and less Diane Warren-y than when Cher tries to do it. (Also featuring Jon Glaser, Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, Todd Barry, Andrew Daly, Eugene Mirman, Larry Murphy, and more)
Here’s a clip from an old Invite Them Up. Sorry, Aziz Ansari won’t be there
Gentlemen’s Club with Bob Odenkirk at Eureka Theater
Controversial Statement: Bob Odenkirk is way funnier than David Cross. Enough said.
Will Franken/Dave Hill at The Purple Onion
You know how there are certain local bands that play all the time, and you know that they are great, but since they are always playing, you never go see them? Well, that’s kind of dumb. Will Franken is a local legend, and, yes he plays all the time, but that’s no excuse to not see him. Dave Hill is pretty good, too, and he’s not from around here.
Sunday, January 16th
The Dave Hill Explosion w/ Moby, Martha Plimpton, and Thao Nguyen at Cobb’s Comedy Club
What happens when you put together one of the most polarizing figures in pop music, a Goonie, and a well respected singer-songwriter, all under the banner of a guy nobody has ever heard of? A really awesome show, of course!
Monday, January 17th
Wednesday, January 19th
Kasper Hauser are another local secret. They are a local sketch comedy group that do edgy, yet hysterical stuff.
Thursday, January 20th
Friday January 21st
Mike Birbiglia is best known, to me at least, as the comedian that Ira Glass pulls out whenever he wants to add a touch of humor to his show. My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is his latest one man show, and this is the last preview before he takes it to the Great (Off-) White Way.
Thursday, January 20th
It’s Garry Shandling’s Show 25th Anniversary Tribute w/ Garry Shandling and Alan Zweibel, Hosted by Zach Braff at Castro Theater
Zach Braff is only here so he can take his rightful place as the second dreamiest person at Sketchfest. (Winner, by popular vote of me, is Kristen Schaal, of course!) I’m not sure what he has to do with It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, but it was one of the greatest shows in the history of television, and, well, to get to pick the brain of Alan Zweibel, one of the most successful comedy writers in television history (Just go to his Wikipedia page) and Garry Shandling, a comedy legend, is a treat in itself!
Friday, January 21st
WTF With Marc Moran at Cobb’s Comedy Club
Marc Moran is the closest sibling to the great comedians of the 1950’s. His as brash and honest approach to comedy is in line with Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. His podcast is consistently funny, and his guests on this live recording of the podcast include Bobcat Goldthwait, Maria Bamford, Will Franken, and Baron Vaughn, all amazing comedians that will match wits with their host successfully.
Greg Behrendt and Matt Nathanson present Maximum Volume at Cobb’s Comedy Club
Last year, Greg Behrendt brought his brilliant “Bring The Rock” show to Cobb’s, and this show promises to be a similar evening of music and song. Matt Nathanson is one of the most underrated funny men in pop music, and with Bobcat Goldthwait, Marc Maron, Brendon Small (DETHKLOKK!!!), and Brody Stevens guiding you through their musical life will be brilliant. (Remember, Bobcat Goldthwait opened for Nirvana at their last ever Bay Area show.)
Joke-e-oke with Harmon Leon at The Purple Onion
Karaoke meets Stand Up Comedy? I don’t get it either, but Harmon Leon wrote one of the greatest columns in the history of free newspapers: The Infiltrator, so let’s just trust that this will be awesome, OK?
Saturday, January 22nd
This is an old time radio show performed live on stage. Pretty awesome, right? Well, first I want to appeal to the music nerd, since that is the primary reason we are here. The incidental music for this event will be from the Andy Paley Orchestra. What did he do, you ask? Spongebob Squarepants and Ren & Stimpy!! The guy is a genius. The cast is still pretty insane for this, including most of the cast of Community, Colin Hanks, Neil Patrick Harris, Busy Phillips, Paul F Thomkins, and many more!
Theme Park at Eureka Theater
An full length improv event from the crew that puts on this whole thing. They take a single suggestion and turn it into a full length show. This kind of thing takes guts.
Sunday, January 23rd
Brian Henson: In Conversation With Neil Patrick Harris at Cobb’s Comedy Club
Who is Brian Henson? The son of Jim Henson, as well as the man that has been given control of the Henson empire. He grew up around Muppets, and understands them better than anyone else on Earth. He is going to be doing a live Muppet demonstration along side the greatest living entertainer, Neil Patrick Harris.
The Paul F Tompkins Show w/ Neil Patrick Harris, Gillian Jacobs, and musical guest Tom Brosseau
The Paul F Tompkins Show is a regular event in LA. Those folks are very lucky, because we only get it once a year. Last year’s was pretty amazing, and even if Tompkins just pulled people off the street to do his show with him, it would be pretty great. With Community’s Jacobs and the previously mentioned Harris, as well as up & coming singer/songwriter Tom Brosseau, this promises to be pretty epic.
Wednesday, January 26th
Michael Capozzola “Regurgitated”, Science Comedian Brian Malow at The Eureka Theater
Well, it is a Nerd’s Guide To Sketchfest. How could I miss a Science Comedian?
Friday, January 28th
RISK! with Kevin Allison at The Purple Onion
The State’s Kevin Allison has put together this show where popular comedians tell their most embarassing stories. One of them is Adam Savage, from Mythbusters, so you know this will be pretty awesome.
The Nerdist Podcast at Cobb’s Comedy Club
Chris Hardwick and I share a last name. He’s a lot funnier than I am, but I try really hard. Probably too hard. Back in high school, I used to be embarassed to share a last name with the host of Singled Out. In recent years, he’s definitely moved past that. He’s grown to become one of the smartest comedians in the business, and his show “The Nerdist Podcast” is one of the best things that you can get for free in the internet (legally).
Saturday, January 29th
More Chris Hardwick. We’ve also got his old Hard N Phirm collaborater, Mike Phirman. All this would be awesome enough, but we even have the greatest named band in history, Garfunkel & Oates!
Remember The State? The groundbreaking sketch comedy show on MTV? Well, after the show was canceled, four of the cast members had a fake variety show. It pretty much flopped. Why? Because it wasn’t The State. But, once we are removed from that time period, we have four very talented comedians that had a great show. This is your last shot to give them a last shot.
Sunday, January 29th
Inside Joke: “Saturday Night Live: The Originals” at Marines’ Memorial Theater
Another once in a lifetime experience. (There are about two more coming up in this list.) We’ve got three original cast members and one original writer from Saturday Night Live, which, despite that last 20 years or so of the show, was actually pretty amazing at one point in time. Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci), and writer Tom Davis will be giving a rare, in depth talk about one of the longest lasting shows in the history of TV.
Monday, January 31st
A Tribute To Airplane with Robert Hays, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker at The Castro Theater
The American Film Institute called it the 10th Funniest American Film ever. It’s a legendary piece of work, and possibly the most influential comedy of the 80’s that wasn’t John Hughes related. The film’s star and legendary writing team will be talking about the movie, in a conversation mediated by Chris Hardwick.
Tuesday, February 1st
James L. Brooks in Conversation: The SF Sketchfest Comedy Writing Award at The Castro Theater
One of the greatest comedy writers in Hollywood will be talking about his craft, and then presenting the critically acclaimed film “Spanglish.”
Wednesday, February 2nd
A Tribute To Murphy Brown with Candice Bergen and Diane English at The Castro Theater
Murphy Brown is a rare show that was of its time, but if it were on the air today, it would still be as popular. This witty, topical show was, in a strange way, a precursor to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. At the Castro Theater, we will be getting a glimpse into the show with the show’s star Candice Bergen and creator Diane English.
Saturday, February 5th
True Stories 25th Anniversary with David Byrne at The Castro Theater
The classic indie comedy narrated by David Byrne, and featuring a full soundtrack of popular Talking Heads’ classic songs is what is open for discussion at this event. David Byrne will be there to talk about this under-appreciated gem.
SF Sketchfest and Midnight Mass Present Idol Worship: An Evening with Cloris Leachman, Hosted by the very, very nervous Peaches Christ at The Castro Theater
I think the title says it all. Cloris Leachman is one of the funniest and coolest people ever living. And, since Peaches Christ is handling the event, there really is no telling what awesomeness will happen. We do know that a screening of Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety will be in store, though.