“The Price is Right Theme” played over the PA and the lights dimmed. It was 10:15 p.m. and the second half of the Sketchfest Dozen double feature was about to begin, this time featuring Moshe Kasher and Jessi Klein.
The SF Sketchfest Dozen is a noble and novel concept. Twelve vetted new headliners from across the country perform over three weeks at the Punch Line, one of the most revered comedy clubs in the country. Internet clips and showcase performances can be too rigid. Television specials and hour-long club sets can suffer from inflated pressure, editing or unfocused filler. The Sketchfest Dozen provides a comfortable middle ground: thirty-plus minutes to make a true impression.
To host the bespectacled comedy block was Edwin Li, a Bay Area favorite. Li, a child prodigy of sorts, starting comedy at 14-years-old, retained a fair amount of boyish charm as an adult. The assertively shy, rebelliously sensitive comic exuded a classic late-night flair; Edwin Li provided traditional, joke-driven, respectably off-color humor mired in pop culture and awkwardness.
As polite and condensed as Edwin Li was, Moshe Kasher stood at the other end of the valley, cackling like a madman. Kasher, an Oakland native, delivered venomous vitality and magnetic eloquence akin to a power chord played underwater. Constantly surging, the sardonic comedian never let up, speaking in a staccato cadence and emitting a hyper-awareness that measured and alerted the audience of their failure to appreciate his brand of brilliance. A group in the front was riffed into a time rift, becoming Midsummeresque fodder for Kasher to paint absurdly profane grotesque imagery. “The moments I enjoy in the set are not the moments you enjoy,” pronounced the comic pensively. Kasher enjoyed leaving the crowd in the dust with his machine gun of references, verbose vocabulary and jaunty gesticulations. It was a chortled filled murder spree.
New York’s Jessi Klein lowered the lights, touching the night with cool irreverence. The superb storyteller used her time to explain the ups and downs of thirtysomething single life with rising and falling sarcasm. Jessi Klein’s quaint honesty remained objective, equally critical of her own shortcomings as of the world’s weird fallout. A writer by trade, Klein crafted each story with poise, polish, and attention-to-detail using off-kilter diction and cadence to turn watery words into bubbly worlds. Even as her allegories took goofy hairpin turns, the exaggerations sounded plausible and expressed an underlying truth. Or perhaps a lying truth…