Sketchfest Review: Will Franken/Drennon Davis (2/4/2012)

by OJ Patterson on March 19, 2012

by Jakub Mosur/Leslie Winchester

San Francisco has a cloudy yet storied history of nurturing eclectic, eccentric geniuses. The tradition spans from Irwin Corey to Ron Lynch to Brent Weinbach and every sideways side-splitter in between. Many are unsung, underexposed and uncompromised: the inspiration for peers with wider appeal and fans with sharp hearts and heads. Festivals, artistic hodepodge, are optimal for such comedians, an extended focus for latest convolutions and tinkerings in front of fertile or familiar audiences. Will Franken and Drennon Davis, two locally brewed humorists of the aforementioned ilk, evoked the spirit of a sentient armchair: alarmingly absurd, wonderfully witty, warm and comfortable.

“The Burden of Beauty: Professor Pretty’s Primer”, is a loquacious non sequitur-titled play presenting the latest portal into Will Franken’s inner workings. Staggered mockery abound, the piece mocked minions of manufactured consent, mocked those who would appreciate that reference, mocked itself and also the very farce of mockery. Franken, San Francisco’s resident mad scientist and raging satirist, utilized trademark versatility in abundance. Renown for jump cuts and tart characters, he bucked human’s lust for association, repetition and patterns. Invisible instruments “emitted” disjointed notes creating perfectly conspired paradoxes. Lush, BoPET silliness was smushed against scathing parody and distilled through social ills of race and class. Strange brew. To shoehorn an off-season allusion, Franken darted bullets down various avenues, poised as a Manning in the pocket (sorry Alex Smith). “This city was built on homeless and cum,” said the lengthy iconoclast, resting in one of his many moods, modes and poses. A self-aware gradient of hi-and-lo-brow proclamations revealed Franken’s true profession: social engineer. In an elaborate exercise Franken fabricated his own standing ovation, mixed to perfection, as only he could/would/should. Without pandering, “Professor Pretty’s Primer” adhered to a certain logic for a specific span of laughter to the benefit of very peculiar people.

Drennon Davis possesses a love/hate relationship with music. More accurately, he loves music’s nuanced charm and hates the radio’s abrasive mediocrity. The comedian/musician spun his particular paradigm into a soundscape of laughs. All airwaves are invisible but Davis amplified the doubly omnipresent with “The Imaginary Radio.

A tried and true prankster embodying straight-faced shag, Davis mounted an alter of audio-defiling gadgets. Loop petals filtered through reverb, which filtered through computers, which filtered through something else of equal complexity. Various affects sprang from the effects: laughter, joy, wonderment. “Imaginary Radio” possessed an inclusive scope, swiping at everything buzzing over its head. All the common commentaries were present: jazz & public radio is boring, pop music is remedial and Latin music is prolifically programmed. These are the accumulative opinions of popular culture on popular culture akin to Kevin Smith films and Grand Theft Auto’s radio universe. Nevertheless, Drennon Davis’ meticulous mastery and narrative deftness provided the show’s power. Each joke pointed concisely to recognizable tropes and earworms. Projected, cartoony illustrations splashed the background with added synergy and emersion. Musical send ups of banal topics through mutated genre parodies slid infectiously through the staticky, kinetic fray. Remarkably, even with potential calamity lurking through the Eureka Theater’s darken cavity, the illusion never faltered; Drennon Davis oozed cool.

Monique Moreau, buddying comedian-pianist, added steam and ivory, a charming sidekick to Davis’ smirking anti-heroics. The tandem’s chemistry rejuvenated old bits and nurtured new ones with one-two, beat-piano gallivanting.

“Imaginary Radio” didn’t claim superiority over its listeners. Davis was not a megalomaniac disc jockey despot. Everything portrayed was relative, a battle royale of tastes on the tips of tongues with refined palettes. It’s rare to see the manifestation of another’s pronounced imagination, with Davis it only required the turn of the dial.

OJ Patterson

OJ Patterson is a Bay Area Native, who grew up on a diet of scathing satire and absurd surrealism. He is a comedy writer, performer and promoter. He has the best laugh in the room and loves you very much. Serving Size = 1.

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