A Nerd’s Guide To Sketchfest 2014

by Dakin Hardwick on January 17, 2014

Florence Henderson in a sleeping in a nighty, while a dog eats pizza. Just one of the many things you will see live on stage at this year's Sketchfest.

Florence Henderson in a sleeping in a nighty, while a dog eats pizza. Just one of the many things you will see live on stage at this year’s Sketchfest.

Wouldn’t it be great if cloning was already a thing? So we could be at 8 places at once and not have to decide which Sketchfest events you are going to? Well, until science improves greatly, we are stuck with one body and being in one place at a time. Because of this trouble, I have taken the time to dissect the entire Sketchfest schedule and help you out by highlighting the best of the fest. A complete schedule and tickets can be purchased here. A lot of shows have already sold out, and more shows are selling out every day, so don’t forget to purchase in advance!

Thursday, January 23rd

A Conversation with Tenacious D – Castro Theater at 9:30 pm

Tenacious D are getting the Sketchfest tribute treatment (which by the transitive properties of tributes will surely be passed to the greatest song in the world), which means they’ll get on stage with Paul F Tompkins and tell some stories, show some clips, and almost certainly play a set of music. Heck, Kyle may even quit the band! Fans of “The D” should not miss this event. It’s currently “sold out” but there will be tickets at the door. (Gordon Elgart)

For: Music Nerds

Friday, January 24th

Wits with John Moe – Marines’ Memorial Theater at 7:30 pm

It’s a classic variety show for the NPR set. Which means, of course, it’s a variety show for people not used to seeing the people they are being entertained by, so this could be a little weird. Nonetheless, we’ve got some of the smartest and funniest people in the world on this stage, including music from Nellie McKay and Loudon Wainwright III and comics Paget Brewster, Eugene Mirman and Paul F Tompkins for a wonderful evening of conversation, music, and more.

For: NPR Nerds, Music Nerds

Dead Authors Podcast with Paul F Tompkins and Thomas Lennon – Brava Theater at 10 pm

Ever wanted to know what it would be like if HG Wells had a podcast where he traveled through time to have conversations with some of the most influential writers of all time? Well, it exists, and is very engrossing.

For: Literature Nerds

Saturday, January 25th

Farewell to Futurama – Marines’ Memorial Theater at 1 pm

When was the last time a TV show was pulled back, not from the brink of cancellation, but actually revived after being off the air for five years? And for those rare shows that find new life and a new home, how many can boast that some of their best work was produced AFTER its return (looking at you, Family Guy)? Join beloved voice actors Billy West, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, and Phil LaMarr for what will begin as a spirited Q&A session but will quickly devolve into people just asking the panel to say funny things in funny voices. (Mitch Kocen)

For TV Nerds, Animation Nerds, Funny Voices Nerds

Nellie McKay with Tom Brosseau – Verdi Club at 8 pm

Regular Spinning Platters readers probably have picked up on my personal love of the works of Nellie McKay. She is a singer/songwriter that lives merges together the sounds of classic jazz and pop with a very modern level of insight. She has written songs about such dark topics as animal testing, warfare, and the death penalty, and injects them with a gently touch of humor really helps hit the message home without coming off overly preachy. LA folk singer Tom Brosseau will be warming up the crowd.

For: Music Nerds

Bayside Myself – Brava Studio at 8 pm

Classic Saved By The Bell episodes selected at random and reinacted by a cast of comedians whose roles are also selected at random. What’s not to like?

For: TV Nerds, 90’s Retro Nerds

Sunday, January 26th

w00tstock Founders’ Night 3: Day Of The Founders – Marines’ Memorial Theater at 1 pm

w00tstock is simple. It’s a night packed with wall-to-wall geekery, featuring some real, live, bona fide nerds. Paul and Storm, whose albums include Opening Band and Do You Like Star Wars? often bring it with some of their hilarious nerd culture themed music. Last year, Adam Savage, part of the MythBusters crew, lent an air of legitimacy to the whole night, giving a talk on quantifying the hilariousness of a dick-shaped poop on the road. If poop jokes and songs about George R.R. Martin sound like something you could see yourself enjoying, then w00tstock is for you. (Jessica Lachenal)

For: Geeky Nerds, Book Nerds, Science Nerds

The Watkins Family Hour – Marines’ Memorial Theater at 8 pm

I am very rarely jealous of the people of LA. The only thing they have that I wish we had was Largo. It’s a room devoted to music and comedy that almost always puts big stars into a small room. Once a month, they have something called “The Watkins Family Hour.” This show is hosted by Sara and Sean Watkins, formerly of Nickel Creek, one of the greatest bands ever. They have a revolving cast of their famous friends showing up, often times totally unannounced. In the past this has included greats like Fiona Apple, Jon Brion, and Sarah Silverman, just to name a few. This set is already pretty nicely loaded up with scheduled appearances by Paul F Tompkins, Loudon Wainwright III, and Tom Brousseau sitting in, and will there be more? You’ll only know if you buy a ticket.

For: Music Nerds, Nerds That Think They Are Too Cool For A Prairie Home Companion

Monday, January 27th

Wheels Off with Rhett Miller – Yoshi’s – San Francisco at 8 pm

Rhett Miller is the lead singer of popular rock band Old 97’s. On the surface, he’s a serious musician with the most hypnotic guitar playing style ever. However, upon deeper listening, you’ll learn the guy is funny as can be. He’s doing his own version of the classic variety show, and he is bringing with him John Doe from the legendary punk band X and the king of Sketchfest, Mr Paul F Tompkins.

For: Music Nerds

Wednesday, January 29th

The Business – Dark Room at 8 pm

There are two cliques of comics that pretty much own San Francisco: The Business and Sylvan Productions. Both of them are all over Sketchfest, with Caitlin Gill, Nato Green, Sean Keane, Anna Seregina and Bucky Sinister taking over Dark Room in order to cause the masses to laugh quite a bit.

For: Comedy Nerds, Nerds That Shop Locally

Thursday, January 30th

SF Sketchfest Comedy Nightlife – California Academy of Sciences 6-10 pm

So, if you can only go to one Sketchfest event, this is the most economical way to go. It’s kind of like a “best of” the fest happening in one night for only $12, and it’s one of the neatest rooms in San Francisco. We have a recording of Dork Forest with Jackie Kashian, Competitive Erotic Fan SCIENCE Fiction with Bryan Cook, Roderick on the Line with John Roderick and Merlin Mann, You’re The Expert Podcast with Chris Duffy, and stand up sets from Jon Glaser, Todd Glass, Josh Gondelman, Myq Kaplan, David Gborie, Caitlin Gill, Sean Keane, Jesse Elias, Matt Lieb, Mary Van Note, Ever Mainard, Janet Varney and more. You can’t lose with this! There is also booze, penguins, and the threat of actually learning something!

For: Science Nerds, Math Nerds, Nerds On A Budget

Friday, January 31st

You’re Whole – Brava Theater at 7:30 pm

If you’ve ever stayed up late watching terrible infomercials you’ll find something special in You’re Whole, part of Comedy Central’s “Adult Swim” lineup. Michael Ian Black (The State, assorted VH1 specials) really dives into You’re Whole, creating the unflinchingly optimistic persona of Randall Tyree Mandersohn, a fully-blind relationship guru/hypnotist/cookie baker. Joined by fellow State alum Michael Showalter, RISK! audiences will be subjected to a live version of the pitch-perfect self-help infomercial parody. In You’re Whole, you’ll discover a wonderland of bizarre advice, awkward pauses and the aforementioned cookies. (Mitch Kocen)

For: TV Nerds, Self-Help Nerds

Singin’ and Pingin’: an American Tripps Berlin-Style Ping-Pong Party and DJ Purple Karaoke – Rickshaw Stop at 8 pm

I saw this for the first time ever at Outside Lands last Summer. The Ping Pong Party consisted of, simply, a bunch of people dancing around a ping pong table, occasionally hitting a ball with a paddle. At the same time, DJ Purple is nurturing the karaoke stage, nurturing the ultimate karaoke dance party. I had an obscene amount of fun, including performing a rousing rendition of “Ignition (Remix)” that got all of the ladies screaming. I may do an encore of this performance again, which may be the best reason for you to go to this.

For: Music Nerds, Avant Garde Sports Nerds

Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction – Brava Theater at 10 pm (also Saturday, February 1st, 10:30pm, Verdi Club)

This event is everything your mother warned you about the internet. Yeah, it’s dirty. It’s raunchy. More than that, it’s erotic stories featuring your childhood. Nothing is sacred here, and it is sure to leave you wondering just how far are these comedians willing to go to take everything you loved as a kid (and let’s face it, love as an adult too) and make you want to sleep with it. And come on, haven’t you ever wondered about things like what Kermit the Frog’s penis looks like, or if any of the Power Rangers would survive a night at the Armory?

You haven’t? Uh, yeah. Me neither. (Jessica Lachenal)

For: Pop Culture Nerds, Curious Nerds, Not Your Mother.

Saturday, February 1st

The Greatest Event In Festival History – Cobb’s Comedy Club at 4 pm

Adam Scott is the man that every nerd boy wants to be and every nerd girl wants to be with. Tonight he is working with filmmaker Lance Bangs (Jackass, Odd Future) to recreate the opening credits to many popular TV shows from the 70’s & 80’s.

For: TV Nerds

The Girls – Yoshi’s San Francisco at 8 pm & 10 pm

A straightforward folk-rock trio performing cover renditions of pop songs seems like an odd choice for a comedy festival, but not when the group features none other than the howlingly funny Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men). Brie is joined by Cyrina Fiallo, Julianna Guill to provide a glorious combination of jokes, banter and actually really great music. Their angelic harmonies carry fresh versions of songs from Weezer, Bruce Springsteen and Brie’s Community Co-star Childish Gambino. It’s a music act featuring funny people, as opposed to a comedy music act, providing an intersection for music lovers and comedy fans. (Mitch Kocen)

For: TV Nerds, Music Nerds

Dark Room Showcase – Dark Room at Midnight

The whole reason Sketchfest existed in the first place is to spotlight the fantastic sketch comedy groups in the Bay Area. Tonight you will get to enjoy The Dress Up Gang, Duchess Riot and Robber Barons, with between show banter by the great Andrew Holmgren. If you have any appreciation for sketch comedy, this is the show to go to.

For: Sketch Comedy Nerds, Nerds That Buy Locally

Wednesday, February 5th

NPR’s Ask Me Another – The Castro Theatre at 8 pm

NPR’s Ask Me Another is the latest in a long line of NPR game shows, but rather than the current events of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, this one relies on word games and trivia. It’s less sketch comedy than it is a lively pub trivia night, it still fits because of Sketchfest’s seeming desire to have all the podcasts. Ophira Eisenberg hosts, and she is joined by puzzle gurus like Art Chung or John Chaneski who devise the fun puzzles. Always featured is house musician Jonathan Coulton, who asks the musical puzzles, and each episode has a Very Important Puzzler, a celebrity who gets to play along. And if the fine people at Ask Me Another happen to be picking contestants while reading Spinning Platters, my name is spelled Gordon Elgart. (Gordon Elgart)

For: NPR Nerds, Trivia Nerds, Puzzle Nerds, Straight Up Nerds

Mission CTRL and The Best Of Craigslist – Eureka Theater at 8 pm

The Best of Craigslist is a pretty genius idea for a show: simply using Craigslist as the source material for sketch inspiration. And, if you’ve ever read Craigslist, you’ll understand why this is genius.

For: Internet Nerds

Footloose: 30th Anniversary Sing and Dance Along – Rickshaw Stop at 8 pm

Footloose changed my life when I was very, very young. I still firmly believe that dancing can unite a town. I also learned everything I know about dancing from Kevin Bacon’s role in this film.

For: Movie Nerds, 80’s Nostalgia Nerds, Taking Down The System Nerds

Thursday, February 6th

Inside Inside Amy Schumer – Marines’ Memorial Theater at 8 pm

Inside Amy Schumer is one of the smartest shows on television. It’s a brilliant satire, and it’s star Amy Schumer is one of the funniest women on earth. She doesn’t tour as much as she used to, so this is a very, very special event that should bot be missed.

For: TV Nerds

Friday, February 7th

Talkies with George Chen and Anna Seregina – Cinecave at Lost Weekend Video at 8 pm

Talkies is a regular feature at Cinecave, the amazing place where people still rent movies and there is an underground comedy club hiding inside a video store. Talkies is a show where comics are encouraged to utilize video, powerpoint, and improv in addition to the regular stand up act. Tonight’s show features Jesse Elias, Miles K, Matt Knudsen, Clare O’Kane, and Land Smith.

For: Multimedia Nerds, Performance Art Nerds

Saturday, February 8th

Fancy Meeting You Here – The Contemporary Jewish Museum beginning at 11am with tours starting every 20-30 minutes

I’m sure you, like me, have been meaning to visit The Contemporary Jewish Museum. I hear it’s great. However, I think it may be made better by getting shown around by the wonderfully droll Dave Hill and Carl Arnheiter. They are switching off doing tours, with tours running every 20 minutes or so, so you’ll never have to wait too long to enjoy a trip to the museum.

For: History Nerds, Art Nerds

“Top Secret” 30th Anniversary – Castro Theatre at 1 pm

In my own humble opinion, the team of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker are the greatest filmmaking team in history. Top Secret is one of their finest moments, probably second to only Airplane! in terms of pure creativity and jokes per minute. This afternoon, we are treated to a rare screening of this fine film, as well as a conversation with the folks that made this movie. If you ever had a chance to catch the previous Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker screenings in past years, you’ll learn that these guys are funnier in person than on screen, making the talk the best part of the event.

For: Film Nerds

Celebrity Autobiography: Music Edition – Marines’ Memorial Theater at 4 pm & 7 pm

First, the line up for this thing is ridiculous. I mean, Pamela Adlon, Rachel Dratch, Florence Henderson, Michael Hitchcock, Laraine Newman, Eugene Pack, Dayle Reyfel and Fred Willard all on one bill? It’s like the funniest people in the history of comedy all together. And they are reading from the autobiographies of famous musicians! I don’t know who is reading what, but I’d love to hear Carol Brady read from Motley Crue The Dirt: Confessions of The World’s Most Notorious Rock Bands.

For: Comedy Nerds, Music Nerds, Literature Nerds

Bring The Rock with Greg Behrendt and The Reigning Monarchs – Cobb’s Comedy Club at 10:30 pm

This is one of my all time favorite shows. It’s really good! Comedians tell a story about an experience with a band or a song, and then they perform that song or a song by the band with The Reigning Monarchs. The Reigning Monarchs, of course, are an amazing surf/ska band from LA. The comics are Bridget Everett, Bobcat Goldthwait, Chris Hardwick, Karen Kilgariff and Matt Nathanson. It’s going to be amazing.

For: Music Nerds

One Star with Thomas Lennon and Matt Mira – Eureka Theater at 10:30 pm

The State’s Thomas Lennon and Nerdist’s Matt Mira are tackling one of the most controversial areas on the internet: One Star Yelp Reviews. Lennon and Mira will be doing sketches inspired by these One Star Yelp reviews, and it will be amazing. Simply amazing!

For: No Specific Type Of Nerd, I Just Think This Will Be Good.

Sunday, February 9th

Shakes The Clown Live – Cobb’s Comedy Club at 4 pm

Shakes The Clown is the first full length feature film written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. It’s a deeply dark comedy about an alcoholic clown that didn’t find much of an audience in 1991 when it was released, but is one great movie that’s pretty messed up in more ways than one. (This film makes Bad Santa feel like a The Lion King) This afternoon, we get to enjoy a live reading of the script by the original stars, including Goldthwait, Julie Brown, Florence Henderson, and more.

For: Film Nerds, 90’s Retro Nerds

Princess – Mezzanine at 8 pm

This show sold out in like 35 seconds last year when it was booked at the smaller Yoshi’s. This is Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum doing the music of Prince. It’s better than seeing the real Prince because these ladies still do the x-rated material. Buy a ticket STAT!

For: Music Nerds, Kitsch Nerds

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