Who will speak for sketch? When it’s all over, when the theaters are empty, when the stand-ups scatter, the celebrities fly away and the improvisers jam out, who will speak for the hardest discipline to sustain in San Francisco? It was important to find a line-up of pure, uncut, Mario-Savio-meets-Frank-Chu Bay Area Grease, and, with a gun to my head, I chose Don’t Watch This Show LIVE! and Femikaze at the Eureka Theater. Both are two sterling paragons of regional ethos, although diametrically opposite: social ills vs. social thrills; subverting media vs. subverting medium; pounding pop culture vs. pounding Pop’s culture. One hits the nail on the head; the other hits it in the balls. How many analogies must I make to convey that these groups are as different as night and day? Wait, damn it!
Sketch is funny. It requires the imaginative iteration associated with stand up; the scheduling, team management and commitment of improv; and the potent presentation and booming projection of theater. Every entry is commendable, every run is herculean, and, especially in San Francisco, every step forward is a step away (all roads lead to Hollywood). A moment of silence for our sketch comedians.
You don’t get more San Francisco than Jules Posner, the show’s host and master of ceremonies: born and raised in the
Sunset ( ehm, Western Edition [actually “Western Addition”]), graduate of SFSU, and a bona fide Plaidy McBeardo. Jules charmed with tales of rakish slackerdom, recreational coolness and why white people love Montell Jordan and brunch (seemingly at his expense). There’s always an aire of humble servitude to hosting at SF Sketchfest; Jules Posner exemplified this trait, hilariously concise and graciously to the point.
Femikaze, a lovechild of Kelly Anneken and Isa Hopkins (2013’s Best Feminist Comedy Duo, East Bay Express), is what would happen if the plague from Y the Last Man occurred, and Amy Poehler continued the Upright Citizens Brigade with Angela Davis and Margaret Cho. Femikaze—as explained in a loving parody of “That’s Amore”—is anyone who calls out sexist bullshit, which the group enacted in record time with no punches pulled. Over a rapid-fire revue there was two spoons of sugar for one cup of medicine, blending dark satire with airy goofiness, pairing dense writing with broad (no pun intended) characterizations. As an lefty, affable grouch, it was rich and rewarding to see a fearless conviction; you have to earn your liberalism to be down with Femikaze’s sweet subversion.
Don’t Watch This Show LIVE’s didn’t just turn the tables on the preceding socio-political slice of life; it flipped the damn thing and set it on fire. The Headband Brigade oozed a sickly juice, sometimes literally, in an uproarious showcase of their monthly variety show. While fluids flew and bodies slammed over some of the sharpest, unruly writing I’ve ever enjoyed, the group’s acme sprung from an (over)commitment to cartoony tomfoolery. Every scene—live or taped—felt kinetic, spontaneous, multilayered, and textured with believable buffoons. Don’t Watch This Show LIVE, on paper, shouldn’t be as good as it was. A posse of straight, homogenous males making frivolous irreverence is a recipe for disaster (or at least an obtuse, douche amuse-bouche) but the troupe succeeds at true, pure, unfettered comedy.
Femikaze may or may not change an individual’s politics or gender bias and Don’t Watch This Show Live! may or may not challenge the status quo of mainstream comedy, but collectively they’re shouldering the Bay’s tradition of activism and absurdity, while making the festival’s namesake a lot less ironic.
- It’s hard to give praise to an individual in a show with two groups that are chocked with double-or-triple threat creators, but Matt Rath had a Midas touch in every scene. Pure gold.
- I applaud the intermediate music cues between sketches for both groups. Postscript silliness ushered respectable guffaws.
- “Wait, is OJ here” is becoming a rally query for my peers mid-performance. My laugh is the good luck stump from Showtime at the Apollo.
- The venue was pretty full for a Monday night. Good on you San Francisco, performers and friends thereof especially, for not letting the workweek get you down.
EDIT: Jules Posner is so San Francisco, we had a big blow up on social media about his origins (and general history):