SF Sketchfest Review: Sara Benincasa & Kate Berlant at The Eureka Theater, 2/1/14

by Dakin Hardwick on February 2, 2014


A lot of people have a hard time with the notion of “feminist comedy.” A lot of people assume that it’s nothing more than a lot of jokes about men, and, well, not very funny. This double header at The Eureka Theater proves that entire notion to be wrong. This show featured two of the finest feminist comedians working the circuit today, and this set presented the genre in a way that would open the mind of the most prejudiced comedy fan.

Sara Benincasa had the unusual position of being both the host and the headliner. She “warmed up” the crowd with a 10 minute set of Sara being Sara, the most painfully open and honest comedian I have ever seen. With being on stage for barely a blink, she offered up a great deal about her relationship with her boyfriend, family, and culture. More than most people fit into an entire hour, she compressed in her warm up. And, of course, all of this was done with her working off a single napkin that had the word “ABORTION” on it as her notes.  Her closing set was much more of the same. She doesn’t really tell jokes as much as tells anecdotes that range from heart warming to laugh out loud funny. We learned about racism, sexism, college lesbianism, and much more in her time spent on that stage. She wears her heart firmly on her sleeve, and the whole world is a better place for it.

Benincasa did have many, many good words to say about Kate Berlant to introduce her. It’s amazing how much these two woman seem to adore each other, despite being very different types of comics. Benincasa does a very loose set. She travels from story to story at whim, and it almost feels like having coffee with a really funny friend. Berlant, on the other hand, has one of the tightest sets I’ve ever seen a comedian perform. I can’t compare her to any comic I’ve ever seen. Her style, which is basically when endless stream of consciousness barrage of jokes, feels closer to that of a great jazz player than a comic. She tells jokes like Ornette Coleman plays the sax. At first, you don’t really quite get where she’s going with it, but when she hits her punchlines, they hit like a ton of bricks. Only bricks of laughter, not actual bricks. Every movement, every breath, every odd way she contorted her body on stage left the audience rapt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single person hold a room together so tightly, all while doing one of the most surreal sets of comedy any human has ever done. Andy Kaufman would be proud of what his legacy brought.

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