SF Sketchfest Review: Porchlight, a Storytelling Series at Swedish American Hall, 1/22/16

by Marie Carney on January 26, 2016

Arline Klatte and Beth Lisick, your Porch Light hosts

Arline Klatte and Beth Lisick, your Porch Light hosts

I decided to attend Porch Light Storytelling Series on a whim, as often happens with me and Sketchfest. If I see more than one comedian I really like, in this case Moshe Kasher and Jackie Kashian, I’m pretty happy to try it out. I was also curious about Beth Lisick who wrote a couple of her short story collections I’ve read. The format also seemed like it would be generally likeable – two hosts and six people telling true life stories, what’s not to like about that?

Well, at first, everything. I had brought a friend to the show on blind faith and when it opened to some awkward improv from the hosts Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte I began to worry about how the evening would go. The idea was funny, but the execution was off. Then they brought out a guitarist/singer named Brad Davenport and he proceeded to play one of the most terrible songs I’ve ever heard. Or maybe it wasn’t that terrible, but my Sketchfest expectations are high, and he said he played at Largo, so I was expecting something funny and instead it was… I don’t know. Lame. Sorry. At this point I was really worried my friend was going to run out and/or disown me for making her come to this show.

But then Aparna Nancherla came out and she was absolutely wonderful telling a highly comedic story about one of the worst dates ever. I really thought I had the best worst date story in the bag, but no, she wins. This one was so hilariously terrible. Nancherla herself was completely charming and creative and renewed my hope for the evening. But when the next performer, Kyle Mizono  started my hope was dashed again. She had that awkward quiet nerd persona going on, and I just really hate when comedians put on something like that, especially since this one seemed like such a direct copy of Charlyne Yi. Though by the end of her story, about a humiliating experience meeting her hero multiple times at work, I felt differently. As I thought about it later the structure and telling of the story was so perfect. Awkward and off-putting at first, then neutral, then you kinda like it, then it was amazing. It was like the perfect crescendo of a story into pure enjoyment and understanding.

Then the first relatively well known comic came out, John Daly, and told a good story about an intense drug trip. The story started off really negative (even though he said he was telling the positive story) with severe depression while have Adrian Grenier as a roommate. I think I would have rather heard the story of how that happened. But the whole thing ended sweetly with the great imagery of him on acid, holding hands with a down syndrome 10 year old while ice skating.

Iris Haas-Biel was up next, and was a definite newcomer. She is 22 and a new comedian, just graduated from college. Watching her was like watching your funniest friend tell a story. She was good but not quite as polished as the other performers. There were a couple awkward moments when she called a friend in the audience by their real name by accident and in general the idea of her telling a story about hosting a house party while her parents were out of town when her parents were there listening. This girl definitely has balls, not only for subject matter, but to get up and do it at all.

Then my favorite Jackie Kashian came out and proceeded to tell the best story about her possibly crazy stepmother. The story was funny and interesting but most importantly it actually meant something. It was the only one that made me feel something and left me thinking about it after the fact.

Lastly, Moshe Kasher took the stage to extreme cheers and seemed to get more laughs and enthusiasm than he might have deserved. He is a funny man, but I felt like his material got better as he went but the laughs were intense right away. The story he told was about being so high I’m surprised he didn’t die, and the most trusting Berkeley cop and a lot of good luck. Mostly the story made me feel amazed that Kasher has made it to where he is today with so many things against him growing up. I don’t know if it’s a tribute to the american dream or white privilege at work. Really though I’m sure it’s a testament to his own hard work and determination with a fair amount of luck mixed in I’m sure.

Porch Light is definitely a fun show and interesting to see the different points of view you get, but I don’t know if I’ll be seeking it out since the whole experience is so hit or miss. Though if you are looking for a show where you don’t know what you are going to hear this is definitely a good one for you.

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