Sketchfest is always fun. It’s even better, though, when I get to see Greg Behrendt, and most of all when it’s for Bring the Rock, as was the case for the final weekend of Sketchfest 2016 at Swedish American Hall. It’s even sweeter than usual, though, because it marks my fifth anniversary with Spinning Platters: I first met editor-in-chief Gordon Elgart at a similar event in 2011. It was called Maximum Volume, but the premise was the same, and any chance I have to be there when an event like this takes place, I’m not gonna miss it.
The evening began with our lovely host Behrendt telling the crowd that we’d lost a legend, and wanted to do a little tribute with the evening’s band (Mike Eisenstein on guitar, Dave Gibbs on bass, Mark Rivers on drums, and Natalie Angiuli on keys). Before it started, however, we got a few little “sike!” moments: first, “The Man Who Sold the World” (David Bowie), “Hotel California” (The Eagles/remembering Glenn Frey), and “Interstate Love Song” (Stone Temple Pilots, remembering Scott Weiland). Finally, the song they actually played was Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades,” after which Behrendt remarked something along the lines of “thank God Alan Rickman wasn’t in a band!” Well played tribute, guys.
Next, Behrendt wanted to address the elephant in the room: the scarf he wore. Yes, it was chilly outside, but that wasn’t why. It was because “I’m 52 and I didn’t feel like ironing my neck tonight!” He followed this comment up with a story of his recent battle with cancer (which he beat, thankfully). In the US, he was repeatedly diagnosed with gas; it wasn’t until he had a gig in Australia that he discovered he had cancer. One of the upsides to cancer? “Drugs are one of them,” Behrendt declared, followed by a story about his journey back to the states, in first class. He asked his seatmate to keep an eye on him and make sure he wasn’t taking too many pills. His seatmate turned out to be Switchfoot drummer Chad Butler, who helped Behrendt from the plane to bag check before telling him he loved him and would pray for him. Evidently, Behrendt reached down to retrieve his bag from the carousel, and in the split second it took him to lift it, Butler had vanished: no throng of people for him to have disappeared into, nothing. “Did I hallucinate the drummer from Switchfoot?”
The story was followed by Behrendt’s profession of how much he liked LL Cool J when he was young. “I met him once on Conan, and he smiled at me, and I walked into a wall.” (Well, I’ve seen him in person too, and he is really beautiful. I just happened to be outdoors with no walls near me to walk into, so I get it.) Anyway, “he had a song I fucking dug. I like to think of it as me…” Behrendt went on to point out some of the song’s (“I’m That Type of Guy”) choicest lyrics “biting my chunk.” (“Is your penis a rectangularly-shaped candy bar?”) “I’m that type of guy that says ‘the puddin’ is delicious'” (“it is an excellent snack, an underrated dessert, and the only dessert you can eat and spit out and eat again, and it tastes exactly the same!”) Behrendt and the band then performed what he called a “rockabilly version” of LL Cool J’s “I’m That Type of Guy,” starting with “welll…..” as he had pointed out that nearly all rockabilly songs do. (“Did you ever notice…?”)
The evening’s first guest was Andy Kindler, who said he couldn’t make Sketchfest last year because his dad had just passed away. “He would’ve wanted me to do weak comedy about his passing…” He explained his history of bad band names (First “merging traffic,” then “the visitors,” and “trans fusion,” which they interpreted as beyond fusion, but was typically incorrectly assumed to be a heavy metal outfit), and that he “fell in love with Dylan and fell in love with LSD,” adding that he “loved how angry he was.” Kindler’s song pick was “Idiot Wind,” which he called a “way to process anger and get it out.” He “still had problems,” he said, but he was able to “put it together for that minute,” which is why he believed the song to be among the “greatest lyrics and songs of all time.”
Behrendt returned to introduce his next guest, acknowledging the good crowd by saying, “we’re gonna get some shit done tonight!” Then he proceeded to bring up the quirky and adorable Kate Micucci, who I know from both Scrubs and The Big Bang Theory. Anyway, she began by saying what a dork she was in high school: “I was not cool: I cried a lot because I missed my mom and dad.” She further explained that they were at work, and they were fine, they just weren’t physically present with her when she was at school. Evidently she wound up in the counselor’s office frequently enough that, eventually he’d just give her a tissue and a Werther’s Original and coax her back to class. She then told a story about how she had gotten the Top Gun soundtrack for Christmas (her first cd), and it had come in one of those big cardboard box cases cds used to come in. For whatever reason, something had compelled her to take the photo of Val Kilmer and cut it out, faking a little note from a fictitious cousin named “Chad” on the back of it, and carry it around in her wallet (which featured both a unicorn and a rainbow). Unsurprisingly, it didn’t succeed in convincing anyone that she had a cool cousin that looked like the guy from Top Gun. Fast forward to two years ago, Micucci found herself working with Mr. Kilmer himself on a TV show called Ghost Ghirls. At a friend’s insistence, she confessed the whole story, but apparently her nerves got the better of her, so she “didn’t tell it well,” making the entire situation “awkward.” At any rate, this was all made completely fantastic and relevant by Micucci’s choice of song, Kenny Loggin’s Top Gun theme, “Danger Zone,” which she began on the ukulele. Even better: during a vocal break in the song, Micucci flew a handful of hand-folded paper airplanes with “top gun” handwritten on them into the audience. She is magical.
Up next, Behrendt was back to introduce the members of the band before bringing up Dana Gould, who began by saying that when he was a kid, kids wanted to be Bobby Orr or Carl Yastrzemski, but “I wanted to be Wolfman.” He explained that he had felt this way because “everyone loves you,” and you seem normal and charming during the day, but “wreak havoc and destruction at night,” none of which you’ll remember the following day. “Wait, did I say I Wolfman? I meant alcoholic!” This led Gould to speak of his childhood experiences with an alcoholic father who came into his bedroom at night, drunk, singing. “I was drunk once,” Gould revealed. “It isn’t for me.” Antidepressants, on the other hand… Gould likes the idea of “masking anxiety with drugs,” which he likened to “masking cold with a coat.” He also talked about his ability to “lie like a motherfucker,” explaining that he’d “had my had in more failed pilots than an Air Force proctologist,” but that he’d lied to ABC to get out of a pilot shooting schedule in order to have a chance to play Wolfman. As he prepared to sing, he explained, “I don’t play an instrument, but I do hold the mic in an Eddie Vedder/Jim Morrison manor… a sober Jim Morrison! Without leather pants…” The song that followed, Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” was perfect, and featured a little of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” for good measure. Perfect.
Behrendt returned to the stage to bring up the evening’s final guest, saying that his experiences with many people had been very sincere since his brush with cancer, including Jack Black’s revival of Bring the Rock, for which he paid double in order to help offset the cost of Behrendt’s medical bills. There was, as Behrendt put it, “a lot of love and support, and my career is going really well, but no one has been as kind as one of the show’s founders,” Janet Varney. (The show to which he was referring is Sketchfest itself, not Bring the Rock.) Varney began her bit by explaining some of the “similarities” between herself and some of the other performers. “Kate’s wallet had a rainbow and a unicorn on it. The first time I dropped acid in high school, there was a rainbow and a unicorn on the paper!” She then went on to tell the story of a new immediate best friend she’d made at camp, who introduced her to the music of The Cure and Depeche Mode. Suddenly, everything was “choke chains, Doc Martens, orange hair…I couldnt’ change fast enough to goth punk, and wanted everyone to think I’d always been that way.” There was a goth couple at her school “who seemed superhuman,” who Varney confessed she wanted to be like. She then told the story of the time she dropped some acid and wandered in to find her dad watching Honey, I Shrunk the Kids on a giant TV with big speakers before leaving the house to wander into a closed mall (which was inexplicably open and without security) with a friend: “we were high, and alone in the dark like it was a horror movie.” Eventually, the night led the girls to the home of the female half of the goth supercouple. The aforementioned couple had just met their demise, the girl having broken up with “wonder boy,” was crying, and “looked even more like Robert Smith than usual.” The two girls tried to console her, but were ineffective due to their high state, so they eventually just started playing music. “This song just came up on Spotify; it’s such a specific memory of three girls dancing, trying to be grown up in specific goth ways…” Varney then performed a brilliant cover of The Cult’s “She’s So Sanctuary.”
Behrendt returned to close the evening, proclaiming, “holy shit that was good!” He then told a short story about the “worst acid trip ever,” explaining that he’d gone to Berkeley to see King Crimson, but that the “acid was fake” and he “had to watch King Crimson.” And that was the end of another fantastic Bring the Rock, thus marking the end of my Sketchfest 2016 experience. (But here’s to next year, and many more!)