Sketchfest is really rough. There is literally too much to do over the course of the three weeks the festival runs. We have 18 days of anywhere between 3-10 shows, all special events with performers that rarely come to San Francisco to perform. I’m here to help you decide what to do. Below are some of the events that I find the most interesting over the course of the entire event. You can use my handy guide, or you can just go rogue and take a look at the full schedule here!
Thursday, January 12th
The man that introduced the last three generations to science, Bill Nye, is appearing LIVE to discuss current events in the science world with the brilliant Eugene Mirman. I know it sounds a little dry, but the podcast is always funny and fascinating, and we expect more of the same.
For Science Nerds
Friday, January 13th
John Hodgman plays judge to help settle disputes submitted to him on the internet, with podcasting veteran Jesse Thorn as bailiff. You may indeed find out why your neighbors were throwing legos outside of their attic window last night.
For Conflict Resolution Nerds
Losing Cinecave last year, along with the closing of Lost Weekend Video, may be one of the saddest things to ever happen to the Bay Area DIY performance space scene. Happily, one of Cinecave’s best regular events, Talkies, has been saved, and is still happening at the Roxie. However, for Sketchfest, we get this multimedia comedy experience at Pianofight, and it’s going to be big. A combination of short films, stand up, powerpoint, and any other performance style that you can imagine, Talkies is kind of a modern technological update on the classic variety show.
For Tech Nerds, Film Nerds, & DIY Culture Nerds
Saturday, January 14th
The line up for this show is really what makes this event. Featured players David Wain, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black from The State, Bay Area native Chelsea Peretti, Bobby Tisdale from Bob’s Burgers and many more perform the music from some of the greatest films of the 80s. I’m 90% sure that means Joe Lo Truglio will be doing this scene:
For Nostalgia Nerds
Legendary actor Jeff Goldblum is bringing back his, um, classic jazz combo to the Swedish American Hall for two shows at SF Sketchfest this year! Yes, in addition to being a master of comic timing, Jeff Goldblum is a world class pianist, and he’ll be bringing his full band out to one of the most acoustically perfect rooms in SF.
For Music Nerds
Sunday, January 15th
Fun fact about Susannah Hoffs: Prince sent The Bangles the song “Manic Monday” just to meet Susannah Hoffs in order to ask her out on a date. My hunch is that she will have even better stories than that tonight! Plus, Petra Haden of the amazing that dog. is one of her “friends” this night!
For Music Nerds
Tuesday, January 17th
Reductress is simply one of the funniest satire sites out there, offering a feminist perspective on the news satire site. It’s a brilliant read, and tonight we get to see these writers on stage.
For Feminism Nerds, I guess? Not sure if this really fits the theme, but this looks like fun, so just go!
Thursday, January 19th
The best bargain of the Fest is always when Sketchfest takes over the California Academy of Sciences for a night, making for a mini comedy festival right in the middle of a giant comedy festival. This time we’ve got fake TedTalks, MST3K veterans Frank Beaulieu and Frank Conniff doing live riffing, Strangerer Things, an improv group that riffs on Stranger Things, and a bunch of stand up comics in the atrium. All of this for just $15!
For Science Nerds
Friday, January 20th
Today is Inauguration Day. Which means that every therapist in the country is going to be very, very busy. So if you can’t get an appointment with your regular therapist, why not check out this live revival of the classic Comedy Central show, Dr Katz, Professional Therapist?
For 90s TV Nerds
Looking for some slightly more direct Inauguration Day catharsis before we slowly begin the transition to full on apocalyptic nightmare? Local stand up comedy legend Will Durst is one of the smartest comics in stand up history, and will hit all of the pain points in all the right ways.
For Politics Nerds
Saturday, January 21st
The UK and the USA both are very similar countries these days, mostly because both voted to ruin their economies and infrastructures, thanks to mysterious racist powers that convinced voters that voting that way would be a huge laugh. So, Dave Holmes is hosting a quiz show on UK and US pop culture. Should be fun?
For Anglophiles Who are Kind of English Culture Nerds.
The cast of Futurama consisted of some of the most talented voiceover actors in the world. At this event, instead of performing the show Futurama, these gifted voice actors will instead regale us with “outtakes” of performances by famous actors and political figures.
For History Nerds, TV Nerds, & Animation Nerds
Laraine Newman is a true pioneer. She was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live, and is a bona fide comedy legend, which makes it hard to believe that she would ever need to audition for anything, let alone have a hard time auditioning. Yet, much like every other human, she has bad interviews. And tonight she will be doing her one woman show on that very topic.
For Comedy Nerds & Classic TV Nerds
Sunday, January 22nd
The premise is simple enough: comics are given a randomly selected series of PowerPoint slides and are forced to improvise a presentation on a topic voted on by the audience. Then, laughter ensues.
For Meetings Nerds
Tuesday, January 24th
Hollywood Shuffle is a classic film, a spoof of the way Hollywood handles race. It’s biting and honest, and tonight we’ll get filmmakers Robert Townsend and Keenan Ivory Wayans talking about the film. And, of course, the film is disturbingly relevant 30 years later. I’m excited to hear what these guys have to say about the state of the world.
For Film Nerds
Thursday, January 26th
Are you looking to feel really uncomfortable for a night? Well then tonight is your night! Actors will be adapting softcore romances novels for live stage in the incredibly intimate Pianofight Theater. Sadly, we don’t have any clips of the show, so here’s a bit from the 1999 film Carnal Desires. I bet it’s a good one.
For Sex Nerds & Literature Nerds
Friday, January 27th
The greatest film of all time has been adapted for the stage by the great Dana Gould, and features a cast including 30 Rock‘s Scott Adsit, MST3K’s Kevin Murphy & Bil Corbett, and comedy heroes Arden Myrin, Janet Varney, and more!
For Sci Fi Nerds, Film Nerds, & Kitsch Aficionados
Yes, they do this every year. But it’s one of the most consistent high concept comedy game shows out there. The event is split into two portions: the first half is for comics who have written prepared pieces in which they adapt some other pop culture thing into a piece of sexy literature. The second half consists of stories written THAT NIGHT based on audience suggestions — often including ones that the comedian hasn’t heard of. It will get uncomfortable. Often.
For Sex Nerds & Pop Culture Nerds
Saturday, January 28th
Nancy & Beth is the musical alias of comedy legend Megan Mullaly and TV’s Stephanie Hunt; what we get is a perfect balance of great musicianship and brilliant lyrics from two near perfect performers. Witnessing this kind of talent live, in person, is a rare treat.
For Music Nerd, People that just like good things
Sunday, January 29th
Tig Notaro is one of the greatest comedians working today. She’s a genius at blending together dry wit and physical comedy in a manner that NOBODY has ever done. And, today, you’ll get to experience something that you rarely can: watch a master discuss her process while she’s at the height of her craft. Plus, she’s getting interviewed by Jen Kirkman, who is my hero.
For Comedy Nerds
Sup Doc is a podcast in which hosts George Chen and Paco Romane discuss a documentary with a guest. For the live show, they are actually screening a doc for an audience, then hosting a discussion with an esteemed panel. The movie is called Memorial Day 2000. I don’t think this clip is from the same movie they are screening, but, if it is, it’s gonna be good:
For Film Nerds
Jen Kirkman is my favorite comedian, plain and simple. “I Seem Fun” is not a comedy show, however. It’s funny, but it’s not a straight up evening of jokes. It’s an evening of Jen Kirkman discussing whatever she wants. It can be dark, poignant, funny, sad, inspiring, or pretty much any other emotion a performer can possibly provoke.
For Storytelling Nerds