There are fewer things rougher than starting school after spending three of your four winter break weeks in bed cuddling. With Netflix, that is. Sure, friends and the pressure to graduate eventually helped push me into motion but there is one other force that has gotten me going: San Francisco Sketchfest.
SF Sketchfest is an annual comedy festival that takes place over three weeks all around the bay area. It is awesome. While we’ve already missed the first two weeks, there are still plenty of awesome shows you can catch this weekend. Rather than trying to explain the entire epic, transient, comedy zeitgeist in a ramble, I’ve found that a list is much more useful in defining the festival.
1. The Comedy Gods you’ve never heard of will be there.
The treasure of Sketchfest is being able to go to affordable shows (most tickets run around $20 where every single person on stage is talented. The first weekend of Sketchfest was blessed by the presence of dapper wise guys like Paul F. Tompkins and John Hodgman. You’ll know Hodgman best as the PC from those “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” commercials and you’ll know Tompkins best from … well you won’t. I’m looking at his IMDB page right now and I still don’t know what he’s been in. There are dozens of other comedians who will woo you with their act and the only way to find new ones are to check out the shows. Even the ones with names like “Killing My Lobster” (I have no idea what that show was about, but it was sold out. So, good for them).
2. The ridiculous festival is ridiculous.
The epitome of comedy is to find the ridiculous hue in every aspect of life. Sketchfest strives to find the ridiculous hue in every aspect of comedy. This is the place where comedy nerds go to be meta while making jokes that they hope the audience won’t “get”. One of the shows I am most excited to catch this Friday is not-so-safe-for-print titled, “SEX a.k.a. Wieners and Boobs”. It is a play written by Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Showalter and David Wain (the director of Role Models). The show’s information page doesn’t offer a plot summary so I’m just going to put my trust in the hands of the same writers of the comedic masterpiece “Wet Hot American Summer” and show up.
Other shows coming up like “Naked Human Giant Babies” promises an awesomely ridiculous ensemble cast including Rob Corddry, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer. Also Maya Rudolph and her best friend from college Gretchen Lieberum will be performing two sold out shows at Yoshi’s in their band Princess, a Prince cover band. Almost any show you go to will promise silliness and laughter.
3. Tributes and Panels to any show that ever made you laugh, ever.
This year alone, SF Sketchfest has organized reunion shows for Futurama, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Pinky and the Brain, American Splendor and Animal House. There are even more when you include the various sketch groups that come back together every few years just for the event for a show or two. I would get mad at them for coming up with the perfect mix of comedy nostalgia and genius to rein me in but I love it too much.
Those are just the shows that are no longer on air (except for Futurama, but they’ve had their hiatus or two). There were also tons of panels with comedy world superstars like the one with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein from the show Portlandia. Other panels included comic-con and tumblr fandom favorites like Dan Harmon (creator of Community), Wil Wheaton (star of Stand By Me and Star Trek), and Adam Savage (Mythbusters host).
This weekend there will also be panels for the comedy hipsters who watch highly inaccessible shows like Party Down (cancelled from Starz network after 20 episodes) and Children’s Hospital (an Adult Swim show with 15 minute long episodes). While panels do not make up a large part of the overall festival schedule, they often sell out and deliver great insight for hardcore fans.
4. Podcast tapings take over the town.
I’ll keep this one short since I’ve already introduced most of these podcasts in my column before. Sketchfest provides comedians with an audience willing to sit and listen to them talk to their famous comedian friends for an hour and a half about almost nothing and still be ecstatic to be there. I’m one of them. While there aren’t any of my highlights left for this weekend, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out the schedule.
Some of the tapings from earlier this season included Chris Hardwick’s “Nerdist Podcast,” Pete Holmes’ “You Made It Weird” (which I will have attended by press time), the silly yet fair “Judge John Hodgeman”, and a creative take on traditional radio “Thrilling Adventure Hour.” The last show is a new addition to my podcast queue and it provides tales of cowboys on Mars and murder mysteries in a classic 1940’s fashion with a modern comedic twist. All of these podcasts do tapings also happen year round, country-wide so if you have a favorite, check to see if they’ll be back in the city again soon.
5. Stand Up is alive and well.
Have no fear, the one person show is here! There are stand-up shows offered almost every night of the Sketchfest schedule and some are (admittedly) more epic than others. Nick Kroll did a sold out show on Day 3 of Sketchfest. Reggie Watts had a three part series, “Reggidency” in which he does a mix of his unique musical stylings and alternative stand-up sets at various venues across the Bay Area. I highly recommend watching his TEDTalks video. Seriously. Put down this article and watch it. We’ll wait.
This weekend there will also be the Iron Comic All-Stars with Michael Ian Black and Natasha Leggero. Other shows like the “Set List” pushes comedians onto stage without a set list (a prepared personal list of jokes) and prompts them with joke ideas like “Yoga Aversion” to talk about to the audience for a few minutes until the producer decides to give them a new cue. It’s nerve wrecking-ly amazing.
Check out show times and information at www.sfsketchfest.com and find your inner comedy nerd!