SF Sketchfest 2015
Jakub Mosur

The last day of SF Sketchfest 2015 kicked off with beloved childrens’ book writer Mo Willems and a group of comedians game for silliness! To introduce his cast Willems said, “Parents, you have done your job right if your kids don’t know a single person on this stage!” Grown ups in the crowd (parents, librarians, teachers and comedy-fans who tweeted they didn’t realize it was a children’s show) cheered as he introduced Scott Adsit, John Cho, Janeane Garofalo, John Hodgman, Kate Micucci, Busy Philipps, Kevin Pollak and Kristen Schaal. The Marines Memorial filled with glee as the actors leant their voices to the stories, the real Trixie joined the stage, and everybody was given paper and pencils and a lesson in how to draw The Pigeon.

After story time, Scott Adsit hopped over to Verdi Club, where he joined host Matt Besser and comedians Colton Dunn and Lauren Lapkus for an afternoon performance of the improve comedy podcast improv4humans. A bevy of topics were riffed, including: abandonment of a newborn by their parents, an all-foreigners house party, the humiliation of parents describing sex to their children, parties after Sunday church service and the afterlife. At one point, Besser called out an audience member who indicated on Twitter they would blow kisses at Lauren Lapkus during the show. This became a running bit when Lapkus caught the blown kiss and put it in a plastic cup which was then flipped over and placed on a table, to which everyone on stage proceed to incorporate in various sketches.

At Cobb’s, SF Sketchfest presented the first public screening of upcoming Comedy Central series “Another Period,” a show chronicling the misadventures of a fictional wealthy Newport family at the turn of the century. Cocreators Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindholme and cast member Moshe Kasher projected a big family tree to introduce the quirky family members and help, and talked about how much fun they had naming each outrageous character. After providing a bit of background on the show, they screened episodes 5 and 8 to a howling audience. Afterwards, cast members Paget Brewster, Moshe Kasher, Armen Weitzman and Jason Ritter joined for a Q&A revealed which moments of the episodes were based on research (a seventeen course dinner party for the family dogs) versus writers’ ideas (a cape made of puppies) and what it’s like to kiss Christina Hendricks. The first questioner of the Q&A asked, “I know this may be a stupid question, but was the dog in episode 8 the dog in “Mike & Molly?” Unbelievably, Kasher confirmed it was, and the dog spotter went home with a bottle of Cocaine Wine, signed by the cast. The colorful series is sure to cause a commotion when it airs on Comedy Central.

The 30th anniversary of “Better Off Dead” reunited writer/director Savage Steve Holland with original cast members original actors Curtis Armstrong (Charles De Mar), Diane Franklin (Monique), Amanda Wyss (Beth) and Kim Darby (Jenny). Guest understudies on Heder, Kevin Pollak, Paul F. Tompkins, Eddie Pepitone, Steve Agee, Annie Savage, Paul Brittain, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney joined the table read. They read the first draft of the script, quite different from the final 1985 version, but with much recognizable dialogue from the cult classic: the audience demanded their two dollars along with the performers. The reunion lovefest continued backstage as cast members and understudies autographed each others’ special commemorative posters made for the live read. (See the story and photos on Entertainment Weekly: link to our press page for the EW story.)

The Eureka closed out the last night of SF Sketchfest with improv featuring “Key and Peele” writers Colton Dunn, Phil August Jackson, Charlie Sanders, Rich Talarico and special guest Ian Roberts. The show kicked off with sketch comedy from Wendigo from Magnet Theater in NYC. Wendigo blended multimedia into their sketch comedy, with music and video clips bookending sketches parodying “The Bachelor” and imagining what an actual friend zone could look like.

The Key and Peele writing team dove right in, asking for suggestions from the audience and picking some perfect ones from this local San Francisco crowd – “LSD” and “bike safety.” The improv scenes showed the writers’ versatility, moving between physical comedy and dry humor while playing a huge variety of offbeat characters. Audience favorites included an extended scene about a horrible TV show called “Saboteur” running six seasons (but no movie) and ruining one network completely. Dunn delivered the very meta punchline that the whole show was meant as a sabotage from a rival network. Other scenes parodied everything from Supreme Court Justices to picky eaters ordering at a deli to, of all things, fans of water-skiing. The writers had a blast playing off the crowd in a show that was fast-paced, witty, and hilarious!

And at Verdi Club, Janeane Garofalo hosted international standup comedians Wil Anderson, Dan Clark, Maeve Higgins, Matt Kirshen and Daniel Sloss at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival International Spotlight. Garofalo set a high bar at the start of the night, with her unique, intimate delivery, hopping off the stage to perform from the crowd. One by one, each of the comedians nailed their material, the short sets leaving the audience eager for more. These are all names we’re bound to hear much more in the coming years.

Thank you to our performers, sponsors, founders, staff, volunteers and most of all our audiences for coming back year after year and making this festival so much fun.

Visit Facebook and Instagram and check out #sfsketchfest for more photos and recaps from the fest!

Thanks to Nadee Gunasena, Matt Zagariello and Morgan Davis for writing contributions.


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Tommy Lau

Margaret Cho performed two sold out shows on Wednesday night to a packed house at the Verdi Club. The room was full with chairs lining the walls, the crowd ready to be roasted and entertained by Cho’s wicked sense of humor!

Local San Francisco comedian Kate Willett kicked things off with a hilarious set, sharing her stories about finding love – or at least a one-night stand – everywhere from the Burning Man playa to the Trader Joe’s checkout aisle. She asked the audience the age old question – “how old do I have to be to have sex with someone who doesn’t call me dude?”

Then Cho took the stage to loud applause from the entire room. She started her set by remembering some of the late comedy greats, sharing her memories of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers – two great mentors that she called her father and mother in comedy respectively. Her story about Joan Rivers’ funeral – with a memorable eulogy delivered by Howard Stern – set the tone for a wild evening of comedy. Cho’s not afraid to get personal – some of the audience’s favorite anecdotes happened during her stories about changing how she identifies from lesbian to bisexual, and the fascinating differences she’s observed between having sex with women and having sex with men. No topic was off limits, from a recent set she bombed at a rape victim benefit to her plans for justice against Boko Haram. As Cho said, “There’s no I in team, but there’s a Cho in psycho!”

Rhett Miller’s variety show Wheels Off returned to SF Sketchfest at Cobb’s Comedy Club Wednesday night. Rhett started the night with three songs: Wheels Off, Noreen, Longer Than You’ve Been Alive.

He introduced his first guest, Michael Chabon: “Of all the people who’ve won the Pulitzer Prize, this one’s the coolest.”Michael Chabon read an essay about his son’s splendid attempts at middle school self-expression through fasion, reflecting on his own youthful fashion identity: a tshirt he had printed with the word LIBERTINE. He confessed it wasn’t a totally accurate description of him as a teenager.

Janet Varney hopped onstage as an unannounced surprise guest for a Peanuts skit, written by Ben Acker (Thrilling Adventure Hour). She stayed on stage to sing a harmonic duet with Rhett from his forthcoming album.

The next guest John Vanderslice, with drummer Jason Slota, rocked Cobb’s.

A silver-haired right reverend with more than a passing resemblance to Paul F. Tompkins appeared, and Rhett Miller went to work getting the preacher to confess Satan was real, ending with a round of Satan or Not Satan, where Rhett had to admit Satan was behind Rock & Roll.

The crowd was treated to an encore of Vanderslice, Rhett Miller and Jason Slota with a rocking rendition of Wilco & Billy Bragg’s California Stars (original lyrics by Woody Guthrie).

Visit Facebook and Instagram for more photos and updates from the fest!

Thanks to photographers Tommy Lau and Jakub Mosur, and contributing writers Nadee Gunasena and Morgan Davis. 


Still combing the schedule for this year’s not-to-miss shows? To help you out, we’ve asked staff to share their picks for this year’s fest.

Meet Sara Holt our Email/Web Design guru who in her spare time is a graphic designer and comedy lover! She lives in Sonoma County and has worked 5 SF Sketchfests!

Sara says: Sketchfest is truly one of the highlights of my year. It feels like a really special thing that the Bay Area gets to indulge in every January/February. Everyone who works for the fest is so cool and lovely to work with! (You wouldn’t be reading this without her! Thanks, Sara!)

Check out her picks for this year:

Show/Shows you’re most excited for this year: U Talkin’ U2 To Me? & the Benson Interruptions  

Why: I’m a huge UTU2TM fan. It’s one of the most delightful podcasting things that happened this year and I can’t believe they’re doing a live show at Sketchfest. What a treat! I’ve been to all the Twilight Benson Interruptions so far and I’m really excited to complete the series. Doug always picks great interrupters and it’s pretty much a guaranteed good time. 

Favorite SF Sketchfest memory: The weekend I saw the table read of They Came Together, Wet Hot American Summer: The Radio Play and the original UCB members doing ASSSCAT was amazing.

Favorite venue in SF: Probably the Castro. It never stops being gorgeous and cool.

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(Photo is a pic of me in Bergen, Norway this past fall.) 


Janet Varney
SF Sketchfest co-founder David Owen selects a few favorite “under the radar” shows happening the final weekend of the festival.

David: There are so many great stand-up comedians who are local to the Bay Area, or who spent a lot of time here and are coming back for the festival. I’m always happy to see the wonderful Brent Weinbach, and I love that he’s doing a show on Feb 5 at the Eureka called “Appealing to the Mainstream” which is funny since he is known as one of the great oddball comics. I have no idea what to expect, which is a good thing. I also love all the former and current members of the stand up comedy collective known as The Business. Some of their former members including Caitlin Gill, Sean Keane and Anna Seregina will be joining current members David Gborie, Nato Green, Natasha Muse, Jules Posner and Bucky Sinister in a show we’re calling “Old Business/New Business” on Feb 6 and 7 at the Hemlock Tavern.

Former local favorite (and Business member) Chris Garcia will be part of the SF Sketchfest Dozen series on Feb 6-7 at the Punch Line. Chris is someone who is totally hitting his stride as one of the next big comics. He will be paired with the hilarious Randy Liedtke. The other awesome pairing on the “Dozens” brings the delightful Irish comic Maeve Higgins together with the very funny Chicago-bred Beth Stelling.

This is our seventh consecutive year of presenting the clever and hysterical theatrical comedy known as Celebrity Autobiography, which has two shows on Feb 7 at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre. One of the things I love about this show is that it always brings the most eclectic mix of performers onstage together — people we would otherwise probably never see at SF Sketchfest. This year’s roster is great. Where else will you see Blondie’s Debbie Harry and The Monkee’s Micky Dolenz onstage with “Bullets Over Broadway” star Jennifer Tilly, “Wings” star Steven Weber, “Wet Hot American Summer” star Janeane Garofalo and “Star Trek” star John Cho? That’s nuts.

Finally, I love strange and unusual twists on live events, and I’m very pleased we’re partnering with Cultivated Wit on their Comedy Hack Day Finals on Sunday Feb 8 at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre. All weekend long teams of technology developers and comedians will be creating ridiculously silly and potentially useful apps. On the final night, emcee Baratunde Thurston hosts and the top teams present their work in a live presentation in front of an audience and celebrity judges Scott Aukerman, Veronica Belmont, Natasha Leggero and Jonah Ray will provide funny feedback and decide the winner.



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SF Sketchfest co-founder Cole Stratton selects a few favorite “under the radar” shows happening the final weekend of the festival.

Julie Brown Homecoming QueenCole: My first pick is the fantastic improv duo of Zamata & Byer — several years ago, they came to the fest as part of an emerging group called Doppelgänger, and since have gone on to do great things in the comedy world. Sasheer Zamata is a featured player on “Saturday Night Live,” and Nicole Byer is part of the cast of MTV’s “Girl Code.” Don’t miss these two great women and their incredibly funny quick improvisational minds on Friday, February 6th, two shows at 8pm and 10:30pm at The Eureka Theatre.

I was lucky enough to catch a Los Angeles cast-and-crew screening of Kevin Pollak’s fantastic new documentary “Misery Loves Comedy” right before it departed for its world premiere at Sundance, and we’re thrilled to bring it to the Bay Area for the first time. It’s a great look at the idea of “Do you have to be miserable to be funny?” and has hilarious and insightful (and at times, touching) interviews with a who’s-who of legendary comedians and actors, including Tom Hanks, Larry David, Christopher Guest, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Maria Bamford and countless others. After the screening, Pollak will be joined by some of the featured folks in the doc — Scott Aukerman, Janeane Garofalo and Dana Gould — for a conversation and Q&A moderated by the just-announced Kevin Smith! See it Saturday, February 7th at 1pm at the Castro Theatre.

Van JamFinally, on Sunday, February 8th at 2pm at Marines’ Memorial Theatre, we’re presenting a 30th Anniversary live script read of Savage Steve Holland’s cult classic “Better Off Dead” with some of the original cast reprising their roles (Curtis Armstrong! Kim Darby! Diane Franklin! Amanda Wyss!) and great guest understudies (Jon Heder! Kevin Pollak! Paul F. Tompkins! Eddie Pepitone! and more). Plus, we’re reading Savage’s original shooting script, which is very different from what ended up onscreen, so it’s truly going to be a rare, fun afternoon. 

Stay tuned for the final picks from co-founder David Owen.