Week One: SF Sketchfest Highlights

From The Onion

January 15, 2009
By Marc Hawthorne

January isn’t a time for returning unwanted Christmas gifts, spending money you don’t have on heating bills, or suffering through yet another crushing winter depression. It’s also the month when SF Sketchfest comes to town to spread its comedic cheer. Now in their eighth year, Sketchfest organizers have once again lined up a top-flight schedule featuring everything from sketch to stand-up to film, starting with some opening-night shenanigans on Thursday at Mezzanine provided by Tim and Eric. What follows is a selection of picks, an interview with Tim and Eric, and the schedule for the first week of the event, which will be followed the next two weeks by more coverage and the remaining schedule. For more information about the entire festival, visit sfsketchfest.com.

Friday, Jan. 16:
(A.V. Recommended)
TV Funhouse Live
Eureka Theatre, 8pm, $30, all ages

A frazzle-haired comedy guy who spends part of his time with an arm up the ass of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel has been working in the biz since he got a break as a writer for Saturday Night Live in the ’80s. That’s where the recombinant animated shorts tagged as TV Funhouse still play, and SNL owes a lot of its appeal — if we can agree to call it that — to Smigel’s smart, sly riffs on everything from ambiguously gay superheroes to drug-crazed animals. The SNL segments eventually led to a short-lived Comedy Central spin-off, which will be brought back to life here with a stage shoe that includes creators Smigel and Dino Stamatopoulos, host Doug Dale, and the almighty Triumph.

Saturday, Jan. 17:
(A.V. Recommended)
Comedy Writing Award:
Robert Smigel
Cobb’s Comedy Club, 2pm, $25, 18+

It’s difficult to think of anyone more deserving of SF Sketchfest’s inaugural Comedy Writing Award than Robert Smigel, especially if the idea is to celebrate someone who’s usually heard rather than seen. It’s possible that you have no idea what Smigel looks like, but with a resume that includes Saturday Night Live and Late Night With Conan O’Brien, you’ve certainly laughed at tons of things he’s written, including “Bill Swerkski’s Superfans,” TV Funhouse, and, of course, Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. The day after offering up a stage version of Comedy Central’s short-lived TV Funhouse spin-off series, Smigel will be interviewed here by Dana Carvey, who worked with the man of the hour on both SNL and the equally short-lived Dana Carvey Show.

Totally Looped
Eureka Theatre, 8pm, $20, all ages

Fans of “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” in which director Woody Allen superimposed ridiculous dialogue about the search for a secret egg salad recipe over a Japanese action film should be lining up around the block for the Sketchfest return of Totally Looped. This year’s staging finds comic actors Richard Kuhlman, Joe Liss, and Rick Overton joined by guests Maria Bamford, Oscar Nunez from The Office, and original Saturday Night Live cast member Laraine Newman, sitting around a microphone improvising dialogue as old movie clips play on-screen. (Also Jan. 18 at Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center)

(A.V. Recommended)
Theme Park Improv Show
Eureka Theatre, 10:30pm, $20, all ages

It’s possible to immerse oneself in Sketchfest without ever seeing any actual sketch comedy, but that’s kind of missing the point, right? Even the most sketchophobic should be intrigued by Saturday’s one-time-only Theme Park Improv Show, which includes Scott Adsit (Pete Hornberger from 30 Rock), The Office’s Oscar Nunez (Oscar Martinez) and Kate Flannery (Meredith Palmer), Jessica Makinson, and two of Sketchfest’s founders, Janet Varney and Cole Stratton. The sextet will use a single suggestion from the audience to spin a long-form tale.

Sunday, Jan. 18:
Scott Thompson:
Scottastrophe! + 2-Headed Dog
Eureka Theatre, 8pm, $20, all ages

The members of The Kids In The Hall are no strangers to Sketchfest, and last year’s Kids tribute and performance were, not surprisingly, festival highlights. The gay one of the bunch, Scott Thompson, best known for his flamboyant Buddy Cole character, is also arguably the funniest piece of the puzzle, though that’s a fight for another day. Here, Thompson is appearing by himself in a show that explores Scott’s love affair with catastrophe. Also on the bill is 2-Headed Dog, the comedy troupe that features another Sketchfest ’08 highlight: Dave “Gruber” Allen, best known as guidance counselor Jeff Rosso on Freaks And Geeks.

Monday, Jan. 19:
(A.V. Recommended)
Celebrity Autobiography:
In Their Own Words
Cobb’s Comedy Club, 7 & 9pm, $35, 18+

A cult favorite performed weekly in New York, Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words is a reading series that even US Weekly and Star subscribers can enjoy. Each installment features a rotating roster — the Sketchfest lineup is made up of co-creators Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel, Michael McKean, Annette O’Toole, The Kids In The Hall’s Scott Thompson, and SNL’s Rachel Dratch, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis, and Laraine Newman, reading celebrity autobiographies the way they should be read: dramatically, and with more than a bit of mockery. Expect lots of excerpts from such luminaries as Loni Anderson, Vanna White, and (if you’re lucky) Star Jones, author of Shine: A Physical, Emotional, And Spiritual Journey to Finding Love.

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