Last Night: Jason Segel, Fred Willard, Rachel Dratch, More at Sketchfest

From SF Weekly

February 1, 2010
By Jennifer Maerz


Celebrity Autobiography w/ Rachel Dratch, Laura Kightlinger, Laraine Newman, Steve Schirripa, Jason Segel, Fred Willard, Dayle Reyfel and Eugene Pack
SF Sketchfest
Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010
Cobb’s Comedy Club

Better than: Reading Suzanne Somers’ poetry alone.

One of the great things about San Francisco’s giant comedy bender Sketchfest all the different ways funny entertainers will make you laugh. The festival includes stand up, improv, iron comics, and, last night, comic actors reading the absurd autobiographies of celebrities who never should be allowed to speak about themselves in public, let alone publish a tome where they offer such valuable insight as “I really wanted to fuck that ass.”

But thanks to Celebrity Autobiography creator Eugene Pack, no narcissistic admission is too small to take the piss out of. Pack collects together funny people to read passages from selected autobiographies, but the show gets further creative from there. In the second half of the act, a specific celeb situation is split into different parts, read by a group of actors from different celeb books (for example, the first affair between Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson, orchestrated by Reynold’s personal assist, Elaine Blake Hall, who also wrote a book. The Loni and Burt fling, from its New Year’s Eve sexathon spark to its name-calling aftermath, was told through selected passages from all three books, the juxtaposition of perspective getting funnier and more absurd as the telling went along.)

The actors chosen for last night’s Celebrity Autobiography were top shelf comedians: Pack; Fred Willard (who’s often the best part of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries); Saturday Night Live’s Rachel Dratch, Laura Kightlinger, and Laraine Newman; Steve Schirripa from The Sopranos; and, most beloved by all the screaming ladies at Cobb’s, I Love You, Man’s Jason Segel, a goofball who hammed it up the most for his applause.

The selection of books couldn’t have been better as well. As Willard read from an autobiography by Mr. T, Schirripa read musings by Star Jones, Segal read from David Cassidy (which is where we got the fucking anecdotes), or Newman read from Ivana Trump, the comedy was two-fold. It was hilarious hearing these actors choose to play people so far from their own personalities–and so far from reality. And it was really funny to hear what kind of bloated drivel can make it into a book when you’re famous (like Trump’s certainty that hamsters don’t make good pets because “They’re rodents!” but ducks, on the other hand, “make great pets.”)

And it also became clear very quickly that sit-com stars should not, under any circumstance, publish books of poetry. Kightlinger read from a book of poems by Suzanne Somers that was straight out of the Twilight Zone: mainly quite unpoetic musings on things like a two week love affair with a dude who, um, had kids, and a wish that people wouldn’t give so much affection to their dogs when Somers needs some affection too.

Pack, being the founder of this whole performance concept, gave one of the funniest readings of the night. He read a passage from Tiger Woods’ book, slowing down for dramatic affect to the point where the whole bit about how much attention the adulterous golfer pays to stroking had fresh affect.

But there was plenty to love about the whole event. The Segal-Willard-Schirripa-Dratch reading of the Jonas Brothers’ book was another unforgettable bit, especially the enthusiasm Schirripa and Dratch put into playing famous boy band members too young to have much to say beyond how awesome it is being famous.

And, of course, it’s totally awesome being famous. Especially if you’re egotistical enough to write a book that goes behind your back to prove what a total freak your celebrity status has made you. And it’s up to Pack and his penchant for droll comedic entertainment to plow throw the spotlight on the most unintentionally comedic part of the bloated memoir industry.

Critic’s Notebook

Personal bias: I’ll admit, I went to last night’s show based on Fred Willard and Jason Segel alone (originally Neil Patrick Harris was on the bill, but Segel took his place). But the female performers kinda stole the show. Those SNL alums are really sharp with their impersonations.

After last night: I’d see Willard do pretty much anything on stage. He has that old school Chevy Chase comedian thing going on, where his acting dumb is one of the smartest plays made in any situation he’s thrown into.

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