SF Sketchfest Review: Red Wine Boys w/Mates of State, John Hodgman, Larry Murphy, Brendon Small, Eugene Mirman at Mezzanine


From Spinning Platters.com

February 2, 2010
By Dakin Hardwick

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This is our last report from the 2010 edition of San Francisco’s Sketchfest festival, and this one might be the most impressive show of the festival. I showed up before the doors opened, only to find the longest line that I have ever seen at Mezzanine before a show. I made my way to the front, only to glimpse that Dave Eggers was on the guest list.

So, I proceeded to look for a seat, and managed to find an empty seat dead center in the second row. I sat down, then thought to myself that this might be a bad idea. It seemed a bit strange that one of the best seats in the house wasn’t taken, and I really had no idea what was in store.

Things started out rather innocently. Todd Barry and Jon Benjamin came out dancing to to “Six Days” by DJ Shadow while enjoying some red wine. It was super silly, and pretty impressive to see two grown men dancing while balancing glasses of red wine. (Jon Benjamin was the superior dancer.)

After the amazing opening routine, things started to get a bit awkward. Benjamin and Barry bantered for a bit, then asked the audience for questions. It took a while for people to actually start asking them, but in whole, the bit fell a little bit flat. They could also sense that, so they decided to start giving out bottles of wine. The wine was of their own making, but they did put Charles Shaw labels on the back for fun. The first bottle went to a random girl in the crowd. The second bottle was the bottle that kicked the show into high gear.

They found a gentleman wearing a plaid shirt, a hoodie, and shorts. Seemed pretty normal, until they noticed that he had peyos, a hairstyle generally only worn by Hasidic Jews. He described himself as ironc-orthodox. This gave the Red Wine Boys plenty to riff about, asking him questions about his milk and meat consumption. (He won’t cook meat in milk, but he will eat a cheeseburger) They needed this guy to get warmed up, and it worked out quite nicely.

After he left the stage with his well-deserved bottle of vino, they brought out “red wine expert” John Hodgman. Hodgman was as brilliant as expected, playing the character that he often explores these days, the expert on everything. It could have been boring if he wasn’t so good at it. At the end of his “lecture” on wine, they proceeded to toast, only to reveal that Hodgman does not care for wine. After a some badgering, he enjoyed a sip, then several more, and the proceeded to scream and run around the stage and call everyone nerds. This also gave us the single best joke of the evening: “Want to hear an alt.comedy joke? How about this- Nonsense comment, nonsense comment, 80′s reference!”

The next act was Larry Murphy, who was introduced as the winner as the Red Wine Boys sales contest. He played the role of an overweight man from Massachusetts, and they asked him questions about wine sales. It was dry, and seemed rich with facts. The punchline came when he invited his old comedy partner from Boston onstage to do some improv. It was a surprisingly funny bit of bad improv by Murphy and Dethklokk frontman Brendon Small.

As the show went on, things got progressively weirder. They invited two men on stage to have wine sprayed on them, which turned in to a bit of homoerotic strip tease. (I tried to get a good shot of this, but there was wine everywhere! It all became a messy blur of thongs and wine.) Then they gave out some more wine, this time to a couple wearing matching plaid shirts that happened to be on a first date. They met on match.com. All of the expected jokes, and then some, went flying.

Since the next guest was Eugene Mirman, things managed to continue in the weird vein. He handed out business cards. (Mine was for a service to help white people make black friends.) He told tales of leaving absurd napkins in places. He was genius.

On top of all of the humor, the great Mates Of State played two sets. The first one was before the red wine spraying incident. They played three songs, including a Tom Waits cover. The second set closed the show, which was another three songs. The bulk of the show was music from Re-Arrange Us. It was the duo version of MOS, no strings, which was nice because they haven’t played this way in a while. They played with a lot of power and passion, and were very tight. They played the room as if it were a headlining set, not the “musical guests” they were billed as, and despite the seats, the crowd was really feeling it.

Excellent end to an excellent festival.

Mates Of State Setlist:

Set One:

My Only Offer

So Many Ways

Long Way Home (Tom Waits)

Set Two:

You Are Free

Like U Crazy

The Re-Arranger

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