From The San Francisco Chronicle
January 7, 2011
By David Wiegand
Some of the biggest names in the laugh business will hit the Bay Area over the next three weeks to celebrate the 10th anniversary of SF Sketchfest, created in 2001 by David Owen, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney.
It’s an understatement to say this event has grown beyond its founders’ wildest dreams. In fact, the highlight of the 2010 festival didn’t even happen till long after the festival was over: Last year, the festival organizers planned a tribute to Conan O’Brien. Unfortunately, the weekend it was supposed to happen, Coco was a bit busy detaching himself from NBC after the Peacock Network dreamed up a plan to move Jay Leno back to his safer 11:30 p.m. slot and push O’Brien back to the wee small hours. O’Brien had to postpone his appearance, but he showed up in July to hold forth for hours from the stage of the Herbst Theatre.
Each year, it seems, Sketchfest gets bigger and bigger. It’s clear that people who make you laugh for a living love doing Sketchfest. The festival launches on Thursday and continues through Feb. 5 at 11 venues all over the city.
But with 99 shows, tributes and panels, it’s obviously tough to decide what to see. It would probably be a lot easier to tell you what to avoid: nothing. But here are a few of the events that look especially promising:
Opening Night, 8 p.m. Thursday, Marines Memorial Theatre: With Asssscat, which is the long-form improv show by the ingenious Upright Citizens Brigade. Brigadiers Ian Roberts, Matt Besser and Matt Walsh will be joined by guests Tim Meadows, Joshua Malina, Andrew Daly and Danielle Schneider.
Celebrity Autobiography, 8 p.m. Friday, Marines Memorial Theatre (as well as 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday). Mario Cantone, Jennifer Coolidge, Will Forte, Maya Rudolph and the great Fred Willard reading from celebrity autobiographies. If you think this is akin to storytelling at your local library, think again: You wouldn’t believe the egoistically moronic things that celebrities write about themselves.
Bob’s Burgers Preunion, 2 p.m. Saturday, the Eureka Theatre. “Bob’s Burgers” is the new animated show from Fox TV, launching tonight, about a man named Bob who runs a burger joint, right next to It’s Your Funeral Home. Kristen Schaal is doing the voice for his daughter. Fox TV, Kristen Schaal: What else does anyone need to know?
The 10 Year Reunion Show, 8 p.m. Jan. 17, the Eureka Theatre. The mega-show of the festival’s anniversary features Kasper Hauser, Please Leave the Bronx, the sublimely insane White Noise Radio Theatre, Colin Mahan and Mike Spiegelman of Fresh Robots.
It’s Garry Shandling’s Show’s 25th Anniversary, 7 p.m. Jan. 20, Castro Theatre. It’s impossible to believe that this moment of comedy greatness hit Showtime 25 years ago. Shandling’s mastery of irony and deadpan humor are sorely missed in today’s TV world. He and series co-creator Alan Zweibel will remember it all.
Neil Patrick Harris, Jan. 23, In Conversation With Muppeteer Brian Henson, 1 p.m. at Cobb’s Comedy Club, and with Gillian Jacobs in the Paul F. Tompkins Show, 7 p.m. at Yoshi’s. NPH had to bail on Sketchfest last year and sent “How I Met Your Mother” cast mate Jason Segel in his stead. This year, he’s making up for it with two appearances at the festival. First, he chats with director Henson, and then he hangs around to join Tompkins’ singular variety show in the evening. With luck, he should be back in L.A. in time to tuck the twins in for the night.
Airplane! Tribute To Jim Abrahams, David Zucker And Jerry Zucker, with special appearance by Robert Hays. 7 p.m. Jan. 31, Castro Theatre. Surely, you know this film was made in 1980 and remains one of the funniest films of all time.
Murphy Brown Tribute To Candice Bergen And Diane English, 8 p.m. Feb. 2, Castro Theatre. For years, Candice Bergen was known as Charlie McCarthy’s sister and a very attractive woman with somewhat limited acting skills. What she proved with the 1988 sitcom “Murphy Brown,” created by English, is that she is a skilled comic actress.