February 4, 2011
By David Pehling
The tenth annual SF Sketchfest brings together another stellar line-up of talent to a variety of SF comedy and theater venues for 20 days of hilarious improvisation, stand-up and ensemble comedy. Plenty of local and national acts that have performed at the festival in the past will make return engagements this year including bi-coastal improv heroes The Upright Citizens Brigade, tributes to groundbreaking television shows “Saturday Night Live,” “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and “Murphy Brown” as well as appearances by noted locally grown talents like Doug Benson, Killing My Lobster, Greg Behrendt, Kaspar Hauser and Brent Weinbach.
One of the biggest changes for the festival will be the use of venerable Union Square venue the Marine’s Memorial Theatre. While some larger festival events have been held at the spacious Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in the past, the 650-seat venue will host a number of the bigger acts during the SF Sketchfest including this past week’s reunion and onstage conversation with original ‘Saturday Night Live’ players Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, Don Novello and Tom Davis.
Though the festival’s closing weekend offers a more pared down menu than the past few weekends, the three comedy showcases taking place Saturday still make for some great entertainment options. Actor and comedian Kevin Pollak brings his award-winning internet talk show, ‘Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show,’ to Cobb’s Comedy Club for a live edition Saturday afternoon. Perhaps best known for his work in the films ‘The Usual Suspects,’ ‘A Few Good Men,’ ‘Casino,’ and countless others, Pollak’s spot-on impersonations and razor wit made him a stand-up favorite in his native San Francisco. His show spotlights his interview skills chatting with a who’s who of Hollywood. Joining Kevin for this special show are sidekick Samm Levine (‘Freaks & Geeks’) and special guest, ‘Mythbusters’ co-host Adam Savage (Sat/5, 2 p.m. $20).
At the Castro Theatre early Saturday night, SF Sketchfest presents a 25th anniversary screening and tribute to the ultracool Talking Heads movie musical ‘True Stories.’ Narrator David Byrne visits a Texas town on the eve of its sesquicentennial and gets to know some of the colorful locals (with great performances by John Goodman, Swoosie Kurtz, and Spalding Gray among others) who regale him with tales of their small town life. Unique, quirky, hilarious and touching, it features some of the Talking Heads’ greatest songs, including “City of Dreams,” “Wild Wild Life,” “People Like Us,” “Love For Sale,” and “Radio Head.” Byrne will also appear at the Castro to discuss the film and take questions from the audience with moderator Paul Myers (Sat/5, 5 p.m. $25).
SF Sketchfest closes its tenth year by partnering with underground drag superstar Peaches Christ and Midnight Mass to present a special salute to the popular and acclaimed stage, film and television actress Cloris Leachman. A multiple Emmy Award-winner and Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress for ‘The Last Picture Show,’ Cloris Leachman is best known for playing Phyllis Lindstrom on the 1970s TV series ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ and later on the spinoff series ‘Phyllis.’ Film and television credits include ‘Young Frankenstein,’ ‘Malcolm in the Middle,’ ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘Raising Hope,’ where she plays the wacky grandmother “Maw Maw” to the delight of audiences.
This evening to remember will include musical numbers, dancing drag queens, and a freewheeling onstage conversation between Cloris Leachman and Peaches Christ. Peaches Christ’s alter ego, writer-director Joshua Grannell, recently released his homage to cult films ‘All About Evil,’ to critical and popular acclaim. Rounding out the evening will be a screening of Mel Brooks’ ‘High Anxiety,’ a hilarious San Francisco-set send-up of Alfred Hitchcock and the suspense genre, featuring another remarkable comedic performance by Cloris Leachman as a truly twisted nurse. For a more detailed listing of these events and information on how to get tickets, please visit the San Francisco Sketchfest Web site.