January 14, 2011
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 Saturday’s two performances of ‘The Thrilling Adventure Hour.’
Created by writers/producers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker in 2005, ‘The Thrilling Adventure Hour’ pays homage to 1940’s era radio shows like ‘The Shadow’ and ‘The Inner Sanctum’ with a comedic twist. Building a loyal following in Los Angeles with a rotating cast of performers drawn from television, regulars at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, comedy clubs and film. For these two shows, players include such talents as Neil Patrick Harris (‘How I Met Your Mother’ and the Harold and Kumar movies; 9:30pm show only), Colin Hanks (‘The Good Guys’ and ‘Orange County’), Alison Brie (‘Community’ and ‘Mad Men’), Donal Logue (‘Terriers,’ ‘Grounded For Life,’ ‘The Tao of Steve’), Samm Levine (‘Freaks and Geeks’ and ‘Inglourious Basterds’), stand-up/actor Paul F. Tompkins (‘Tenacious D,’ ‘Mr. Show’), well-known cartoon voice-over actors John DiMaggio (Bender on ‘Futurama,’ Jake the Dog on ‘Adventure Time with Finn and Jake,’ ‘Penguins of Madagascar’) and James Urbaniak (Dr. Venture on ‘The Venture Brothers’) and live music from the Andy Paley Orchestra. (Marine’s Memorial Theatre, Sat/22 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. $40-$50).
The highly regarded NPH has scheduled a busy weekend for himself at the SF Sketchfest, with two additional appearances set for Sunday. He will appear at Cobb’s Comedy Club for an afternoon conversation with Brian Henson, the son of Jim Henson and current chairman of the Jim Henson Company who has been the creative force behind such popular kids shows as ‘Dinosaur Train’ and ‘Sid the Science Kid’ as well as the adult-oriented recent off-Broadway hit ‘Stuffed and Unstrung.’ The event will include a demonstration by the famed puppeteer (Cobb’s Comedy Club, 1 p.m. $35 sold out). Harris also joins the line-up of guests for the Paul F. Tompkins Show with ‘Community’ actress Gillian Jacobs and musical guest Tom Brosseau (Yoshi’s SF, 7 p.m. $25 sold out).
This year’s SF Sketchfest is also hosting several podcast recordings, one of which is Friday night’s edition of ‘WTF with Marc Maron.’ A veteran alternative comedian and former Air America pundit, Maron exhibits a willingness to discuss all aspects of his life — drug problems, insecurity and family trouble — that allows his audience to follow and connect with him on a bi-weekly basis. By creating this over-the-air personal relationship, Maron is able to disarm the stable of notable comedians and actors that enter his recording studio (located in his garage), thereby ensuring that whoever speaks Maron opens up and shows a side of his/herself that could never come out in a TV studio. The best examples of this include Maron’s interviews of Robin Williams, Louis C.K. and the often vilified Carlos Mencia. Riding high on the good press provided by the New York Times and Rolling Stone, Maron should be at his best when he takes the Cobb’s Comedy Club stage along with local comedy legend Bobcat Goldthwait, ‘Comedians of Comedy’ star Maria Bamford, Will Franken and Baron Vaughn. (Cobb’s Comedy Club, Fri/21 8 p.m., $25).
Maron will also participate in the venue’s late-show performance of ‘Maximum Volume!’ A mix of stand-up and tunes hosted by comic Greg Behrendt and songwriter Matt Nathanson, the featured guests will also include the aforementioned Goldthwait, creator of the Adult Swim hit ‘Metalocalypse’ and Dethklok songwriter Brendon Small and comedian Brody Stevens (Cobb’s Comedy Club, Fri/21 10:30 p.m., $25). Many of the above talents will return to Cobb’s on Saturday night for two editions of the local alt-comedy variety show ‘Smug Shift’ hosted by founder Brent Weinbach and special guest co-host Ryan Stout that will also spotlight musical guests the Moore Brothers (Sat/22 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., $25).
Other festival highlights this weekend include sold-out premiere SF performances of comedian/author Mike Birbiglia’s anticipated new show ‘My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend’ prior to its off-Broadway debut (Eureka Theatre, Fri/21 and Sat/22 8 p.m. $25), two themed performances of the raw LA-based storytelling series This Is Not Happening with tale spun by Will Franken, Alex Koll, Bamford, Goldthwait and Maron (Purple Onion, Fri/21 10:30 p.m., Sat/22 8 p.m. $15 both shows sold out), live afternoon radio shows ‘The Sound of Young America Live’ (Eureka Theatre, Sat/22, 1 p.m. $20) and ‘Citizen Radio Live’ (SF Punchline Sat/22, 3 p.m. $20) and much more. For a more detailed listing of events and information on how to get tickets, please visit the San Francisco Sketchfest Web site.