Star-Studded Sketchfest Aims to Make City Laugh

From The San Francisco Chronicle

December 10, 2011
By David Wiegand


What do James L. Brooks, Garry Shandling, Candice Bergen and Cloris Leachman have in common? They like to make people laugh, which is what they’ll be doing in January as the San Francisco comedy earthquake known as Sketchfest marks its 10th anniversary with more than three weeks of comedy, films, panel discussions, tributes, theater and more, all over the city.Tickets go on sale Sunday for the festival, which launches Jan. 13 and continues through Feb. 5 at venues such as the Castro Theatre, Cobb’s Comedy Club, the Marines Memorial Theatre, Yoshi’s, the Purple Onion and the Eureka Theatre.

Highlights of the festival include a tribute to Shandling and Alan Zweibel on the 25th anniversary of the program “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” which they co-created; a tribute to “Murphy Brown,” its star, Bergen, and its creator, Diane English; and a tribute to the trio of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker with a screening of their film “Airplane!” And this time, in honor of the late Leslie Nielsen, you can call them “Shirley.”

The third annual SF Sketchfest Writing Award will be presented to Brooks, who has spent six decades making comedy on the big and small screen, with TV shows such as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Taxi,” and films such as “As Good As It Gets” and his latest, “How Do You Know?”

Also appearing at the festival will be such heavyweights as Dan Aykroyd, Neil Patrick Harris, Fred Willard, the Upright Citizens Brigade and Maya Rudolph.

Festival favorites such as Celebrity Autobiography will be back, this year with Mario Cantone, Rachael Harris, Rudolph, Willard and others. Peaches Christ hosts a Midnight Movies program with Leachman, currently featured in the Fox comedy “Raising Hope,” and some of the improv masters from “Whose Line Is It Anyway” will also be on hand.

The festival will also feature stand-up acts throughout the 24 days from, among others, Michael Ian Black, Maria Bamford, Marc Maron, Charlyne Yi, Will Franken and Will Durst.

SFSketchfest was created in 2001 by David Owen, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney to focus on local sketch comedy. The full festival debuted in 2002.

Tickets for this year’s events go on sale at 10 a.m. Sunday and range from $15-$60. For a full schedule of events and ticket information, go to

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