Spinning Platters Interview: David Owen, Janet Varney, and Cole Stratton: Founders of SF Sketchfest

From Spinning Platters

January 10, 2012
By Dakin Hardwick


In 2002, three Bay Area comics organized a festival featuring some of their favorite local sketch groups. They dubbed it Sketchfest, and it was a success. The next year, comedy legend Fred Willard joined the event, and every year subsequent year, the event became bigger and bigger. This year’s festival has grown to 2 1/2 weeks long, and features the biggest line up yet, featuring the likes of Eddie Izzard, Amy Poehler, Wil Wheaton, Barry Bostwick, and scores of other people so famous that even your grandparents know who they are. (You may need to ask your grandparents who Barry Bostwick is) SpinningPlatters had the opportunity to chat with founders David Owen, Janet Varney, and Cole Stratton about the evolution of the festival, the struggles of putting it on every year, where to grab a burrito, and a whole ton of hypothetical situations that were good fun to ask. Be sure to go to SFSketchfest.com to check out the line-up and purchase tickets.

How did Sketchfest morph into Podcastfest?

Cole: It seems like every comic we know and love has a podcast nowadays, so it made perfect since to program a bunch of live incarnations in the festival. Audiences love them, and the performers get a kick out of doing them in front of a crowd instead of in their garages or closets. Plus, they make great matinees!

Is the name of Sketchfest limiting at all since you’ve become a complete comedy festival?

Dave: Maybe, but we feel like a lot of people just know us as “SF SKETCHFEST.” A few years ago, we added the subtitle of “The San Francisco Comedy Festival.” It’s kind of like the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Everyone knows them as Jazzfest, but their headliners are bands like The Eagles.

Was there a booking that made you say, “we’ve made it”?

Janet: In a way, I think we sort of keep feeling that way over and over. We never stop feeling amazed when someone we love agrees to perform, and we never just assume we’ll get what’s on our wish list. In the end, that creates a bit of a roller coaster, but it also means that we never take anyone for granted!

What advice do you have to young comics/sketch groups that are looking to play the festival in the future?

Cole: Keep performing live as much as possible, and reworking your material. You can always tell which groups are more seasoned and work hard on their material, and which ones are sloppily thrown together and probably the first time they’ve ever been performed. It’s important to us that every show be fantastic, and we not only want to laugh, but we want to feel confident that you’ll put on a great show. Oh, and we really like cinnamon bread (hint hint).

If Steve Martin and Reggie Watts ever jammed, would the universe reverse on itself?

Dave: Probably not, but it would be fun to watch!

Janet Varney: You’re a bassist. Have you ever had a bass battle a la Scott Pilgrim vs. The World?

Janet: Not yet! But I carry my bass around with me everywhere, all day, every day, just in case. Or should I say, “just in bass?” [punches herself in the stomach]

Cole Stratton: What’s your favorite Drew Carey program?

Cole: That’s tough! As much as I enjoy The Price is Right and The Drew Carey Show, it has to be Whose Line is It Anyway? as it was hugely influential on me becoming an improviser. I started doing short form games much like they do on that show, cutting my teeth doing them with the Cobb’s Comedy Club house group The Riffingtons (we’d go up at the end of a three hour standup showcase in their old location once a week), and Drew, Ryan, Greg and the rest really were an inspiration to me.

If you three were the Marx Brothers (Siblings), who is Chico, who is Harpo and who is Groucho?

Cole: I guarantee you that Dave is Harpo and would silently attack us if we thought otherwise. I’m known for laying down lots of groan-worthy puns, so I suppose I’d be Groucho. Janet speaks with a heavy Italian accent, so she’d be Chico.

Is this the best time for comedy or are there needed gains and improvements?

Cole: I don’t know if its the best time (I was pretty little during the 80s stand-up boom in San Francisco), but it sure is a great time, especially with YouTube and cheap digital cameras making it possible for people to make content and have it seen immediately, as well as podcasts getting people’s comedic sensibilities out there quickly. Our festival audiences are always fantastic and the performers always want to come back and do shows here, so it sure is a great climate for comedy in the Bay Area!

With ten years in the history books, can you breathe a sigh of relief?

Dave: Never. You constantly have to grow and change and try to keep things fresh. Some things are easier 11 years in, and some things are much more difficult.

Sketches and improv are all about being in the moment. Is it important to crystallize these moments or is the fun found in their uniquely short life-spans?

Janet: Until we can finally carbon-freeze sketch performers mid-sketch and use them to placate Jabba the Hut, we’ll never really feel safe.

How has your taste in comedy changed or matured since starting the festival?

Janet: For me personally, I have become a much bigger fan of stand-up. It was the medium I knew least about when we started the fest. I had some favorites, and certainly grew up loving people like Steve Martin, but I was so impressed when I started to check out my own peers.

You’ve worked with a number of comedy legends. Who were you most nervous to meet? 

Cole: Gene Wilder. What do you talk about with Gene Wilder? (For me, it ended up being about the housing market in San Francisco. Really, Cole?) He was such a sweetheart. If I ever met Bob Hope, I wouldn’t know what to say, other than “It’s a guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-GHOOOOST!”
Janet: James L. Brooks. I mean, it’s James L. Brooks.

It’s three in the morning and you get a call about Sketchfest: Who is most likely on the other side of the conversation?

Cole: Dave or Janet. We work 24/7 on this thang!

Have you ever frozen during a performance and what was the outcome?

Janet: I’m sure I’ve frozen during improv sets. But that’s the nice thing about improv- you’re working with a team who’s there to support you, and someone just steps in and helps you out. And then you repay them by stealing back the focus and mugging obnoxiously.

What is the longest sketch or improv scene you’ve ever witnessed?

Dave:When something isn’t working, or a scene isn’t funny, it can be the longest scene ever.

Does Sketchfest have a mantra?

Dave: It’s more of an inside joke than a mantra, but in our first year we had a big celebrity attend a show and the theater owner kept saying “What An Honor” it was to have that person come to the festival. So we constantly say “What An Honor” in a silly way to each other.

Will you confirm the rumor of a Sketchfest Cruise in 2013?

Cole: Tom isn’t available.
Janet: Cole, Dave and I just voted you out of SF Sketchfest.

Can we expect as many actual zeppelins as this year’s advertisements imply?

Janet: It’s actually a cloaked way of us communicating to fans that there will be a surprise Led Zeppelin reunion at Sketchfest. And now I’ve voted myself out of SF Sketchfest as well.

What is the unofficial burrito/taqueria of SF Sketchfest 2012?

Cole: Great question! Our New York comics especially are enthused to partake in the city’s fantastic burritos. Cancun maybe?

If a hurricane, earthquake or zombie apocalypse occurs, what Sketchfest guest/group will be the most efficient survival partner(s)?

Cole: The State. There’s just so many of them.

Whipped cream, banana peels and other comedy lubricants are very hazardous. Has there ever been an injury during Sketchfest?

Dave: What are you, a lawyer?

What is the biggest time for crunch during or before the festival?

Janet: You mean what is the biggest crunch time? Before and during are both fraught with rolling waves of crunch. We’ll get a breather, and then we’ll be hit by another wave of “How are we going to get this (insert action here) done by (insert deadline here) without (insert self-harm term here) ourselves?”

What is the unofficial theme song for Sketchfest 2012?

Cole: “Senses Working Overtime” by XTC? There’s so much going on at any given time in the festival it can be completely overwhelming!

Gordon Elgart & OJ Patterson assisted with this interview. And by assisted, I mean wrote all of the questions so I can take credit for it. 

Back to Menu

406 thoughts on “Spinning Platters Interview: David Owen, Janet Varney, and Cole Stratton: Founders of SF Sketchfest

  1. Pingback: Ismael Robinson

  2. Pingback: click here

  3. Pingback: Marlop plopodt

  4. Pingback: debtbuster debt management

  5. Pingback: top online backup

  6. Pingback: deezer gratuit

  7. Pingback: youtube partner

  8. Pingback: top hosting service

  9. Pingback: review hostgator hosting service

  10. Pingback: hostgator hosting reviews

  11. Pingback: canada goose outlet uk

  12. Pingback: longchamp outlet store

  13. Pingback: parking

  14. Pingback: youtube network

  15. Pingback: buy garcinia cambogia

  16. Pingback: pit 2013

  17. Pingback: pure garcinia cambogia

  18. Pingback: cash advance lending loan lead generators

  19. Pingback: pillow stand for ipad

  20. Pingback: garcinia cambogia extract

  21. Pingback: payday loans online payday loans online payday loans online payday loans online

  22. Pingback: jes extender reviews

  23. Pingback: Невероятная жизнь Уолтера Митти уЕс

  24. Pingback: Adult

  25. Pingback: barbour coats

  26. Pingback: can you learn social media online

  27. Pingback: Leaky Boy new single Here Kitty free download on MTV

  28. Pingback: Payday Loans

  29. Pingback: the best protein powder

  30. Pingback: coach holidays to spain 2013

  31. Pingback: Seo web gia re

  32. Pingback: My Homepage

  33. Pingback: UK Karen Millen DM203 Pink Signature Stretch Satin Dress Outlet

  34. Pingback: car crashes

  35. Pingback: get your ex back

  36. Pingback: Hip Hop

  37. Pingback: hotel

  38. Pingback: mp3 volume enhancer

  39. Pingback: creatingexcellencewithin.info

  40. Pingback: car crashes

  41. Pingback: meanwhile in russia

  42. Pingback: check this video

  43. Pingback: Los Angeles SEO company

  44. Pingback: lon rosen quotations

  45. Pingback: 10 best ipad accessories

  46. Pingback: human hair extensions

  47. Pingback: Академия вампиров смотреть онлайн 2013 ыПя

  48. Pingback: description

  49. Pingback: Avalon orange county seo firm

  50. Pingback: кино Воровка книг шХЙ

  51. Pingback: cheap hair extensions

  52. Pingback: tutorial para aprender a tocar guitarra

  53. Pingback: roqya


  55. Pingback: independent escorts

  56. Pingback: Забойный реванш смотреть фильм онлайн ЖЧС

  57. Pingback: ham radio3k

  58. Pingback: Bradbury seo for law firms

  59. Pingback: Академия вампиров фильм 2013 смотреть хЪз

  60. Pingback: Wiki

  61. Pingback: directory submissions blog

  62. Pingback: web host reseller

  63. Pingback: Dating Tester

  64. Pingback: tapped out simpsons cheats

  65. Pingback: best internet marketing companies

  66. Pingback: search engine optimization tools

  67. Pingback: top 10 laptops

  68. Pingback: смотреть фильм Любовь сквозь время в hd качестве учИ

  69. Pingback: search engine optimization companies

  70. Pingback: seo services

  71. Pingback: instant vps

  72. Pingback: В спорте только девушки фильм 2013 дЭЗ

  73. Pingback: mäklare hammarbyhöjden

  74. Pingback: karen millen outlet store

  75. Pingback: moncler sale

  76. Pingback: panasonic shaver

  77. Pingback: colon cleaning

  78. Pingback: hvordan g� ned i vekt

  79. Pingback: mötesplatsen

  80. Pingback: international acting school

  81. Pingback: FIFA14コイン

  82. Pingback: 信長の野望 RMT

  83. Pingback: Neverwinter Astral Diamonds

  84. Pingback: Neverwinter Astraldiamant

  85. Pingback: social bookmarking

  86. Pingback: 24 hour locksmith buffalo ny

  87. Pingback: ميسي

  88. Pingback: Unlock iPhone Finland

  89. Pingback: casino

  90. Pingback: curse youtube partnership

  91. Pingback: 信長の野望 貫

  92. Pingback: car title cash loan

  93. Pingback: Elder Scrolls Online Gold

  94. Pingback: Garcinia

  95. Pingback: web

  96. Pingback: WOW Power Leveling

  97. Pingback: FFXIV 育成代行

  98. Pingback: Elder Scrolls Online Gold

  99. Pingback: related

  100. Pingback: Jual Obat Kuat

  101. Pingback: austin personal injury lawyers

  102. Pingback: rs power leveling

  103. Pingback: FF11 RMT

  104. Pingback: Elder Scrolls Online Power Leveling

  105. Pingback: building companies victoria

  106. Pingback: FF14 ギル

  107. Pingback: fancy pants

  108. Pingback: resources

  109. Pingback: here

  110. Pingback: FUT14 Coins

  111. Pingback: FIFA 14 RMT

  112. Pingback: Neverwinter Astral Diamonds

  113. Pingback: here

  114. Pingback: report

  115. Pingback: important source

  116. Pingback: karen millen collection

  117. Pingback: pirater un compte facebook

  118. Pingback: criminal case cheats and hack tool get unlimited energy cash and gold

  119. Pingback: pest Control for bees Fort Worth

  120. Pingback: FF11 ギル

  121. Pingback: FFXI 育成代行

  122. Pingback: Anonymous

  123. Pingback: here

  124. Pingback: RuneScape FireCape

  125. Pingback: Neverwinter Astral Diamonds

  126. Pingback: FF14 ギル

  127. Pingback: this contact form

  128. Pingback: Wizardry RMT

  129. Pingback: game of war hack

  130. Pingback: bail bonds costa covina

  131. Pingback: dog poop bags

  132. Pingback: sell my car tamarac fl

  133. Pingback: http://tinyurl.com/p7pt3jg

  134. Pingback: best dog poop bags

  135. Pingback: lon rosen twitter

  136. Pingback: amda.edu

  137. Pingback: tactical knives activedutygear.com

  138. Pingback: breaking bad drinking game

  139. Pingback: cash for cars

  140. Pingback: FIFA 14 coins

  141. Pingback: Neverwinter Astral Diamonds

  142. Pingback: runescape power leveling

  143. Pingback: Diablo 3 育成代行

  144. Pingback: 戦国ixa RMT

  145. Pingback: ドラゴンネストゴールド

  146. Pingback: ArcheAge Power Leveling

  147. Pingback: ffxiv gil

  148. Pingback: ドラゴンネストゴールド

  149. Pingback: Neverwinter Power Leveling

  150. Pingback: sell my car for cash

  151. Pingback: online dress up games

  152. Pingback: PSO2 メセタ

  153. Pingback: buffalo web design

  154. Pingback: lakeville launch price

  155. Pingback: Blade And Soul Gold

  156. Pingback: EverQuest Next Platinum

  157. Pingback: Neverwinter Astraldiamant

  158. Pingback: EverQuest Next Power Leveling

  159. Pingback: ESO Gold

  160. Pingback: doggie poop bags bulk

  161. Pingback: The Elder Scrolls Online Gold

  162. Pingback: ArcheAge Gold

  163. Pingback: Xbox Live 3 Month Gold Membership

  164. Pingback: ドラゴンクエストX ゴールド

  165. Pingback: FFXI 育成代行

  166. Pingback: ドラゴンネスト RMT

  167. Pingback: FFXIV 育成代行

  168. Pingback: 戦国ixa銅銭

  169. Pingback: レッドストーン RMT

  170. Pingback: ArcheAge Power Leveling

  171. Pingback: FF14 RMT

  172. Pingback: ドラゴンクエストX ゴールド

  173. Pingback: RMT777

  174. Pingback: FIFA 14 coins IOS

  175. Pingback: david sills video

  176. Pingback: vimax porn

  177. Pingback: FIFA 14 RMT

  178. Pingback: 戦国ixa RMT

  179. Pingback: FF14 ギル

  180. Pingback: MHF RMT

  181. Pingback: Neverwinter Power Leveling

  182. Pingback: prince cigaretter

  183. Pingback: Goodyear Tires

  184. Pingback: Unlock iPhone Montenegro

  185. Pingback: doggie boarding

  186. Pingback: Slow the aging process

  187. Pingback: help-for-anxiety.us

  188. Pingback: www.seovolución.org

  189. Pingback: hd megasesso

  190. Pingback: iherb coupon

  191. Pingback: Finance

  192. Pingback: iherb coupons

  193. Pingback: Home Improvement

  194. Pingback: tera power leveling

  195. Pingback: iherb.com coupon

  196. Pingback: ffxiv gil

  197. Pingback: golec2013.us

  198. Pingback: Niacin Vitamin B3

  199. Pingback: socialworkerjobs.us

  200. Pingback: uaethalassemia.info

  201. Pingback: mikaelferreira.info

  202. Pingback: funny Pictures

  203. Pingback: Niacinamide

  204. Pingback: MHF RMT

  205. Pingback: ドラゴンクエストX ゴールド

  206. Pingback: Diablo 3 育成代行

  207. Pingback: ドラゴンネストゴールド

  208. Pingback: cheap ffxiv gil

  209. Pingback: neverwinter power leveling

  210. Pingback: RMT777

  211. Pingback: ドラゴンクエストX RMT

  212. Pingback: AION ギーナ

  213. Pingback: www.destinationemploi.org

  214. Pingback: FIFA 14 RMT

  215. Pingback: Emma Watson Images

  216. Pingback: Neverwinter Astral Elmas

  217. Pingback: Jessica Alba images

  218. Pingback: How to earn money online

  219. Pingback: old school new body review

  220. Pingback: Diablo 3 RMT

  221. Pingback: ドラゴンクエストX ゴールド

  222. Pingback: RMT777

  223. Pingback: FIFA14コイン

  224. Pingback: レッドストーン RMT

  225. Pingback: gridspeed.biz

  226. Pingback: Muslim Marriage Events

  227. Pingback: MHF RMT

  228. Pingback: ドラゴンクエストX ゴールド

  229. Pingback: Друзья друзей ЫбС

  230. Pingback: Unlock iPhone South Korea

  231. Pingback: holonomicinstitute.biz

  232. Pingback: games4d.biz

  233. Pingback: getpacemaker.org

  234. Pingback: paginas-de-internet-u.info

  235. Pingback: wholehousesurge.info

  236. Pingback: Richmond Solicitation of a Minor Virginia Lawyer

  237. Pingback: www.trade-to-trade.com

  238. Pingback: RMT

  239. Pingback: tera power leveling

  240. Pingback: Diablo 3 育成代行

  241. Pingback: check it out here

  242. Pingback: Diablo 3 Gold

  243. Pingback: 育成代行

  244. Pingback: Diablo 3 育成代行

  245. Pingback: ドラゴンクエストX ゴールド

  246. Pingback: FF11 RMT

  247. Pingback: FF11 RMT

  248. Pingback: games for kids

  249. Pingback: pepper panic hack

  250. Pingback: Orange County Book Marketing

  251. Pingback: baccarat

  252. Pingback: fantasy maids

  253. Pingback: Baby Products

  254. Pingback: jailbreak iPhone

  255. Pingback: View generator

  256. Pingback: Tifanny Brianne

  257. Pingback: sonnenspray

  258. Pingback: Allnet Flat Vergleich

  259. Pingback: racequeen

  260. Pingback: EDM

  261. Pingback: Entrepreneur

  262. Pingback: doc truyen online

  263. Pingback: Selena Gomez

  264. Pingback: our website

  265. Pingback: keks

  266. Pingback: fotobog

  267. Pingback: Chemical Peel

  268. Pingback: overnight pet sitting in naples

  269. Pingback: vimax

  270. Pingback: sudski tumaci

  271. Pingback: Tights

  272. Pingback: 17. karla walker

  273. Pingback: overnight pet sitter

  274. Pingback: website

  275. Pingback: freebies

  276. Pingback: website

  277. Pingback: overnight pet sitter in naples

  278. Pingback: copyrightprofessionnel.info

  279. Pingback: haaruitval

  280. Pingback: top criminal lawyers wv

  281. Pingback: Movie Party

  282. Pingback: 戦国ixa RMT

  283. Pingback: password reset

  284. Pingback: how to get your ex back

  285. Pingback: Irina Shayk images

  286. Pingback: recette crepe

  287. Pingback: Hannover

  288. Pingback: Hilary Duff Images

  289. Pingback: 戦国テンカトリガー 育成代行

  290. Pingback: Spot cream

  291. Pingback: mehr Gewinn

  292. Pingback: 戦国ixa銅銭

  293. Pingback: Kendall Jenner Images

  294. Pingback: ドラクエ10 RMT

  295. Pingback: AION RMT

  296. Pingback: RMT

  297. Pingback: FF11 RMT

  298. Pingback: water damage kansas city

  299. Pingback: FF11 育成代行

  300. Pingback: boundra RMT

  301. Pingback: IPL 7 Live Match

  302. Pingback: Rachel Doring


  304. Pingback: gta5

  305. Pingback: gluten-free lipstick

  306. Pingback: Unlock iPhone Norway

  307. Pingback: 3dnorge.info

  308. Pingback: ingles facil y rapido

  309. Pingback: high yield bonds

  310. Pingback: payday loans

  311. Pingback: jaket dropdead maling

  312. Pingback: tera power leveling

  313. Pingback: igihosting.com

  314. Pingback: gender predictor

  315. Pingback: resource

  316. Pingback: gsm technology

  317. Pingback: finance a fishing kayk

  318. Pingback: http://freeangrybirdsgames.webs.com/

  319. Pingback: metal global

  320. Pingback: wetches jewel

  321. Pingback: Dish Network

  322. Pingback: custom id card

  323. Pingback: California

  324. Pingback: cool tattoo

  325. Pingback: hp society

  326. Pingback: glent plant

  327. Pingback: Анатомия любви кино онлайн хСхДл

  328. Pingback: Electronic Distritutor

  329. Pingback: С 8 марта, мужчины! новый фильм мНСюо

  330. Pingback: С кем переспать фильмы онлайн кзэшЛ

  331. Pingback: Китайская головоломка гугл ДшП

  332. Pingback: Феи: Загадка пиратского острова фильм 2013 смотреть онлайн полностью Ахд

  333. Pingback: Красавица и чудовище 2013 смотреть онлайн фильм без регистрации рпг

  334. Pingback: Guild Wars 2 Gold

  335. Pingback: everquest next power leveling

  336. Pingback: privacy policy

  337. Pingback: Unlock An iPhone

  338. Pingback: 戦国ixa銅銭

  339. Pingback: Diablo 3 育成代行

  340. Pingback: business

  341. Pingback: joey

  342. Pingback: Cheapest way to send text messages

  343. Pingback: education

  344. Pingback: The Elder Scrolls Online Power Leveling

  345. Pingback: WOW Gold

  346. Pingback: ドラゴンネストゴールド

  347. Pingback: ドラゴンネストRMT

  348. Pingback: FF11 育成代行

  349. Pingback: Neverwinter Astral Diamonds

  350. Pingback: レッドストーン RMT

  351. Pingback: Celebrity Images

  352. Pingback: TESO Power Leveling

  353. Pingback: Nina Dobrev images

  354. Pingback: ny home healthcare services

  355. Pingback: borlaexhaust.org

  356. Pingback: roqya

  357. Pingback: lamodno.net

  358. Pingback: How can I make money online? Use Google through YouTube

  359. Pingback: softboxstudios.net

  360. Pingback: cercolavoronightclub.info

  361. Pingback: descargar whatsapp gratis

  362. Pingback: hugospadafora.info

  363. Pingback: iceshow.info

  364. Pingback: infiniti-jx.info

  365. Pingback: 5minutephoto.info

  366. Pingback: stopblackcarbon.info

  367. Pingback: brigantine lawn care

  368. Pingback: ドラゴンネストゴールド

  369. Pingback: 真・三國無双 RMT

  370. Pingback: アトランティカ RMT

  371. Pingback: Passive Income

  372. Pingback: AION ギーナ

  373. Pingback: MHF RMT

  374. Pingback: Diablo 3 RMT

  375. Pingback: Anonymous

  376. Pingback: первый мститель другая война онлайн выживания

  377. Pingback: hor?scopo de hoy gratis

  378. Pingback: казино

  379. Pingback: первый мститель другая война 2014 жили

  380. Pingback: iniciar en gmail correo

  381. Pingback: the fat loss factor program

  382. Pingback: MHF Zeny

  383. Pingback: Bijou

  384. Pingback: レッドストーン RMT

  385. Pingback: марк дакаскос саботаж смотреть онлайн фильм продолжала

  386. Pingback: Nanny cam

  387. Pingback: FF11 育成代行

  388. Pingback: 戦国ixa銅銭

  389. Pingback: rbs

  390. Pingback: cheap generic levitra online

  391. Pingback: FF14 育成代行

  392. Pingback: fight speeding ticket calgary

  393. Pingback: старые проститутки в братеево

  394. Pingback: social media app

  395. Pingback: проститутки 55 лет

  396. Pingback: How to get more customers

  397. Pingback: the venus factor john barban

  398. Pingback: Synergenex

  399. Pingback: payday loans

  400. Pingback: Birmingham seo company

  401. Pingback: казино

  402. Pingback: интим беларусь

  403. Pingback: жена шлюха порно

  404. Pingback: gossip

  405. Pingback: Buy facebook likes

  406. Pingback: erfolgreich schnell abnehmen