SF Sketchfest 2013 Jan. 24-27
By Dave Pehling and Kevin Jones
Thursday, January 24, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO —The twelfth annual SF Sketchfest brings together another stellar line-up of talent to a variety of SF comedy and theater venues for 18 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 and members of Stella, Naked Babies and Human Giant, onstage performances featuring players from the leftfield comedy shows Childrens Hospital, Delocated and legendary Nickelodeon program The Adventures of Pete and Pete as well as animated series Pinky and the Brain and Futurama. There also will be tributes to such classic movies as Army of Darkness, American Splendor, Welcome to the Dollhouse and The Naked Gun as well as appearances by noted locally grown talents like Doug Benson, Killing My Lobster, Mythbuster co-host Adam Savage, Greg Behrendt and Brent Weinbach.
This year, the festival has greatly expanded the number of venues being used across the city. Besides staging shows at the venerable Marines’ Memorial Theatre in Union Square, the Castro Theatre, longtime venues The Dark Room in the Mission and downtown’s Eureka Theatre and standby comedy clubs Cobb’s and the Punchline, this year Sketchfest will be holding events at the Verdi Club, the Rite Spot, the Independent, Stage Werx, the Actors Theater, Cafe Royale and more.
The festival opens with a bang Thursday night as the Castro Theatre hosts RiffTrax Presents Night of the Shorts IV: Riffizens on Patrol with Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett of Mystery Science Theater 3000-fame. Making a triumphant return to the Castro, the quick-witted trio who helped make MST3K a Comedy Central cult favorite will dismantle and roast some classically bad educational films with help from guest riffers Kevin McDonald (Kids in the Hall, the aforementioned Adam Savage from Mythbusters, Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show, Flight of the Conchords, Toy Story 3, Bob’s Burgers), Paul F. Tompkins (Tenacious D, Best Week Ever), and frequent Rifftrax collaborators (and SF Sketchfest founders) Cole Stratton and Janet Varney (Castro Theatre, Thu/24, 8 p.m., $30).
Several of the above RiffTrax players will be appearing at additional events during opening weekend, as Mirman hosting his popular Brooklyn-based indie comedy showcase Pretty Good Friends on Friday night with Schaal, Delocated‘s Jon Glaser, comedy writer Joe Mande (Parks and Recreation, Delocated), and vocal sonic wizard/comedian Reggie Watts (Cobb’s Comedy Club, Fri/25 8 p.m. $25 sold out). Later that night at Cobb’s, Schaal will host her own event with Mirman returning the favor along with appearances by Steve Agee (The Sarah Silverman Program) and comedians Erin Foley, Beth Stelling and Dan St. Germain (Cobb’s Comedy Club, Fri/25 10:30 p.m. $25 sold out). Meanwhile, Tompkins will entertain with Friends Real and Fake at the Verdi Club, taking the stage with Agee, McDonald and comedian/actress Mary Lynn Rajskub (Verdi Club, Fri/25 8 p.m. $25 sold out).
Marines’ Memorial Theater hosts two enticing shows on Friday night. The legendarily surreal children’s program The Adventures of Pete and Pete gets the royal treatment with a 20th Anniversary Reunion Show that will feature Michael C. Maronna (Big Pete Wrigley), Danny Tamberelli (Little Pete Wrigley), Toby Huss (Artie, the Strongest Man in the World), Rick Gomez (Endless Mike), Pete & Pete house band leader Mark Mulcahy, and series creators Chris Viscardi and Will McRobb for a night of clips, conversation, music, scene readings and more (Marines Memorial Theater, Fri/25 8 p.m. $25). Fans of Daily Show and Bored to Death star John Hodgman would be advised to check him out for Judge John Hodgman LIVE. Self-appointed judge Hodgman will listen to real-life disputes and weigh in on such pressing issues as “Is chili a soup or a stew?” for this live version of the popular Maximum Fun-produced podcast features Bullseye host and Maximum Fun founder Jesse Thorn and musical guest/expert witness John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats (Marines Memorial Theater, Fri/25 10:30 p.m. $25).
Avid podcast subscribers are probably well aware of Superego, the monthly improvised-sketch comedy podcast masterminded by Matt Gourley and Jeremy Carter that boasts frequent guest appearances by stars like Drew Carey, Patton Oswalt and SNL’s Jason Sudekis. This year, Sketchfest hosts a return recording session of the podcast to follow up on their first ever live road show at last year’s festival. Those familiar with the podcast know to expect a gift from the stage craft gods if it even approaches the level of quality of the show’s audio production while twisting together silly, almost fantastical premises that rely heavily on pop-culture references. Hodgman, Thompkins, Colin Hanks (of Showtime’s Dexter) and James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros.) as special guests (Eureka Theatre Sat/26 3 p.m. $20).
On Saturday, Marines’ Memorial Theater will host the return of Acker & Blacker’s The Thrilling Adventure Hour, a modern take on the classic ’40s old-time radio drama program featuring three segments in each episode, as well as jingles and messages from sponsors such as Patriot Brand Cigarettes (“Good for your Constitution”). Since 2005, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker have been writing and producing a new show each month and the crowds consist not only of Hollywood denizens seeking a unique evening of comedy, but also loyal fans who return month after month to follow their favorite characters. This San Francisco iteration features two entirely different shows with the regular cast of Work Juice Players and special guests Hanks, Hodgman, Watts, Agee (7 p.m. show only), Jessica Chaffin (9:30 p.m. show only), Jonathan Coulton, Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key, John Roderick, Rider Strong and more (Marines’ Memorial Theater, Sat/26 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. $40-$50).
The Roxie Theatre in the Mission District will hold the first of four Benson Movie Interruptions starting Saturday as local weed-obssessed stand-up favorite Doug Benson (Super High Me, The Marijuana-Logues, The Benson Interruption) and surprise guests will crack wise with microphones during a variety of cinimatic disasters. Halle Barry’s costumed superhero debacle Catwoman (Saturday) and preposterous Ice Cube/Jennifer Lopez actioner Anaconda (Sunday) are the first two films to get the treatment (Roxie Theatre, Sat/26 and Sun/27, 4:20 p.m. $20).
Other festival highlights this weekend Futurama Live, an event featuring the cast and crew performing scenes and screening freshly smuggled, world-premiere footage from the upcoming all-new 2013 season on Comedy Central as well as a Q and A session (Cobb’s, Sat/26 1 p.m. $20 sold out), a performance by rising stand-up Nick Kroll, who will also show clips from his new Comedy Central series Kroll Show (Cobb’s, Sat/26 7:30 p.m. $30 sold out), the Delocated Witness Protection Program Variety Show with Glaser hosting busy guests Agee, Mande, Mirman, Rajskub and Schaal as well as musical guest Bob Mould (Cobb’s, Sat/26 10 p.m. $20), an Afternoon with Pinky and the Brain with the cult animated show’s creators Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen (Eureka Theatre, Sun/27 2 p.m. $20 sold out), the first part of the SF Sketchfest Reggidency featuring singer/beat boxer extraordinaire Reggie Watts working with regular collaborators the Amy O’Neal Dance Crew (Marines’ Memorial Theater, Sun/27 8 p.m. $29.50) and much more. For a more detailed listing of events and information on how to get tickets, please visit the San Francisco Sketchfest website.