Photo by Mindy Tucker
Another year, another Sketchfest, another installment of Smug Shift. It seems just yesterday I was ream-deep into my first SF Sketchfest, jotting notes with a juvenile sincerity dormant since the beginning of middle school (where it all went wrong). Over the overworked, overwrought ordeal, only one show reached personal perfection: Smug Shift, a concoction of former Bay Area-based boonsMoshe Kasher and Brent Weinbach. Last night at the Verdi Club, the show stretched its wings and lifted its head skyward with rekindled opulence: a weird, phallic phoenix.
To catch you up, Smug Shift is the hybrid of Moshe’s Smug Life and Brent’s Night Shift, two equally obscure shows that synergized into a slightly less obscure production, now in it’s tenth year. A decade of casual joviality contextualized by two emergent careers and signified by an inexplicit bond bordering on incestual homoeroticism. Brent loves Moshe. Moshe loves Brent. Their friendship, their brotherhood, their man-crush glues congruently and in turn glued me to their shenanigans.
Comedy duos only succeed in contrast. Moshe, in a cocaine-white denim jacket, prodded and pandered, loquacious and anxious, inevitably admonishing the audience for sensitive lethargy. Brent, in his Brent-clothes, played precocious with unflappable braggadocios, impossible to hate or take seriously. Moshe would turn the crowd, Brent would cover, Brent would sidetrack, Moshe would lambast, Brent would sing, Moshe would twerk. It was a good dynamic to carry what felt like a high school sleepover, complete with crank calls—inspired by Brent’s extremely NSFW “Gangster Party Line”, sex toys and junk food intellectualism.
Guests Sara Schaefer, Graham Elwood, and Natasha Leggero cleansed the pallet, fresh celery after a helping of barbeque dicks. Sara, a longtime faraway favorite, shifted between a flippant silliness and low-voltage shock with incredible cool. Her unlucky in lust tales gently lapped at my ears like coconut water, novel and refreshing. Graham made an early case for one of the most undervalued comedians in the world, blustering into off the cuff observational bliss rife with histrionics. Natasha swirled sarcasm in an imaginary martini glass, blew e-cigarette vapor with a wiry aloofness, and dripped candid crass across the stage like an elegant lush.
It all felt eerily familiar when Kashbach introduced Nick Thune, now shaven and shifted from melodically-bedded one-liners to colloquial—still funny—prose. Erie, but not altogether unsettling, a happy coincidence, obscure as the show’s inception. Smug Shift, in a different venue and time, retained its character, heart and charm, delivering in every way imaginable.
A lot of hecklers. To their defense, the Verdi Club has a real “town hall meeting” vibe during Sketchfest.
Over 100 variations of the n-word were uttered, mostly by Kaseem “Best Racial Humor You Don’t Feel Guilty Laughing At San Francisco 2012 SFWeekly” Bentley. I—gleefully—could feel the PC, chichi crowd squirm around me. (P.S. I’m black.)
The sex toy was a replica of Belladonna’s throat gifted to Moshe Kasher, a loyal Belladonna enthusiast. Brent noted that the disembodied throat looked like a penis with an expansive urethra.
Naturally opaque, giant monitors are hard to watch sketch comedy videos through. I still don’t regret sitting in the front row.