Like so many life experiences (final exams and wedding days come to mind), comedy is one of those things you want to be prepared for. You don't want to hear something funny when you're merging onto a crowded freeway, or drinking hot coffee, or trolling the grocery store trying to remember if you need toilet paper. No, when you're about to be amused you want to be sitting down, shit-eating grin on quick recall, ready to guffaw. So here's your advance notice: A lot of things will break you up at this year's SF Sketchfest.
First and foremost, for the teeming millions who adored the beautifully bizarre late-'80s/early-'90s HBO sketch comedy show The Kids in the Hall, former "Kid" Bruce McCulloch performs his solo monologues and songs on Jan. 15 and 16. Those familiar with his music -- the immortal "These Are the Daves I Know" from Kids, tracks like "Heroin Pig" and "Lil' Gay Waiter" from his two albums -- are conversant with McCulloch's skill in setting wacked-out rants to catchy tunes. He's no slouch in the sketch department, either: His characters, which on TV included the frail Cancer Boy and the bitter womanizer Cabbage Head, are a quick detour into the promised land of both funny strange and funny ha-ha.
Readers who depend on the satirical weekly newspaper The Onion to provide a soothing break from the grim toll of real news should pony up for advance tickets to "The Onion Live" on Jan. 24, at which Onionwriters and editors will banter with local wunderkind Dave Eggers, perhaps to reveal the means by which they're able to come up with fake headlines like "Cheney Wows Sept. 11 Commission by Drinking Glass of Water While Bush Speaks." Lovers of The Simpsons might pack the audience for the Jan. 22 turn by Totally Looped, the Los Angeles troupe featuring the ample comedic talents of Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer) and Second City alums Richard Kuhlman, Joe Liss, and Deb Lacusta (Castellaneta's wife, also a writer for The Simpsons). And Jan. 28 and 29 bring "Bizarro's Roadshow Humor Thing," featuring the funnymen behind the Bush-bashing book The Three Little Pigs Buy the White House, most notable among them being Dan Piraro of the oddball daily comic strip Bizarro.
In between troupes like local faves Killing My Lobster and Kasper Hauser, you can catch fledgling outfits such as NYC's Elephant Larry and L.A.'s Pretty, Pretty Pony; identical-twin tag-team stand-up masters the Sklar Brothers; and household names like Dana Carvey in town to do their thing. And since our thing is laughing helplessly at their thing, looks like we've got a good thing going. -- Joyce Slaton