Best Comedian - 2005
If any comedian today could be said to embody the spirit of San Francisco, it's Will Franken. Long-haired, lanky-limbed, and mildly shabby-looking, Franken slaps his audiences about the face and neck with his cerebral, surreal blend of sketch comedy mixed with stand-up. Unlike most professional funnypeople, who specialize in one kind of humor or another -- political, gay, Jewish, whatever -- Franken makes it impossible to know what you're going to get at his shows. Audience members might be confronted with a football match between the San Francisco William Frankens and the Ohio Will Frankens, a scene of Whitney Houston losing her mind, a Scottish William Blake enthusiast convinced of the evil of the alphabet, or a "Shakti Henna Yanna" yoga instructor. A regular at the Marsh for some time, Franken can also be spotted capering about the stage in threadbare jackets and shapeless T-shirts at a variety of comedy clubs, pubs, and theaters, including the Purple Onion and Café Du Nord in the city, the Starry Plough in Berkeley, and -- farther afield -- the DC Improv in Washington. As further testament to the comedian's unpredictability, fans can even catch him headlining at the hippie retreat Harbin Hot Springs, north of Santa Rosa.