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Arts & Entertainment

  • Readers Poll Winners

    Best Band The Sam Chase Best Blog SFist Best Comedian Alicia Dattner Best Dance Company ODC Best DJ Cheb I Sabbah Best Gallery 111 Minna Best Museum De Young Best Music Festival Hardy Strictly Bluegrass Best MC Bambu, Donna Sachet, Kingfish (three-way tie) Best Sunday Funday Dolores Park Best Theater A.C.T. Best Writer Dave Eggers… More >>
  • Best Museum Sideshow

    Cartoon Art Museum

    Most San Francisco museums are big on heart and low on funds, such as the Cartoon Art Museum, which has absolutely no collections budget. On any given day, sole curator Andrew Farago can be seen managing the archives, planning shows, hosting readings, painting the exhibition halls, building cases, and mounting art. He might even be found manning the register at… More >>
  • Best Publisher


    Perhaps the only West Coast publisher playing a pivotal role in the American literary scene, McSweeney's has a catalog that lacks the fashionable, impetuous hardcovers that clutter most lists. It's definitely pushing boundaries — with dos-a-dos children's books and Beck's Song Reader — but it's not doing it in the name of publicity. Readers know they can count on form… More >>
  • Best Archive Full of Tricks

    San Francisco History Center

    Heat rises, and so does the quality of materials at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. The San Francisco History Center is tucked behind closed but not locked doors on the sixth floor, where the entirety of the city and county archives live. The research collection includes police records on prostitutes and pickpockets of the Barbary Coast,… More >>
  • Best Fortune-Telling Show

    Ask Dr. Hal at The Dark Room

    After years of bouncing around among venues such as the Odeon, S.P.A.C.E., and 12 Galaxies, the venerable Ask Dr. Hal show has found a new home at the equally venerable Dark Room. Accompanied by strange sounds and visuals, the Church of the SubGenius's astonishing orator Dr. Hal will answer any question posed to him, and will do so in the… More >>
  • Best Audio Three-Ring Circus

    Radio Valencia

    Of all the community radio options in the Bay Area, Radio Valencia in San Francisco is the best value for your free radio-listening dollar. As is appropriate for a station whose studio is above a Bikram Yoga joint in the Mission, Radio Valencia offers a wide range of bizarre aural spectacles, particularly the free-form Nose Hair Lint Gland and KrOB's… More >>
  • Best Screening Room With a (No-Touching) Petting Zoo

    Variety Club Preview Room

    The next time you need a 47-seat state-of-the-art venue in which to watch a movie or sporting event on a theater-quality screen, the Variety Club Preview Room is your best bet. (After the screening, pretend you're an old-timey movie mogul by turning around saying "Can you run that again, Charlie?") Making it all the more special is the lush reception… More >>
  • Best Late Night Movie

    Film Night in the Park

    Although the days of the drive-in are pretty much over, for people nostalgic for the carnival experience, Film Night in the Park is the next best thing. If you're a sucker for a summertime show, you can see entertaining film classics at Dolores Park where admission is free. The programming features action flicks like Jaws and Top Gun, or feel-good… More >>
  • Best Place For Carnival Games

    Musée Mécanique

    Try your luck at San Francisco's best midway, the Musée Mécanique, a collection of more than 300 vintage coin-operated arcade games. Admission is free, so step right up and pay a nickel (times five) to fire up the old favorites like Arm Wrestling, have your destiny revealed by the Fortune Teller, or take snapshots in the photo booth. Our favorites… More >>
  • Best Circus Game

    Circus Atari

    The circus has come to town — or at least to your mobile device. Circus Atari is the millennium's version of sideshow games: the digitized Barnum & Bailey. Compatible with iPhones and iPads, the latest version of Circus Atari has a four-star rating, not to mention it'll only cost you a couple clicks on your phone to play. You're the… More >>
  • Best Theatrical Sideshow Company

    The Thrillpeddlers

    This is not some sideshow; the Thrillpeddlers are the main event. But their joyful, tasteless camp is subversive like the freak shows of yore. They titillate perverse urges; they indulge forbidden fantasies. They glitter their unmentionables and tassel their sexual organs. They specialize in grisly deaths with lakes of fake blood, grislier sex scenes, and, in a recent and highly… More >>
  • Best Theatrical Sideshow Company

    The Thrillpeddlers

    This is not some sideshow; the Thrillpeddlers are the main event. But their joyful, tasteless camp is subversive like the freak shows of yore. They titillate perverse urges; they indulge forbidden fantasies. They glitter their unmentionables and tassel their sexual organs. They specialize in grisly deaths with lakes of fake blood, grislier sex scenes, and, in a recent and highly… More >>
  • Best Escape Artist in Comedy

    The Purple Onion - CLOSED

    This historic local "comedy club" has gone through several iterations since its founding in 1952, including a stint as a grunge music club in the '90s. It holds a special place in the hearts of the local comedy scene, and it can never die. Even when the building was sold late last year, signaling the inevitable demise of the club,… More >>
  • Best Comedic Variety Show

    Don't Watch This Show LIVE!

    Founded in 2012 by comedians Ryan Cronin and Bert DiVietri, Don't Watch This Show LIVE! is like Saturday Night Live meets Funny or Die meets a Wednesday night in a little theatre in the Mission. This live monthly stand-up, sketch, improv, and all-around hilarious comedy show features an array of improv stars, stand-up favorites, and talented actors from around the… More >>
  • Best Comedy Troupe

    Sylvan Productions

    This comedy powerhouse not only produces dozens of shows around the city, but it also brings comedians together to live in a sort of "comedy frat house" of inspiration and support. Members of the Sylvan House work together to support each other's professional paths and to produce some of the best comedy in the Bay Area on stage and film.… More >>
  • Best Chameleon Comic

    Miles K

    Miles K weaves his clever, twisted humor into everything he does, whether it's live or video sketches, stand-up, Twitter, blogging, or satirical journalism. His performances range from clever hipster cynicism to wacky and upbeat characters, ever unpredictable and always hilarious. While many Bay Area comedy fans might know him from the stage at Punch Line or Cobb's, Miles will delight… More >>
  • Best Sexy Stories

    Bawdy Storytelling

    Themes like "Starf*ckers," "Cockblocked," "Cut-Rate Coitus" and "Bottoms Up!" — "true stories of anal, alcohol, and submission (why pick one?)" — make each Bawdy Storytelling event a remarkably coherent selection of salacious tales. Storytellers perform live, so anything at all can happen, although the lovely host Dixie de la Tour helps each one practice their performance ahead of time. Dixie… More >>
  • Best Variety Hour

    Writers With Drinks

    "Variety is more than just having sex dressed as Alien Greenspan every once in a while," declares the website for Writers With Drinks, the once-monthly literary variety hour at the Make-Out Room. Our host, the astonishingly vivacious Charlie Jane Anders, writes about science fiction for But Charlie doesn't hold with genre limitations. WWD features writers from all walks of… More >>
  • Best Place to Hear Jazz

    Robert Miner Auditorium

    For 30 years, ever since founding the San Francisco Jazz Center, Randall Kline wanted a home base. Now, he's got it, with the country's first standalone jazz center. Kline worked with a theater designer, sound engineer and an architect to create the best possible space to hear jazz. SFJAZZ's Robert Miner Auditorium combines the intimacy of a club with the… More >>
  • Best Theater for Writers

    Magic Theatre

    It's called the House that Sam built — as in Sam Shepard. The Magic Theatre isn't just about the actors. The people who write the words those actors say on stage play an important role as well. Because of the theatre's support of writers, nationally recognized playwright Octavio Solis left Texas to come to San Francisco more than 20 years… More >>
  • Best Use of Silk Trapeze

    Labayen Dance/SF's Tears

    Enrico Labayen's lament for his sister begins with tiny movements of the hand and foot — subtle signs of life that we seek in our departing loved ones. The dancers are sphinxes commanding silence, then break into individual phrases commemorating multiple moments and moods of life. The slap of their outspread arms against the floor is vulnerable and defiant, a… More >>
  • Best Whirling Dervish

    The Milissa Payne Project's Revolve

    Milissa Payne Bradley makes a Lazy Susan work in her quirky piece Revolve. In this excerpt from Up in the Air, Payne Bradley's colorful evening-length ballet about the wonders of hot air ballooning, Jamielyn Duggan spins upon a homemade disc in the center of the floor with daring, devil-may-care glee before leaping directly into precise, speedy footwork. In a piece… More >>
  • Best Use of Paint and Improvisation Since Jackson Pollock

    Tigre Bailando

    Hypnotic improviser Tigre Bailando is his own work of art. Using his body as a canvas, the artist/dancer/preschool teacher greets each day with a new design in a practice he calls "Everyday Warrior" to honor the ceremonial painting of indigenous peoples worldwide. He names mythology, graffiti, poetry, folktales, cultural artifacts, and the natural world among the multitudinous inspirations that radiate… More >>
  • Best Place in the Haight to See Hippie Plant Art

    1012 Masonic Avenue

    Tenants in this building have "potted" three plants into old jeans that line the front steps, right next to the street. It's the funkiest fashion in the Haight. When the tenants water the plants, the jeans hold the water because the pant legs are tied into knots. A poppy plant occupies one pair of jeans, while an ice plant anchors… More >>
  • Best Place to See Street Art Close to a Federal Building

    530 Turk Street

    The walls in the parking lot across from the Phillip Burton Federal Building are a forest of memorable street art — put there in plain view of federal employees who'd never tolerate a tag on their pristine building, which has cameras that monitor all street-level activity. At 530 Turk, though, wild green lettering zigzags across the back wall, while the… More >>
  • Best Place on Market Street to See Thought-Provoking Sculpture

    720 Market Street

    The entranceway here contains a tall Stephen De Staebler's "angel" sculpture that seems ready to fly away. With no obvious eyes and no obvious mouth, this winged sculpture is a bit of a puzzle, but it's an inspired puzzle that regularly causes people to do a double-take as they walk between Kearny and Grant. Last year, the de Young Museum… More >>
  • Best Aquarium Turned Dance Floor

    California Academy of Sciences

    One of the weirdest dancefloors ever installed anywhere was made of Plexiglas and stretched across a 20,000-gallon tank filled with sharks at Qua in Austin, Texas. Unfortunately, it's now closed, but you can experience the next best thing at the California Academy of Sciences' weekly "Nightlife" events. Every Thursday evening the museum converts into a makeshift discotheque, using its various… More >>
  • Best New Community Theater

    Z Below

    Z Space recently opened its new theater, Z Below, "to be a catalyst for the creation of new works." It's well on the way. The 88-seat theater has already hosted two great reading series, and when PianoFight used Z Below to test a new format with Variety Show Death Match, the show sold out. Now it's moving to the larger… More >>
  • Best Masked Band

    The Residents

    This avant-garde band, founded in Louisiana but bred in San Francisco thanks to a van that broke down in the Bay Area in 1966, has been infamously anonymous for at least four decades. The Residents call 2013 their 40th anniversary, marked by the international Wonder of Weird Tour, but it's likely that the band has been together for longer than… More >>
  • Band Most Likely to Become a Circus


    The self-proclaimed "kings of klown-fi" have gone through an awful lot of pancake makeup since forming in San Francisco in 2001. The liberal use of white faces and red accents might draw a lot of visual comparisons to the slightly sinister Midwest act Insane Clown Posse. But sonically, Gooferman is much more from the school of Red Hot Chili Peppers… More >>
  • Best Podcast About Whores to Be Personally Endorsed by Ira Glass

    The WhoreCast

    Earlier this year, threats of legal action from Chicago Public Media forced local podcaster, porn star, activist, musician, and part-time mermaid Siouxsie Q to change the name of her podcast from This American Whore to The Whorecast. She may have lost the name, but in exchange she got national press and an endorsement from Ira Glass himself, who called the… More >>
  • Best Film Festival by and for Sex Workers

    San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival

    Founded in 1999 by "unrepentant whore" and activist Carol Leigh, the biennial San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival is the one of the longest-running of its kind. According to Leigh, it's rivaled only by one in Calcutta, founded in 1997. The festival, now in its eighth incarnation at the Center for Sex and Culture, includes an exploration of… More >>
  • Best Leap Into Relevance

    San Francisco Magazine

    As San Francisco magazine's truly terrible web address reveals, the publication is better known as the place to get the scoop on who's decorating City Hall rather than who's running it. But this is changing. Newish editor Jon Steinberg is a news guy, not a luxury guy. Under his watch, the magazine has consistently published incisive and relevant stories about… More >>
  • Circus Bella

    Best Job of Filling Big Clown Shoes

    Circus Bella

    The Pickle Family Circus is San Francisco's most enduring circus legacy. It "reinvented the circus" long before that phrase was a buzzword in the circus community, and its one-ring, animal-free show helped inspire the two street performers who founded Cirque du Soleil. The Pickles started in 1970s San Francisco, and reflected the times. Their shows were held in public parks,… More >>
  • Best Music Biz Dog-and-Pony Show

    SF MusicTech Summit

    Part tech-geek confab, part self-promotion contest, and all good excuse to drink beer and eat brownies while talking to people you've never met before, the twice-annual SF MusicTech Summit provides a fascinating window into the tech side of today's music industry. The highlight of each edition is usually the inevitable shouting match between tech whiz-kids who believe The Internet Rules… More >>
  • Sweet Can

    Best Circus Theater

    Sweet Can

    Sweet Can brings that Montreal circus flavor without overdoing it. Its shows take Cirque du Soleil-sized skills, and fit them into small, intimate venues. The company is not as busy as some other local circus troupes — it takes its time developing new work — but its shows typically sell out. Sweet Can's first show Habitat, and its second show… More >>
  • Best Place to Train for the Center Ring of Rock 'N' Roll

    San Francisco Rock Project

    Good parents wants their kids to be rock stars, right? Right — or at least they should. And there's no better place to sow a stage-strutting future for young Johnny or Sally than the San Francisco Rock Project, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching kids the musical skills needed to become the golden gods of the next generation. In a sense,… More >>
  • Vau-de-Vire Society

    Best-Looking Show on Earth

    Vau-de-Vire Society

    Vau-de-Vire might have started out with a reputation as a ragtag circus bad boy, but thanks to constant practice, and the sheer determination of director Mike Gaines, the group is now a force to be reckoned with. Its revealing costumes blur the line between circus performers and go-go dancers, but its skills have landed it on the Las Vegas strip.… More >>
  • Best Tourist Circus That's Worth it for Locals

    Beach Blanket Babylon

    It's kinda expensive, the seating is tightly packed, and you have to wait in line for an hour or more to get in — so why don't more San Francisco locals appreciate the wonder that is Beach Blanket Babylon? Part of it must be the musical comedy show's reputation as a must-do for visitors. But the same could be said… More >>
  • The Sardine Family Circus

    Best Way to Pass the Time When Dragged to Fisherman's Wharf by Out-of-Towners

    The Sardine Family Circus

    The Bush Man might get all the press, but of all the groups performing at the Wharf, none can match the wit, athleticism, and sheer hilarity of the Sardine Family Circus. Born to a circus family in the U.K., Alex, Orion, and Meisje Griffiths grew up performing on the streets, and it shows. They've added and lost some members over… More >>
  • Best Inspiration

    City Arts & Lectures

    It's easy to tune in to this series of inspiring lectures from heavy-hitters in the fields of art, science, literature, and culture on KQED, but even better to see it in person. With over 50 lectures every year, City Arts & Lectures packs the Herbst Theater with luminaries like Gloria Steinem, Michael Chabon, Cheryl Strayed, and more. Best of all,… More >>
  • Best Rock 'n' Roll Whipcracker

    Hether Fortune of Wax Idols

    By Ian S. Port No one in the Bay Area music scene metes out painful pleasure, or pleasurable pain, like Heather Fedewa, aka Hether Fortune. She's best known as the leader of Wax Idols, an all-female rock band that explores the fine line between noirish pop and ear-shattering punk. But when she's not recording or touring, Fortune beats men for money… More >>
  • Best Local Hip-Hop Truth Serum

    The Coup

    Oligarchs, capitalists, and coke-addled trust-fund brats, radical Oakland rap outfit the Coup is coming for you. Led by charismatic propagandist/MC Boots Riley, the group uses live instrumentation and electric wordplay to make hella fun songs about fighting the man: "Your Parents' Cocaine" is a goofy piano-and-kazoo anthem about the spoiled offspring of snow-sniffing WASPs, while "The Guillotine" reprises that most… More >>
  • Best S.F. Comics to Watch in 2013

    By Dana Sitar From up-and-coming open-mikers to rookie pros, keep an eye out around town for these fast-rising stand-up stars. Brendan Lynch An unassuming facade and unapologetic snark make Lynch a favorite at clubs and showcases around the Bay Area. David Gborie Gborie lights up the local open mic scene and deserves to be known for his talents beyond it. He explodes on stage with… More >>
  • Best Singer With a Disappearing Act


    It would have been funny twice, mildly annoying three times, and a serious bummer the fourth. But when Morrissey canceled his fifth and six Bay Area shows in a row this spring, he made the leap from pop star prima donna to somewhat talented asshole. Supposedly touring the U.S. this year, the vegan Brit managed to bring the songs of… More >>

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