In a moment when laughter has never been more needed, San Francisco Sketchfest has risen to the challenge with the announcement of its 2017 lineup. Packed with tributes, reunions, live podcasts, and many of today’s top comics, Sketchfest 2017 promises to continue in a tradition of bringing the funny across San Francisco for 17 glorious days in January.
Headlining the festivities is Canadian sketch group royalty The Kids in the Hall, who will perform a live staged reading of their 1996 film Brain Candy. There are also tributes to surreal comedy icons Tim and Eric, and famed magician and actor Ricky Jay. Fans of the criminally underrated King of the Hill can return to Arlen, Texas for the evening as voice talent and creator Mike Judge is joined by the cartoon’s cast for a 20th-anniversary reunion.
Film buffs will enjoy a star-studded tribute to legendary actor Fred Willard, featuring director Christopher Guest, Saturday Night Live alumna Laraine Newman, and more. Also on the bill is a 30th-anniversary screening of Hollywood Shuffle featuring Robert Townsend and Keenen Ivory Wayans, a salute to director Peter Bogdanovich, and Steve Oedekerk celebrating the 15th anniversary of the kung-fu spoof Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.
As has been the norm in recent years, a robust offering of live podcasts are also in the works. Among the highlights are Spontaneanation with host Paul F. Tompkins and his usual assortment of talented guest improvisers, StarTalk Live with Bill Nye and Eugene Mirman, and Sketchfest co-founder Janet Varney’s The JV Club with guests Rachel Dratch and Jon Hamm.
If seeing people destroy bad movies is your bag, be sure to catch the latest installment of The Benson Movie Interruption, where Doug Benson and special guests will take their comedy axes to last year’s Fifty Shades of Grey. For a musical interlude, enjoy the jazz stylings and high-caliber banter of Jeff Goldblum when he performs with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. Perhaps you’d like to see comics get psychoanalyzed? That’s what goes down during Dr. Katz Professional Therapist Live, where the real Jonathan Katz welcomes guest “patients” Natasha Leggero, Tom Papa, and Kevin Pollak to his couch.
One of the tenets of Sketchfest has always been their celebration of the improv form. Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts of the Upright Citizens Brigade make their annual appearance in the always hysterical ASSSSCAT. For old school fans, try the Improvised Shakespeare Company, led by Thomas Middleditch of Silicon Valley. One hidden gem is the San Francisco debut of Wild Horses, a fantastic female improv team featuring Stephanie Allynne (People Places Things) and Mary Holland (Blunt Talk).
As always, there are also some great shows that simply defy categorization. Among them are Celebrity Autobiography, in which comics read from actual celebrity memoirs; Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction, which is just what it sounds like; and a staged reading of Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space featuring Matt Braunger and Dana Gould.
Lastly, there is the wonderful comfort of incredible stand-up comedy: Eugene Mirman and Bobby Tisdale will once again mount their variety showcase Invite Them Up; Comedy Bang Bang writer Neil Campbell joins forces with Mike Hanford of The Birthday Boy for the aptly titled Neil Campbell & Mike Hanford; and the trio of Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain return for another edition of Stella: The Classic Nightclub Show. Also be sure to catch Rhea Butcher as part of Sketchfest’s annual The SF Sketchfest Dozen which highlights 12 comics on the rise.
Yes, Sketchfest has taken a dark time and shined a laser pointer of comedy straight through it. If the past few weeks have made you crave a hearty laugh, you don’t have long to wait.
San Francisco Sketchfest, Jan. 12-29, 2017. Multiple venues. Full lineup and schedule at sfsketchfest.com. Tickets on sale Sunday, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m.