Sketchfest and Chill: Your Festival Guide

What to see at the 2018 Sketchfest, based on your Netflix-bingeing habits.

With the advent of streaming, the reasons to leave our beds have dwindled. Why take your spouse out for an expensive meal when there’s a new season of Chef’s Table to devour instead? Why meet your friends for drinks when you can just watch Friends again?

In the interest of assuring your viewing schedule doesn’t lead to bedsores, the kind folks at Sketchfest have put together more than 230 reasons to find your keys and remember what outside looks like. Trying to decide what to see at the festival can be almost as difficult as picking a new series, so we’ve put together a guide to help you avoid any buffering and find some laughs.

Unfortunately, this journey will require pants, but such is the price of live comedy.

You like: Dark series with compelling stories. You watched Stranger Things in one sitting and won’t shut-up about Mindhunter. Ideally, Sketchfest’s offerings are lighter than an intimate conversation with a serial killer, but will keep you engaged in spite of there being no Demogorgons.

What you should see: Grab a damn fine cup of coffee and head to “A Tribute to Twin Peaks” (Jan. 13), where cast members reunite to discuss the cult classic. For a slightly more eccentric option, try “Stinker Lets Loose! Live!” (Jan. 14), and watch as a gaggle of talent — including Jon Hamm, Busy Philipps, and Andy Richter — record a live audiobook from the novelization of a 1970s trucker movie. It will probably be just as weird as it sounds.

You like: Documentaries and shows where you actually learn something. You’d rather watch an iguana run for its life from snakes in Planet Earth 2 than see Snakes on a Plane. We get it. Believe it or not, education can be funny too — even if it’s not always exactly what it seems.

What you should see: Now a festival staple, you can’t go wrong with a live taping of “Stuff You Should Know” (Jan. 14), a podcast where hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark dig deep on any topic you can imagine. You can also try “Omnibus” (Jan. 13), a podcast hosted by Jeopardy! super-champ Ken Jennings and musician John Roderick. Willing to throw facts to the wind? Set your bullshit detectors on high alert at “Fake TED Talks” (Jan. 12), where folks like Paul and Storm, Mike Phirman, and Jonathan Coulton deliver lectures they’re wholly unqualified to give.

You like: Humor that embraces the surreal. You can quote Monty Python’s Flying Circus — but are frequently asked not to — and you prefer to leave the mundane behind. You’re also not averse to a little singing with your streaming.

What you should see: No doubt you’ll be front and center for Sketchfest’s “Tribute to Lady Dynamite” (Jan. 21), where star and creator Maria Bamford joins select cast and crew from the show. You’re also sure to love “Rachel Bloom and Friends” (Jan. 13), featuring the star and creator of the brilliant series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and special guests. Want to see a play that doesn’t really exist? Witness the improv brilliance of Paul Rust, Neil Campbell, Mary Holland, and Mike Hanford as they present “Playhouse Masterpieces” (Jan. 20). 

You like: Rolling the dice. No show is off-limits, from the true-crime mockumentary American Vandal to the lesser-known works of Nicholas Cage. You relish the unexpected, and the more winding the rabbit hole, the better.

What you should see: The concept behind the podcast “With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus” (Jan. 19) finds Lapkus in character appearing as a guest on a show invented by a rotating cast of hosts. With pal and fellow Wild Horses improv teammate Mary Holland holding the reigns, things should get crazy really quickly. How about a show where a group of ridiculously funny African American improvers from The Groundlings Theater take a popular film and perform “The Black Version” (Jan. 20)? If the news of legal weed in California has you riding high, see what happens when Upright Citizens Brigade Theater co-founder Matt Besser and friends toke up and get weird on “The 420 Show” (Jan. 27).

You like: Music and variety. You’re constantly using Shazam to find the name of that song from that one scene and you’re currently obsessed with the HQ Trivia app.

What you should see: Arguably one of the most unexpected additions to the Sketchfest lineup this year are tributes to the music in two of Wes Anderson’s most beloved films. “The Music of The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Music of Rushmore” (Jan. 18 — separate tickets required) feature a massive array of all-star musicians performing the entirety of each film’s soundtrack. Want to live the game show experience? You should head on down to “Playing Games with Jimmy Pardo” (Jan. 12), where Pardo and guest co-host Andy Richter will invite audience members to compete for prizes and ideally not embarrass themselves. If the tinkle of keys and a purr of playful lust are more your speed, settle in for an evening with “Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra” (Jan. 28).

You like: Straight-up garbage. The worse the show, the happier you are. We’re talking Hoarding: Buried Alive, Real Housewives — the cream of the trash crop. Unsurprisingly, comedians love that crap too!

What you should see: Revel in the disaster that was The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (Jan. 19) with a special staged reading of the script featuring Maria Bamford, Scott Adsit, and more as they skewer one of John Travolta’s early mistakes. Can you name the cast of The Bachelor in your sleep? Hit a live taping of “Will You Accept This Rose?” (Jan. 28), the podcast where comedians Arden Myrin and Erin Foley go deep on what may be the shallowest people on Earth. Prefer your trash in printed form? Try “Worst First Chapter” (Jan. 13), where esteemed scribes like Tony Hale and Jean Grae compete for who can write the most awful opening chapter to a book that, blessedly, doesn’t exist.


For more Sketchfest coverage check out these stories:

Character Assassin: Jane Lynch
For Lynch, stealing scenes and breaking the mold all comes down to doing your best.

Weapon of Mass Delight: Maria Bamford
The Lady Dynamite star is worried about how to keep fans happy now that she is too.

Bajillion Dollar Talent: Tawny Newsome
Music and comedy are keeping her busy, but Newsome is ready to run the show.

Gift Horse: Lauren Lapkus
From characters to comradery, Lapkus is fast becoming one of improv’s true Thoroughbreds.

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