The Spirits of Sketchfest: Your Festival Guide

Order a drink and learn all about the best shows the 2019 Sketchfest has to offer.

Peaches Christ gets roasted on Sunday, Jan. 13, with Mink Stole, Elvira, and plenty more.

Live comedy and liberal servings of drinks have long gone hand-in-hand. While getting too tipsy at a show is never advisable, two-drink minimums exist for a reason. Having a tasty cocktail by your side while your favorite performers take the stage is as much a staple of comedy as a spotlight on a brick wall, so we present a local beverage-and-comedy menu culled from more than 250 shows at this year’s SF Sketchfest (Jan. 10-27). Bottom’s up (and be sure to tip your servers)!

You enjoy a beverage shared with good friends and a deep conversation.
Drink: Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Café.
Comedy Pairing: Podcasts.
In recent years, Sketchfest has vastly expanded the number of live podcast tapings included on its schedule. In 2019, Broadway fans can flock to Off Book: The Improvised Musical (Jan. 18), where hosts Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino invite musicians and comedy friends to invent a new musical on the spot. For those who wish they could live with Homer in Springfield, don’t miss Talking Simpsons (Jan. 16). This special Sketchfest edition includes a crossover with fellow Simpsons podcast Everything’s Coming Up Simpsons as they dissect the highly controversial episode where Principal Skinner is revealed to be an imposter. For a slightly more profound (but no less hilarious) option, try comedian Cameron Esposito’s Queery (Jan. 12), in which she sits down with a different luminary of the LGBTQ community every week for a candid conversation.

You like a soundtrack, even early on a Sunday morning.

Drink: Bloody Mary at Zeitgeist.
Comedy Pairing: Music.
Music’s relationship with comedy continues to evolve, from the parody power of “Weird” Al Yankovic to the genuinely amazing hip-hop pastiches offered by Andy Samberg’s Lonely Island crew. At Sketchfest, the talents of comedy rockers Don’t Stop or We’ll Die (Jan. 19) is a welcome return for the band, which lost drummer (and all-time great) Harris Wittels in 2015. Able to pen tunes that are both humorous and maddeningly catchy, this is a rare chance to see the group responsible for the hit single, “I Got a Perm for Our Camping Trip.” At the other end of the spectrum is Red Room Orchestra Performing Music from The Big Lebowski (Jan. 12), featuring a cavalcade of talent that includes Margaret Cho, musician Kelly Stoltz, and James Adomian as “The Stranger.”

When you drink, you go big, like the insanity that is Latin American Club’s pint glass-sized margarita.

Drink: Margarita at Latin American Club.
Comedy Pairing: Tributes & Special Events.
At this point, the list of esteemed comedians who haven’t been feted by Sketchfest might be shorter than the list of those who have. In 2019, the festival delivers again, headlined by a tribute to icon Carol Burnett (Jan. 14). Local drag queen royalty Peaches Christ will also face a dais of well-wishers — including Elvira and John Waters muse Mink Stole — at The Roast of Peaches Christ (Jan. 13). Those familiar with the Los Angeles improv scene will note that just about every amazing performer in the area has been recruited for Audible Presents: Bad Reception (Jan. 18), a fully improvised mystery set in South Grampers, Calif. 

Never adverse to living on the edge, the concept of an Old fashioned built around a Peking duck-fat-infused scotch whiskey is your kind of cocktail.

Drink: Sometimes Old Fashioned at Cold Drinks Bar.
Comedy Pairing: Improv.
One of Sketchfest’s most versatile offerings arrives in the form of shows that have a concept but not a script. This year, celebrate social media’s destruction of our society at Facebook Improv (Jan. 12), which finds comics like Jason Mantzoukas and Paul Scheer inviting audience members to log into their accounts on stage to provide scene fodder. Blessedly now a Sketchfest staple, the four women behind improv juggernaut Wild Horses (Jan. 19) return with special guest Jennifer Coolidge (Best in Show, Legally Blonde) for some Merlot and merry mayhem. Do you find plays predictable and stuffy? So do Paul Rust and Neil Campbell, who spoof the likes of Ibsen and Tennessee Williams with their compellingly bizarre Playhouse Masterpieces (Jan. 19).

Simplicity and elegance are your friends when it comes to booze.

Drink: Martini at Aub Zam Zam.
Comedy Pairing: Standup Comedy & Sketch.
The twin pillars upon which Sketchfest was built, stand-up and sketch remain well-represented at its 2019 installment. Few things are worth getting out of bed on a Sunday morning, but having brunch with Ron Funches and his pals is definitely one. Get ready for mimosas and mirth at Brunches at Funches (Jan. 13). Comics Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher got married in 2015 and had a kid last year. For anyone else, that might mean a blunted edge to their typically sharp and incisive material, but at Natasha Leggero & Moshe Kasher: The Endless Honeymoon (Jan. 25), the jokes are guaranteed to be as cutting and hilarious as always. On the sketch front, weird meets brilliant with The Birthday Boys (Jan. 19), who offer audiences a live edition of their acclaimed, Bob Odenkirk-produced IFC series.

You enjoy a bit of story and adventure when it comes to your alcohol.

Drink: Smuggler’s Rum Barrel at Smuggler’s Cove.
Comedy Pairing: Cinema & Television.
The stars and creators of your favorite films and series can often be found at Sketchfest, and this year is no exception. Join Freaks and Geeks alum Busy Phillips when she hosts a special installment of her hit E! talk show, Busy Tonight with Busy Phillips (Jan. 18) with special guests John Michael Higgins and Marc Evan Jackson. Prepare to experience The Shining as you’ve never seen it before when drag queens Peaches Christ and Varla Jean Merman bring their Provincetown hit The Whining (Jan. 22-23) to town for two special performances.

Read more from SF Weekly‘s Sketchfest 2019 issue:

Schitt’s Creek: A Podunk Paradise
Daniel Levy and Catherine O’Hara say all are welcome in this most peculiar of small towns.

The Delightfully Difficult Julie Klausner
The creator and star of Difficult People says it was so arrogant to accept a tribute from Sketchfest that she had to do it.

Protect Your Neck: Paul F. Tompkins and John Hodgman
Two comedians face their fears with an immersive comedy performance at The Speakeasy.

Special Guest: Janet Varney
Co-founder Janet Varney shares the highs (and lows) of Sketchfest’s first 17 years.

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