Melissa McGillicuddy performed at Charm Offensive during Sketchfest 2020. Photo by Cole Stratton.

While SF Sketchfest is famous for bringing out unique, once-in-a-lifetime comedy events — the reunion shows, tribute performances, etc. — it also provides a gift by shining a spotlight on regularly recurring local gigs, simply by folding those shows into its mammoth three-week schedule.  

One of those unheralded events receiving some much-needed attention this month is Charm Offensive, a semi-frequent collection of up-and-coming performers who ply their trade at the Punch Line (recently saved from closure).

On Tuesday night, a packed house at the venerable venue took in an eclectic lineup of comedians, each giving their own unique and semi-warped perspective on daily life.

Krista Fatka, the show’s MC, started off the night with a few bits about the impenetrable nature of pomegranates and the peculiarities of having your birthday on 9/11, before giving way to Annette Mullaney, a software engineer during her day job who had plenty of humorous observations on being the rare female worker in her field.

Ryan Goodcase reaped in the night’s first big batch of laughs with his deadpan take on online dating (musing at one point on how many of his missed Tinder connections might actually be dead) and Jalisa Robinson earned some chuckles with her pointed observations on the differences between the Midwest, where she hails from, and San Francisco, where she lives now.

David Roth, one of the organizers of the Charm Offensive discussed his experiences with breast reduction surgery (yes, you read that right) and Paco Romane closed out the night with a manic performance full of jittery finger-wagging and details about his lovely girlfriend Greta (he’s the little spoon in the relationship).

Perhaps the event’s highlights were its two acts preceding Romane who both took significantly different approaches to their delivery. Melissa McGillicuddy showed off her dry (like, Saharan) delivery to great results, getting the crowd in stitches about her attempts to tamp down her armpit sweat with paper towels and by pointing out that pussy (the female genital type) and pussy (the infected tissue type) are confusingly spelled the same. And then there was Mark Smalls, a long-haired, disheveled maniac who sounds a lot like the late great Mitch Hedberg, if that comedian was on Adderall instead of opiates. Smalls mused on the ridiculous nature of meter maids (he can’t afford S.F. because he’s paying $15K in street cleaning fines) and being mistaken for a homeless person (he referred to himself as a “daywalker”).

There were plenty of moments during his performance that were particularly outrage-inducing (and fucking funny) because the audience knew exactly what he was talking about. Sketchfest might bring out the big names, but I’m pretty sure Tony Shalhoub doesn’t know anything about the travails of living on the margins of a dystopian-feeling City quite like Mark Smalls, and that is why these small Sketchfest events can feel pretty damn important.