It’s mid-November, which means it’s time to dip into your Valium supply to prepare for another Thanksgiving with the family. Luckily, it also means the lineup for San Francisco Sketchfest has arrived. The 17th annual installment of the multi-week humor melting pot is headlined with tributes to comedy notables like Ricky Gervais, Jane Lynch, and Sketchfest’s favorite dapper raconteur, Paul F. Tompkins.
Fans of HBO’s Eastbound and Down and Vice Principals can catch star Danny McBride in conversation with writer/producer Jody Hill, followed by a screening of their film The Foot Fist Way. Fresh off its long-awaited third season, David Lynch’s cult classic series Twin Peaks will also be feted at a panel that includes cast members Dana Ashbrook, Matthew Lillard, Kimmy Robertson, and more.
Animaniacs (featuring Rob Paulsen, Randy Rogel and Maurice LaMarche) and HBO’s Crashing (featuring Pete Holmes and friends) will also be celebrated with special live events, and Sketchfest’s annual gathering of Futurama alumni includes appearances this year from David X. Cohen, John DiMaggio, David Herman, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lee Supercinski and Billy West).
Film buffs haven’t been forgotten either, as John Landis’ masterpiece Animal House will be the recipient of a 40th anniversary tribute that brings together cast members Karen Allen, Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert and James Widdoes. For a very different cinematic experience, join stoner comic Doug Benson and surprise guests as they roast Vin Diesel and The Rock at a screening of The Fate and the Furious, Meanwhile drag queen royalty Peaches Christ will welcome star Julie Benz and writer-director Darren Stein for a tribute to the 1999 dark comedy Jawbreaker.
For those eager to stray a little off the beaten path, perhaps an evening of Fake Ted Talks from Jonathan Coulton, Jean Grae, Paul and Storm, and more will fit the bill. Other oddities include perennial favorite Celebrity Autobiography — with famous memoirs delivered by comics like Pamela Adlon, Laraine Newman, Eugene Pack, and Fred Willard — and a return visit from actor/meme Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a podcast live, chances are you’re in luck. Sketchfest is bursting with live recordings from podcast favorites like Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend, Judge John Hodgman, Never Not Funny with Jimmy Pardo, Stuff You Should Know with Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant, and With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus. That is literally five of the thirty-five podcasts taping at Sketchfest, so whatever weird shit you’re into, Sketchfest likely has you covered.
Of course it wouldn’t be Sketchfest without a generous helping of improv. This year’s highlights include Facebook Improv — where audience members log into their profiles on stage and then have them serve as the source material — with Rob Riggle, 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer, and more; a live taping of Paul F. Tompkins’ delightful Spontaneanation, and a performance from juggernaut improv quartet Wild Horses, featuring the collective talents of Stephanie Allyne, Mary Holland, Lauren Lapkus, and Erin Whitehead.
Still not satisfied? If old-fashioned stand-up is more your style, go see comedy titans (and married couple) Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito. Janeane Garofalo hits the festival to headline a show, while Saturday Night Live alum Sasheer Zamata remains a must-see whenever she’s in town. If you’re going to get stoned anyway, might as well kill two birds with Upright Citizen’s Brigade co-founder Matt Besser and The 420 Show.
There are also live game shows (Playing Games with Jimmy Pardo), kid-friendly events (Mo Willems & Friends: Don’t Let the Comedians Do Storytime!), and even a handful of music-centric events. If you have a tattoo from a Wes Anderson movie, you’ll be safe at live performances of the soundtracks to both The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore. Also returning as arguably the best show from 2016 is Soundtracks Live: Scenes and Songs from a Classic ‘80s Movie. While the film in question has not been revealed, last year’s take on Fast Time at Ridgemont High was the ultimate party. This year’s cast includes Rachel Dratch, Thomas Lennon, Jack McBrayer, Michael Showalter, Bobby Tisdale, David Wain and music by the amazing Amy Miles.
Scared to take your parents to any of these offerings? No problem – television icon Dick Cavett will be the focus of a tribute honoring the 50th Anniversary of The Dick Cavett Show. On the other hand, don’t miss the chance to see the stars of tomorrow at one of Sketchfest’s many showcases for emerging stand-up, sketch, solo, and improv performers. Highlights include Emily Van Dyke, Irene Tu, Mission CTRL, and Nick Youssef.
San Francisco’s 17th Annual Sketchfest, Jan. 11-28, 2018, various venues; sfsketchfest.com.