It’s hard to believe that Clusterfest is only in its second year after throwing together a weekend jam-packed with top comedic talent.
But it’s quickly becoming a festival that’s tough to say no to, filling Civic Center from June 1-3 with comedy stars like John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, Jim Jeffries and Tiffany Haddish. Notably, this weekend marked Jon Stewart‘s return to stand-up and first West Coast show in 15 years, as well as The Lonely Island‘s first live concert.
The inclusion of musical sets like Wu-Tang Clan and side attractions like a South Park county fair, recreating Paddy’s Pub from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and bringing back Nickelodeon’s Double Dare obstacle course — slime and all — does well to set Clusterfest apart from other comedy festivals. Ultimately, making ticket goers laugh their asses off all weekend is what will keep bringing people back. Here are the top five performances we can’t stop thinking about.
The Lonely Island
As The Lonely Island, Berkeley natives Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone blended comedic genius, music, and gimmicks of Clusterfest into one performance. And they certainly know how to make an entrance — by describing their locations backstage in extreme detail, assisted by bold, basic Microsoft Office lettering to make fun of hyped concert entrances.
Their first live concert also came with surprise celebrity appearances, like Chris Parnell for “Lazy Sunday,” T-Pain showing up to rap “I’m on a Boat,” and none other than Michael Bolton in a glitter vest and pirate hat. (Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga also joined for fan favorites like “Dick in a Box,” “Mother Lover,” and “3-Way (The Golden Rule)” but as puppets handled by a giddy Taccone.)
The Lonely Island packed gloriously dumb jokes into a live concert that had its audience roaring with laughter, cheering to projections like Samberg and Taccone’s exaggerated O-faces during “Jizz in My Pants,” and dancing all at the same time. Now don’t mind us as we play The Lonely Island on repeat for the next few weeks.
The Daily Show
A significant chunk of laughs came out of the The Daily Show host Trevor Noah and his team of original fake-news correspondents, who had several stand-up sets and appearances. But their collective Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium the whole weekend was their strongest showing — in the form of a disturbing trip into the president’s psyche expressed on Twitter.
In combing through the thousands of Trump tweets, The Daily Show found a few patterns and filtered them through a comedic lens. Sections include three-sided panel his tweets on birtherism, a fake rose-adorned memorial to deleted tweets like the one-worded “epic,” a timeline of his tweets from the Bronzer Age to the Feudal Period, and a globe filled with his offensive tweets about other countries.
“It’s gotta be the best of the dumbest,” correspondent Roy Wood Jr. said at a media preview Friday.
The next best thing to its museum format is a virtual tour available online and the upcoming book hitting shelves on July 31. But it’s not recommended to dwell on it too long — at a certain point, the tragedy of it all starts to seep in.
The former Daily Show host has made few public appearances since leaving nearly three years ago, and he clearly had some thoughts he wanted to share. And boy, was it good to hear it again.
In conversation with the Chronicle‘s Peter Hartlaub on hours before his Sunday set, Stewart cited his “cathartic, not transformative” satirical process and not being able to evolve the show as a reason for leaving.
At his set, he warned the audience of the fake moral outrage of the right, citing the reaction to Samantha Bee calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless c—” despite her father’s frequent misogynistic language. He had another message for his fans: it’s only through patient, non-judgmental explanation of a person’s displayed ignorance that is going to change things, not through online attacks.
“I don’t care how woke you are, everybody sleeps sometimes,” Stewart said. “We have to wake up together.”
Reggie Watts, bandleader for The Late Late Show with James Corden, brought the music-comedy blend full circle on Sunday but, as expected, was far more nonsensical and calmer than The Lonely Island.
For one, he dubbed the Mission and “the algorithm” as inspirations, but the songs seemed to be about neither. (Though one of them centered around how looking at workouts on your phone while at the gym probably confuses others into thinking you’re on other apps, if that counts?)
“Think about eating less and then discovering yourself,” Watts said to the crowd at one point.
Watts also spoke of how normal it is for San Franciscans to see someone half-naked running downtown, gave life advice while walking around the corners of the stage, and declared that the Bay Area went from Mexico to British Columbia. Stay weird, Reggie.
Sasheer Zamata Party Time!
Former Saturday Night Live cast member Sasheer Zamata brought her variety show from Brooklyn to San Francisco for Clusterfest, this time with comics Nikki Glaser, Ali Siddiq and Josh Johnson.
Though the sets were bite-sized, it was the right amount of time to get acquainted with Glaser’s high energy, Siddiq’s swashbuckling throughout the stage and Johnson’s deadpan delivery before the audience joined them for an exercise Zamata described as an “emotional never-have-I-ever.”
Comics and the crowd watching shared phobias developed as an adult, fights started as an adult, and drug-induced epiphanies, which almost all involved mushrooms. And that’s how you bond with your audience.