Dispatches from Sketchfest 2019: Vol. II

What do a flood of toxic movie butter, the poor airplane etiquette of John Kasich, and a surprise John Waters cameo have in common? Sketchfest of course!

Not Your Mother’s Hot Pockets

There was a time when a Comedy Central roast of a past-their-prime celebrity was marquee viewing. As the years have passed, the concept of roasts has fallen somewhat out of favor — a phenomenon no doubt partially tied to the fact that a bunch of (mostly) white men ribbing one another for being clever is rapidly growing stale. Thankfully we have drag queens, who possess the unique ability to reclaim elements of culture and reinvent them as something fresh, bold, and beautiful.

Local legend Peaches Christ will never be past her prime, but in honor of her 45th birthday, SF Sketchfest Presented by Audible assembled a truly incredible dais of fellow queens and cult celebrities to brutally slander the Castro Theatre mainstay. In addition to drag pals Heklina, Coco Peru, Sister Roma, and Jinkx Monsoon, the evening also saw actors Heather Matarazzo, Mink Stole, and Clea Duvall take a turn at defaming the guest of honor. Arguably the night’s biggest name was Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who appeared sans her iconic makeup but fully loaded with takedowns for everyone in attendance.

Peaches Christ gets roasted by her friends, Cassandra Peterson (Elvira), Clea Duvall, Heather Matarazzo, Mink Stole, Coco Peru, Heklina, Jinkx Monsoon, and Sister Roma, with surprise roast by director John Waters. (Jakub Mosur)

Most of what was uttered is best left out of print, but Roast Mistress Coco Peru deserves special mention for delivering perhaps the best “Heklina loves to eat ass” joke in history when she noted that self-proclaimed rim-job queen treats colostomy bags like Hot Pockets. If the shock of such colorful language wasn’t enough to elicit gasps from the crowd (trust me, it was), the surprise appearance of filth auteur John Waters was the perfect capper for an evening teeming with perverse pleasure.

Punchlines aside, Peaches Christ is one of San Francisco’s most cherished citizens, and seeing her honored was a reminder that there is still some hope for this city. As long as we have Peaches, all is not lost. Just maybe take a pass on the Hot Pockets the next time you visit Heklina at Oasis.

Improv’s True Calling

Sketchfest’s recent partnership with Audible has led to a number of shows inspired by audio performances available on the Amazon-owned platform. For the Brava Theater Center’s “Bad Reception,” a staggering array of improv heavyweights assembled to perform a number of scenes based around phone calls in the fictional town of South Grampers.

The device used to end each scene was the sound of sizzling movie butter, which within context was mysteriously flooding the city and forcing Betsy Sodaro’s immaculately inept mayor to devise a plan of action. The role of the butter in each scene varied, with some of the night’s biggest laughs actually coming from moments wholly off-topic. A conversation between Dan Lippert and Justin Michael sparring as rival bagel shop owners was superb, but the true highlight was Paul F. Tompkins’ momentary choice to adopt a deep growl reminiscent of wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

Despite Tompkins’ obvious intentions to do the voice once and never look back in a scene that featured the townsfolk of South Grampers complaining at a city council meeting, fellow improvisers Lauren Lapkus and Lippert kept finding ways to force him to it again. One of the true joys of quality improv is the way performers that trust one another will attempt to playfully sabotage or derail each other within a scene.

With a cast that also included amazing talents like Mary Holland, Jessica McKenna, and Zach Reino, the context of “Bad Reception” was ultimately superfluous but provided a solid foundation for some of the medium’s best to get as brilliantly weird as their hearts’ desired.

(Tommy Lau Photography)

John Kasich is an Asshole

Those in attendance at Sketchfest’s tribute to Difficult People creator and star Julie Klausner were likely not expecting a substantial portion of the evening to be dedicated to former Ohio governor (and right-wing monster) John Kasich. Then Kasich forced Klausner to miss her flight to San Francisco by refusing to cede his first-class seat to a pilot who needed to rest.

There are many people I would never dare to slight, but Klausner is right at the top of that list. As the endless array of top-notch one-liners featured on her podcast, in her memoir, and on Difficult People can attest, Klausner usually has something ingeniously devastating to say on all matters. Her incident with Kasich proved no exception, as Klausner walked the audience and moderator Tom Scharpling through a play-by-play of the politician’s airline misdeeds.

From there the duo on-stage made a game sprint through Klausner’s career, highlighted by clips like her television debut as a summer camp extra on an MTV segment and her infamous interview with NCIS actress Pauley Perrette at a dog show red carpet. Fans of her one-time Hulu series no doubt relished the chance to imagine Klausner’s Patches character from Difficult People opening an episode ala Kate McKinnon as Hilary Clinton performing “Hallelujah” on Saturday Night Live—something she confessed she had hoped to do if the show had continued.

While Klausner may be between jobs at the moment, it’s simply impossible to imagine her remaining off our airwaves for much longer. Whether she reunites with her Difficult People co-star Billy Eichner or returns with a new venture, the world is better off with Julie Klausner in it.

Shows to See This Week

Sasheer Zamata Party Time!
Friday, Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Cobb’s Comedy Club. $25/$35
It’s always a party when former Saturday Night Live cast member Sasheer Zamata comes to town. For this special Sketchfest edition of her popular live show, “Party Time,” Zamata will welcome Brooklyn’s DJ Donwill, comic Jacqueline Novak, and Oakland’s own Alex Sun Liu.

Natasha Leggero & Moshe Kasher
Friday, Jan. 25 at 10 p.m. at Marines’ Memorial Theatre. $25/$35
Moshe Kasher may now call Los Angeles home, but his Oakland roots are sure to show through when he teams with Natasha Leggero (Another Period) — another phenomenal comic who also happens to be his spouse. Together they offer a rare one-two punch of the best stand-up comedy has to offer.

Uptown Showdown Debate: The Future vs. The Past
Friday, Jan. 25 at 10 p.m. at Brava Theater Center. $25/$35
The concept of Uptown Showdown finds comedians embracing the format of high school debate teams to tackle pressing issues of the day. This year, the topic is deciding which is better: the future or the past? Rising to the challenge are Andrea Savage, Aparna Nancherla, Greg Behrendt, Kevin Allison, Kevin Whittinghill, Michael Ian Black, and Tom Lenk (who has made a splash this year with three sold-out performances of his show, Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist).

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