Dispatches from Sketchfest: A Bittersweet Farewell

I guess it had to end. By some inexplicable twist of fate, the 2017 installment of San Francisco Sketchfest started one week prior to the inauguration of Donald Trump, and ended one week into the country’s descent into an unprecedented nightmare of chaos and confusion. In awful moments, social media denizens have often turned to a quote from the late Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Along with U.S. Senators protesting at airports, lawyers working pro-bono to ensure detainees safe access into the country, and a newly invigorated media calling out Trump and his administration on their many, many crimes, the comedians of Sketchfest helped in their small way too.

Rhea Butcher told jokes about her dog. Tim & Eric gave a masterclass in how to make a tribute to them uncomfortable. And the combined forces of Nick Kroll, Seth Morris, and Jason Mantzoukas performed improv based on an audience member’s story about finding her son pleasuring himself while delivering fresh laundry. These were not patriarchy-toppling acts, but they sure did help. Facing our first weekend post-Sketchfest, the news still a boiling cauldron of fear and shame, we would be wise to remember that while escaping reality through comedy is a help to no one, calling on comics to help us process or press pause for a moment is an excellent tactic we’ll need to employ if we are to survive the coming times.

Here are some highlights from Sketchfest’s final weekend.

Plan 9 from Outer Space (Tommy Lau)

Scott Adsit Performs Jacket Magic

The thing about live comedy is that it’s live. Sketchfest co-founder Janet Varney was reminded of this when her blazer sleeve became attached to her dress during Friday night’s Plan 9 from Outer Space staged reading. As she tried to pull double-duty by reading her lines and fixing her garment snag, 30 Rock’s Scott Adsit came to the rescue, triumphantly raising the freed jacket just as Varney finished her lines. Also bless the entire cast — which was perhaps a dozen in total — for taking literally the worst film ever made and turning it into something utterly delightful. If you missed it, I do not suggest revisiting the source material.

Wild Horses (Shawn Robbins)

What to Expect When Tig Notaro and Steph Allyne Discuss Sleep Training

Missing fourth member Lauren Lapkus, the Los Angeles improv group Wild Horses recruited the transcendent Tig Notaro to join their show, “The Perspective,” on Sunday afternoon. Wild Horses’ member Steph Allyne happens to be Notaro’s wife, and during the hysterical conversation that preceded the improv portion of the afternoon, the two discussed their differing opinions on sleep training their 7-month-old twins. Surveys of the crowd were taken, and fellow Wild Horse Erin Whitehead shared stories of her profound fear of flying. Even without Lapkus, the Wild Horses are one of the best improv groups out there, and hopefully this visit to San Francisco is the first of many performances to come.

Tim & Eric Prefer Compliments to Questions

Get in line for a Q&A with surreal comedy maestros Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim at your own risk. If the question is good, they’ll happily answer it, but it’s always wise to start with a compliment. The two Adult Swim stars had no patience for some lesser questions, a refreshing tactic for a pastime that is as likely to produce groans from the audience as it is to yield any relevant stories.  One great story that did emerge was the not terribly shocking revelation that Gary Busey is a nightmare person, while behind-the-scenes anecdotes about how the pair created the bizarre wonderland of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! gave fascinating insight into how the two crafted one of modern television’s most avant-garde masterpieces.

On the Horizon

Originally scheduled to run during Sketchfest, fans have one last chance to relive the magic when drag queen auteur Peaches Christ presents Grease 2 on Saturday, Apr. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Castro Theatre. Star Maxwell Caulfield will also be on hand, so grab your best poodle skirt and prepare to get silly. $25; sfsketchfest.com

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Stories