Fall Arts: Guide to Upcoming Fall Stand-Up Standouts

Scott Thompson & Kevin McDonald: Two Kids, One Hall
Sept. 15-18 at Cobb's, 915 Columbus (at Mason), S.F. 928-4320 or www.cobbscomedyclub.com.

Hailing from the Great White North, The Kids in the Hall were the defining sketch comedy troupe of the 1990s. Thompson's monologues as the flamboyant socialite Buddy Cole were a series highlight, while McDonald is remembered as one of the batshit Sizzler sisters and suburban pulp villain Sir Simon Milligan (of the Pit of Ultimate Darkness). It's hard to believe that the show has been off the air for 15 years. This fall, Thompson and McDonald are reuniting for the Two Kids, One Hall tour, which combines solo stand-up and two-man sketch work.

Demetri Martin
Sept. 17 at Palace of Fine Arts,3301 Lyon (at Bay), S.F. 567-6642 or www.palaceoffinearts.org.

Making a mockery of corporate groupthink, Demetri Martin likes to present his jokes on a giant writing pad during his act. His “findings” have included a pie chart representing procrastination (an empty circle) and a graph of the potential for hilarity in drunk people arranged by height (it gets funnier the shorter you are). Martin often accompanies himself on guitar or whatever instrument is at hand. His style is winning, whimsical, and marginally precious. Following the success of his albums and book, Martin is on a multimedia tear, including a turn in Steven Soderbergh's opening-Friday thriller Contagion.

Kumail Nanjiani
Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at The Punch Line, 444 Battery (at Clay), S.F. 397-7573 or www.punchlinecomedyclub.com

At SF Sketchfest in early 2010, New York-based Pakistani-American Kumail Nanjiani dished about a heckler who gave him a particularly hard time. He showed up late one night, interrupted Nanjiani's set, and grabbed a spare microphone to drunkenly inform Nanjiani that he “looks brown but sounds white.” The heckler: pretty-boy guitar-picker John Mayer. Nanjiani, with his smart, high-energy, somewhat absurdist craft, has surged into the comedy spotlight in the 18 months since the incident, touring regularly and appearing on The Colbert Report and Portlandia. He also has a regular supporting role on Franklin & Bash.

Shazia Mirza
Oct. 18 at The Punch Line, 444 Battery (at Clay), S.F. 397-7573 or www.punchlinecomedyclub.com

While working as a high school science teacher, Mirza attended writing classes and comedy workshops, honing her command of stand-up. The English-born daughter of strict Muslim parents, she first appeared onstage wearing a hijab — and grabbed national attention in the U.K. after 9/11 with the opening line, “My name's Shazia Mirza — at least, that's what it says on my pilot's license.” Over the last decade, Mirza conquered the boys' club of stand-up. She tackles cultural perceptions of Islam, women, and terrorism with wry directness and understated delivery.

Marc Maron
Nov. 2-5 at The Punch Line, 444 Battery (at Clay), S.F. 397-4337 or www.punchlinecomedyclub.com.

Maron is a workhorse. His youthful appearance and style belie his 25-year career, which has lately seen a resurgence thanks to the success of his WTF podcast. Maron's searching interviews with fellow comedians are guided by an interest in the creative process and inner lives of his subjects. Maron's inner life is also the focus of his stand-up, which tends to be revealing, sardonic, and insightful. His most recent album, This Has to Be Funny, was released in August.

Michael Ian Black
Nov. 18-20 at Cobb's, 915 Columbus(at Mason), S.F. 928-4320 or www.cobbscomedyclub.com.

Sarcasm — intelligent, biting, satirical — has taken Black a long way. He came to national attention as a member of The State, whose eponymous MTV program ran from 1993 to 1995. Black has since appeared in TV shows including Viva Variety, Stella, and Michael & Michael Have Issues. At his Cobb's dates in November, we hope to hear about his summer touring the nation with Meghan McCain to conduct research for a book they are writing together called Stupid for America.

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