Could the timing of SF Sketchfest ever be better?
After spending the past six weeks intermittently attending work, we have now finally passed the holiday season, leaving us with absolutely nothing to look forward to until summer arrives.
Nothing, that is, except SF Sketchfest, an 18-day festival comprised of more than 250 shows that feature a ton of famous comic names and even more rising stars. Taking place in venues big and small throughout San Francisco, this year’s Sketchfest will include its usual insane variety of events — everything from standup gigs to tribute shows to podcasts and live music performances.
Now in its 19th year, Sketchfest is more dynamic and vital than ever, and this year’s lineup once again amazes with its unsurpassed commitment to comedy. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s lineup.
World Premier Screening of Medical Police: For anyone familiar with the delightfully absurd Adult Swim program Childrens Hospital, (about a medical facility located in Brazil that does not specialize in pediatrics and is named after Dr. Arthur Childrens), this event is essentially must-see viewing. Created in part by The State and Stella founder (and longtime Sketchfest participant) David Wain, Medical Police is once again set in Brazil, although don’t expect anyone to speak Portuguese. The show is being billed as an “action-packed thriller, mystery-wrapped love story, and globetrotting comedy series,” although it will likely lean heavily on the latter element. Wain will be joined by co-creators and series stars Rob Huebel, Erinn Hayes, Fred Melamed, Jonathan Stern, and Krister Johnson for the screening, which will be moderated by San Francisco comedian and author Beth Lisick. The screening of the show — set to air on Netflix later this year — will be the perfect blend of hilarious slapstick comedy and dumb-as-smart jokes to kick off the multi-week Sketchfest extravaganza.
Thursday, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m., Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St. $35 – $45.
SF Sketchfest Tribute to Tony Shalhoub: Seriously — does anyone play the perpetually distressed, furrowed-brow type better than Tony Shalhoub? When not starring in cult comedy vehicles like Monk (USA’s best show ever?) or Wings, Shalhoub has mastered the art of the character actor, a scene-stealing mensch constantly delivering bad news or warning others about the perils ahead, always to hilarious ends. For this event, he’ll be joined by fellow character actor extraordinaire (and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel co-star) Kevin Pollak for a chat and special screening of Galaxy Quest, a sci-fi romp that ranks perhaps as the cultiest of Shalhoub’s numerous cult classics. Expect Shalhoub to break character, ditch the moroseness, and bust out the laughs for this one.
Saturday, Jan. 11, 1 p.m., Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St. $35 – $45.
SF Sketchfest Tribute to Molly Shannon: One of the great coups of Sketchfest is making the public pine for films we probably forgot we ever missed. While the gold standards of comedy are frequently praised (I see you, Airplane), Sketchfest always reminds fans of the lesser-known masterpieces, such as Molly Shannon’s tour de force, Superstar. Released 20 years ago, the film gave Shannon an opportunity to bring to screen Mary Katherine Gallagher, a Saturday Night Live creation known for intense stares, damp, stinky armpits, and poor balance (the latter fault inevitably leading to the destruction of all nearby furniture.) Shannon’s manic schoolgirl creation was beloved at the time, but the comic never quite reached the level of fame she deserved. Instead, her penchant for frantic physical humor and devastating asides helped pave the way to stardom for current comic icons like Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. Sketchfest has not forgotten her role however, and Shannon’s legacy and her hilarious personal vehicle, Superstar, will be feted with a special screening and Q&A with Kids in the Hall alum Bruce McCulloch.
Monday, Jan. 13, 7 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse, 2550 Mission St. $25
Queerdos: An LGBTQIA Showcase: Let’s be honest — the comedy world has an unflattering history of callousness masking as humor, and certain aspects of the industry have been loath to address those shortcomings. The raging debate about comedy offending folks from the “snowflake” generation is really more about a bunch of crusty white guys not wanting to update their material. Thankfully, those dipshits don’t run Sketchfest, which means crowds are treated to events like Queerdos, a collection of some of the finest LGBTQIA comics in the business. Featuring five different comics from a range of different backgrounds (several with local roots), this event will celebrate diversity and inclusion while also delivering plenty of laughs — proving once and for all that Ricky Gervais doesn’t know what he’s fucking talking about.
Friday, Jan. 17, 10:15 p.m. at the Brava Theater, 2781 24th St. $22.
Red Room Orchestra Play the Music of Wild at Heart & Twin Peaks: Despite their eerie, foreboding atmospheres, the films and shows of David Lynch have always contained a strange element of comic sensibility. Perhaps it’s the absurdity of human existence that he so artfully explores or the random digressions that infiltrate his art — whatever the reason, he has us laughing when we’re not shrinking back in horror. Maybe that’s why his music has been a staple of SF Sketchfest for the past three years, courtesy of the Red Room Orchestra, a collection of musicians and comics who perform soundtracks and music from Lynch films. This year, the band will perform tunes from the black comedy Wild at Heart — celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020 — and the seminal Lynch series Twin Peaks (I mean, of course). The band will be accompanied by Twin Peaks stars Sherilyn Fenn and the ageless Ray Wise. Patrons will be encouraged to grab some coffee, eat their favorite slice of pie and bring their preferred language decoder device for this offbeat comic experience.
Saturday, Jan. 18, 9 p.m. at the Chapel, 777 Valencia St. $40 – $45.
Edinburgh Spotlight: Jamie Loftus: Boss Whom Is Girl: Jamie Loftus’ ridiculous one-woman show, Boss Whom is Girl is kind of like the inverse Lean In, skewering the milquetoast corporate platitudes that supposedly define female empowerment. For the show, the Los Angeles-based Loftus takes on the role of Shell Gasoline-Sandwich, a ruthless business tyrant dispensing everything you need to know about “Girlboss Needs.” Accompanied by her digital companion Patricia, expect plenty of career-saving advice from Boss Gasoline-Sandwich.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m., PianoFight Mainstage, 144 Taylor St. $15.
The Endless Honeymoon Podcast with Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher: Moshe Kasher and Natasha Leggero are the archetype for the ubiquitous comic who has a hand in nearly every funny thing around. Whether as standup performers, writers, actors, special guests, or podcast hosts, this duo’s impact cannot be understated (their credits include everything from BoJack Horseman to Brooklyn Nine-Nine to The Good Place plus too many podcast and comedy specials to count). For this event, the couple will stage a live version of their relationship-advice podcast, which is sure to include their honest, hard-earned feedback on the hilarious peaks and valleys of modern day love. They’ll be joined by Matt Walsh and Morgan Walsh, a fellow comic power couple.
Saturday, Jan. 25, 4:30 p.m. at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St. $25 – $35.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: There is something particularly fitting about Sketchfest closing its run with three straight nights of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live, because, for all its wonderful diversity and eclectic collection of events, this festival is ultimately for the nerds. Clusterfest can have its Colin Josts and John Mulaneys — Sketchfest will happily counter with Joel Hodgson and a bunch of shit-talking robots for its showcase. Hodgson and company will be taking part in the “Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour,” where the assembled crowds will be derisively cheering on some of filmdom’s worst creations (it’s all in good fun, though). What better way to cap off another great year of Sketchfest than riffing on terrible movies with inside jokes that only your closest friends find funny?
Friday, Jan. 31, 8 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 1, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. at the Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor St. $58 +