Once again, the holidays will truly arrive on Jan. 7 when the SF Sketchfest returns for its 15th serving of prime time laughs. Boasting over 200 shows across 19 venues and 16 days, the joint venture of David Owen, Cole Stratton, and Janet Varney is a comedy fan’s delight, bursting with talent and unique programming, and certain to have something for everyone.
Highlights include a tribute to the mockumentary Waiting for Guffman for the film’s 20th anniversary, with expected appearances from Christopher Guest, Bob Balaban, Parker Posey, and Fred Willard. Acting royalty Jeff Goldblum and Sally Field will also be feted, while the cast of Fox’s breakout animated program Bob’s Burgers will join creator Loren Bouchard for a look back at the show’s first six seasons (Last of the Mo-Jicama Burgers not included).
Comedy Central’s Drunk History will be also be spotlighted with creator Derek Waters and friends, while the holy triumvirate of Nick Kroll (Kroll Show, The League), Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator, The League), and Seth Morris (Comedy Bang Bang) will appear as the aptly titled “Morzouksnick.” Beloved SNL alumni and self-proclaimed Prince fanatic Maya Rudolph will reprise her cover band Princess with Gretchen Lieberum, and childhood legend Bill Nye will be joined by comedian Eugene Mirman (Bob’s Burgers) for “StarTalk Live.”
Other films and television shows with planned celebrations include Hook with Rufio (a.k.a. James Madio), Hot Shots with writer/director Jim Abrahams, drag queen extraordinaire Peaches Christ taking on Teen Witch, as well as evenings devoted to Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, Nickelodeon’s beloved Pete and Pete, the annual gathering of Futurama’s voice talent, and “Dr. Katz Professional Therapist: Live.” The Rifftrax gang of Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, best known as the crew of Mystery Science Theater 3000, will also return for “RiffTrax Night of the Shorts VI.”
Game shows and podcasts will also be well represented, with Jimmy Pardo hosting “Bluff You” and Nato Green and Moshe Kasher holding down “Iron Comic.” Live tapings are scheduled for a number of popular podcasts, including “Harmontown” with Dan Harmon, “improv4humans” with Matt Besser, “Judge John Hodgman,” “Never Not Funny” (with special guest Jon Hamm!), and “Superego.” As in years past, fans can expect the robust assortment of comedians roaming the streets of San Francisco to comprise many of the special guests each podcast usually features.
Appearing since Sketchfest’s inception, the Upright Citizen Brigade team will perform their long-form improv “ASSSSCAT” with a cast that features UCB founders Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh, along with Jon Gabrus (MTV’s Guy Code), Mary Holland (Blunt Talk), and Brian Huskey (A Better You). Guest monologists for the performance are Ms. Gump herself, Sally Field, and Wet Hot American Summer and Stella star Michael Showalter. Another Sketchfest regular, Paul F. Tompkins, will bring his new podcast “Spontaneanation” (RIP “The Dead Author’s Podcast”) to the festival, along with guests Janet Varney, Craig Cackowski, Matt Gourley, and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm.
If straightforward stand-up is your bag, you can choose between Andy Kindler, Bobcat Goldthwait, Janeane Garofalo, Jeff Garlin, Judah Friedlander, Maria Bamford, Natasha Leggero, “Put Your Hand’s Together” hosts Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, Todd Barry, and a roast of mayoral hopeful Broke-Ass Stuart. Under the auspices of storytelling, festival favorite “Celebrity Autobiography,” in which comics read from real, terrible, celebrity autobiographies, welcomes Pamela Adlon (King of the Hill, Louis), Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Laraine Newman (SNL), and more to share the wise words of the world’s most famous citizens. Other returning engagements include “Porchlight” with Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte, “RISK!” with Kevin Allison, and “Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
On the impossible to categorize front, Silicon Valley star Thomas Middleditch teams up with the “Improvised Shakespeare Company,” Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, and Scott Thompson of Kids in the Hall reunite for “Three Out of Five Ain’t Bad,” and three debates on topics including “Presidential Write-In Candidates,” “Donald Trump vs. Don(ald) Draper,” and “The Internet vs. Real Life” will be carried out by the likes of James Adomian, Matt Besser, Maria Bamford, Janeane Garofalo, and Moshe Kasher.
Rounding out the proceedings are a plethora of musically-themed offerings and tons of great sketch groups. Greg Behrendt (He’s Just Not That Into You) anchors “Bring the Rock,” while Freaks and Geeks star Martin Starr plays a set with his band. Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller comes to town with his show “Wheels Off,” and of course, there is a Weezer cover band called The Undone Sweaters with comedy from Jonah Ray and Jacob Sirof. On the sketch front, groups including Boat, The Birthday Boys, BriTANick, and Killing My Lobster will all take the stage as well to celebrate the comedy medium that gave Sketchfest its namesake.
SF Sketchfest, Jan. 7-24, 2016, at venues across the city. Tickets go on sale on Sunday, Nov. 22, at 10 a.m.