Let's be real: We could all use a good laugh. Enter the 16th annual SF Sketchfest, which promises you'll have a great time for the rest of the month. (Just don't turn on the television. Or read the "fake" news. Or go anywhere but the various venues hosting this comedy festival).


SF Sketchfest returns Thursday with literally hundreds of shows and an all-star lineup of talent to make you hoot and holler: Look for clever comedian-magician Ricky Jay; Silicon Valley star Thomas Middleditch (aka Mike Judge); the charming (and increasingly sexy) Jeff Goldblum, who will perform with his jazz band, The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra (Jan. 14, 10pm); Sally Field; and Jon Hamm (because Don Draper has a wicked funny bone).


Once upon a time, San Francisco State Theater comedians David Owen, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney needed more ways to practice the art of stand-up comedy and improvisation, so they started Sketchfest in 2002. "We were just few people, around 24, to perform in one location—our intent was to play, to find opportunities to perform more, and have fun," says Varney, a 2016 Emmy Award–nominated actress ("Everyone's Crazy But Us") now based in L.A. "Now we have this 16-year-old child to take care of."


The teenaged festival will take a crack at celebrating a number of milestones this year: the 45th anniversary of What's Up Doc? with filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich; the 30th anniversary of Hollywood Shuffle with stars Keenen Ivory Wayans and Robert Townsend; the 40th anniversary of The Kentucky Fried Movie, and more. The fest will also pay tribute to Comedy Bang! Bang!, with creator Scott Aukerman, Weird Al Yankovic and more in the house—this event (like several others) is already sold out, but tickets may be made available at the door.


Don't fret over sold-out shows—there's still a lot to see. What's cofounder David Owen excited about? The first time performance "Double Bill," with Tony Award–winning clown Bill Irwin and Grammy Award–winning guitarist Bill Frisell; the tribute to Ricky Jay, in conversation with Van Dyke Parks; and Gentrif*cked, starring The Latino Comedy Project and Nicole Calasich.


If you still miss out on the shows you want to see, Varney points out that sponsor Audible will be recording some of the live shows to launch as podcasts.


// SF Sketchfest, Jan. 12-29 (various venues, San Francisco), sfsketchfest.com

An SF Sketchfest show at the Castro Theatre.(Jakub Mosur)