Attention sad sacks, Eeyores, and Ms. Deborah Downer: your time is up. A bevy of delightfully demented comedic minds storms the city for SF Sketchfest starting Thursday, ready to chip away at your seasonal affective disorder. The festival brings together the country's best and brightest stars and schleppers from the worlds of stand-up, sketch comedy, sitcoms, improv and films—including a special screening of The Naked Gun starring the late, great Leslie Nielsen at the Castro Theatre—featuring onstage interviews with director David Zucker and leading lady Priscilla Presley—proudly sponsored by 7x7.
I'm mid-interview with Sam Brown and Zach Cregger from the sketch comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U'Know, searching for the words that might explain what makes them hilarious, as if they needed one more testimonial. They don't, of course — their IFC show and millions of YouTube video fans are proof that something they're doing is working. But what is it, exactly, that runs through all of their sketches?
For one, they know when to not say "When." They'll often take ideas and extend them and milk them until no surplus jokes remain, and then they'll milk it a bit more.
A good way to tell if Norm MacDonald is killing a standup set is to just watch how much he’s giggling to himself. For whatever reason, when the cameras aren’t rolling, the comic icon lets his guard down and drops the trademark deadpan just a bit, but only when he knows he’s really hit on some new bizarre thought — the kind of thought that only he and his cultish, devoted following could find laughable.
Killing My Lobster straps on rocket boots to stamp their crustacean brand of funny on the final frontier. These intrepid comedic souls brave worm holes and time portals to defeat wizards, Italians, and other impingers on space justice, with phasers that may or may not be made of cardboard.
It’s been a surreal two weeks for Amy Schumer, the cunning girl-next-door comic who will, for the foreseeable future, be known as the standup who told Steve-O she would have preferred he die, rather than fellow Jackass star Ryan Dunn, at the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen. Her infamous joke has caught the attention of both angry Jackass fans and also the national media, and now the 30-year-old New Yorker is riding the crest of a wave of notoriety. It’s a double-edged sword, of course: she’s now selling out shows, but she also reported to be on the receiving end of death threats from the unamused.
SF's own sketch comedy group Killing My Lobster debuted a new video a few days ago asking the same question we've asked ourselves for ages: "Doesn't anyone in this city work?" Whenever we're stuck in the office on a gorgeous day, our phones blow up with texts from friends drinking beer at Dolores Park. At least now we know we're not alone.
Take note, people of unbridled ambition. This is the new career path to fame:
1) Make a series of web videos DIY-style.
2) Make them irresistibly funny.*
3) Post them on YouTube with little regard for future employment.
4) Wait a year or two.
5) Watch them inexplicably go viral.
Ever since the Purple Onion tried to re-establish itself as a comedy destination some seven years ago, weekly series have come and gone, and the place has mostly been a spot for fledgling local comics to find stage time. A good thing, to be sure.
The historic laugh lounge's latest stab at renaissance is its new weekly Comedy & Cocktails series, a free show featuring a long list of comics of varying experience levels. We'll assume that means short sets for all involved, save the headliner. Like speed dating, but with comedians.
If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Jay Pharoah sure loves to kiss some arse. Thursday night at Cobb’s Comedy Club, the SNL prodigy spent the first 40 minutes of his set mimicking the patriarchs of hip-hop and Hollywood, as if he were rehearsing for a hosting gig at the BET Awards. The kid is clearly skilled, if a tad one-dimensional.
The 23-year-old Virginia native tills the same comedic soil as MadTV’s Aries Spears, who brought a very similar routine to Cobb’s earlier this year. Both are virtuoso impersonators, holding up mirrors to high-profile rappers and other idiosyncratic personalities of urban culture.