One of the nation's only festivals that showcases top-tier standup comedy—plus live music, immersive games, and installations based on beloved TV shows—is back for a second outing in Civic Center this week.
Kicking off Friday, June 1, the second annual Clusterfest will bring more than 70 comedians and music acts to the heart of SF.
Last year, Comedy Central and the team behind Bonnaroo and Outside Lands surprised San Francisco with a first-of-its-kind festival in the heart of the city, flipping the script on the usual music-festival-with-a-comedy-tent and putting the standup front and center. Now it's back, and this year's Clusterfest is major, with headliners including Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer, Trevor Noah, John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, and The Lonely Island boys—and a replica the Oval Office alongside the "Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library," featuring a golden toilet upon which you can sit and quickly compose a tweet to respond to a crisis.
Originally dubbed Colossal Clusterfest, the event was successful enough that founder-organizers Superfly and Another Planet Entertainment have brought it back, with the help of Comedy Central's access to headliner standup talent. Comedy Central president Kent Alterman said last year that they chose SF to host this very fan-centric festival "because of this city's great history of nurturing comedic talent," and because "comedians love to perform here."
Stewart will be a big draw this year, performing the closing set on Sunday night (Jerry Seinfeld held the slot last year; the replica of the Seinfeld apartment drew long lines for Insta moments all weekend).
This year, the interactive elements include replicas of the Arrested Development stair car and banana stand (where chocolate-covered bananas will be available for purchase), a reconstructed set and "authentic" challenges from 90s Nickelodeon show Double Dare, and South Park–inspired games like Member Berries Skee-Ball and Kick the Baby. The Daily Show–themed Presidential Twitter Library installation (which made its debut in New York and has shown up for weekends in Chicago and L.A. in recent months) is a fully realized, tongue-in-cheek historical exhibit that details the president's history of Twitter use, all of his favorite nicknames and attack victims (some framed on a wall of "verified survivors," including comedian Seth Meyers), and all the times he tweeted in support of Birtherism.
In addition to a full lineup of comedians—including the likes of Maria Bamford and David Cross—on the Bill Graham Stage throughout the weekend, there will be smaller shows in the side rooms of the auditorium featuring up-and-coming talent, as well as games of "Flip-adelphia" in the replica Paddy's Pub from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. (The pub itself is one of several working bars at the event serving beer and cocktails, but the urinals are non-functional and for photo-taking purposes only. You know: Charlie work.)
The outdoor main stage on Civic Center Plaza will feature a rotating schedule of music acts and big names in comedy—and this time they've done away with the competing, secondary outdoor stage in favor of one fully programmed Colossal Stage. That's where festival-goers will hear the likes of Third Eye Blind and The Lonely Island on Friday, Salt-N-Pepa and Amy Schumer on Saturday, and the Wu-Tang Clan on Sunday, just before Stewart takes the stage. Other must-see acts: Tiffany Haddish, Reggie Watts, and comedian Bridget Everett with her band the Tender Moments.
And even though Rupaul's Drag Race doesn't run on Comedy Central, a gaggle of Drag Race queens with a knack for comedy have been recruited again this year, this time to do a live staged reading on Saturday of Spice World, with Jinkx Monsoon as Ginger Spice, Alaska Thunderfuck as Posh, and Manila Luzon as Sporty, with SF queens D'Arcy Drollinger playing Baby Spice and Honey Mahogany as Scary Spice. The always abrasively hilarious Bianca Del Rio, who'll be doing a tight 15 minutes on the main stage as well, will serve as narrator.
It's sure to be a good time with sun and warm temps predicted all weekend, and such a refreshing change to have an event like this so easily accessible in the middle of town.
A word of advice: Don't get so distracted by Member Berries Skee-Ball that you miss all the smaller shows in the two smaller indoor venues, the Larkin Comedy Club and the Room 415 Comedy Club. Everyone has to fetch a separate paper ticket for these shows and then line up for a seat 25 minutes before the set begins, with doors closing five minutes before showtime.
You could try to check out the live chat on Friday with Trevor Noah and the Daily Show team—but unless you've got VIP, those seats will be impossible to get.
// Clusterfest begins Friday, June 1 and runs through Sunday, June 3 in Civic Center Plaza. Find single-day (from $99) and three-day (from $200) general admission tickets at clusterfest.frontgatetickets.com.