The hour is almost upon us: SF Sketchfest, the nearly three-week-long smorgasbord of top comedians that brightens up each January, begins this week. Since the festival is long, with lots of events each day, we're going to break our recommendations into two posts: the first will cover this week's events, from opening day, Thursday, January 14, through Thursday, January 21, and the second, next week, will offer recommendations for the bottom half of the proceedings. Tickets for all the events listed below are available from Sketchfest's website, or the individual venues.
The SF Sketchfest Tribute to Conan O'Brien: This year's choice of honoree has run headlong into the drama of show business: after moving up to host The Tonight Show in 2009, O'Brien's perch is in jeopardy due to the cancellation of Jay Leno's primetime chat show. (Most reports speculate that he'll take Conan's 11:35 pm slot, moving O'Brien back to the less-prestigious midnight shift.) Expect plenty of jokes about this situation, as well as other favorite targets like Conan's floppy hair and floppier frame. Longtime Conan sidekick Andy Richter will also be on hand. Sunday, January 17, 2 pm, at Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., Civic Center. Tickets are $30, $40, and $50, depending on seating.
Tim & Eric: This challenging comedy team (last names Heidecker and Wareheim) are best known for their two Adult Swim shows, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Tom Goes to the Mayor. A penchant for gross-out humor, 80's fashion, and bizarre/lousy performers like puppeteer David Liebe Hart means they're not for everyone, but those who love the duo do so wholeheartedly. Fellow anti-comedian Neil Hamburger will open. Thursday, January 14, 8 pm, at Mezzanine, 444 Jessie St., SOMA. Tickets are $20. 21 and up only.
Comedy Death-Ray: Podcasts have proven fertile ground for alternative comedians these days, and one of the best is Scott Aukerman's Comedy Death-Ray, a weekly free-for-all featuring top comedians like Sarah Silverman and Patton Oswalt. This live CDR performance will feature Michael Ian Black, Dana Gould, Doug Benson, and musical guest Aimee Mann. Friday, January 15, 8 or 10:30 pm, at Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., North Beach. Tickets are $30.
Kasper Hauser: Homegrown comedy troupe Kasper Hauser has broken out this year with two hilarious parody books, Obama's BlackBerry and Weddings of the Times (a poke at the New York Times' wedding announcements). Their sketch nights are reliably funny, and frequently include a special guest or two. Tuesday, January 19, 8 pm, at The Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson St., Nob Hill.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Terry Jones: Fetchez la vache! The iconic parody of Camelot is turning 35, and Python troupe member Terry Jones is coming to town to discuss the film's cult and do a screening. More partial to Life of Brian than Grail? It'll show in the same spot three hours later, also with Jones emceeing. Thursday, January 21, 7 pm, at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro St., Castro. Tickets are $20 for Grail and $10 for Life of Brian.