All throughout the year we look forward to SF Sketchfest's lineup announcement -- starting on the last day of each year's festival. You want to know why? Look at some of this year's names: Greg Proops. Kevin Smith. Sally Kellerman. Keegan Michael-Key. Bob Goldthwait. Chris Elliott. Michael Ian Black. Performers come from all over the country just to see some of these people, so you never know who you'll run into at a show -- or who'll get on stage unannounced. There are also people who were once big on the local circuit (hello, Janine Brito) who'll come back to perform.
In its 11th year, the festival is famous for lengthy, diverse, and inspired programming. It includes straight stand-up, improv, retrospectives, and tributes. Sketchfest schedules always pay respect to comedy in film, television, and online in addition to its traditional live forms.
In reviewing the lineup for SF Sketchfest 2012 (which releases today), we determined in no time that we want to attend events on each of the festival's 17 days (Jan. 19 - Feb. 4). Here are just a handful of highlights from the mind-bogglingly broad array of offerings.
Fans of the mid-1990s MTV sketch comedy program The State and the later projects created by its cast (Stella and Reno 911! among others) will do backflips to find numerous programs that involve those actors. A live radio play rendition of The State-spawned cult comedy Wet Hot American Summer is scheduled for Jan. 21, led by director David Wain and co-writer and star Michael Showalter. They will be joined by Amy Poehler, Christopher Meloni, Michael Ian Black, and other members of the original cast along with surprise guest "understudies."
Other State-related events include a live table read of an unproduced Wain-and-Showalter screenplay called They Came Together (Jan. 22) and a live reunion of The State and Reno 911! cast members Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, and Kerri Kenney-Silver (Jan. 27).
A tribute to the influential improv house Upright Citizens Brigade will bring the troupe's founders (Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh) together on Jan. 22, as well as a performance of their mainstay improv show, ASSSSCAT, on Jan. 21.
The "Reggidency" comprises four shows by musical comedian Reggie Watts: solo at Yoshi's SF (Jan. 31), with Garfunkel & Oates at Mezzanine (Feb. 1), with jazz musician Robert Glasper at Yoshi's Oakland (Feb. 2), and finally performing improvised scores for silent films at the Roxie Theater on Feb. 3.
Film-oriented events culminate on Feb. 4, with three major ones that day at the Castro, including a screening of Robert Altman's M*A*S*H with stars Elliott Gould and Sally Kellerman in attendance; Christopher Guest's Best in Show with cast members Fred Willard and Michael Hitchcock; and a 30th anniversary celebration of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, with Henson Company puppeteers in attendance.
Sometimes the celebrity-laden special events and tributes to films and comedians of the past are enough to distract us from the true strength of Sketchfest, which are the standup shows and other programs that derive from what working comedians are doing and talking about today.
A variety of comedy podcasters tape live episodes at Sketchfest including Marc Maron (Feb. 3), Greg Proops (Jan. 28), Doug Benson (Jan. 29), Jimmy Pardo (Feb. 3), and Kevin Smith -- yes, that Kevin Smith -- (Jan. 29).
Sketchfest standup shows feature many of the top comics working today, including Steve Agee, Todd Barry, Greg Behrendt, Rob Delaney, Jen Kirkman, Marc Maron, Kumail Nanjiani, Rick Overton, Eddie Pepitone, Greg Proops, and Mary Lynn Rajskub. And the SF Sketchfest Dozen and Rooftop Comedy series showcase the best voices among the newest wave of stand-up comedy.
Truly, this isn't the half of what's going on. To see more, visit the Sketchfest website.