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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dispatches from SF Sketchfest: Laraine Newman, Jack McBrayer, Ricki Lake, and More

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge The cast of "Facebook Improv" - PHOTO: GREG GARTHE
  • Photo: Greg Garthe
  • The cast of "Facebook Improv"

Dispatches from SF Sketchfest
will run throughout Sketchfest (Jan. 7-23). These recaps and previews are designed to fill you in on what you've missed and let you know what's coming next!

Sunday of Sketchfest's second weekend was a double helping of two shows at the Marines Memorial Theater that have simple concepts but brilliant executions. First up was "Celebrity Autobiography," where famous faces like Pamela Adlon (King of the Hill), Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Ricki Lake (Hairspray), Michael Urie (Ugly Betty), and Laraine Newman (Saturday Night Live) take turns reading from the "memoirs" of esteemed authors like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber. There's no sketch or improv: the truly unbelievable passages and pitch perfect readings are all that's needed.

That evening, the boys of "Facebook Improv" brought their wildly popular show from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles up to the Bay. Willing audience members volunteered bits of information that make them interesting candidates, and then improvisers Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Owen Burke (UCB Artistic Director), Seth Morris (Kroll Show), and Charlie Sanders (Children's Hospital) picked two to log into their Facebook accounts on stage. After a bit of browsing and discussion, the quartet improvises scenes based on the profile in question.

click to enlarge Pamela Adlon and Scott Adsit at "Celebrity Autobiography" - PHOTO: TOMMY LAU
  • Photo: Tommy Lau
  • Pamela Adlon and Scott Adsit at "Celebrity Autobiography"


While many years removed from her stint as an original member of Saturday Night Live's "Not Ready for Prime Time Players," Laraine Newman's skills as an impressionist haven't waned. She delivered a hilarious Carol Channing while reading from the latter's self-congratulatory Just Lucky I Guess, and later affected a delightful accent for her turn as Ivana Trump.

Memoirs have apparently gone to the dogs. In what "Celebrity Autobiography" co-founder Eugene Pack deemed a "memoir mash-up," Pamela Adlon, Scott Adsit, and Michael Urie all took the stage to read three separate books allegedly written by famous canines. Adlon read from a book by the original Sandy in Broadway's Annie, Urie shared stories of life as Tinkerbell (Paris Hilton's purse Chihuahua), and Adsit struggled to get through passages of a horrifying book narrated by Shirley MacLaine's dog, who refers to her as "Mistress Mother." Shudder.

Part of what makes "Facebook Improv" such a great show is that despite the demeanor of the audience member who volunteers to share their Facebook account with the crowd, it all serves as incredible fodder for the improvised scenes to follow. The first person to come on stage explained that she married her husband because he was "insanely hot." This later become the premise of a scene where Seth Morris arrives at a restaurant with his face in his hands, explaining that were he to reveal his face, its lethal beauty would kill any who looked straight at him.

In case you were wondering, Jack McBrayer is as delightfully southern and polite as his 30 Rock persona Kenneth the Page would indicate. In one scene, he was set up to be a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda. His response was to pantomime baking cupcakes, explaining "I'm doing what Al Qaeda people do." Delightful and adorable. 

Coming Soon

Jeff Garlin & Associates
Saturday, Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m., Brava Theater Center
Best known as for his brilliant turn as Larry David's manager on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jeff Garlin is also a world class chatterbox. After an opening set from Seattle improv troupe Charles, Garlin will welcome Dan Mintz (the voice of Tina on Fox's Bob's Burgers) and comic Sarah Tiana for an evening of top-notch stand-up comedy and conversation.

Improv4Humans with Matt Besser

Sunday, Jan. 24, 1 p.m., Cobb's Comedy Club
The best podcast in the universe returns to Sketchfest, led by Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder Matt Besser. Besser is joined by Jon Gabrus (Guy Code) and Mary Holland (Blunt Talk), two outstanding regular guests on his show, as well as first-timer James Adomian, who is beloved for his many characters on the "Comedy Bang Bang" podcast and his recent work impersonating presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. This will be epic.

Sunday, Jan. 24, 8 p.m., Eureka Theatre
What would SF Sketchfest be without a little sketch comedy? BOAT is a trio of Brooklyn born, L.A. based gentleman that continually amaze with their innovative and hilarious sketches. You may not have heard of them, but you'll never forget them. They will share the bill with Charles, another somewhat surreal sketch duo hailing from Seattle. 

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About The Author

Zack Ruskin

Zack Ruskin

Zack was born in San Francisco and never found a reason to leave. He has written for Consequence of Sound, The Believer, The Millions, and The Rumpus. He is still in search of a Bort license plate.


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