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Monday, January 25, 2016

Dispatches from SF Sketchfest: Sally Field, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bamford, and More

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge Brian Huskey, Jon Gabrus, and Mary Holland perform at "ASSSSCAT." - PHOTO BY TOMMY LAU
  • Photo by Tommy Lau
  • Brian Huskey, Jon Gabrus, and Mary Holland perform at "ASSSSCAT."

Dispatches from SF Sketchfest
will run throughout Sketchfest (Jan. 7-24). These recaps and previews are designed to fill you in on what you've missed and let you know what's coming next!

All good things must come to end, and in the case of the 15th annual San Francisco Sketchfest, its closing weekend was one for the ages. On Thursday evening, Maria Bamford reminded a packed house at the Marines Memorial Theatre why she is one of the most innovative stand-up comics working today. Her set was preceded by impressive turns from host Natasha Muse and opener Jackie Kashian

Saturday evening featured Sketchfest mainstays the Upright Citizen's Brigade performing "ASSSSCAT," their signature long-form improv show at the Nourse. Introducing the group, co-founder Janet Varney called them "one of the reasons Sketchfest was able to become the festival you see today." UCB co-founders Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh were joined by some of their theatre's best improvisers: Brian Huskey, Mary Holland, and Jon Gabrus. Taking on the monologist role that inspires the improvised scenes was Academy Award-winner Sally Field and Wet Hot American Summer star Michael Showalter

click to enlarge The Upright Citizen's Brigade "ASSSSCAT" cast with guest monologists Sally Field and Michael Showalter. - PHOTO BY TOMMY LAU
  • Photo by Tommy Lau
  • The Upright Citizen's Brigade "ASSSSCAT" cast with guest monologists Sally Field and Michael Showalter.

Sketchfest's final day started at Cobb's Comedy Club with "improv4humans," a podcast hosted by Besser and in essence an aural variant of the "ASSSSCAT" format. Gabrus and Holland returned for more improv hilarity, and James Adomian, a "Comedy Bang Bang" regular and expert Bernie Sanders impersonator, made his debut on the show. The last show of Sketchfest featured the combined power of Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph and her bestie, Gretchen Lieberum as Princess. The Mezzanine was rocking with the funky sounds of the Purple One, the perfect way to say goodbye to one of San Francisco's best annual traditions.

Maria Bamford
is a world of characters unto herself. While her nervous energy and stage-whisper tell the audience when she's speaking as "herself," she has an unreal ability to immediately become a vapid Valley Girl, her judgmental mother, or even the voice of her own thoughts with unparalleled ease and precision. Bamford has long drawn on material focused on her absence of close relationships, and her inability to connect romantically. Now in the first year of a marriage, it was immense fun to hear Bamford draw on that well of subject matter in her own bizarre way. Don't miss her new mockumentary series Lady Dynamite, scheduled for release on Netflix later this year, and inspired largely by her own life.

An audience member's suggestion of "Oscar" was aimed at getting monologist Sally Field to relive her famous Academy Awards speech, but instead Field focused on much more interesting fodder, like her dislike of her mother's dog, and her son's ill-fated job leading troubled youth on an outdoors retreat. Both made for incredible scene work in the hands of the "ASSSSCAT" improvisers.

In one of his monologues, Michael Showalter shared a reoccurring dream he has where he is forced to use a bathroom built into one of the seats at an awards show while the show is occurring. The "ASSSSCAT" gang had little trouble turning that information into one of the evening's most memorable moments.

Matt Besser's status as one of the biggest names in the improv world means he's welcomed many of the scene's best performers to his podcast "improv4humans." Somehow, James Adomian had yet to make an appearance. Seeing him slot flawlessly into the format and create scenes like a philosophical, darkly demented Guy Fieri trying to tape Diners, Drive-Ins, and Castles of the Dark was a joy to behold. 

Spoofing the lip service musicians often pay to the towns they're visiting, Jon Gabrus name-checked Sutter Street in a scene about the weight limits of hoverboards. Besser continued the joke by suggesting that he thought it was Powell Street. Unfortunately the city's impending Super Bowl implosion was not addressed.

If you don't have the untold fortunes necessary to catch Prince when he comes to town for one of his hastily announced shows at the DNA Lounge or The Fillmore, it's hard to find a better consolation than Princess. Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum take this job seriously, but that stance doesn't stop them from being silly and hilarious throughout their show. This isn't a greatest hits review either - one song from Princess was announced as being their take on the demo version of a deep, deep cut. 

A shirtless gentleman was introduced by Rudolph as a man servant she found while vacationing in Brazil. At one point in the show, she beckoned him to bring out water, and proceeded to down the entire bottle in one epic series of chugs. Make no mistake: Princess are rock stars. While the East Coast endured the onslaught of Blizzard Jonas, San Francisco found itself in a downpour of "Purple Rain." Princess ended their encore with a cathartic sing-along of the Prince classic, the perfect note to finish another luminous installment of Sketchfest. 

Coming Soon

While Sketchfest may be over, there are still plenty of chances to laugh your ass off in the weeks ahead. Here's a few upcoming shows to cure your comedy hang-over.

David Cross: Making America Great Again!
Thursday, Jan. 28, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall
It's been some time since David Cross embarked on a stand-up tour, and the Mr. Show co-creator and alternative comedy godfather has unquestionably got plenty to say. Leave your indignities at the door and be prepared for one of stand-up's greatest forces to make you hate the world and cry laughter tears.

Sister Act with Peaches Christ, Latrice Royale, and Willam
Saturday, Feb. 27, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., Castro Theatre
The latest in local drag queen Peaches Christ's series of film re-imaginings casts former RuPaul's Drag Race contestants Latrice Royale and Willam in "Mister Act," a Sister Act parody that will proceed a screening of Whoopi Goldberg's 1992 film about a singer who hides from the mob by becoming a nun. Peaches always goes above and beyond for these special events, and Latrice was born to play Deloris. Costumes encouraged. 

"Oh, Hello" with Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland
Monday-Thursday, Feb. 29 - March 3, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre
Grumpy old men doesn't even begin to describe Nick Kroll and John Mulaney's alter-egos Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland. They're a little racist, often irreverent, and always insanely funny. Their off-Broadway "Oh, Hello" show visits San Francisco for four nights as part of a small tour that reprises characters the two first created for Kroll Show on Comedy Central. 

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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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