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S.F. Sketchfest 

There's a mixed bag of acts at Sketchfest 2003, but don't miss the hilarious Upright Citizens Brigade

Wednesday, Jan 15 2003
The Upright Citizens Brigade opens its act at Sketchfest 2003 with a general apology to all the marginalized groups that have been offended, over the years, by sketch comedy and stand-up. Ian Roberts would like to read a statement. Since he can't read it to all marginalized groups from the stage at the Eureka, he's picked a representative one -- the Jews -- and since he can't apologize to all Jews, he explains, he wants to select one representative individual. The house lights go up. In about three minutes the sketch has moved from an apology to one of the more offensive things you've ever seen. The person Roberts chooses is a plant, Matt Besser, and the resulting argument turns into a hilarious (but tasteless, racial) joke at the expense of a drunken Irishman, played by Matt Walsh, who leaves a puddle of piss on the stage. The Upright Citizens Brigade explores the margins of acceptability in most of its routines, and most of its routines are funny. A lower-wattage troupe called the Meehan Brothers, on the other hand, runs through jokes about SUVs and Christmas trees that feel safe as well as tired. Host Joe Klocek gives easy, predictable patter about George Bush and the looming war in Iraq. Good sketch comedy has to take risks, especially in a mixed-bag festival like this one, but that doesn't mean it has to be offensive. The other outrageously funny routine on the night I attended -- also by the Upright Citizens Brigade -- involved Matt Besser as a convincing Björk, proving that anything can serve as a Björk lyric by singing the warning label on a box of roach traps.


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