By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Returning for its third year, the Comedy Central-sponsored Clusterfest brings a host of talent to San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza including ‘Parks and Recreation’ star Amy Poehler, comics John Mulaney and Patton Oswalt, music from The Roots and Courtney Barnett and much more.READ MORE: Oakland A's Silent on Negotiations With City Over New Stadium
While comedy has become a significant part of many major music festivals ranging from Washington state’s Sasquatch! Music Festival, Bonnaroo and San Francisco’s own Outside Lands, 2017’s inaugural Colossal Clusterfest flipped the script by presenting a three-day celebration of mostly stand-up, sketch comedy, live podcasts and interactive attractions with an array of musical performers mixed into the schedule.
Though it’s name was shortened to simply “Clusterfest” last year, the festival will feature a similar combination of comedy and music on the large outdoor Colossal Stage. Meanwhile, there will be four different spaces inside the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium presenting a variety of stand-up, panel discussions, video screenings and live podcast recordings. In addition to steady schedule of stand-up the main Bill Graham Stage, events will be ongoing at three more intimate performance areas: the floor-level Larkin Comedy Club, the upstairs Polk Comedy Club and the debut of this year’s immersive bar environment, the Drunk History Pub which will take the place of the recreation of Paddy’s Pub from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and will include appearances by Drunk History host Derek Waters. This year, the festival has introduced an app with a new feature allowing attendees to make reservations for performances at the smaller Larkin and Polk comedy clubs as well as times to visit two of the immersive environments in Comedyville. The app can be downloaded to Android or Apple devices.
While in the past the Colossal Stage has hosted the event’s main headliners, this year-top billed comedy acts will hold forth indoors on the Bill Graham Stage. On Friday night, shortly after raunchy stand-up and sitcom star Whitney Cummings closes out the big outdoor stage at 10 p.m., Upright Citizens Brigade founder and Parks and Recreation and SNL star Amy Poehler and her as-yet unannounced friends will perform inside Bill Graham. She will also take the same stage earlier, appearing in conversation with fellow SNL vet and returning entertainer Fred Armisen (who will perform his own set on the Colossal Stage at 7 p.m. as well as two other appearances over the course of the weekend). The Bill Graham Stage goes late Friday starting at 12:15 a.m. with caustic comedy from Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle, a live version of the popular Comedy Central show that will include appearances by Brian Moses, the Wave, show DJ Coach Tea and special guest judges Cummings, Neal Brennan and Chris Redd.
Acidic stand-up and stage star John Mulaney, who appeared at the festival last year both solo with his partner on their Broadway hit Oh Hello Nick Kroll, will perform two sets (8:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.) on the Bill Graham Stage Saturday night along with acclaimed comedians Julio Torres and Sheng Wang followed by a closing set from gifted mash-up laptop DJ Girltalk. On Sunday, comedian and actor (Pixar’s Ratatouille, Big Fan and the television shows King of Queens and A.P. Bio to name a few) will end the festival with his headlining set on the Bill Graham Stage with warm up from Fortune Feimster and Mateo Lane. Other big-draw acts performing during the festival include the creator of HBO’s hit comedy Insecure Issa Rae, Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast member Chelsea Peretti, and Queer Eye style guru and podcaster Jonathan Van Ness.READ MORE: COVID: Breakthrough Cases Surge Among San Francisco Hospital Staff
Clusterfest will erect several several other immersive environments themed around various popular shows. Comedy Central promotes the forthcoming return of Crank Yankers with an experience where fans can meet the puppets from the show and hear classic phone calls, while Donald Glover’s surreal FX show Atlanta will be represented with The Benny Hope and Teddy Perkins Memorial Museum with artifacts from one of the most memorable and terrifying episodes of the program’s second season. Clusterfest will also offer recreations of the sets of a couple of iconic comedies, giving attendees a chance for photo ops in the return of Jerry’s apartment from Seinfeld that was featured in the first edition of the festival and the office from the Scranton, NJ, branch of Dunder Mifflin from the Comedy Central rerun staple The Office.
On the music front, there are several acts highlighting the Colossal Stage schedule Friday including an appearance by powerhouse live hip-hop group and house band for The Tonight Show The Roots at 8:15 p.m. after sets from SF turntable guru DJ Dials (who will play music throughout the weekend at the festival) and New Orleans bounce queen Big Freedia. Another musical attraction to check out will Friday evening be the returning Red Room Orchestra, which will be providing a live soundtrack to a SF Sketchfest-curated script reading of Clueless featuring Issa Rae, Ilana Glazer, Kumail Nanjiani and Amanda Seales that will include Jill Sobule performing the song “Supermodel.” SF Sketchfest is also behind Sunday’s live reading of Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion with drag queens Trixie Mattel, Katya and Peaches Christ.
On Saturday, comedian/actor Craig Robinson shows off his musical side, playing keys and singing lascivious soul and funk with his band The Nasty Delicious (5:30 p.m.) prior to a set from celebrated Aussie indie-rock songwriter Courtney Barnett fresh from her recent acclaimed performance at Bonnaroo (8:30 p.m.) prior to a stand-up set from SNL‘s Leslie Jones and friends Lenny Marcus and Chris Distefano close out the stage. On Sunday, the Colossal Stage hosts more comedic sounds with yacht rockers Mustache Harbor and profane, over-the-top wedding singer Dan Finnerty & the Dan Band (who appeared in Old School and The Hangover) before dreamy indie-pop outfit Japanese Breakfast performs at 5:30 p.m.
But as one might expect from a Comedy Central-sponsored festival, the majority of the entertainment will focus on stand-up, including a number of network regulars and hosts. A veritable who’s who of current comedy talent will take the mic including such theater and club headliners as Sinbad, Tig Notaro and Todd Barry, Broad City co-creator and star Illana Glazer, writer and correspondent for The Daily Show Neal Brennan, SNL “Weekend Update” co-anchor Colin Jost and many others.
Staged versions and Q&A sessions about a variety of Comedy Central programs also fill the schedule with Broad City regular Arturo Castro talking about his new sketch show Alternatino with Glazer and Petey DeAbreu as well as sneak previews of new Drunk History episodes and the new show South Side. Additional highlights include live presentations of popular podcasts like Comedy Bang! Bang! with Scott Aukerman, Pen Pals with Rory Scovel and Daniel Van Kirk and Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness as well as true crime podcasts Disgraceland with Jake Brennan and My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. For tickets, additional information on the three-day festival and more, visit the Clusterfest website.MORE NEWS: COVID: Highly-Contagious Delta Variant Has Some Parents Rethinking Back-To-School Plans
Comedy Central Presents Clusterfest
Friday-Sunday, June 21-23, 1 p.m. (4 p.m. Fri.) $119.50-$1250
San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza