By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The 19th annual SF Sketchfest brings together another stellar line-up of talent to over 20 comedy and theater venues for 18 days of hilarious improvisation, live podcasts, tributes, stand-up and ensemble comedy over the course of nearly 300 shows.READ MORE: UPDATE: 1 Dead, 6 Wounded in Saturday Evening Shooting at Oakland's Lake Merritt
Plenty of national names will be making appearances this year as the festival pays tribute to such television and film legends as Tony Shaloub, Sandra Bernhard, Kevin Nealon, Crispin Glover, original members of “The Monkees” Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz and the cast and creators from landmark children’s cartoon “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The schedule also includes the Bay Area premiere of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s new hit Broadway improvised hip-hop showcase Freestyle Love Supreme, stand-up talents Maria Bamford, Kristen Schaal, Patton Oswalt, Fred Armisen and George Wallace, noted improv troupes The Upright Citizens Brigade and The Groundlings as well as return appearances by noted locally grown talents like Doug Benson, Margaret Cho, Bobcat Goldthwait, beloved comedy groups Kasper Hauser and Killing My Lobster and popular drag queen Peaches Christ.
This year the festival spotlights television shows and landmark films with world premiere screenings (the new Netflix comedy “Medical Police” and It Started As a Joke, a documentary on the decade-long run of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival), animated programs like “Futurama” and “We Bare Bears” and tributes such cinematic creations as writer/director Whit Stillman‘s films Metropolitan and Barcelona, the Disney favorite The Journey Of Natty Gann and the disaster parody classic Airplane! The number of venues utilized by the festival continues to grow with spots in Oakland (the Fox Theater), the Mission District (Brava Theater Center and Brava Cabaret, the Chapel, the Alamo Drafthouse), North Beach (Speakeasy, Cobb’s Comedy Club), the Castro (Cafe du Nord, Swedish American Hall, the Castro Theatre), downtown SF (Pianofight, Punchline Comedy Club) and Hayes Valley (The Sydney Goldstein Theater, formerly the Nourse) hosting events.
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After taking a break on Monday (the first day without scheduled shows since the festival started January 9th), SF Sketchfest comes back to life on Tuesday with several events. At the Alamo Drafthouse in the Mission, there will be a 35th anniversary screening of the ghoulish horror-comedy cult classic Re-Animator. The showing of the 1985 film adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story will include a conversation between star Jeffrey Combs and noted comic, writer and television producer Dana Gould, who worked on “The Simpsons” for several seasons and created the IFC show “Stan Against Evil” (1/21, 7 p.m.). Tuesday also brings a sold-out appearance by Jamie Loftus at PianoFight (1/21, 8 p.m.), a staging of the podcast, the live interactive stage show Nostalgia Personified with “The Adventures of Pete and Pete” star Danny Tamberelli and co-hosts Lori Beth Denberg (“All That,” “Good Burger”) and Jeremy Balon at the iHeartRadio Stage at the Gateway Theatre (1/21, 8 p.m.) and a tribute to “SNL” player and respected stand-up and comic actor Kevin Nealon (“Man With A Plan,” “Weeds,” numerous Adam Sandler films) in conversation with comic and writer Marc Hershon at Marines’ Memorial Theatre (1/21, 8 p.m.).
On Wednesday, activities kick off with the sold-out comedic competition show Capitol PUNishment at the PianoFight Second Stage with contestants battling for the right to face off with show creators Daniel Humbarger and Damian Harmony (1/22, 7 p.m.), while Cobb’s Comedy Club hosts Found Footage Festival: After Dark with Joe Pickett (The Onion) and Nick Prueher (“The Colbert Report”) and their arsenal of unsettling and profoundly misguided video tapes rescued from various garage sales and thrift stores across the country (1/22, 8 p.m.). Other possibilities that evening include The Bechdel Cast, a podcast examining how women are portrayed in film with hosts Jamie Loftus and Caitlin Durante and comic writer guest Demi Adejuyigbe at the iHeartRadio Stage at the Gateway Theatre (1/22, 8 p.m.) and a dose of regional stand-up humor at Irish as Feck, a showcase at the Punchline co-presented by the Real Irish Comedy Tour with comedians Dave Nihill, Ger Staunton, Katie Boyle, Mark Hayes and Sean Finnerty (1/22, 8 p.m.).
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On Thursday, things get started at the PianoFight Second Stage with sketch comedy groups Haymaker and Marv n’ Berry, comic Joshua Stokes and improv duo Bingewatch (1/23, 7 p.m.) before popular storytelling show Mortified takes over Cobb’s with guest performers Katie Rubin, Cassidy Brown, Fontana Butterfield, Calum Grant and Andrew Bancroft and sold-out presentations of sketch comedy show Atlantic City at the PianoFight main stage and sketch/stand-up feature BriTANicK with founders Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher and guests Alex Edelman and Natalie Palamides (all 1/23, 8 p.m.). At Marines’ Memorial Theatre, SF Sketchfest holds a tribute to comic, actress and author Phoebe Robinson. Best known for her podcast turned hit HBO show 2 Dope Queens with partner and former “Daily Show” correspondent Jessica Williams, Robinson talks about her career in comedy with moderator Favianna Rodriguez (1/23, 8 p.m.). For a more detailed listing of events and information on how to get tickets, please visit the San Francisco Sketchfest website.