The thing about SF Sketchfest is that it lasts a long time. Unlike a music festival that happens in 3 days tops, Sketchfest, which ended Sunday night in San Francisco, has been going on for WEEKS. Which isn’t a bad thing actually. It means you get to go through stages of Sketchfest. Develop theories. Expand your understanding of the very genre of comedy itself. See a lot of hilarious people you’ve only ever dreamed of seeing. In a science museum. It also means that the whole festival builds up momentum and excitement slowly but, like an avalanche or tsunami or something, really awesomely (awesome like in the geological sense of the word). Anyway, I did Sketchfest hard this year, but the part I did hardest was this weekend. I went to four comedy shows in two days. Here in reverse order from Totally Amazing to Possibly Life-Alteringly Hilarious are the top four comedy shows I saw this weekend:

4. Party Down with Party Down

Party Down Reunion
@mradamscott via Twitter

This show was a perfect nostalgia love party, complete with Ken Marino getting drunk on stage and Ryan Hansen pop and locking. My co-editor Emmanuel already wrote about it and I think he is actually the last word on it. Seriously, just read what he has to say.

3. Tribute to Childrens Hospital 

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This was the second event I went to at Cobb’s Comedy Club on Saturday (the first being Party Down with Party Down) and when my friend Audrey and I were being seated, I asked if there wasn’t any way to get a seat closer than the balcony (where I sat earlier in the day with Emmanuel). The waiter said “It’ll cost you,” and I asked, “How much?” and the next thing you know I was slipping a ten into some guy’s palm and we were right next to the sound guy, close enough to make eye contact with Rob Corddry.

Childrens Hospital is probably the show I care least about on the list of shows that had panels last weekend, but that’s just because Party Down and Burning Love are two of my favorite shows of all-time ever. So it was still really great. The panel, which included Rob Huebel, Lake Bell, Erinn Hayes, (getting drunker but in a fun way) Ken Marino and Beth Dover as well as the aforementioned Rob Corddry, was moderated by David Wain, the director of Childrens Hospital as well as about a million other things I love like Wet Hot American SummerRole Models, and Stella. Also, because all these things are connected and it is clear all these people are friends, David Wain once directed an episode of Party Down and he was actually in the audience for the earlier Party Down panel. Unlike the earlier panel, mostly everyone on the Childrens Hospital panel was a little drunk, which gave the whole thing a nice, friendly, sloppy feeling. The highlights of the night were: a) the viewing of a promo for the show which started out as a blood drive PSA and ended in a slo-mo good-time blood fight and b) the moment when I asked David Wain during the Q&A why he wasn’t on screen more and he said, “I will be in the fifth season.” When I for some reason said, “Oh, I don’t have a TV,” the whole panel started screaming at me. At one point, Erinn Hayes said to the crowd: “This girl doesn’t even have a TV and yet she paid to get in here?!” and I said: “Actually I didn’t pay.” The cast really lost it then and Erinn Hayes pointed to the door and said: “GET OUT” while Rob Corddry mouthed “I’m sorry.” It was the most fun I’ve had getting yelled at probably ever.

2. Burning Love

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If you haven’t watched Burning Love yet, you are doing something wrong. It’s a web series that actually works, a take-off on The Bachelor franchise or more accurately the “Next week, on The Bachelor…” segments that air at the end of every episode. Basically: Burning Love is really short and it stars a bunch of your favorite comedians.

This was the third panel I saw at Cobb’s. The show was over-booked so I was only able to get one ticket, but I bribed the same waiter for the same seat and this time instead of making eye contact with Rob Corddry, I was gazing into the eyes of Ryan Hansen and Martin Starr. Or at least I was trying to. This was the largest panel and it included director and co-creator Ken Marino (who was drinking another beer, potentially to deal with his hangover from Saturday) (I saw so much Ken Marino this weekend I kind of think he’s my friend now), writer and co-creator (and Ken’s wife) Erica Oyama, host Michael Ian Black, executive producer Jonathan Stern, and series stars June Diane Raphael, Beth Dover, Carla Gallo, Rob Huebel, Natasha Leggero, Joe Lo Truglio, Paul Scheer and Janet Varney plus, like I said, Ryan Hansen and Martin Starr.

(Aside for super fans only: The cross-pollination was getting a little bananas at this point. June Diane Raphael had been in the audience at Party Down too and Martin Starr and Ryan Hansen were in that panel because, well, they starred in Party Down. The moderator of the panel was Paul Scheer, who is a contestant on Burning Love Season Two and was a guest star on Party Down as well as the moderator of Saturday’s Party Down panel. Plus I swear he was wearing the exact same Nike’s as David Wain was on Saturday. But ANYWAY.)

The Burning Love panel started with a preview of the second season, in which once-spurned June Diane Raphael is now the bachelorette. The show premieres on the internet on Valentine’s Day, but those of us in the audience got to see the first two episodes. I won’t give any spoilers but, as already known, Ryan Hansen is a dreamboat, Martin Starr is one of my top 5 favorite people I have never met and Colin Hanks looks like he’s perfect as a “lifestyle consultant.” It’s going to be an awesome season. We also got to see a very quick sneak peek of Season 3 which is a take-off on The Bachelor Pad where former contestants of Burning Love are competing in teams for $900. Michael Ian Black wears a crop top. So it’s definitely going to be a success.

At the end of the panel, Paul Scheer scoured the crowd for single ladies for a live version on Burning Love called Quick Burn. Unfortunately, the reason I gave for being worthy of wife-hood (“I can skateboard a little”) was not as popular with the crowd as “I’m a dancer” from Krystin with a “K” and a “y” so I did not find my true love on stage at Cobb’s on Sunday. But a girl named Krystin (?) and a boy named Jeremy (?) did. Or at least they pledged to live happily ever after, after a lightning elimination process directed by Michael Ian Black. The whole thing was pretty magical.

1. Garfunkel and Oates

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Photo by Drew Beck

To be honest, I was a little disappointing I had to miss Stella and more Michael Ian Black and David Wain for Garfunkel and Oates, the singing duo of Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci. While I like their stuff, I wasn’t convinced I would be experiencing anything new by going to their stage show. Guess who was the most wrong of all the wrong people? ME. Garfunkel and Oates was not only the highlight of Sketchfest, they were the highlight of February and the highlight of comedy that I’ve ever seen, which is pretty amazing since I was so far back I couldn’t actually see them. On the walk back to our neighborhood Sunday night with my friends Drew (who took the above picture) and Audrey (same Audrey who came with me to Childrens Hospital and pretty much every other Sketchfest show I attended), we tried to figure out what was so transcendent about the show that made us break into an impromptu dance party while the Rickshaw Stop was getting cleared out and kept us smiling and laughing for hours after it was over. Here are some things we came up with (list-within-a-list!):

1. Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci are really trying to say something honest about the human experience. 

We decided that Garkunel and Oates is like what feminism is really meant to be in that, yes, they are girls and the perspective they bring is that of two women in their early thirties, but they are being so honest and earnest, and in a way, so specific, their music is pretty accessible to anyone (though maybe not 12 year-olds…they are pretty explicit).

2. They are self-aware in a disarming way.

Garfunkel and Oates can talk about pretty much anything from accidentally pleasuring oneself during a go-cart race to the annoying attitude of pregnant women, because the people they are most critically aware of is themselves and what they are really concerned with is how they act in the world. This is especially apparent when they are on stage and you can see the difference between their in-song personas and the actual people joking around and talking to each other and interacting with hecklers on stage.

3. They were totally present.

It would be easy for a group that is clearly so talented musically and has such a specific repertoire to phone the whole show in. But Riki and Kate seemed to be singing every song for the first time, laughing at their own jokes, occasionally making mistakes even. It was hilarious and wonderful.

Whew! So there you have it. Sketchfest 2013 is in the record books. For those of you who made it to the end, a special treat. Here is a picture of one of the weirder stand-up acts I’ve ever seen, Dragon Boy Suede who opened for Garfunkel and Oates:

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Photo by Drew Beck

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Lizzy Acker

Lizzy Acker’s work has been published in Nano Fiction, Fanzine, Joyland, Eleven Eleven and elsewhere. She has read with Bang Out, RADAR, Quiet Lightening and others. Her first book, Monster Party, was released in December of 2010 by Small Desk Press.

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