Comedian Will Franken Interview on his Two Shows At SF Sketchfest
By David Downs
Former top comic of SF, Will Franken moved to New York late last year after a stellar, multi-year rise to stardom in our little city. Tonight, he plays the Eureka Theater and tomorrow the Purple Onion as part of SFSketchfest -- the multi-week celebration of theater as comedy.
Franken's absurd yet erudite, Monty Python-inspired one-man act uses a multiplicity of characters to probe modernity in all its retardedness. Below, he answers a few ASD questions about making The Daily Show's creator laugh, why stand-up sucks, why the Brits will always pwn us, ... and why he needs a date. Bad.
So, sketch or stand-up and why?
The reason I like sketch is because the thing with stand-up comedy: the goal is to be natural and to give this illusion that you're really being natural. You take the mic from the stand and say, 'I was reading the newspaper and this is what I thought.' But it's a lie. Both of them are lies, sketch is a lie and stand up is a lie. My philosophy is if you're going to do it, do it right. It's hard for me to watch something that's supposed to be casual. You know he's working. I always envy people who can sit there and get into it.
Favorite sketch troupes of all time?
Monty Python. 1. Kidz in the Hall for the second. They had a real revolutionary aspect. They introduced a lot of blood and guts, there's so many jokes that ended in somebody dying, AIDS jokes and shit. Third, I might say Mr. Show actually, 'cus they revisited a lot of the Python structure where the sketches would weave in and out of each other.
Tell a story of New York triumph.
I did a show on New Year's Eve at Liz Winstead's house, she's the creator of the Daily Show. It was a pretty high-end deal. I did it because of this superstition I picked up in SF where if you do a show on New Year's Eve you are going to be able to perform all next year. It totally came from Tony Sparks. He told me his superstition one year, and now I'm into it.
So I was asking around, 'Does anyone know where I can play on New Year's Eve and a friend said, 'We're doing this party over at Liz's'. It was really sweet. She was real nice. I got a nice intro and she brought every one into the room. It was a big, loud party at her Greenwich Village apartment. This was after midnight and everybody was wasted. The people I came with said they were going to perform too, but they sang a karaoke song. When it came time for me to go up, I was nervous, but Liz made everyone shut up and intro'd me as, 'Coming all the way from San Francisco, get in here and be nice to Will Franken!'
Did you make Liz laugh?
Yeah, she was digging it. I pulled out a bunch of old shit and went ten, fifteen minutes. I even got a gig out of it. Afterward, someone came up to me and asked me if I was available. ... It's all perspective. Life could be a lot worse, and then you go home and go, [whiny voice] 'the girls don't like me.'
Who's hot in Sketch right now?
Who's hot in sketch? I'll bring up the Brits. When I went to London this year they had those TVs on the Virgin Airlines, I got to play catch up on what's happening in Brittain, have you seen The Mighty Boosh? I was in hysterics, man I'd love it Sketchfest could get those guys I don't even know how to describe it. You remember The Young One's right? It's all glitter music from '70s, old jazz records, a gorilla that talks, a little midget that dresses like a swami -- they haven't lost it. The Brittish will always have us beat.
Are you stoked about the Kidz in the Hall reunion?
I saw them in '99 and it wasn't -- it was a greatest hits review and it was more about 'they're all together again!' The thing that killed me: Mr. Show came to town and did a live show at the Warfierld and I almost wet myself. They did old shit and even the new shit was just ripping me apart.
I think Bob Odenkirk was the brains behind the operation. I'm a fan of Cross, he had the shorts and goofy glasses where Bob would wear the suit and Cross was the nut job. But the more I think about it, I think Bob was the real nut. He just played it cool with the suit and shorter hair being more normal. John Cleese from Monty Python said he always hated wearing costumes. He said, "If you can't sell it with a suit, you cant sell it."
Any words for your SF, fans?
Tell them I love them all very much and I miss the hell out of them. I look forward to the day when we will be reunited again. Being in NY, it's like going to a different school. SF's the town where I got my start, and it couldn't happen anywhere else. I definitely miss SF a lot and think about it a lot.
Now plug your shit.
Both shows are going to be different. The Purple Onion will have older stuff and new, New York stuff, and then new stuff at Eureka and also whip out stuff from the last year's Marsh show like 'Plane Crash' -- some weird shit for people who missed 'Grandpa it's not fitting.' I'm getting 30 or 45 minutes, which is good because I need to stretch my legs after these 5, 10-minute bits in New York.
This link takes you to Will Franken's web page where you can download podcasts of his hilarious bits. Tip, you bastards!
Peace out, and may the lord smight you for your sodomite ways, SF.