The Insider's Guide to SF Sketchfest: 8 Picks

Categories: Sketchfest
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Paul F. Tompkins

If you've never checked out SF Sketchfest (Jan. 14- Feb. 2) then you need to pinky promise us that this is your year to head to one of these shows, or we will never speak to you again.

We were lucky enough to get tips on 2010's lineup directly from founders David Owen, Cole Stratton, and Janet Varney. They were members of the improv troupe Totally False People when they founded Sketchfest in 2001. The event was created partly out of frustration with the lack of venues geared toward sketch comedy. "We had to rent theaters or we'd perform at a comedy clubs," Owen says. They decided to make a home for sketch comedy here by renting out the local Shelton theatre and teaming up with other Bay Area troupes. Nine years later, the organization receives over 100 submissions from groups vying for Sketchfest spots.

As an audience member, sketch comedy can tough to navigate if you don't recognize the names of the artists performing. Plus, this year the festival is so broad in scope it will also include, as Varney points out, "music, podcasts filmed live, talk-show style interviews, variety shows with stand-up comedians, and some classic films too." With all the great acts coming to town, and some taking the stage on the same night, how do you choose the right show for you?

Below, the insider's picks for Sketchfest.

1. For the Movie Lover and Monty Python Fan As Owen excitedly puts it,"Here we are nine years in and we have our very first Python coming!" They'll have Terry Jones on hand at the Castro Theater for an in-depth conversation before screenings of both The Holy Grail and Life of Brian. (Thursday Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $10).

2. The Paul F Tompkins Show Varney says this is an "amazing variety show" so get your tickets now for Friday. The Paul F Tompkins Show is originally based out of a club called Largo in LA, and it involves a little bit of stand-up, a little bit of sketch, and a little bit of music. (Friday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. @ the Eureka Theater, $25).

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