The show must go on: Celebrities will turn out for SF Sketchfest

Last September, the founders of SF Sketchfest were faced with a grim reality.

As they prepared for what would have been the 20th consecutive year of San Francisco’s premier comedy festival, David Owen, Cole Stratton and Janet Varney realized they had no choice but to cancel the popular entertainment showcase ahead of its milestone anniversary as the pandemic halted all live events.

But the longstanding festival is here to stay – this Saturday’s “Festpocalypse!” is proof.

Dozens of award-winning comics, actors and musicians making up Sketchfest’s most notable alumni will converge for the three-hour-long, virtual iteration of the large scale event that typically spans most of January. Starting at 5 p.m. PST, the livestreamed show featuring improvised skits, off-the-wall debates, eccentric game shows, musical performances and Q&A sessions will also serve as a fundraiser for SF Sketchfest. Tickets start at $20.

“The inability to present live shows for much of 2020 and into 2021 means that SF Sketchfest must generate revenue to be able to hold out and come back strong,” read a statement from the festival.

Announced last month, the lineup will feature performers from the likes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” “Portlandia,” “The Office” and “Schitt’s Creek.” Headliners include members of the cult sketch series “The Kids in the Hall” and MTV’s “The State,” as well as Bob Odenkirk and David Cross and the Tenderloins, of “Impractical Jokers” fame. Weird Al Yankovic, The Milk Carton Kids, Aunt Donna, Jonathan Coulton and Rhet Miller, among others, will bring the music.

This year’s festival with also host mockumentary veteran Christopher Guest (“This is Spinal Tap,” “Best in Show), Patton Oswalt (“A.P. Bio”), Paul F. Tompkins (“There Will Be Blood,” “Bojack Horseman”), Jane Lynch (“Glee”), Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley,” “The Eternals”), Eugene Mirman (“Bob’s Burgers”), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Noel Fielding (“The Mighty Boosh,” “The Great British Bake Off”) and Dana Gould (writer and producer of “The Simpsons.”) Last October, Gould led a re-enactment of the low budget 1959 sci-fi film “Planet 9 from Outer Space” for the virtual Sketchfest stage.

A slew of “SNL” alumni, including Fred Armisen, Dana Carvey, Rachel Dratch, Tim Meadows, Laraine Newman, Cheri Oteri and Alan Zweibel, are also slated to appear, and local favorites, including renowned comic and writer Margaret Cho and drag icon Peaches Christ, will round out the exhaustive program.

The virtual benefit show will take place on Saturday, Jan. 30 starting at 5 p.m. PST.

The virtual benefit show will take place on Saturday, Jan. 30 starting at 5 p.m. PST.

Courtesy of SF Sketchfest

Even though the 2021 lineup just might be one of the festival’s most impressive to date, Owen admitted to the Mercury News that he doesn’t quite consider this year’s remote event to be a proper Sketchfest.

“It’s about coming together, being in the same room, and there is no way to truly replicate that online,” he said.

Organizers weren’t sure what to expect when they decided to ask only those who appeared at past festivals to perform. As it turns out, “about 95% of them said, ‘yes,’” said Owen, noting each performer will only have a few minutes of screen time due to the massive scale of the lineup — and what has evolved into the ultimate Sketchfest reunion of sorts.

Fans are encouraged to support Sketchfest by purchasing rentals of archived performances from previous years of the event, and through sales of tiered tickets that include extra goodies like virtual VIP after-parties and special-edition merchandise.

Buy tickets for “Festpocalypse!” here

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