One of the greatest skills of comedians isn’t the ability to be funny but the ability to be incredible storytellers. At SF Sketchfest, sometimes you’re lucky enough to get both in a single event. With a live performance of the TV show “You’re Whole” followed by another live performance of Kevin Allison’s podcast “Risk!” at the Brava Theater Center, Sketchfest offered much to enjoy.
As an opener and precursor to “Risk!,” Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter (cast members of comedy troupe Stella and MTV’s “The State”) put on a short, live performance of “You’re Whole,” the infomercial parody TV show previously aired on Adult Swim. Combining live performance with clips from the show, Black came out in character as infomercial host Randall Tyree Mandersohn while Showalter played the straight man of the sketch. The result was a concise, lighthearted performance that was faithful to the show. Black and Showalter repeatedly broke character, and there were even times when Black, out of character, admonished Showalter for not remembering his lines. Even then, not-so-subtle puns, like mentions from Black wanting to “fill ‘You’re Whole,’ ” made their performance hilarious.
As the stage transitioned to “Risk!,” Kevin Allison (referencing a cast member sketch on “The State”) opened the night with a story about his own personal gay experiences, this time in San Francisco. A recurring segment on the podcast, his story set a comedic yet slightly uncomfortable mood for the night as he pantomimed sexual acts on stage, but what followed were compelling, engaging stories.
After Allison’s introduction, actor and author Stephen Tobolowsky told a personal tale of directing a Broadway play when lead actress and friend Holly Hunter received death threats from a stalker. His story about balancing his directorial role while maintaining his friendship with Hunter in her time of crisis set the perfect balance of humor and somberness throughout the night. Dana Gould, comedian and former “Simpsons” writer, followed with his personal tale of befriending Maila “Vampira” Nurmi, star of cult film “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” during her time of struggle and obscurity. Comedian and “The Nato Sessions” podcast host Nato Green told his troubling yet comedic history of almost being molested at the age of 16. Then, comedian Brendon Walsh ended the night with his story of growing up as a troubled teen in a dog-eat-dog world.
Although an odd mix, “You’re Whole” and “Risk!” played a great double feature for Sketchfest. Going the extra mile, these performances showed that comedy can be more than just laughs.