San Francisco Sketchfest 2010 (Journal+Highlight)

In all exaggeration, San Francisco Sketchfest 2010 was a disaster. I had slept soundly through all the announcements, the guest of honor had to bow out due to a high profile comedy scandal, funds were tight, time was short, credit cards disagreed with vendors, plans were flubbed and number of other calamities turned what should have been a joyous occasion into a miserable one. Imagine my friend Jesse McGrath (if you know him) and I wearing dunce caps in the corner of comedy class. To top it all off, a personal miscommunication left Jesse in the cold as I had a sole ticket to a Dark Room Theater show. I was supposed to buy two, and then the tickets sold out before either of us could rectify the situation.

So there I sat, by myself, about to watch three unknown (but cleverly promoted) comedy groups. The comedy nerd in me was ecstatic due to the freshness of new comedy. (The head-nodder in me anticipated Madlib later that night, ‘nother story ‘nother time). Yet, the comedy friend in me felt depressed. The shared comedy odyssey had hit it’s first of many snags. The comedian in me laid dormant for this day was in between Naia and the Brainwash. Again, there I sat, miles away from everything, staring at a small stage.

You. Me. We Are Nudes!

We are Nudes is an esoteric, alterative sketch performance group composed of John Gilkey, Alec Jones-Trujillo and “The Armenian Lion” Donny Divanian.

Comedian Highlight: Donny Divanian.

Donny could be the head of a comedy movement if he wanted to. If he wanted, he could promote small, special showcases at the Dark Room featuring the best and brightest of the Bay Area’s alternative comedy scene. Over time these shows would garner a following and bolster reputation for being one of the most interesting things to attend in San Francisco. If Donny wanted to, he could tickle my Elmo. (Maybe not)

Donny is dubbed the Armenian Lion for three specific reasons. One, he’s Armenian. Two, he has an impeccable mane of dark, curly hair. Three, before tearing into the stage and killing the audience, Donny paces with a murderous glint in his eyes. Brilliant, unique, polished and beloved; Donny is like an ornate gravy bowl full of crème soda. To close with genuine adulation: Donny Divanian is one of my favorite comedians in the Bay Area and beyond.

Note: He is also a boss player and can hold a Michael Jackson pose like you wouldn’t believe.

Watching We Are Nudes was like walking along the road and stumbling upon a giant egg. After a few seconds you can tell that the egg is special and soon enough the hatches to reveal a dinosaur. It is no ordinary dinosaur; this cold-blooded bundle of joy can speak perfect English and immediate starts reciting “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. The show had dancing, stand up, slap stick, misdirection, deadpan, straight faces, broken faces and monologues (oh, what beautiful monologues). We Are Nudes are special; give them the right amount of time and they’ll impress with what they bring to the craft. Give them your ear, eye and heart and you’ll be impressed with your self for knowing such a sophisticated dinosaur.

Convoy: three men and a baby named comedy. This Angeled City band of humorists brought the brevity of improv to this particular show. Under the shroud of “darkness” (word suggested by the audience), the group dazzled and amazed with the gusto of breakdancers wearing TRON suits. To be rather frank, I can barely remember anything they said, but they performed a bang-up job. Tally ho.

The Birthday Boys blitzed the audience next as a 7-layer torpedo of comedy. Dem Birthday Boys’ performance harkened to mixtapes: a collection of short, goofy and surreal skits of varying implementations. The group has a charming practice of “extended punchlines”. Extending a punchline consists of creating a false ending with the audience and repeating an aspect of the joke to an absurd degree. If you’re a real comedy nerd: Think Slovin and Allen’s Time Machine skit. A more mainstream example is in “Hot Rod” when the joke of Andy Samberg dancing is punctuated by falling, and falling, and falling. It’s fun to see comedy on the cusp of diminishing returns and Dem Birthday Boys make good on the style.

Two noteworthy sketches in this set are “Mobsters (Unofficial)” and “Whip Cream Shuffle”. These two hilarious skits are performed with genius and bravado and thusly retain a magical quality beyond my subsequent fancy, written infringements.

“Mobsters” plays on the familiar last stand, shootout motif. The group of well-dressed criminals makes their final declaration and jump into a hail of bullets. The charm is raised considerably when the group proceeds to perform various acts whilst dancing the Gattling Waltz. Lipstick, cigarettes, and pitchers of water: these are a few of my favorite things to litter a stage.

My other favorite skit, “Whipped Cream Shuffle”, establishes a game between the Boys involving sweat pants and whipped cream. “You put cream in my pants, I’ll put cream in your pants!” Your imagination should go no further than the literal implications of that statement. Soon, the stage is covered with cream and boyish giggles all to be stifled by the Captain. The noble sea leader regrettably informs the Shufflers that the ship has hit an iceberg and will soon be submerged on the ocean’s bed. The merry band of creamed filled boys become suddenly somber, and sulk away from one another until: “You put cream in my pants, I’ll put cream in your pants.” In an ever-increasing display of dramatic poise, the group proceeds to repeat that line in a rousing, rumbling anthem invoking a young Peter O’Toole if he had been cloned four times over. And then they were dead, drowned as a 90s pop culture reference expresses remorse. El fin.

The Birthday Boys left an impression on me. They also left an impression on the Dark Room Theater, as the stage was crusted with water, cigarettes, whip cream and a lot of laughs.

It’s highly encouraged to check out their material on UCBcomedy.com as well as http://www.thebirthdayboys.com/ They recently were on the 54th episode of Comedy Death Ray Radio, which is a fine programming for comedy nerds the world over.

Convoy does it Myspace and Twitter style: http://www.myspace.com/convoyimpr and http://twitter.com/convoyimprov

We Are Nudes are performing July 9th and 10th at Viracocha in the Mission District. This is one of the group’s few, full performances and from the rumor mill, will be one of their last shows for a while. More information at: http://wearenudescomedy.com/

Thank you for reading

-OJ
 ov