Comedy and music coming together--it sounds like a certain place I love so much, but in fact, it's happening in my own town. Would you believe it just happened to include some of the names from that other place? Go figure!
Aimee Mann, Mezzanine, January 10, 2008: I'm a latecomer to San Francisco Sketchfest, but I had a great time at a couple of events last year. I would've been happy if they kept me solely in stitches, but the fest's organizers apparently decided to up the ante this year by bringing in musical guests as well. Even better, they chose one of my favorite artists, Aimee Mann, for opening night festivities.
But Aimee was only one part of the show, and before she came on, we took in a full roster of comics. Heading up the night were Kristen Schaal (Mel from Flight of the Conchords) and Kurt Braunohler, sort of channeling Donny and Marie, complete with costume changes, but with much better banter and dirtier jokes. In addition to Kristen and Kurt, Rhys Darby (also from Flight of the Conchords) showed off his sound-effects skills, Todd Barry slayed me, and Paul F. Tompkins spent about half his set trying to avoid telling his material. That's as much as I can report, though, as I prefer to leave the punchlines to the professionals.
Aimee, with Paul Bryan's accompaniment, closed out the show with a short set that included a couple of older songs ("Little Bombs" and "Save Me") and three new tunes, likely from her upcoming album. I've now heard "Freeway" at three different shows, and this supercatchy, upbeat rocker shows all the signs of being Aimee's next single (remember those things?). On the other hand, "31 Today" was new to me, though I know there's a video of the song readily available on the Internet. Both "31 Today" and "Columbus Avenue" were more in the mold of Aimee's introspective observational pieces.
Perhaps to offset the emotional downturn (not to mention the rising chatter in the club), Aimee brought out Paul F. Tompkins to help her close out the set with "I Want You to Want Me." Paul added a surprisingly twangy touch to the vocals, but as usual, he did himself and his friends proud.
Of course, Aimee (along with both Pauls and several other players) had come through San Francisco just last month for her Christmas show, but it was a different crowd and an entirely different context tonight. Toward the end of their segment, Aimee and Paul F. Tompkins joked about no one paying attention to their banter anyway. Though this was far from true, it was hard to tune out the buzz of voices coming from the back of the room. They stuck it out anyway, taking it in stride with a loose, goofy spirit.
Do comedy and music go together? Good lord, yes! And when done right, it's right up there with peanut butter and chocolate as one of the coolest combos known to humanity. I applaud Sketchfest for making moves in this direction, but maybe the execution will work a little better next time.
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