San Francisco Improv Festival returns to link past and future
Half-way out in the year from SF Sketchfest, the popular comedy showcase held each January, and centered in the same 200-seat venue downtown, SFIF looks more than ever like a natural compliment to its unaffiliated cousin. "We love Sketchfest, and we love doing it every year," says Shaw, who notes the complimentary aspects to their programming as well. As for the Festival's performance roster, the names alone tantalize. OJ in a Sippy Cup, for instance, just sounds refreshing.
"OJ in a Sippy Cup is a pretty awesome name," admits Shaw. "They're a duo from New York City, and they're very fun. I have to say that I love the name Slave Leia. That's an all-woman improv team from L.A." Among other highlights, Shaw points to Men: A User's Guide, "a really exciting duo from the Netherlands. They're very highly trained long-form performers doing a show on men and men's issues, and it's just hilarious." He sheds light on an enigmatic title, The Super-Dupers: Doo-Wop-Ner. "That is going to be doo-wop small claims court improvising," he says, clearly impressed. "Their submission just said 'doo-wop small claims court.' And we let them in."
Clearly, one take-home lesson is the sheer variety of improv out there. The common denominator remains the all-inclusive collaboration in the moment, in which audiences participate to varying degrees. "The fourth wall is very porous," agrees SFIF's executive producer Jamie Wright, a Bay Area native who came to improv from afar while bartending at Amsterdam's famous Boom Chicago comedy club. But he stresses that interaction shouldn't sound intimidating. "I'm an improviser and even I don't like getting singled out by a comedian. Improv is really inviting, a very joyful thing to go to and watch. It's also impressive. You are going to see something completely unique, and you're going to be part of it — one way or another."
SAN FRANCISCO IMPROV FEST
Aug. 12–21, $15–$50
215 Jackson, SF