Ben Gibbard pops up at Cobb's, plays the theme from "Mannequin"

The real reason you clicked this story, Gibbard and the mannequin.

It was well past midnight when a surprise musical guest was announced Saturday night at Cobb's. “Jon,” the host of the Delocated Witness Protection Program Variety Show, which swung through SF Sketchfest last weekend (and airs on Adult Swim as simply Delocated), came back out to the stage after the last of a thrilling round of comedians – Eugene Mirman, David Cross, Paul Rudd. Approaching the modified mic in a ski mask, baby pink 49ers jersey, and gold lamé bootie shorts, “Jon” introduced (and I'm totally paraphrasing here, because I can't recall his exact joke) “Sven Jibberd of Meth Cat for Tootie.”

Out came Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie in a yellow makeshift ski mask and his traditional collared shirt and jeans. With modded mic still buzzing, Gibbard picked up an acoustic guitar and played his Postal Service hit, “Such Great Heights." Why was Gibbard there? I know he was one of the noted musical guests at SF Sketchfest this year, but I still just wonder what drew him here? Or at least, why he keeps popping up unannounced at additional shows. Perhaps to mend his ailing Deschanel heart? Or most likely, he's just an entertaining guy who wanted to play a few smaller clubs in San Francisco for fun and hang out with some friends.

Even despite the jokey nature of the set-up, with the the ski mask and the weird Witness Protection Program augmented deep voice, “Such Great Height” still sent nostalgic chills down my spine. It was the closest I've ever come to seeing him live. And while he had all that comedic accoutrement, he performed with the same profoundness as his usual gig, he still squeezed his eyes shut and hollered out the lyrics of lasting lovers. It was still Gibbard, just encased in a makeshift comedic costume.

But then things got even weirder, by which I mean better. He next announced he'd be playing the theme from the 1980s flick Mannequin – you know, the one where Kim Cattrall  comes to life and there's a great sidekick named Hollywood – and he launched into an inspired version of Jefferson Starship's “Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now.” During this Delocated's “Jon” was miming sensual acts on a molded plastic woman. She quick-changed into a real live person as in the aforementioned film, this time played wordlessly on the Cobb's stage by Maria Thayer, a.k.a Tammi Littlenut or “Copperhead” from Strangers With Candy. But “Jon” preferred the mannequin. Gibbard kept playing through this entire scene and by the end of it all, my stomach hurt from laughing. Where else but SF Sketchfest?

Incidentally, Jefferson Starship kicks off a five-day long residency at the Rrazz Room tomorrow. Though I doubt it'll play that particular hit as only a few members of the band actually played on it. Best to stick to "Wild Again" from Cocktail (thanks Wikipedia!).

SF Sketchfest
Through Feb. 4, various times and prices

Jefferson Starship
Wed/25-Sun/29, 8 p.m., $45
Rrazz Room
222 Mason, SF
(415) 394-1189

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