For 10 years, SF Sketchfest felt like my own personal holiday: The schedule arrived in my inbox in late December, like a holiday newsletter I actually wanted to read, and I acted quickly to snag tix to shows, tributes and events that seemed particularly off-the-wall or likely to tickle my specific sense of humor. Big stars showed up — Amy Sedaris, the cast of Freaks & Geeks (minus Seth Rogen and James Franco), Neil Patrick Harris, Amy Poehler and her fellow members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Edie McClurg, Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman)! — but they served more as treats to punctuate the festival, with local and national sketch and improv troupes as the grass-fed, pasture-raised meat and potatoes. Sometimes friends came with me, but more often then not, I was a solo explorer in the comic wilds. And that was OK.
Last year, however, things started to shift, with more big-name entertainment and podcast recordings than over-eager “yes, and” 20somethings from Chicago. And this year, the transformation from best-kept comedy-nerd secret to Just 4 Laughs by-the-Bay seems complete. The star power is off the charts, the unknowns are relegated to the Dark Room theater, and ticket prices are considerably higher, with fewer filtering through Goldstar, our trusty, cheap friend.