All SketchFests Must Come to An End…
Today is the last day of @SFSketchfest and marks a marathon’s worth of energy being put into what became a 2.5 week-long, incredibly widespread and ambitious festival. In its 12th year, this festival has become iconic in the comedy community local and (every kind of) elsewhere.
This was a special year for me not just cause it was my first year doing the fest as a solo artist, but because I got to see and witness first-hand the INSANE amount of effort happening behind the scenes on the parts of the festival founders, staff, and volunteers… some of whom are now dear friends to me. To the drivers, coordinators, accountants, creatives, and operations staff… you are the shit. Seriously.
It was also super special for me cause I got to see so many worthy peers and betters get their local shows in the festival and see the scene glow with gratitude and pride.
And duh, real talk, from a 100% self-centered perspective… I got to run into Judah Friedlander for the first time in 10.5 years. WHICH.IS.NUTS.
Context: Living in a fancy part of LA in your teens means you have a lot of unusual encounters that most average teens do not. At 17, a gal named Emily and I had Health Class together during the Summer… meaning we spent a couple months stupidly giggling at genitalia photos and making fun of STD Scare tactics. What else does anyone do in Health class? One day Emily asks me if I want to go to Phoenix on a family trip with her cause her dad had to work and she needed someone to hang out with. I agreed cause when have I ever NOT agreed to free adventures with fun/ny people? Unbeknownst to me, Emily’s pops was Bill Engvall and his “work” was recording The Blue Collar Comedy Tour with Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy, and Ron White. I mention names cause however you feel about their work, those dudes were blowing UP in 2002.
Emily and I got to do a lot of fancy, neat things and hang out backstage of the hugest and most gorgeous (and more importantly air-conditioned) theater. The place was packed. This would be my first flirtation with professional comedy at a major point of lucrative success, *actually* drawing thousands of fans. I’d done sketches and hung out with all the comedy-leaning kids in Drama class at school, sure, but I never thought anyone *really* got to do this forever. (In fact, it would take me many years to fully absorb that concept and accept it’s the career and craft that chose me and there’s not really much I can do about it. Pretty rad). I never witnessed the extent of possibility hard-working people with a clearly defined perspective can have.
I definitely felt like a big goober the whole time. I met David Alan Grier and people from TV! Every 3 seconds my brain was like “Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?” The brand of comedy of the tour wasn’t necessarily my vibe, but I still appreciated meeting all 4 performers and the sincere energy they brought to their work. And I definitely busted up a few times, but the dude I laughed hardest with was a mustachioed fellow in a funny trucker hat hanging out backstage. Emily and I were kind of dorky, observational, and absurdist types. The “Record Breaker” trucker hat was a big hit for us. It was Judah Friedlander. Before you or I knew who he was. Before American Splendor. Before 30 Rock. Judah was easily the first person that made me think someone with an alt-y, clever, absurdist vibe could roll on the professional level. And he was NICE. SO NICE. Easily the kindest and most comfortable-talking-to-kids comedian I met that whole trip. Because we were 17 and lame, Emily and I cracked a lotta “Ju-dah best!” and “Ju-dah bomb!” puns to Judah and he was cool enough to pretend we were funny. The sweetest. He even took a picture with us - remember, no one is famous yet… we’re all just total strangers - just to entertain the full breadth of our dork-itude.
I remember leaving the show and Emily and I both going “Man, that guy was awesome. I really hope he makes it in this business. I love when nice people win.”
Cut to college-Nicole and seeing Judah in the opening credits of 30 Rock and playing Toby in American Splendor. Trucker hat and all. I remember screaming “Holy shit! He did it!!!!” and being SUPER stoked.
I saw him on the Sketchfest Lineup this year and was all… “There’s no way he’ll remember. And maybe he’s gonna be too busy or whatever.” But when in doubt, a few whiskey gingers and barely-any-pushing-whatsoever from a homie are great inspiration to say SUP anyway. Take it from me.
And guess what? STILL THE NICEST. STILL THE COOLEST. STILL hella funny and kind/generous with his time. He totes remembered, asked me how Emily and Bill are (such manners!), and indulged my request to recreate our photo from 10.5 years earlier. He asked what I was up to and I let him know I’m a stand-up to which he responded so warmly, it still lights me up. You don’t always get to meet the people again who were something of guideposts in your self-discovery, but every now and then… specifically about once a year…. Sketchfest makes the members of this weird little world connect and reconnect with each other in awesome ways. I couldn’t be more grateful.
This was a super special festival for me. Special thanks to everyone who made it possible. Especially Cole, Jay, David, Liz, George, Dave from LW, Trevor, Clare, James, Kelly, Natasha, Miles, Red, Colleen, Joe, and my wonderful friends who came out to support mine and others’ shows. You’re all the best. Thanks again.