Comedy Central’s inaugural Colossal Clusterfest comedy festival was, in fact, not a clusterfuck. While experiencing the usual aches and pains of a new festival (some clueless staff, a few technical glitches), all-in-all this weekend’s fest went smoothly, and the crowds seemed happy to see many of their favorite comedians, bands and recreated TV show sets in one place. While dozens of top-notch comedians traveled to San Francisco, including Jerry Seinfeld and Kevin Hart, many of our favorite performances came from the lesser-known comics. In no particular order, below are our top ten favorite comedy performances from Clusterfest (until next year, anyway).
In addition to a couple of stand-up performances at Clusterfest, Jo Firestone hosted the interactive comedy show “Friends of Single People.” The dating show has singles sign-up beforehand to meet a comedian who will portray them onstage. With the minimal information they gather from a quick meeting and a busload of creative license, the comedians answer questions and make a match. Firestone’s quick humor is accentuated in this show, letting her interact with all sorts of people and bounce off of them in a way that’s no less than magical.
We saw Aparna Nancherla perform twice in a two hour span in back-to-back shows, and she commanded the giant Bill Graham Auditorium like it was a tiny comedy club. The Late Night with Seth Meyers writer performed two 15 minute sets of material about living in New York, depression and catcalling with the right amount of self-deprecation and off-kilter humor. The giant audience loved her endearing awkwardness and well placed punchlines.
Chris Gethard is a storyteller. He’s not a “quick joke and move on” kid of guy, but he’s so good at telling stories from his childhood and beyond that you’re hooked. He appeared multiple times throughout Clusterfest, but perhaps his strongest performance was a stand-up set before Kyle Kinane and Tig Notaro. The audience related to his stories about his teenage years and apocalypse prep and responded warmly. Gethard also appeared as Alice Cooper in the Wayne’s World live reading, and brought the house down with his live performance of “Feed My Frankenstein”.
After touring with Sarah Silverman, Beth Stelling opened for her at Clusterfest with a super solid set. Her material, which ranged from the TSA to how much she hates her brother-in-law, was incredibly well-tuned while still feeling loose. Her style was a nice opening for Silverman—just weird enough with lots of personality.
In a single show line-up including Natasha Leggero and Chris Hardwick, the most laughs may have gone to the consistently working Rory Scovel. No small feat, especially considering most of his material was political. He somehow managed to point out and comment on the absurdities of the moment and let everyone freely laugh at them, which was cathartic. His total comfort on stage doesn’t hurt, either.
Like most comics, Solomon Georgio performed a few times at Clusterfest. I saw him as the first opener for a Tig Notaro show and as a performer on The New Negroes. His latter set, hosted by Baron Vaughn and Open Mike Eagle, was especially good. He entertained the audience with the short list of people he hates, his experience coming out to his African immigrant parents, and more. His confidence is infectious and memorable.
The popular podcast How Did This Get Made is hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and the omnipresent Jason Mantzoukas. Two episodes were taped live at Clusterfest, each one with a guest (one with Broad City and the other with Hannibal Buress). Mantzoukas comes close to derailing the show on a regular basis with his tangents, but that’s also what makes the show great. He feels strongly about everything and his energy equals laughs.
Saturday was a busy day for the women of Broad City, with a guest appearance on How Did This Get Made, their live Wayne’s World reading, and a screening of a new episode with a Q&A. A stand-out performance among these shows was Abbi Jacobson’s portrayal of Garth, with glasses, head bangs and all. She hit all of the jokes, and even got up for a solid “Foxy Lady” dance. Jacobson had the sizable Wayne’s World audience cheering her on the whole time.
The Broad City writer Naomi Ekperigin has a stand-up style that you’d want from one of the show’s writers. She’s unabashedly female and confident but approachable. She won the audience over time and time again (she performed three times at the fest) with jokes about her “Jew boo” (Jewish boyfriend), their relationship, and seeing a nutritionist.
Although Ron Funches hasn’t been doing as much stand-up lately due to a blossoming TV career, his performances were as delightful as ever. During his set opening for Anthony Jeselnik, Funches was visibly happy to be back on stage. He joked about dieting and lovingly told stories about his teenage son to a receptive crowd. And in a moment of inspired casting, he also appeared in the Wayne’s World live reading as the crazy-ex girlfriend Stacy (originally played by Lara Flynn Boyle).
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: @laurelrandy