We’ve evolved to a properly written program. Inspired by these new surroundings and my voracious news-addiction, I am putting my writing chops to the test to bring you a fresh, thoughtful program every week. Graham is by my side with G Koop & O-man providing musical accompaniment to rival The Roots. As always, I promise to make every episode better than the last. Thank you for listening. Here is this week’s audio essay for your eyeball reading pleasure.
Nerd Lady Awry: SF Sketchfest 2013
Every laugh lead to this moment. For 12 years, the deepest nerds in the comedy industry have gathered in San Francisco for the mother of comedy festivals, SF Sketchfest — a triumph of talent and endearing crowds standing in applause for days on end. Three weeks into my new life in the promised land, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a troupe of enthusiastic volunteers, smiling maniacally as Kenneth on 30 Rock. I just love comedy so much.
SF Sketchfest welcomes seasoned veterans and bright-eyed rubes like myself in a playful bond united by the joy of laughter — Pure laughter filling 26 venues across our Beloved San Francisco. Between green room hospitality and directing fan traffic, my own laughter laced into a fraction of these programs. I stepped into my element in service to my heroes.
My first assignment: Drew Carey Presents The Midnight Show at Eureka Theater. When given the chance I believe it important to communicate a champion’s influence over one’s life in the least sociopathic way possible. I have personally thanked President Obama for inspiring me to great things and Stevie Wonder for existing. Drew Carey is no exception. When Drew Carey first appeared on Johnny Carson, his stand up set made me laugh until Orange Fanta came out my nose. The other girls at the slumber party found this hilarious. They weren’t even paying attention to the television. I made them laugh because Drew Carey made me laugh. In that moment I experienced the surprising cycle of being tickled and getting a laugh. Simultaneous horror and delight. I was hooked. 21 years later I stood over a box of empty beer bottles thanking Drew Carey for sparking me into life in comedy. He thanked me earnestly and told me the toilet in the green room wasn’t flushing.
The California Academy of Sciences proved to be an overwhelming rush of energy as hundreds of Nerdists descended upon Golden Gate Park in a swirling mass of Tig enthusiasts and Proop Kittens. I confess I find it a challenge keeping my shit together around Greg Proops. His esoterism is as close to religion as I care venture. Though we met last year in Hollywood, I still broke into a full-on, immediate ass sweat the moment he appeared vampire-like at my side. Serendipitously, I was in the middle of a wildly animated discussion with SF Sketchfest founder, Janet Varney, when the Smartest Man in the World popped up out of nowhere. When I told Janet my story, she said they built Sketchfest for me. Our kindred passion and determination born of a deep commitment to the art of live comedy had lead us to this very moment. It was this precise moment that Greg Proops materialized at my side. Flop sweat. Startling hug. Comics, in general, are not a huggy-bunch. But there I was enveloped in Greg Proops. He remembered me from numerous fan Tweets, my email two days earlier, and excessive reminders detailing the first time we met. Poor Mr Proops labored graciously under the tyranny of my affection as I stood in silent panic until he asked me the way to the Green Room. Follow Janet, I said.
The remainder of my evening was a roving blur of jellyfish and happy fans attending podcast tapings and all star stand up sets in various corners of the world class museum. I carried one other thank you note tucked into my lady business jacket. A fart joke on fancy paper scrawled addressed to Chris Hardwick, the leader of the Nerdist world himself. After fulfilling my volunteer responsibilities and wandering star-eyed through the aquarium, I caught his stand up set in the Piazza then nipped to the Green Room to say goodnight to my Lovely Lady Crush, Janet. As I passed through the security checkpoint I saw Mr Hardwick in nearby conversation and immediately pretended to check my phone. Really I was curving the alarming spike in my heart rate, wiping my clammy palms against my skirt and ironing out the fine stationery now subtly shaped by my breasts. As he broke in my direction, I slipped right into his line of sight.
“I wrote you a fan letter.” I said, presenting the ivory card in the least creepy way I could muster.
“You did?” He said with a satisfying amount of genuine surprise.
“Yes, well, your work has shaped my career; so, thanks.”
“I’m going to read the shit out of this!”
I introduced myself and took no more of his time.
“I’ll see you around.” I said and fucked off into the night, thus marking myself as a wee blip on the Nerdist radar.
“Yes,” he said. “I will see you around.”
Two days later I was at Cobb’s Comedy Club. The next message to deliver was simple: “Pete Holmes, you bring such joy to my life!” That was it. I will be happy to one day get lost in hours of bawdy enlightenment with the host of You Made It Weird — but not today. Today, he must simply know he brings me joy, specifically. Pete was my favorite 2012 discovery thanks to Comedy Central shows like TJ Miller’s Mash Up and John Oliver’s New York Stand Up. The hours I spent listening to his podcast inspired my New Year Resolution: Be playful, be joyful. I also meditate a lot more than I did before I became a bonafide Weirdo. It works. I am playful. I am joyful. And Pete Holmes gave me a hug.
Nothing short of Conan O’Brien himself could have improved my final night of Sketchfest. Armed with coffee and a jar of fresh lavender from my “Calm the Fuck Down” garden, I returned to the Eureka to serve the current regime of my ultimate comedy dream job: Conan’s Writers. Josh Comers and Laurie Kilmartin joined Write Now! with Jimmy Pardo — a panel game show hosted by gentleman responsible for warming up Conan’s studio audience and one of the most influential podcasts drifting through the ether. Simply meeting Pardo and super producer Matt Belknap would have left me with enough revenge bliss to make my ex-boyfriend wild with a lifetime of professional jealousy (at least in my imagination). Instead, I left elated. I had not anticipated so much face time with Mr Pardo, nor did I shirk my responsibility at quick-witted banter. Never Not Funny taught me how to handle party conversation — and boy, was our conversation a party! His was the first podcast I followed in earnest. I thanked them for teaching me the importance of Yes, And-ing in repartee. I surprised myself. I made them laugh.