To kick off June in the Bay Area, Comedy Central’s annual festival returned to San Francisco’s Civic Center, bringing another 3-day event chock-full of comedy, music, food, activities and… well, more comedy. Below includes a nightly recap of as many events our cheeks, lungs, and conscience could handle. All photos below Courtesy of Clusterfest by FilmMagic.com. For a look back on our live coverage from Clusterfest, check out Music Connection on Twitter!
DAY 1 - JUNE 1ST
THIRD EYE BLIND: Unfortunately due to a backlog of crowds entering the festival simultaneously, much of Clusterfest’s faithful missed this early set by the S.F. natives. But that didn’t stop the band from performing a hell of a show, pulling all the stops and giving top-notch energy to a diverse crowd looking to reminisce on the late 90s.
TREVOR NOAH: Hosting the Daily Show may be where Trevor Noah punches his time clock, but the South African comedian hasn’t missed a beat in terms of his stand up routine. Noah took the audience on a far away vacation, where he found himself wrangling with snakes and fearing for his life—something his family spent their entire life trying to escape. But, as he put it, his white friends are comfortable enough that things like snake charming, camping, and extreme sports are the only way to get thrills. “Why would I go camping? My entire childhood was camping!”
KATE BERLANT, JOHN EARLY, NICK KROLL, JOHN MULANEY: This batch of four comedians did not disappoint as they performed an hour of comedy to a completely packed Bill Graham auditorium. John Early set the tone quickly with his opening line: “I spent so much time in high school trying to like Radiohead,” before passing the torch to the alt-comedy of Kate Berlant—who, in our opinion, had the strongest set of the night.
After kicking over the mic stand and making a few “I’m a dick, deal with it” style jokes, Nick Kroll got into a pro-Obama groove that kept the crowd cheering for more. In order to catch The Lonely Island’s full performance debut, we cut out before John Mulaney took the stage, but echoes of laughter could be heard all the way down the street.
THE LONELY ISLAND: This performance was worth the price of admission for the entire 3-day event. Andy Samberg & company put a lot of effort and thought into this hour-long performance and took festival goers through a wall-to-wall performance of sketch comedy and Lonely Island originals — with a dash of Hamilton for kicks. To assist in the performance, sketch comedy legend Chris Parnell joined the boys on set to perform “Lazy Sunday” and a puppet-doppelgänger of Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga for “Dick In A Box/Mother Lover/3-Way.” As if that wasn’t enough, Michael freakin’ Bolton joined the trio to reprise his role in “Jack Sparrow” (pictured) and “Incredible Thoughts.” And, because millennials didn’t knock enough off their bucket list by this point, Lonely Island invited out T-Pain to close out the show with their infamous “I’m On A Boat.”
DAY 2 - JUNE 2ND
SALT N PEPA: As they eloquently stated to the masses, “We been out here 31 years!” Clusterfesters swarmed the main outdoor stage in droves to re-live their 80s-90s nostalgia through songs like “Push It,” “Shoop,” and many more classics. The trio kept their message positive, reminding fans to trust in a higher power and work hard to get where you want to be. We wanted to be in line for tacos, so we put our trust in a higher power that they wouldn’t be sold out by the time we got there. (UPDATE: They weren’t. And they were delicious).
SCHWARTZ & MIDDLEDITCH: You may know these two from Parks and Recreation and Silicon Valley respectively, but a quick Google search will show you that improv & sketch comedy is a large part of these two comedians’ résumé. Performing in the festival’s “Larkin Theater,” the duo asked audience members for something that inspires them. After a 5-minute back and forth that landed on “oil painting meat that drips in blood,” Ben Schwartz and Thomas Middleditch performed a unique 55-minute improv set so entertaining, that we saw audience members physically holding their sides and wiping tears away from their cheeks. On the way out, several groups mentioned this performance was the entire reason they came to Clusterfest. And of the entire 3-day event, we have to agree — this was the most enjoyable performance. Be sure to catch these two on tour.
MICHAEL CHE / JOE MANDE / MARK NORMAND / DULCE SLOAN / TIM DILLON: Minus Joe Mande’s intentionally uncomfortable set, this bill made for the most consistent stand up of the day. Dulce Sloan was tasked with warming up the crowd, but did so much more with her anecdotes about interracial hook ups, and how to trap a specific partner in the dating scene before inviting Tim Dillon on stage. Dillon spent most of his set asking the audience about the best brand of ice cream, using the simple question to help us learn more about ourselves. He then invited Mark Normand to the stage, who held the strongest set of the hour. Constantly toeing between funny and offensive, Normand executed set up and delivery in tandem for the most consistent 20-minute set of the night.
Michael Che headlined the bill with 30-45 minutes of material that mostly hovered around a terrified audience member Che kept calling on along with Che’s unrelated need to explain why the comedian’s not a homophobe. Gutsy play in the heart of San Francisco, but like any good comedian, Che didn’t shy away from the uncomfortable leaving most goers satisfied, even continuing the discussion in the halls.
AMY SCHUMER & FRIENDS: Unfortunately, we missed the “friends” of this bill, but cut over from the Bluthe Banana Stand in time to catch Schumer’s Saturday evening headline performance. The comedic powerhouse waved her consistent comedy flag on topics like vaginas, abortion, bridesmaids, and the newest addition to her life: her husband (who happens to be a chef). Her relatable comedy seemed to land well with both female and males, with jokes referring to “mirror faces” and that sad moment you’ve run out of excuses on why your coats don’t fit anymore.
FINAL DAY (DAY 3) - JUNE 3RD
(pictured: Action Bronson kicking off the final day of Clusterfest)
SOUTH PARK COUNTY FAIRE: Last year’s South Park exhibit was a blast, but Clusterfest stepped it up this year turning the entire exhibit into an actual carnival of South Park related games. Whether you wanted to try your hand (or foot) at “Kick the Baby (pictured),” challenge your friends to ‘member the time you beat them at Member Berry Skee Ball, or race your friends in the “Randy & Friends Roller Balls”, there was plenty to entertain the crowds between sets. We made sure to try those Casa Bonita tacos after all the Eric Cartman endorsements. They were delicious.
DOUBLE DARE: From the music to the events, this festival was in full 90s mode and bringing a Double Dare activation only helped further scratch our nostalgic itch. Fans of the 90s Nickelodeon show were able to get slimed and/or complete for prizes through a Double Dare challenge. To avoid wrecking our gear — and pride — we passed on this one.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT TRUCK & BANANA STAND: If you’re a Bluth, you know there’s always money in the banana stand. Which made a lot of sense, since their credit card machine was down for much of the festival. We dunked our bananas in peanut butter and chocolate and made sure to let the Bluth family know we’d be voting for them in the upcoming June primaries with a photo opportunity on the Stair Car. If you’ve missed the boat on what the hell we’re talking about, simply open Netflix and press play.
THE DAILY SHOW’S TRUMP TWITTER LIBRARY: Inside the Bill Graham auditorium, a line of people would gather, and magically disappear behind the doors, every 3-minutes or so. We immediately got in queue, and were led like sheeple into a room with benches and TV screen, which played a video hosted by The Daily Show correspondent Desi Lydic. The video chronicled the journey of Donald Trump joining Twitter, and how he ultimately leveraged that Twitter fame to become the President of the United States. Hilarious, yet sad, we were then escorted into a large room with several museum-like displays, including the Trump Nickname generator, which used his common phrases such as “crooked Hillary Clinton” or “goofy Elizabeth Warren.” Our favorite attraction was the side-by-side comparison of several tweets of Trump directly contradicting himself along with the cemetery of deleted tweets.
“PLANES, TRAINS, & AUTOMOBILES” LIVE READ: All we can say is we hope this live reading trend continues at many more Clusterfests to come. After last year’s triumphant performance of Wayne’s World by Broad City stars (and so much more), we were worried it may have been lightning in a bottle. But this year’s reading lived up to the hype. 2018’s “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” live table read starred Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, David Cross, Sasheer Zamata, Jessica McKenna, and music from the Red Room Orchestra. What else is there to say other than these comedians put an original twist on an already cult classic.
JON STEWART: Probably the most anticipated part of Clusterfest, Jon Stewart made sure not to disappoint. This was the comedians first stand up appearance in the Bay in over 15 years! Not only did he handle his performance with a comedic gravitas, but he also made himself available with multiple sets on Sunday on various stages. There was no question that the frozen-nipped crowd stuck around for Stewart specifically, and were rewarded with a style of political humor we’ve learned to expect (and currently miss) from Stewart himself. “No matter how woke you are, everybody sleeps sometimes.”
Final Thoughts: While this year seemed to have less musical acts (they stripped out an entire stage from last year), Clusterfest provided hundreds of options each day to keep fans of music, food, and comedy satisfied. It seems this festival is continuing to get its bearings and has no intention of slowing down. So what’s to be expected next year? A 70s theme featuring exhibits of Sanford and Son, Three’s Company, & Happy Days? Maybe bring up Earth, Wind & Fire, Grandmaster Flash and the Doobie Brothers to perform? Whatever the theme will be, Music Connection will surely be there to watch the pros continually remind us why comedy is good for our health.
Words by Andy Mesecher & Jayme Goldstein
Photos Courtesy of Clusterfest by FilmMagic.com (minus the Trump Tweets)