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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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PerformanceOnstageSketchfest stars Jennifer Tilly, Matthew Lillard, Jason Narducy, Tim...

Sketchfest stars Jennifer Tilly, Matthew Lillard, Jason Narducy, Tim Cappello talk SF love

Leather bar backroom shenanigans, 'Dating Game' blowouts, Noise Pop affection, more Golden Gate memories

San Francisco is a city where anything is possible, as four of 2024’s SF Sketchfest guests can attest. It’s a city boasting two of actress Jennifer Tilly’s favorite restaurants and is the setting of some of her wildest adventures. It’s one of actor Matthew Lillard’s favorite spots in the world—where he shot an episode of “Nash Bridges” after his proposal for a San Francisco getaway with the woman he paired with on “The Dating Game” was shot down. 

It’s where musicians Tim Cappello and Jason Narducy played myriad shows, supporting big-name artists, including Tina Turner and Bob Mould, respectively; they still regard it as an excellent arena for creative experimentation. 

Anything can happen when these performers get in front of an audience at the 20th edition of the nationally renowned citywide sketch comedy festival, taking place Thu/18 to February 4. 

I spoke to each of them about returning to the city, resurrecting beloved projects, and some of their favorite local memories.

Jennifer Tilly in ‘The Wrong Guy’

Jennifer Tilly

Jennifer Tilly is best known for her memorable turns in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, trailblazing LGBTQ+ film noir Bound, and four Chucky films, not to mention the “Chucky” TV series.

But for this year’s Sketchfest, she’s revisiting two of her lesser-known but equally exhilarating projects: Eugene Pack’s Celebrity Autobiography (Cobb’s Comedy Club; Sat/20), where she and her fellow comedians like Laraine Newmanwill act out hilarious moments from star memoirs, and the rarely seen 1997 comedy thriller The Wrong Guy with a screening and panel (Great Star Theater; Sun/21).

48 HILLS What can attendees expect to see at your Sketchfest shows?

JENNIFER TILLY I do a hysterical show called Celebrity Autobiography, which I’ve done for 10 years. It’s celebrities reading from cheesy celebrity autobiographies. To see the self-importance that celebrities have—but that’s the nature of biographies. We’re doing two shows because it’s so popular. 

The other program I’m doing is around a film I did 25 years ago called The Wrong Guy. It was directed by the great David Steinberg and stars [The Kids in the Hall’s] Dave Foley and David Anthony Higgins [of “Malcolm in the Middle”]. 

It never came out in the theaters but became this cult film. They started showing The Wrong Guy in theaters and then the people involved do a panel afterward. This is my first time doing it, so it should be interesting.

48 HILLS I know you’ve appeared at San Francisco’s Frameline festival more than once. What’s your history here?

JENNIFER TILLY When I came out to Hollywood to make it as an actor, I would visit my dad in San Francisco all the time. My sister and I would buy corsages from those flower stands and walk around like “Looney Tunes” and ride the cable cars amazed by all the restaurants and cultures. 

It’s one of the greatest cities in the world and has a personality all its own. My boyfriend loves to go to Tú Lan in the Tenderloin. Oh, my God, the food is amazing. Sometimes you have to step over junkies to get in. And we like to go to Pork Store Cafe in the Haight.

48 HILLS Tell me about some of the wilder moments you’ve had here.

JENNIFER TILLY Bound was at Frameline, and Lori Petty and I came out to Frameline for Relax… It’s Just Sex. When we were there for the festival, people from the film wanted to go to this club they heard was cool. But it was leather night. Lori heard there was a room downstairs where shenanigans were happening and went there. Of course, the guys wanted to go, too. I was like, “I think I’ll just stay up here and have a beer by the door.” 

The bartender recognized me and asked to take pictures and then everybody came over, people with dog collars and stuff, to take photos. Then, all of a sudden, the guys came running upstairs, saying we had to get out of there quickly.  

It turned out that Lori, who dresses like a boy and has short hair, got groped; but there was nothing there. They go, “What the fuck?” and she goes, “Hey, it’s all cool here.” And they go, “You’d better get out of here.” Some of the guys from our film intervened, and it looked like there were going to be fisticuffs thrown.

Another thing that happened… because I’d also done Bound and Lori had also done Tank Girl, we were gay icons. So we were at the festival and starting to get mobbed. Then Lori says, “Quick, quick, duck into the bathroom.”

We went into the bathroom, and she said, “We have to get out of here.” So we went out the window and ran. They saw that we were outside and started chasing us. She’s like, “Run, run! Take off your shoes!” I said, “These are my Manolo Blahniks. I’m never taking them off.” Plus, they went with my outfit. Sometimes there can be such a thing as too much love. 

Matthew Lillard

From memorable turns in ‘90s classics Serial Mom, Hackers, Scream, and She’s All That to playing Shaggy in 2002’s Scooby-Doo movie and, most recently, starring as the murderous Steve Raglan / William Afton in the blockbuster video game turned supernatural horror film Five Nights at Freddy’s, actor Matthew Lillard has successfully ridden the line between comedy and horror.

A longtime Dungeons & Dragons fan, he also finds humor in the legendary fantasy role-playing game in his latest made-for-Freevee improv show, Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill!, which he brings to Cobb’s Comedy Club on Fri/19. 

48 HILLS Tell me about Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill!

MATTHEW LILLARD The original pitch was “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” meets Dungeons & Dragons. Any time you put performers in front of a studio audience, great things happen because the instinct for people to be funny comes out. We also have live accompaniment from music director Scott Passarella. 

Great improv lends itself to this sense that this could go wrong any second. It does because every single episode ends with all the main characters being obliterated by an epic Dungeons & Dragons monster. 

We’re excited to bring it to Sketchfest. It will be a hoot to get in front of a San Francisco comedy audience.

48 HILLS I know you filmed an episode of “Nash Bridges” here. What are some of your favorite memories of the city?

MATTHEW LILLARD The first time I was ever on TV was on “The Dating Game” as Bachelor Number Three. I won the date, and our trip was to San Francisco. The crazy thing is that if one partner doesn’t want to go on the date, you can invite anyone else. So the woman saw me coming around the corner and said, “I’m not interested in going to San Francisco with that guy.” 

Six months later, I found another lovely girl who became my girlfriend and took her to San Francisco. That was the first time I ever got to see it, and it was bankrolled by “The Dating Game.” 

San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s got everything: little neighborhoods, big skyscrapers, great culture—everything you could want and more. 

I hate the San Francisco Giants. As a Dodgers fan, it’s a prerequisite. But I love San Francisco. 

Tim Cappello

From the G-string he wore onstage with his CBGB-era band The Ken Dolls (and later, backing Carly Simon) to the codpiece he flexed onstage with Tina Turner, bodybuilder-saxophonist Tim Cappello is as known for what he wore as what he left off. His wild outfit in The Lost Boys’ beach concert scene is no exception. 

As part of Sketchfest, Cappello and film costar Alex Winter will join The Red Room Orchestra (Great American Music Hall; Fri/19) as they work out the cult vampire film’s classic soundtrack live onstage, highlighted by Cappello’s number, “I Still Believe.” 

48 HILLS This show sounds like a rare treat for fans of The Lost Boys.

TIM CAPPELLO They’re doing the soundtrack, and I know that when it comes time for my song or some other songs that I’ll be participating in, I’ll come onstage and perform with them. This is, in the truest sense, something spontaneous for me that I’m looking forward to because I haven’t done it before. I’m laying myself open to whatever happens.

48 HILLS What’s The Lost Boys’ impact on your career?

TIM CAPPELLO I’m well-known for being ultra-obscure. I’m the guy you have to search out. But I am the luckiest human in the solar system. I had what I call “My little 12 seconds” in that movie, and almost 40 years later, I’m selling out clubs and traveling nine months a year and doing well. 

I have no idea about the cult status of the film. I always thought it was funny, scary, and edgy, which it remains in 2024. The Lost Boys brings people into a dark place, which appeals to those who aren’t mainstream. Those are my people, and they don’t think of that movie as anything but current.

Jason Narducy

For the last 10 years, actor-singer Michael Shannon and indie-rock veteran Jason Narducy (Bob Mould Band, Superchunk, Split Single) have been playing pop-up shows, covering their favorite albums. For 2024, they’ve selected R.E.M.’s groundbreaking debut, Murmur, and are performing it on their first-ever tour, which kicks off at Sketchfest on Thu/1 at Great American Music Hall. As a bonus, they’ll play R.E.M.’s follow-up LP, Reckoning, the next night. 

48 HILLS Why cover Murmur?

JASON NARDUCY Mike and I are both big fans of the band, and the 40th anniversary was the hook. 

We’re like a pop-up band because we basically get a hold of each other, pick a record, and then get a hold of a venue. Then, I assemble musicians, and we practice the night before and do the show. It’s very rough and tumble. 

In June, Mike and I announced the Murmur show at Chicago’s Metro. Even before the show happened, Sketchfest emailed and said they’d be interested in bringing us out. 

Then, we came up with the idea of doing two shows: Murmur on February 1st and Reckoning on February 2nd. I think it’ll be two of the most interesting shows because they’ll be so different back-to-back.

48 HILLS Sketchfest is known for improv, but it also features musical guests. Why do you think your project is a great addition?

JASON NARDUCY I’ve been hearing about Sketchfest for years because I’m friends with several comedians, and it’s so well-respected and well-curated. But I was surprised to get that email. 

But I love San Francisco. I’ve come to San Francisco to play Noise Pop many times. I’ve made a couple of records with Bob Mould there. Obviously, as a touring musician, I’ve played there for years. So it didn’t take much for us to get excited about doing this.

SF SKETCHFEST Thu/18-February 4. Tickets and more info here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter
Joshua Rotter is a contributing writer for 48 Hills. He’s also written for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, SF Chronicle, and CNET.

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