Spit Take Saturday: Will Franken

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will-franken-330x219Welcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.” 

Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.

So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!

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In the case of Will Franken, America’s loss is the UK’s gain. The San Francisco journeyman earned unanimous raves with his 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut, Things We Did Before Reality; he subsequently relocated to London this part February.

Hard to blame him, really. Franken is lightning quick, biting and, as he’s the first to admit, unapologetically bitter. Instead of cut-and-dry bits or stock catchphrases, he deftly weaves the briefest of character vignettes into (and throughout) each other, inimitable cultural commentary evolving, pivoting and shape-shifting from one moment to the next. Stylistically he falls into a No Man’s Land between the fortified borders of stand up, sketch and improv, defying pat, marketable classification, let alone effortless digestion. He may be wholly unique and unquestionably profound, but mainstream Franken is decidedly not.

Concert to Benefit the Victims of My Father is greater than the sum of its parts…and there are myriad parts, all of them moving. Franken slips seamlessly between subjects and settings in a fraction of the time it takes an average comic to lay the foundations of a solid chunk. Careening through a markedly different world every two minutes or so, his London cabbie, Welsh barmaid, BBC janitor, double-talking senator, medication-shilling David Bowie, even former Vice President Al Gore (who now bemoans the effects of “global rounding”) reveal inconvenient truths about widespread complacency in the face of mounting societal woes.

He’s far more a conceptual than traditional storyteller, and though he utilizes accents, props, illustrations, musical cues and even audience plants, Franken doesn’t shy away from the personal. Shortly after taking the Pleasance Dome stage for his late-afternoon hour—between mocking comedy classes and satirizing Hollywood via a script reading between Daniel Day-Lewis and a man with cerebral palsy—he broke the fourth wall with a grin: “I’ll do anything for a laugh at 5:40.” With eight minutes remaining he dropped all pretense and turned confessional again, copping to a cynical attitude as the Fringe lumbered into the homestretch, wondering if Broadway Baby’s negative review of Concert had been written by an actual baby and detailing how his poorly-funded festival diet left him “dying of cheese pains.”

Franken weighed aloud the option of chucking his material and doing nothing more than riffing for the last five afternoons of his run, then departed for a best-of showcase on which he was booked to appear. The sun may have been hours from setting and his mood rapidly sinking, but Franken’s engagement was mesmerizing and his fervor contagious. If there’s any meritocratic justice, his move to England means his comedic call to arms will only grow louder and more powerful from here on out.

By Julie Seabaugh

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Franken may have moved on from San Francisco, but the city remains one of the country’s comedy hotbeds.

Sunday, October 6-Monday, October 8 Suzanne Westenhoefer – She’s brave, bold and comic gold. The real deal in a post-modern world seeking to pump out reproductions, Suzanne Westenhoefer is the reigning shtick chick worth noting. Her individual style and unique sense of self set the stage for all walks of life  young, old, gay, straight, lesbian, bi, and every descriptor imaginable in between.

Wednesday, October 16 I Stand-Up 4 Art – On October 16th from 8-10 pm at the Firehouse 8 in San Francisco. some of The City’s top comics will make people laugh to raise money for Art Programs @ The SF Skate Club, an organization that helps and mentors youth in the Western Addition and provides them with life skills they can use to succeed in their lives, through art, skateboarding, cooking, writing and a wide range of other enriching activities. Starring Mike Meehan, Anita Drieseberg, Mike Capozzola, Ed Attanasio and many special guests. Doors open at 7:30 pm.

Saturday, October 19 I Will Durst – The man The Oregonian called “the thinking man’s comic,” Will Durst, is proud to announce his first one- man show since the acclaimed Elect to Laugh, ran for 41 weeks in San Francisco in 2012. BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG, is an uproarious tribute to the joys, achievements, frustrations, fashions and looming doom of the Baby Boom Generation. In this rollicking 85 minute heartfelt monologue, Durst encourages his chronologically gifted brethren to refuse to grow old in the face of gravity no matter how many times they forget their online banking security question. Favorite cruciferous vegetable? It’s a celebration of the maturation of the Boomer Nation culminating in an extra, added special treat- the Meaning of Life.