Cutting-edge comedy all month 

The sixth annual SF Sketchfest, which begins tonight and runs through Jan. 28, is sure to rouse more than a few hearty belly laughs. The renowned comedy festival features an impressive lineup of laugh-makers every year and this round is no exception, with performances by "Mr. Show" creators Bob Odenkirk and David Cross to "Kids in the Hall" great Bruce McCulloch. Of course, there’s also the much-anticipated appearance of a certain energetic boy-man that’s got everyone abuzz.

Among the 18 days of laughs, here are four shows not to miss:

Stella

The comedic triumvirate of Michael Ian Black, Michael Sho-walter and David Wain, original members of the sketch comedy troupe the State, opens Sketchfest as the well-dressed, smart-dumb guys of Stella at 8 tonight at the Mezzanine. The nonsensical comedy of the Stella boys, where the mundane meets the absurd, originated in the late ’90s New York stand-up circuit and eventually hit the small screen in 2005 with a series on Comedy Central. Stella, however, is best enjoyed without the hindrance of network censors, where the cult comedy trio can act as aloof and as naughty as they want to be.

Mezzanine, 444 Jessie St., San Francisco. (415) 625-8880.

Comedy Death-Ray

The alternative comedy of "Mr. Show" may be dead and gone from late-night cable, but it’s alive and well onstage as Comedy Death-Ray. From "Mr. Show" alums Scott Aukerman and BJ Porter, Comedy Death-Ray combines the worlds of stand-up and sketch with a tinge of improv. The weekly Los Angeles comedy show got its start in 2002 and at 8 p.m. Monday hits San Francisco for this special Sketchfest engagement. The show is set to feature such comedic masters as David Cross, Maria Bamford, Paul F. Tompkins, Doug Benson and Todd Glass.

Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., San Francisco. (415) 928-4320.

RiffTrax Live

When it comes to particularly awful B-movies, comments from the peanut gallery are welcomed, especially when they’re from the likes of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 clan. At 8 p.m. Wednesday, the MST3K trio of Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy join forces as RiffTrax Live and get chatty with the commentary during some seriously bad cinema. RiffTrax, Nelson’s latest project, is a Web site that offers audio commentary to cheesy flicks like "Roadhouse" independently of the movie itself. During the Sketchfest stint, Nelson and company will allow the audience to pick the movie and then they’ll go to town and lampoon how awesomely horrible it is.

The trio is also appearing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Christopher B. Smith San Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael.

Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., San Francisco. (415) 928-4320.

Sketchfest Tribute: Paul Reubens

The man, the myth, the marvel — Pee-wee Herman — gets up close and personal with journalist Ben Fong-Torres for Sketchfest’s annual comedy tribute at 8 p.m. Jan. 22.

What exactly will everybody’s favorite giggly man-child dish? That remains to be seen, but honoree Paul Reubens (you know, the guy who actually created Pee-wee) is sure to face a question or two regarding a certain indecent exposure incident. Reubens, who is known for keeping his personal life just that, is likely to steer the conversation toward the recent talk that’s surfaced about the possibility of another Pee-wee adventure.

Palace of Fine Arts, 301 Lyon St., San Francisco. (415) 567-6642.

Tickets are $10-$50 per event. For complete festival details, call (415) 248-9424 or visit www.sfsketchfest.com.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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