Is it a candy bar? Or curse word?
On Sunday’s final night of Comedy Central’s Colossal Clusterfest on the big San Francisco Civic Center plaza stage, headliner Jerry Seinfeld rhetorically asked, and answered: No, it’s humans having to go out. It’s performing outdoors for absolutely no reason in cold weather. It’s what you do to convince yourself your life doesn’t suck: “I saw a comic with a TV show in the 90s.”
The former sitcom star, 63, a true master, proceeded to close the inaugural three-day event with an hour of solid (clean!) material, from his Seinfeldian observational commentary on Pop Tarts, buffets, TV dinners, energy drinks, the U.S. postal service and cell phones, to musings about his own life, from his marriage (his voice never has the right tone) to aging (“When you’re 60, you just say no” and “I don’t like this restaurant.”)
There was no mention whether he went onto the mocked up set of his TV apartment — which, along with a scarily authentic looking Paddy’s Pub (a real bar) from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “activations” of a bunch of “South Park” episodes where folks could snap pictures — was among the festival’s other attractions.
The “South Park” area also included a huge plastic bubble filled with purple Member Berries, and there was a contest to guess the number of little orbs. (One yellow-shirted worker recording guesses on a clip board said the structure originally was intended to be a bounce house, but deemed unsuitable.)
Still, the main focus of the multi-staged showcase was the comedy, and it was plentiful – though not necessarily easily or quickly accessible.
The “clubs” inside the Bill Graham Civic Center required reservations or long waits, leaving the (indoor) main Bill Graham auditorium and the (outdoor) Piazza del Cluster and Colossal stages the most accessible sites for the thousands of wandering, eating and drinking festival-goers. (These migratory patterns were quite reminiscent of Outside Lands.)
Yet a ban on taking pictures or video and heckling the comedians was enforced, and appreciated not just by the talent: It was a pleasure simply enjoying the performers work the attentive crowds.
Material varied. A “Wayne’s World” reading was frightfully dull, and there was no shortage of dick jokes.
But Hannibal Buress amusingly preceded Seinfeld, describing his own perfect death: Like Lou Gehrig, he said, “I want my own disease; they say dream big,” and Saturday afternoon showcased Solomon Georgio, a tall, black guy who uses his 5-foot, 6-inch white boyfriend as a little pillow (“I love this city because I’m gay as hell,” he enthused).
Naomi Ekperigin, a black woman, hit with her “Guess Who’s Coming to Seder” bit about her white boyfriend (“Jew boo”). In another breath, she expanded: “I love me an awkward man. If you’re on the spectrum, I’m about you.”
Chris Gethard offered plans for people facing apocalypse in New York: “Follow the rats.”
San Francisco favorite Kyle Kinane bashed on himself: “I preach gloom and doom, but I don’t believe it. I keep recycling… rinsing out a salad dressing bottle… you go in the blue bin,” while Oakland native Moshe Kasher told a funny story about a field trip to the vibrator store with his mom.
Outside, Rachel Bloom (of TV’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) sang dirty songs, and Fred Armisen provided his own guitar accompaniment and answered questions in a low key set before Vince Staples rapped (and said he’d never before appeared at a comedy concert).
Kevin Hart’s headlining set on Friday included a fantastic bit about bargaining (with real stakes) while playing Monopoly.
Earlier in the day, Beth Stelling tore up the room with a riotous routine in which she took on airport security “agents” by drinking a confiscated gallon of water, and Aparna Nancherla offered hilarious comments about politics today (“Reality is such a loose term” and “It’s a weird time right now to be a woman and have a body”) and a pesky catcaller who got under her skin by addressing her as “skinny bones.”
Sarah Silverman, a crowd-pleaser who fruitfully tried out new porn and masturbation material, hosted one set, mentioning that after weeks preparing for the gig, just that day she realized that what the word “Clusterfest” referred to.
Thankfully, it was not lost on festival organizers and patrons. For both, the first Colossal Clusterfest went down a success,