Though it seemed like a huge commercial for Comedy Central, the network’s second Clusterfest still went down well over the weekend in San Francisco’s Civic Center plaza.
The smartest material came from “The Daily Show” folks.
Thousands turned out to the Colossal stage to see headliners Trevor Noah, the comic newscast’s current host, on Friday, and his predecessor Jon Stewart, who closed the three-day event Sunday. In solid, lengthy sets, both were class acts — funny, personal, political and even sentimental.
Both opened with a San Francisco reference. Noah said, “This is the only city that’s an optical illusion; you can walk uphill in all directions,” while Stewart cracked about the outdoor setup, “Is rent so f——bad in San Francisco, you can’t afford a theater?”
Noah’s set included musings on travels to Bali, presidents Donald Trump vs. Barack Obama, and being from South Africa, which “has the best racism in the world,” and a sweet story about his African mom’s advice to him when people called him bad names when he was a boy.
Stewart, wearing two T-shirts and jeans and explaining he looks old because he’s not on TV anymore, also addressed recent presidents, wondering why people are perplexed that Trump got elected: “Have you met America?” he asked. “The real question is, “How in America did we elect Barack Obama?”
He was amused by the applause he got after calling the audience “feckless c—-,” defending fellow comic Samantha Bee, who made news for describing Ivanka Trump with the term on her TV show.
He recapped the hilarious Twitter war he had with Trump in 2013 (started by Trump), admitted his own deficiencies — how he got called out for using the words “fag” and “retarded” and didn’t hire women writers on his TV show — and ended with a plea, of sorts, for people to put politics aside and try to understand each other.
He wasn’t a above a dick joke, which were plentiful (and equal opportunity) throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, headliner Amy Schumer (who demo-ed uncomfortable sex poses) and her friends Nikki Glaser, Bridget Everett, Rachael Feinstein and Mia Jackson supplied humor as blue as their male counterparts, particularly Glaser’s extensive (funny!) commentary about blow jobs. Feinstein, the cleanest, amused with an impersonation of her over-inclusive mom.
Schumer ranged from edgy (with an abortion joke: “Let’s enjoy it before we all have to start wearing bonnets”) to the hazards of being in the spotlight (“Are there any vegan protesters here? There’s no group I could be less threatened by”) to musings on aging and being married (“I don’t have to be a bridesmaid anymore.”)
Earlier in the day, Tiffany Haddish — looking glamorous and at first seeming surprised by the sea of white faces on the plaza (“Hope you’ve all got on your SPF 50”) — offered an inspirational set, describing her rise to fame (from the movie “Girls Trip”) to “cursing” the crowd with “all the happiness you can f——handle.” She shared: “Find your spot to be joyful and spread it like Usher spreads herpes.”
Another woman of color, Dulce Sloan of “The Daily Show,” found her groove in a couple of sets (defending how she looks like the lady at the DMV); Ronny Chieng, also of “The Daily Show,” hit with a bit about his Chinese heritage and the perils of Amazon Prime packaging, as did “Daily Show” comic Roy Wood Jr., who’s from Alabama (where grocery bags are free) and who complimented the crowd for surviving the long line to get in the festival.
On Saturday, “Saturday Night Live” comic Michael Che masterfully worked a couple in sitting in the front row of the big Bill Graham Civic Auditorium indoor stage during his amusing and measured story about taking advantage of a gay guy buying him drinks; as did “roast master” Jeff Ross on Sunday, who proved his title, killing with winning insults to willing audience volunteers, including a woman who was a lactation consultant and a couple who met at a sleazy hotel.
Some of the festival’s funniest comics opened for Che on the big indoor stage on Saturday: Joe Mande compared today’s politics — “Russians helped the Nazis get a game show host elected president” — to “a bad movie from the ’80s”; Mark Normand mentioned that he thought he saw a white lives matter rally, but it really was just a half-marathon: and the frantic Tim Dillon served up a hilarious tirade connecting people’s social status with the ice cream they eat.
For those who wanted a break from the standup, the festival offered up music (Wu-Tang Clan, Salt-N-Pepa and Third Eye Blind played the main stage) and “interactive” attractions including Paddy’s Pub from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” a “South Park” park perfect for photo opportunities, and The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library, a clever (simultaneously funny and sad) museum exhibit parody presented by “The Daily Show.”