Even though touring can be grueling, and TV brings greater fame, comedian Wyatt Cenac still thinks standup offers advantages over the small screen.
“Television is this weird intersection of commerce and art, with the commerce side paid extra special attention,” says Cenac, a former “Daily Show” writer and correspondent. “When you're doing standup, you don't have to worry about the club owner interrupting your gig and replacing you with someone who's younger and more attractive. Plus, they never ask the audience their thoughts on Coca-Cola.”
Cenac won't have to worry about corporate doctoring when he kicks off SF Sketchfest, The City's annual comedy extravaganza – this year it’s 18 days – beginning Jan. 22.
On opening night at Cobb’s Comedy Club, Cenac will emcee a standup showcase, a take on “Night Train” events he hosts in New York. The next night, he'll reprise the gig with a new set of comedians, before closing the day with “Shouting at the Screen” at the Roxie Theater, where he’ll be joined by hip-hop artist DonWill to watch Blaxploitation films, have drinks, and yeah, shout at the screen.
In 2007, Cenac, a Brooklyn resident, lived in The City for a month to film “Medicine for Melancholy,” a movie set in San Francisco that honed in on gentrification, among other issues. But other than quick jaunts for work, Cenac hasn’t spent a lot of time here. This visit, he hopes to stick around.
“I'm excited to come out and maybe explore The City a bit. It's been a while since I've spent time here. I'm curious to see how much it has changed,” says the performer, who hasn’t been able to do SF Sketchfest before due to schedule conflicts.
His appearances here come at an interesting time in his career. In 2012, he stepped down from the “Daily Show” after four celebrated years. Meanwhile, rumors have been swirling about a half-hour network comedy show based on his material. Yet despite promising leads, nothing has been confirmed, which may explain his current reticence with TV.
“Working in television means you really don't have a job until the show is actually on the air,” says Cenac. “I'm reluctant to talk about anything, because you never know where you stand.”
Contemplating a follow-up to “Live in Brooklyn,” his hourlong special on Netflix, he's content to be involved in the more predictable world of standup.
“I'm happy with what I'm doing,” says Cenac, adding, “Although I was unaware I'd pretty much be opening up Sketchfest. Now, I'm nervous. That's a lot of pressure.”
IF YOU GO
Night Train with Wyatt Cenac
Where: Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 22-23
Contact: (415) 928-4320, www.cobbscomedy.com
Note: Cenac also appears at 11 p.m. Jan. 23 in “Shouting at the Screen” at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., S.F.; tickets are $25.
More than 200 shows at 20 venues
When: Jan. 22 through Feb. 8
Salute to NewsRadio: The 20th anniversary reunion features Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Stephen Root, Vicki Lewis, Khandi Alexander and Andy Dick. 1 p.m. Jan. 24, $30, Marines Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St., S.F.
Tribute to Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer: Adam Savage moderates. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31, Nourse, 275 Hayes St., S.F.
Uptown Showdown Debate: The spinoff on school debates features Maria Bamford, W. Kamau Bell, Dave Hill, T.J. Miller, Aparna Nancherla and Greg Proops going head-to-head and moderator Jared Logan. 10 p.m. Jan. 31, $30, Marines Memorial Theatre