SAN FRANCISCO — As the 13th edition of SF Sketchfest is upon us, I’m reminded the mark of a truly great comedy festival is not simply amassing as many high-profile and up-and-coming comics as possible and throwing them up onstage throughout a city. It’s about offering the comedy fans something they couldn’t get otherwise. To that end, fest organizers this year are offering a ton of tributes, salutes and anniversary celebrations. And last night, for the fest’s opening, the Castro Theatre hosted a 10th anniversary screening of Napoleon Dynamite featuring a conversation and Q&A with the cult classic’s stars Jon Heder, Jon Gries and Efren Ramirez. I wasn’t there (man’s gotta eat dinner after a six-hour flight, you know?), though I hear it was amazing and that When in Rome singer Clive Barrington surprised the crowd by singing “The Promise,” at the end of the screening; of course, ND hardcore fans know the song from the closing credits.
However, I was happily there for the second show at the Castro. Hosted by the always-dapper, and versatile Paul F. Tompkins, the mighty Tenacious D – Jack Black and Kyle Gass – took to the stage for a night teeming with laughs, chats and, oh yes, tons of music that rocked our fucking faces off. Starting well past the 9:30 pm scheduled start time – rock ‘n’ roll and schedules don’t mix, you guys – the packed theater was treated to what, in the end, proved to be an educational and entertaining oral history of Tenacious D.
With a tasty Lagunitas brew in hand, I listened intently as JB and KG talked of their “blossoming friendship,” how they bonded in Edinburgh in 1989 while working on Tim Robbins’ religious satire Carnage, how they probably would never have become the successful comedy rock duo they are today if Harry Shearer wasn’t in the audience of one of their first poorly-attended and poorly-performed gigs in Los Angeles and how unsung hero, producer Laura Milligan played a vital role integrating The D into the burgeoning alternative comedy scene in 1994, a scene in which Will Ferrell was a part. Black, it seems, has a wee beef with Ferrell. Apparently Black knew there was humor to be mined from a cowbell long before that iconic Blue Oyster Cult sketch on Saturday Night Live ever made it onto television.
Black and Gass shared a few embarrassing bars of their first song, an all-too-earnest and all-too-crappy love ditty Black wrote upon having his heart broken. Once Black and Gass fielded some questions from the audience – during which we got a “never say never” from Black about a sequel to the Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny – it was time for the rock. Once they opened with “Tribute,” I assumed they’d play two more hits and take their bow. I was wrong, you guys. They played 13 songs — which included multiple t-shirt changes for JB — ending the delightfully exhaustive night well past midnight. Perhaps the most rock thing that happened last was when an overzealous female fan grabbed Jack’s crotch as he inched toward the edge of the stage during “Fuck Her Gently.”
For you true Tenacious D nerds out there, I’ve lovingly dropped their entire set list below. I’ll admit, I didn’t recognize the penultimate song. Maybe the Lagunitas was affecting my brain at that point. So if anyone reading this was there and can help me, please do so.
“Dude (I Totally Miss You)
“Kyle Quit the Band”
“Rize of the Fenix”
“Low Hangin’ Fruit”
“Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage”
“The Cosmic Shame”
“To Be the Best”
(Some song I didn’t recognize)
“Fuck Her Gently”
photos by Jakub Mosur