The SF Sketchfest has been on a roll in San Francisco, with comedians and comedy groups entertaining night after night, along with movie screenings, performances, and all sorts of other amazing ways to entertain. Recently, the stars of RiffTrax took to the Sketchfest, bringing with them a night of shorts and several guest riffers in: “RiffTrax Night of the Shorts 5: A Good Day to Riff Hard.”
The night began with the three stars of RiffTrax – Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy (who you might recall from an earlier interview), and Bill Corbett. They kicked things off with an old “educational” short, presumably designed to teach children how to count turkeys. It set the tone for the shorts to follow, taking videos from decades past designed to provide some sort of lesson, and replacing the slow, ridiculous, or just plain lousy moments with their own hilarious riffs.
Of note was their riffs on “Live and Learn,” a short designed to teach children to think before doing something dangerous and stupid, like toss gasoline on a fire they’re trying to start, or jumping off a roof. The riffers themselves did an outstanding job, while the audience laughed not only for the performers, but for the cheesy ways the shorts showed kids getting horribly injured. The riffers were sure to point that out after the short.
A personal favorite was one on how to write a letter. While it was a dull film, featuring two people sitting in a kitchen and talking about how to write letters, the guys at RiffTrax did an outstanding job providing their jokes and twists, casually making the characters talk about how maybe they should use slightly fewer racial slurs, and how failure to write a proper letter brought shame and disgrace upon them.
“Safety Lady” was another outstanding riff, featuring perhaps the worst attempt at creating a superhero that they’ve riffed on since “Puma Man” on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It featured a crossing guard who was given powers over time and space by a helium-voiced alien, and proceeded to use them to teach children about safety with less than a minimal amount of actual acting. But thanks to RiffTrax, what would have normally been a painfully dull short became memorable and entertaining.
Early on in the night, they riffed on “Setting Up a Room,” a short featuring two teachers setting up a classroom. The short itself was mostly the two standing around, moving some boxes and desks, and talking about where everything needed to go in excruciating detail, but once again, they managed to make it hilarious, riffing it along with Sketchfest founders Cole Stratton and Janet Varney (also known for voicing Korra in “The Legend of Korra,” who I’ve also interviewed in the past for this site). At the end of the night, they riffed the second part of it, alongside all the other guests they brought to riff with them.
That’s right, there were plenty of guest riffers, all excellent comedians in their own right. Along with Janet and Cole, they were joined by Todd Barry, John Hodgeman, and Paul F. Tompkins, who added their own personality and humor to every short. The variety of performers spiced up the night even further, with entertaining banter between each video.
There’s so much to see each night at the Sketchfest, and while I could only see one show, I’m glad it was RiffTrax. Being there in the audience gave me a new look at how the riffers perform – they don’t just stand in front of their mics and talk, they’re very active in responding to each other and the actions on the screen, adding a level to their performance that you can’t normally get from just listening to them. The RiffTrax Live shows are always great events, and being able to see one in person just made the experience outstanding.
Check out more from the RiffTrax team, including previous “Night of the Shorts” at RiffTrax.com.