REVIEW: Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm and friends bring music to SF Sketchfest’s comedy

 

Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm

Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm and friends perform at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco during SF Sketchfest on Jan. 14, 2018. Courtesy Photo.

SAN FRANCISCO — Before the “last song” of Jonathan Coulton’s set, he was frank with us: “If I had even an ounce of stagecraft,” he said, “I would tell you this is the last song, then leave the stage, wait for you to clap, come back, play a couple more songs. But I’d have to go all the way over there.”

It got me thinking. What good is tradition? I mean, sure, I could come up with a lede and transitions and all that journalism stuff. Inverted pyramids and whatnot. But you’re here to know what happened, right?

So, following Mr. Coulton’s lead, let’s skip the formality and get down to it.

Paul and Storm kicked things off. A Paul and Storm show is a difficult thing to describe. Paul Sabourin and Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo play songs about things like extremely extended metaphors for love and how slowly George R. R. Martin writes, and the songs are good, but that’s just part of the show. They only played three or four songs in a 30-minute set.

The rest of the show is, essentially, a mostly-improvised two-man comedy act. They trade “X is my Y cover band” jokes, take shots each other and the other people on the bill, and just generally fill the rest of the time with banter. And it’s great. If they didn’t play a single song it would still be worth the price of admission.

The grand finale is usually the perfect union of those: “The Captain’s Wife’s Lament,” 2:25-song that can take 20 minutes or more to perform thanks to jokes, audience participation and, just, general madness. But they didn’t do it this time. And I’m still a little bitter about that.

Cameron Esposito was the first of several friends on the bill to take the stage. Promoters always put “friends” in air quotes, much to the consternation of the guests. Are they really friends? Did the headliners have any choice in the matter? But Esposito was brilliant. She gave a tears-in-your-eyes-funny account of her young life as a cross-eyed, devoutly Catholic lesbian, and ended it with a giant vagina.

Unfortunately this is a music site, she didn’t sing it, and I don’t get paid by the word. So that’s all you get about her. You should definitely see her tell jokes if you get the chance.

John Roderick, the next “friend,” is known for several podcasts, his band The Long Winters, and not any solo work despite Sabourin’s introduction claiming otherwise. (“They’re basically just puppets for your whims,” Paul insisted of The Long Winters in an attempt to explain himself. “They’re like your New Power Generation.”)

Roderick is a great musician and the crowd enjoyed the set, but I’m not sure how well it fit with Sketchfest or the rest of the acts. It’s not funny, you know? Following Cameron Esposito with melancholy songs of lost love, played on an acoustic guitar, was a bit jarring.

Jonathan Coulton, the headliner, capped off the night. Keeping to the spirit of the occasion, most of the set was older, funnier songs like “Skullcrusher Mountain” and “I Feel Fantastic,” though he mixed in some songs from his latest album and some other fan favorites.

After ducking behind a speaker just off-stage with DiCostanzo, while the crowd applauded for the encore, Coulton returned to play the intensely not-safe-for-work “First of May” and a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” He hadn’t played the former at his last couple all-ages Bay Area shows, for some reason.

Overall it was a great night of comedy, music and comedy music. Even if they nearly spoiled it by not making Esposito join in “The Captain’s Wife’s Lament.”

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData

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