Clusterfest tickles SF in just the right spot


The South Park theme song sums up the first day of Comedy Central’s Clusterfest, coming back to San Francisco for its second year this weekend:

“Friendly faces everywhere, humble folks without temptation.”

Maybe it isn’t the embodiment of everything in San Francisco, but it’s damn close, especially when comedy is the highlight that lights up faces in the audience.

Cesar Lopez/SFBay

A banner for Clusterfest is seen hanging above the doors of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Calif. on Friday, June 1, 2018. This is the second anniversary of the Comedy Central-sponsored comedy and music festival.

Taking over the whole Civic Center, Clusterfest sets up a cavalcade of booths right in front of San Francisco City Hall, where pop culture references come to life and music and comedy take the limelight.

23-year-old San Jose paramedic Andrew Lane told SFBay:

“It was really popular last year. The big names draw a crowd — I didn’t even know Third Eye Blind was playing. … But I’m here for John Stewart and to be in the City for the weekend.”

It’s a moment to let loose and fill that beer belly full of laughter. Fans of comedy, TV shows, movies and music rushed through the gates, bottlenecking their way into the grassy lawns where Paddy’s Pub from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the South Park town were assembled for their entertainment.

With production company Superfly returning to the heart of San Francisco, Clusterfest shows that the captains of this event have experience with bringing big headlining names.

28-year-old San Francisco native Kelly Johnson told SFBay:

“I saw the lineup and thought ‘There’s so many people I wanted to see: Amy Schumer, Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Tiffany Haddish, John Mulaney’ — the list goes on and on,”

Standing beside Johnson, 33-year-old San Francisco resident Sarah Hall, looked at her after listing the names and exclaimed:

“Salt-N-Peppa, don’t forget about them!”

Johnson replied:

“Yeah, Salt-N-Peppa! Bringing it back old school.”

Salt-N-Peppa, Tiffany Haddish, Michael Che, Amy Schumar and Jim Jefferies will helm stages on Saturday, while on Sunday, Jon Stewart, Wu Tang Clan, Action Bronson, David Cross and even an NBA Finals watch party are the features.

However, it’ll be hard to beat the sausage encapsulating all the talent the audience saw on Friday.

Kroll and Mulaney dressed as their counterparts Gil Faizon (Kroll) and George St. Geegland (Mulaney) from their popular Broadway hit The Oh, Hello Show.

Kroll said:

“My shvantz looks like it’s taking a nap.”

Mulaney responded:

“I bet it’s got like 3 rolls on its chin now.”

Famous banter between comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney took stage on Friday, the first of the three-day celebration of comedy. Crass and rude, this sort of comedy is what makes San Francisco the place for any kind of comedy.

Lane went on:

“People here are very open. … I’ve never heard anyone complain to me personally about ‘ you can’t say that’ or ‘that’s so oppressive.’ Most of the time it’s sarcastic, if at all.”

23-year-old Bosco De Palma added:

“Last year, they got Bill Burr and for the first 30 or 40 minutes, he just trashed The City and it was great.”

San Francisco is known as a welcoming city; open to ethnicities, sexualities and people of any kind. Locally-owned, mom-and-pop businesses have helped build that brand within the community.

Cesar Lopez/SFBay

TRES restaurant cook Jerrod Zertuche sculpts a nacho meal for the next customer in line at Clusterfest in San Francisco, Calif. on Friday, June 1, 2018, The Casa Bonita-inspired skin for TRES attracted customers all day and was never empty.

Funny enough, because when a small version of the South Park town was erected, some of these got the mountain town makeover. For example, Mexican restaurant TRES was set up under the name Casa Bonita.

Guy Levy, owner of vegan and gluten free ice pop stand Pop Nation, said:

“We were here last year as well. We got invited by the event organizers that we work with already. We usually do other music festivals or other types of events, so it’s definitely a lot different.”

These smaller shops get pampered with attention at Clusterfest because they accommodate the vegans, vegetarians and even meat lovers.

Many consider Civic Center to be “The Heart of San Francisco,” one of the few venues that could accommodate an event of this magnitude. Clusterfest brings fans and talent to The City, as well as a little attention to a sometimes underappreciated part of San Francisco.

Hall said:

“Oh my god, these building are so stunning. You see this and you’re like ‘holy crap,’ and then you see a bum shooting up with a needle. … It kind of sums up the city of San Francisco: there’s the beauty and the tragedy, of what’s happening here. [Clusterfest] is a time for everyone to enjoy this area.”

Comedy Central’s Clusterfest continues Saturday and Sunday, sprawling across Civic Center and in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

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