Comedy Central’s first-ever Colossal Clusterfest brought together the best in comedy, music and food, all for one amazing weekend that will — in all likelihood — be a defining moment in the lives of every comedy fan who attended, including the comics.
“You have so many comedians, and they’re all doing less than the hour sets that they’re accustomed to, so it’s a much more concentrated product,” said Daily Show correspondent and newly named This Is Not Happening host Roy Wood Jr. “I think everyone wins, especially the audience.”
But Clusterfest is more than the best weekend of every attendee’s life. As Roy Wood Jr. so eloquently put it, the festival “kinda doubles as a high school reunion [for comedians].”
He’s not wrong. With amazing food, world-class musical acts and the chance to hang out with the nation’s best comedians, Clusterfest is an absolute dream for celebrities.
“[Colossal Clusterfest] is something I’m really excited about,” said Brandon Jew, the owner and head chef of San Francisco’s famed Mister Jiu’s. “Because I always have to remind myself to have more fun in the kitchen. I get too serious about it, like Soup Nazi. But I always have to remind myself that people are coming out to dinner and just want to have fun. And food is one part of the dinner experience. And so it’s nice to be part of a community that knows how to just have a real easy time with life.”
Speaking of culinary fascists, one of the most popular attractions at the festival was a recreation of Seinfeld’s infamous Soup Nazi restaurant, complete with servings of everyone’s favorite fictional soups. “I love to be connected to it, and I love ’Seinfeld’ fans because I’m one of them,” explained the original Soup Nazi, Larry Thomas. “I can stand toe to toe with any ’Seinfeld’ fan if it’s about trivia, how much you love this episode or that episode. And so, just being a part of it is nothing but fun.”
As far as locations are concerned, the festival couldn’t have taken place in a more picturesque location. Sure, it’s one of the most expensive cities on the face of the planet and, yes, the tech boom has made it something of an overcrowded dystopia, but San Francisco remains a favorite among comedians and performers alike.
“I have 20 years in comedy, and this is only my fifth time in San Francisco professionally,” said Wood. “I’ve just never been able to come here for any extended period of time to do anything and really enjoy the city, so for something as simple as walking around and taking a trolley car… It’s just very exciting to be just in that atmosphere. I’m as excited about everything outside the festival as I am inside the festival.”
“I’ve always heard amazing stuff about San Francisco in general as a place to do stand-up comedy,” continued comedian and Hood Adjacent host James Davis. “This is actually my first time doing stand-up comedy in the city of San Francisco, so in general, this is my first taste of their audience, and their audience is amazing.”
“San Francisco’s my favorite place to do comedy,” added comedian and Another Period star Natasha Leggero. “I did my special here. It does feel like – it’s just the best crowds. Everyone’s smart, they’re very liberal, they get it. We all hate the same things.”
Clusterfest also offered both comedy fans and comedians the chance to attend several once-in-a-lifetime performances. A stand out of the festival was a live reading of “Wayne’s World” by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City, including a full cast of celebrities and a live performance by Killer Queen (perhaps the best all-female Queen tribute band that’s ever graced a stage).
— Clusterfest (@clusterfest) June 4, 2017
“It’s crazy,” said actress Tia Carrere, who reprised her role as Cassandra for the reading. “Abbi and Ilana will be playing Wayne and Garth. Tig Notaro will be playing Rob Lowe’s character. Moshe Kasher’s in it, and Chris Gethard, too. And I’m just gonna be playing myself. But I get to get up and sing, which will be fun!”
Carrere wasn’t the only surprise performer during the live reading of “Wayne’s World.” Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the show was Chris Gethard’s inspired turn as Alice Cooper. Who knew this guy could sing? Apparently, Gethard is a fan of 80s music, because he also hosted an 80s-themed dance party at Clusterfest’s Larkin Comedy Club, with a performance by Tainted Love (an 80s cover band, if you couldn’t tell).
Of course, only some of the musical acts at Clusterfest were comedic. The festival also hosted San Francisco’s rock’n’roll savior Ty Segall, as well as featured performances by Chromeo, Tegan and Sara, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and hip-hop legend Ice Cube.
— Clusterfest (@clusterfest) June 3, 2017
“As soon as Ice Cube was done singing, ‘Today was a good day,’ it wasn’t,” said Davis. “It was cold. It’s staying cold.”
To help combat San Francisco’s always-cold-and-vaguely-sweaty climate, Clusterfest provided both fans and comedians with enough quality booze to keep even the coldest attendee nice and toasty.
“I think that humor is a really great way to foil the pretension that comes with wine,” said California sommelier Andrew Mack, who was at the festival to run Corkscrew, a pop-up bar. “So this has been a really great thing that, like, to be around comics. It’s just a different thing. I like it.”
In addition to Corkscrew, the festival offered multiple beer, wine and cocktail booths, as well as a full-scale recreation of Paddy’s Pub from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, complete with milk steak, rum ham and drinking games. And as a special surprise, It’s Always Sunny’s Rob McElhenney made an impromptu appearance to do shots with fans and challenge San Francisco’s best borderline alcoholics to a do-or-die game of Flipadelphia.
…and @RMcElhenney has entered the fray!
— Clusterfest (@clusterfest) June 3, 2017
It should go without saying, but the best thing about Clusterfest is the comedy. The performances range from exciting up-and-coming acts to the all-time greats, and the festival gives even the most revered comedians a chance to watch their heroes perform.
“I’ll tell you a funny thing,” said Thomas. “I’ve never seen Jerry Seinfeld live. I’m excited to just see Jerry do his show live, I’ve never seen that.”
“The reason why I did this, in part, was so I could see all this great comedy,” said Carrere. “What’s really cool is, someone like Sarah Silverman will host a comedy show, but she also makes time for comedians like Aparna Nancherla. I had never seen any of [Aparna’s] comedy before. And I saw her twice yesterday, and each act was different, and it was awesome. And I was like, ’OK, here’s a new comic that I can go and follow now. If I see her playing anywhere, I’ll go see her.’ And that’s what’s cool about this, too. You see the headliners, but you discover new talent, too, that are really great and on their way up.”