Colossal Clusterfest Takes the Comedy Festival Concept MainstreamArticle by: Adrian Spinelli|@AGSpinelli
Tue June 06, 2017 | 11:39 AM
What Comedy Central's Colossal Clusterfest pulled off in San Francisco was unprecedented: A predominantly comedy-based festival of this size had never happened, let alone smack in the middle of one of the busiest, densest cities in the world. Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr and Sarah Silverman headlined the comedy slate, with the likes of Fred Armisen, the cast of Broad City, T.J. Miller, Tig Notaro, and Pete Davidson all making multiple appearances throughout the weekend. Ice Cube, Tegan & Sara, Chromeo, Lil Dicky, and Vince Staples led a musical lineup which was clearly the step-child to Clusterfest's comedians, yet along with one of the best festival food lineups we've seen this year, Clusterfest successfully took over SF's Civic Center with laughs for three days.
Clusterfest shined in its re-creations of the iconic Seinfeld apartment, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's infamous Paddy's Pub and the little mountain town of South Park. Bill Graham Civic Auditorium's main room hosted 6,000-person comedy crowds and its many side rooms were hammed up for more intimate comedy performances. There were two large outdoor stages and sponsored interactions amidst it all. For a maiden voyage, the logistical set-up of the fest was successful. While the crowd appeared to be fairly under capacity, it made for a breathable experience at every attraction which didn't require an hour-long wait (see: the always-crowded Seinfeld's apartment) and there was a clear visual aesthetic mirrored in each corner of the festival.
Tom's Restaurant from Seinfeld and SF City Hall. Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
However, there are still some kinks to iron out for future editions. Comedians with repeat performances sometimes toed the line between fresh material and the same jokes from a previous day's performance, leading to some walk-outs when it became evident. A full lineup of beers (local?) were absent in favor of a small wine tent that never seemed to be too busy. This was a beer crowd and $11 twelve ounce cans of SABMiller brands just weren't cutting it. Some, though not all, of the musical acts (namely Vince Staples and Ty Segall) were visibly out of place at the event, and their performances suffered for it. The festival's biggest missed opportunity however, was the absence of Comedy Central's hilarious "Friar's Club Roast." This would have landed in front of a large festival crowd on so many levels, but perhaps the crudeness and vulgarity typical of the Roast was too much of a risk for Clusterfest's debut. But that gives rise to the biggest takeaway of the weekend:
Comedy is big business and Comedy Central, Superfly and Another Planet's venture worked out. Even the heavy security and no cell phones policy typical of comedy sets provided a refreshing break from the flurry of screens blocking sight lines at concerts and music festivals. By all accounts, Clusterfest seems to be a viable festival business model, one with room for growth and continued opportunities for big-name comedians to claim a big payday, up-and-comers to get well-deserved exposure and for comedy fans to have a big (colossal?) weekend in which to experience it all.
T. J. Miller - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Nombe's 'Japanese Poutine' - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
South Park Photo Ops Galore - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
'No Soup For You!' - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Seinfeld's Apartment - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Nombe's Ramenburger - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Zoltar & Friends - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Preservation Hall Jazz Band - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Orange Chicken Wings by Raisins...err....Mister Jiu's - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Fred Armisen - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Dunk Tank - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Vince Staples - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Doug The Pug - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Gorburger LIVE! - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Everfest Managing Editor Laura Mason and Assoc Editor, Adrian Spinelli - Photo by Collin Brennan
Paddy's Pub - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli
Jerry Seinfeld - Photo by: Adrian Spinelli