Janet Varney Was 'Cajoled' into Sketch Comedy at SF State. Now She's a Hyphenate Star

Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Photo of Janet Varney sitting in chair by a window
Photo courtesy of Funny or Die

LIFE HACKER -- Janet Varney is best known for — well, it depends on what you like her from. She’s acted in The Legend of Korra, You’re the Worst and Stan Against Evil, and created the Emmy-nominated IFC web series “Fortune Rookie.” She stars in the audio-drama podcast Voyage to the Stars and hosts the chat podcast The JV Club. She is also a founder and director of SF Sketchfest, running the annual live comedy festival since 2001.

“I was in love with San Francisco as a place and an idea and a life, so I left school in Arizona during my junior year of college, and then worked to establish residency for a year, so I could go to SF State with in-state tuition.

There I met my (now many-years-running) two partners, Cole Stratton and David Owen. We were in a sketch group together with a fourth member, Gabriel Diani — now he’s an independent filmmaker, I’ve done a couple of his movies and he’s a genius. But Gabe took time off to go do a one-man show, and we decided to organize a festival, so that we had more of an opportunity to do a long set of sketch in San Francisco. There weren’t a lot of venues that allowed for that or were made for that. ...

“By the time I moved to San Francisco I had sort of pragmatized my way out of thinking I would be a performer for a living. But my friends at SF State, Dave, Cole, and Gabe, cajoled me into being in the sketch group that they were forming. And I’m so glad they did. It was really the first time that I had officially done comedy. I loved doing funny plays and stuff like that, but I wasn’t one of those kids that got involved with an improv group in high school. And swiftly thereafter, we founded the festival.”