How Three SF State Grads Built SF Sketchfest, a Festival Unlike Any Other

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Thursday, January 09, 2020
Photo of SF Sketchfest founders Cole Stratton, David Owen and Janet Varney
From left: SF Sketchfest founders Cole Stratton, David Owen and Janet Varney.

SFGATE -- In 2002, sketch comedy was having a moment in San Francisco. The city contained an inordinate number of exceptional local sketch comics, touting then-relative unknowns like W. Kamau Bell and Al Madrigal.

And all of that talent collectively faced one issue: Good venues were hard to find.

Cole Stratton was one such sketch comedian. He, a couple of buddies from his time at San Francisco State (Janet Varney and David Owen — both in their early 20s) and Gabriel Diani made up one of those groups, called Totally False People. By 2002, they’d come into their own while performing together for a couple years, but had trouble finding stages that would host them.

So they rented out their own for the very first San Francisco Sketchfest.