REVIEW: SF Sketchfest brings Cloud 9 to SF’s Castro with tribute to ‘Superstore’

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Superstore, America Ferrera, Ben Feldman

Supertore. Courtesy: SF Sketchfest

SAN FRANCISCO — The annual SF Sketchfest comedy festival brought out the stars to San Francisco’s famed Castro Theatre for a tribute to the hit NBC comedy Superstore. The majority of the ensemble comedy cast was on hand to talk about the show, now in the midst of its fourth season. The cast, led by America Ferrera and Ben Feldman, took the stage in front of a capacity crowd in the Castro. It was clear from the start that this would be different than your run-of-the-mill Q&A session.

Actor Colton Dunn (Garrett) took the stage first and served as the pseudo-host and emcee for the evening. Dunn, an Uptight Citizen’s Brigade alum and frequent podcast guest was a natural fit for the role and was instantly comfortable in questioning his fellow castmates in a way that was both entertaining and insightful without being too “inside baseball.” Show creator Justin Spitzer spoke of the origins of the show and how he went about putting together the stellar cast. Ferrera (Amy) commented that, as one of the last members cast to the show, one of the things that immediately drew her to the role was the slate of talented actors and comedians that had already signed on—it was an instant fit.

Superstore, America Ferrera, Ben Feldman

SF Sketchfest tribute to NBC’s ‘Superstore.’ Photo: Mike DeWald.

The cast took great delight in roasting lead actor Ben Feldman (Jonah) during the initial Q&A, trying to throw him off his game at every opportunity. Actress Lauren Ash was a fan favorite, reprising her role as the by-the-book floor manager Dina. Actor Nico Santos (Crazy Rich Asians) told a story of the unique way he tried to prepare for his role—by applying for a position at Target, a role for which he was not hired. The cast members spoke to their connection to their characters, and how they’ve grown with them over four seasons.

The cast then mixed in its first surprise, doing a table reading of the pilot episode in its entirety. Dunn joked about what an unorthodox situation it was for the cast, quipping, “This is like remembering back to the first night you got together with your group of friends, and re-enacting it word for word.”

The table reading not only showed off the cast’s acting chops and abilities to improvise on the fly, but it also accentuated their relationships to their characters and to each other. The actors clearly enjoy working with each other and the roles they play in the context of the show. After a minute or two of finding their flow, the cast was rolling on all cylinders, and the audience was laughing along for the ride. Doing the table read in front of a live audience not only showed the importance of great acting, but also the importance that quick, witty writing plays on a fast-action comedy like Superstore. The jokes come rapid-fire, and they have to hit their mark every time for a show to find success.

Superstore, America Ferrera, Ben Feldman

SF Sketchfest tribute to NBC’s ‘Superstore.’ Photo: Mike DeWald.

Following the read, the cast took a slew of questions from the audience. This type of thing can sometimes be hit or miss depending on the audience, but the Saturday crowd came through with unique, entertaining and occasionally insightful questions. Ferrera spoke to her appreciation of her role as Amy as not pigeon-holing her into a typecast “Latina firecracker,” but rather one where she could just be herself. Santos spoke to his wanting to bring a more “femme” twist to his character, as he said he wanted to be authentic to that segment of the LGBT community. The show closed out with Ash yelling in character at an audience member who had come dressed as the klutzy, awkward and annoying character Sandra, sending the crowd home on a huge laugh.

The show didn’t end on the stage though, with the cast taking even more time to meet with gathered fans outside the Castro. Ash surprised a lucky fan who had dressed up for the event with a script from the pilot signed by the entire cast. Ferrera and Feldman took selfies with as many fans as they could, as Mark McKinney (manager Glenn) and Dunn circulated their way around the crowd, speaking to fans.

Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.

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