By Carl Kozlowski
Some of the biggest stars in the world of comedy turned out in force Saturday at the Santa Monica Pier for the inaugural Festival Supreme, a 35-act fiesta of funny organized by actor Jack Black and Kyle Gass of the comic rock band Tenacious D.
The event drew a sellout crowd of more than 8,000 people, making it the largest event this year to take place entirely on the pier, said Jay Ferrand, executive director of the Santa Monica Pier Corp.
Despite the large audience, no major public safety incidents occurred, Ferrand said.
The seven-hour event, primarily designed to offer star comics a chance to stretch their wings in musical performances, had some technical glitches to start: Openers Garfunkel and Oats, a female singing due, took the fest’s main Omega Stage only to find the sound wasn’t working for the part of their half-hour set, but the issue was resolved quickly and did not interfere with a blistering performance by following act Craig Robinson & the Nasty Delicious.
Elsewhere, the crowd was often log-jammed moving between stages, but the well-planned use of giant video screens along the main Omega Stage that showed distant performances between acts limited the need for travel, enabling those who secured good spots to stay in place for the next big act.
Parking was tight despite a bicycle valet and other traffic-flow measures taken by organizers.
But for those willing to brave the crowd (and pay ticket prices of $99 to $250), the night was a non-stop barrage of heavy-hitting laughs that appeared to send people home happy, from beat-boxing comic Reggie Watts and Maya Rudolph’s Prince tribute band Princess to an ultra-rare 20-minute standup performance by Adam Sandler and an epic closing set by Tenacious D with surprise special guests The Lonely Island.
Eric Idle was an early highlight, leading a packed ancillary tent crowd in sing-a-longs of Monty Python classics including “Sit on My Face” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
Later in the same tent, reunited cast from the HBO series “Mr. Show” staged an impressive hour highlighted by a performance by faux-metal band Titanica that featured guest appearances by star comic Brian Posehn and Anthrax lead singer Scott Ian.
“Being at Festival Supreme was like an unholy mash-up of a high school reunion, an episode of “This Is Your Life” and an extra disorganized season-one taping of ‘Mr. Show,” said actor Tom Kenny, who’s found post-“Mr. Show” career success as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants.
A third tent hosted mostly straight standup performances, including comedy stars Sarah Silverman and Will Forte. But many of the standup sets there and on other stages were awfully short to justify the placement of names like actor Zach Galifianakis — who did just 12 minutes of jokes — as major promotional draws.
On the main Omega Stage, former “Saturday Night Live” star Fred Armisen did a rollicking set of faux-punk songs in character as a clueless 1970s British Punk rocker, based on a skit he performed on “SNL” following the death of former British Prime minister Margaret Thatcher. The set included a ludicrous love song devoted to Thatcher that first appeared on “SNL.”
But the night really exploded into high gear on the Omega Stage with a set by the Gregory Brothers, who have become KROQ-FM favorites for their auto-tuned songs based on YouTube videos torn from the headlines.
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog lived up to his name with devastating takedowns on Galifianakis —“You know what else follows Zach? A swarm of flies! I keed,” the puppet said — and headliner/organizers Tenacious D —“Have you seen these guys? The D stands for diabetes!” —before a surprise appearance by late-night television hot Conan O’Brien and a closing song in which Triumph joined Black, Watts and others.
Sandler’s set included four of his well-known comic songs such and a spoof of “Twelve Days of Christmas” that involved a string of disgusting items he claimed to have earned while trick-or-treating at celebrities’ homes.
Tenacious D closed the night out with a set that featured a giant alien squid battling a giant demonic robot before the two creatures danced along to Tenacious D’s mash-up with The Lonely Island, whose members included “SNL” digital short mastermind Andy Samberg.
Writer Carl Kozlowski won the Laugh Factory’s America’s Funniest Reporter contest in 2006.