Soundtracks Live at Sketchfest 2017Soundtracks Live at Sketchfest 2017(photo: Rob Goodman)

Back in 2003, New York City-based musician Amy Miles had an idea: get her very funny group of friends together — including Amy Poehler, David Wain, A.D. Miles, and Chelsea Peretti — to act out some of the greatest 1980s movies ever made and do it with a full band on stage performing the soundtrack.

“It started with me, sitting in my car with the Pretty in Pink soundtrack playing and just thinking how amazing it would be to see the movie with live actors and have a really cool band playing along with the action. I love that soundtrack, so I thought, ‘Let me talk to some of my more bossy, creative friends.’ So I talked to Amy [Poehler], and she was like let's do it at the [Upright Citizens Brigade] Theatre.” And Soundtracks Live was born.

This past weekend many of the original players from the show’s UCB days, along with some newer faces and surprise guests, were in town for a Soundtracks Live reunion show that benefited the 826 Valencia organization, at Marines' Memorial Theatre for San Francisco’s annual Sketchfest comedy festival. On Saturday night, fans were treated to a performance of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, one of the seminal coming-of-age movies of the early 1980s. The cast included The State's Joe Lo Truglio, David Wain, Michael Showalter, and Michael Ian Black (Wain, Showalter, and Black also celebrated their 20th anniversary as Stella with a Sketchfest show the following day), Chelsea Peretti, Beth Dover, Bobby Tisdale, Marisa Ryan, Matt Ballard, Jean Grae, surprise guest Wyatt Cenac, and more. For fans of The State and New York City’s early-’00s improv and sketch scene, it was a welcome homecoming for a group of performers so close-knit, their interplay is just as hysterical as the premises of some of the movies they are lampooning.

Check out a few recently-unearthed snapshots of Soundtracks Live's second onstage performance of Pretty in Pink from February 2004 here.

Soundtracks Live Wyatt Cenac

Soundtracks Live was even once on track for the small screen. Back in the 2004, VH1 commissioned a pilot featuring Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Will Arnett, and many of the cast members on stage in San Francisco this past weekend. In the pilot episode, the group performed Sixteen Candles, but after John Hughes wouldn’t approve the parody, the pilot was shelved. Though that comedy dream team of a TV show may never see the light of day, watching this performance on stage so many years later felt like a close runner-up.

Soundtracks Live Amy Miles David WainAmy Miles and David Wain.

The afternoon began with Amy Miles and David Wain letting us know what we were all in for. Soundtracks Live is part rock show and part ridiculous movie tribute. Throughout the show, cast members acted out the film (written by Cameron Crowe and directed by Amy Heckerling), announcing lines like “It sure is boring in this classroom” to compensate for the seemingly purposeful lack of an on-stage set. When it came time for the famous Phoebe Cates pool-fantasy scene, Chelsea Peretti donned a long bikini T-shirt and emerged from a kiddie pool filled with blue streamers. It was the kind of absurdity you’d expect from the same folks who brought you Wet Hot American Summer, Wainy Days, and They Came Together.

I chatted with Amy after the show about how the reunion came to be. “David Owen, one of the directors of Sketchfest, had been wanting to do a reunion of this for the last five years or something, and it just never came together. There was always somebody who couldn’t do it. And then this year, [Owen said], ‘This is the last year I’m going to ask you, can you do this?’ And it was like, ‘OK everyone, let’s make it happen.’"

Soundtracks Live Zach Rogue

The Soundtracks Live reunion was punctuated by a stellar set of performances of the movie’s soundtrack, featuring Oakland’s Zach Rogue for a Tom Petty classic. The set list included:

Jean Grae, “We Got the Beat” (The Go-Go’s)
Zach Rogue, “American Girl” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
Robin Goldwasser, “Raised on Radio” (Ravyns)
Craig Wedren, “Moving In Stereo” (The Cars)
Michael Showalter, "I Hope I Get It" (A Chorus Line)
Chris Anderson, "Somebody's Baby" (Jackson Browne)
Dave Hill, “Surrender” (Cheap Trick)
Amy Miles, “I Want You to Want Me” (Cheap Trick)
John Roderick, “Goodbye, Goodbye” (Oingo Boingo)

But the full-stop show-stealer may have been the full-cast encore performance of “Alexander Hamilton” from Lin-Manel Miranda’s Hamilton. Amy filled me in on the impromptu decision: “Everyone showed up the day of with a great attitude, and about half an hour before rehearsal ended. . .they decided to do the Alexander Hamilton encore.”

Amy calls herself a “comic’s musician” — in the years since Soundtracks Live stormed the stage at UCB, she’s been keeping busy producing three solo records and performing and writing music for the web and TV, including: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Children’s Hospital, and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp for Netflix. You can catch some of her film contributions in Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten, The Baxter, Reno 911!, Along Came Polly, Role Models, Wanderlust, and They Came Together.

Though Soundtracks Live has come and gone all too quickly, there are still two more weeks of Sketchfest, so scope out a show and grab some laughs while one of the nation’s best comedy festivals is still in town.

Tags: ,