Actor Jeff Goldblum, also a jazz pianist, will perform as part of annual comedy festival SF Sketchfest next week.
Goldblum is known for his roles in movies, television and onstage. He has starred in films including Jurassic Park, Independence Day, The Big Chill, and The Fly. It is perhaps lesser known that he plays piano and performs regularly with his jazz band, The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, at Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Angeles.
These shows are not overly rehearsed, nor do they go by a strict set list. In fact, Goldblum has described them as a hangout, a jam session, a hootenanny. He’s the charismatic bandleader who makes the audience feel at home with his welcoming conversation, joking manner, and quirky, quick wit.
It’s fun and entertaining with a heavy dollop of jazz — just right for the 16th annual Sketchfest. “Jeff Goldblum is one of the most naturally funny people we’ve ever had at SF Sketchfest,” said David Owen, co-founder of the festival. “He has impeccable comic timing and an endearing oddball delivery to everything he says. He’s a perfect fit for the festival’s sensibility.”
Jeff Goldblum and the Milded Snitzer Orchestra will play at 7:30pm and 10pm January 14 at the Swedish American Hall.
Sketchfest hosts headliners and up-and-comers for a month of various comedy stylings at venues throughout the city. The festival boasts diverse programming that features comedic performances, television and movie panel discussions, and tributes.
“At last year’s festival, we did a tribute to Jeff Goldblum which was so much fun that we decided to invite him back again,” Owen said.
This year, Goldblum returns with the orchestra. The quintet is Goldblum on piano, John Storie on guitar, James King on tenor saxophone, Tim Emmons on bass, and Kenny Elliott on drums. Amid classic piano riffs and sax solos, Goldblum encourages questions from the audience, asks audience members to identify quotes from books and movies, and reacts to film clips.
“Jeff walks through the crowd asking people trivia questions and bantering with the audience,” Owen said.
The musicians in this ensemble are known to improv and joke with one another as sketch comedians would.
“I like the playful part of jazz. We have a playful time together,” said Goldblum of his bandmates during a 2014 interview with WNYC. “They have transformed my play life, and yeah, we play with the audience. It is always surprising and spontaneous and jazz-spirited.”
Born in Pennsylvania, Goldblum was one of four children, all of whom took piano lessons. While his dream was to become an actor, he grew serious about the piano. By 15 years old, Goldblum booked piano gigs at cocktail lounges around Pittsburgh.
“After a few years trying to avoid the lessons, (my teacher) gave me a piece of ‘Alley Cat’ and I thought, ‘Wow, syncopations and these chords, I really like. I’m going to practice until I really get it,’” Goldblum said in the same interview.
During his rise to stardom, Goldblum kept the piano in his sights. He met Peter Weller, who plays trumpet, when they co-starred in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension in 1984. The two began playing together at Goldblum’s home. They added other musicians to the mix and began playing discreetly in front of audiences at the encouragement of Woody Allen years later. Weller moved and Goldblum kept the band going.
He made up the band’s name on the fly before playing at the Playboy Jazz Festival. Mildred Snitzer was a Goldblum family friend who lived to be over 100.
Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra
Swedish American Hall
January 14, 2017
7:30pm + 10pm, $50