Best Bets: SF Art Week wraps, plus music, comedy shows

Lane Moore brings her Tinder-themed comedy show to Cobb's Comedy Club at 9:45 p.m. Jan 20 in this year's SF Sketchfest. (Photo by Mindy Tucker/Courtesy Lane Moore)

Freebie of the week: It seems like such a good idea, such a given, for a region packed with talented artists and people who love the art they produce—it’s surprising it hasn’t been done before. We’re talking about the inaugural San Francisco Art Week, which runs through Sunday and serves up a range of events and presentations designed to draw art lovers to galleries, museums and art displays around the Bay Area.

While some events, including those tied to the Fog Design + Art show this week, are ticketed affairs, a good many of the attractions are free. Go to, where you’ll find a map and a guide to attractions, and under the program heading, there’s a list of special events that include hands-on events, tours and more.

At 2 p.m. Wednesdays, for example, workshops at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts let you create works inspired by the artists showing at the “Bay Area Now 9″ exhibition. From 5 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University hosts a celebration, including performances, music, readings and demonstrations, tied to the new book “Trans History in 99 Objects” published by the Cantor Center, the Museum of Trans History and Art (MOTHA) and Stanford’s Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies program.

At 10 a.m. Friday, you can catch a tour of Mexican artist Rodrigo Hernández’s intriguing exhibit “with what eyes” at the CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco. It’s his first U.S. solo exhibit, in which he explores the question, “Are humans the only dreamers on Earth?” And from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, visitors can take in a demonstration of the fine art of frame making at Aedicule gallery in San Francisco. These free aforementioned events will have arts lovers hoping SF Art Week becomes an annual event. 

Comedian and actor Ali Siddiq brings his stand-up show to the California Theatre in San Jose on Jan. 20. (Courtesy Ali Siddiq)

Did you hear the one about turning your life around …?”  A prison term might seem an unlikely place to develop a second career as a standup comedian, but that is what happened to Ali Siddiq.

The Texas native had a tumultuous childhood and was selling drugs by age 14. He was convicted of dealing cocaine and sent to prison near Houston; but instead of embarking on a path toward a life in and out of jail, Siddiq discovered he had a knack for making people laugh, as he entertained fellow inmates in the cafeteria or while on laundry duty.

After his release from prison in 1997, Siddiq jumped into the Houston standup comedy circuit and within a few years had become a nationally known comedian, landing stints on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and Comedy Central’s “Comic View” and “This Is Not Happening.” (The cable outlet later declared him the “No. 1 comic to watch.”) In 2017, Siddiq returned to prison, as an entertainer, to film the special “Ali Siddiq: It’s Bigger Than These Bars,” in which he relates to inmates his life-turnaround while making them cackle.

Siddiq has some half-dozen comedy albums to his credit, and he brings his standup show to the California Theatre in San Jose. The performance is at 7 p.m. Saturday; tickets are $30-$125 at

Comic Bill Irwin and the improv comedy group Freestyle appear in several SF Sketchfest shows at Club Fugazi. (SF Sketchfest website screenshot)

Speaking of laughing matters: If you find yourself in need of a good giggle, chuckle, chortle, cackle, snicker or guffaw this week, about a gazillion performers will lend a hand. There is an explosion of comedy going on in the Bay Area this weekend and beyond.

The massive and impressive annual SF Sketchfest returns on Thursday and runs through Feb. 4, with scores of A-list entertainers taking stages throughout the city. Some better-known acts include: The Kids in the Hall; famed San Francisco clown, comedian and actor Bill Irwin; Vacaville-reared comedian and “Yo, Is This Racist” podcaster Tawny Newsome; the Bay Area’s own sketch comedy troupe Killing My Lobster; Monty Python alum Eric Idle; and comedian and musician Lane Moore, who’s bringing her hit standup show about the Tinder dating app to town (and we are just barely scratching the surface). Go to for the complete schedule and more information.

Meanwhile, the Desi Comedy Fest, described as the largest South Asian comedy festival in the country, is coming through the Bay Area, featuring Abhay Nadkarni, BK Sharad, Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, Elizabeth Aziz, and founder Samson Koletkar, among others. The show stops in the Great Star Theater in San Francisco on Saturday, the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley on Tuesday, and San Jose Improv on Jan. 25; go to for tickets and more information.

If literary laughs are your thing, the popular humor writer Gary Janetti (“Do You Mind if I Cancel,” “Start Without Me”) will be on hand for a reading and Q&A at 8 p.m. Friday at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco; go to for tickets and more information. Whew! Let’s get to laughing, shall we? 

Jonathan Biss launches his “Echoes of Schubert” project at San Francisco’s Herbst on Jan. 18. (Courtesy Benjamin Ealovega)

Ripples and reverberations: American pianist and educator Jonathan Biss is an artist renowned for his exquisite expressivity at the keyboard and his inquisitive, intellectual approach to music. An established favorite with San Francisco Performances, he returns to the Herbst Theatre Thursday night to launch the first of a new three-part project, which he calls “Echoes of Schubert.”

Biss has commissioned composers of three different generations to respond to Franz Schubert’s musical legacy, and he will perform each new work paired with two of Schubert’s own. Thursday night’s new piece is “Expansions of Light” by Tyson Gholston Davis, a composer who, at the astonishingly young age of 23, has already drawn commissions from such prestigious ensembles and agencies as the Juilliard String Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, New York Public Radio, the Da Camera Society of Houston, and the New York New Music Ensemble, among many others. Biss will perform the Davis commission along with Schubert’s Impromptu in F minor and the Sonata in C minor. Subsequent programs take place on March 14 and May 2.

Performance time is 7:30 p.m. Find tickets, $60-$80, at (415) 392-2545 or

Pianist Nicolas Namoradze brings an eclectic program of music to his recital for the Steinway Society in San Jose on Jan. 21. (Courtesy Nathan Elson)

Another brainiac on the piano bench: Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, and raised in Budapest, composer and pianist Nicolas Namoradze at age 31 has a string of accomplishments as long as your arm. 

In addition to winning the 2018 triennial Honens International Piano Competition in Calgary, Canada, he has a master’s degree from Juilliard and a doctorate from City University of New York Graduate Center and is pursuing postgraduate studies in neuropsychology at King’s College in London, with a focus on how mental practice and mindfulness affect musical performance. He also has published a book on György Ligeti’s macroharmonies, and he’ll be playing three of the composer’s etudes at his recital for the Steinway Society Sunday afternoon at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose.

Also on his program are Bach’s French Suite No. 1 in D minor and a couple of selections from his “The Art of the Fugue,” three preludes by Gabriel Fauré, two works by Arvo Pärt, an Alexander Scriabin sonata and his own reworking of the Adagio from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony for the piano.

Concert time is 2:30 p.m., and tickets are $45-$70 for the in-person performance or $25 per household for a livestream that will remain available for 48 hours. Find them at or call (408) 300-5635. Namoradze’s recital also features Ferruccio Busoni’s arrangement of Bach’s “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr,” which you can preview on YouTube here

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