Megan Mullally knows her audience and the ways of grassroots publicity. When her newish band, Nancy and Beth, last arrived in San Francisco and the shows were not yet sold out, Mullally and her harmonizing mate, Stephanie Hunt, made a beeline for The Castro.
“I said, ‘Let’s go steal some flyers for the show from the hotel and go,’” Mullally recalled. “We went out to the bars and created quite a stir, if I say so myself.” “We got into the deejay booths and starting singing, playing the tambourine,” Hunt added.
Before long it was 3 a.m., antics had ensued in and out of the bars, and Hunt heard Mullally say, “You literally have to get me back, into the bed and make sure I call Nick,” Offerman, her husband (“Parks and Recreation” star, carnivore).
Suffice it to say, when Nancy and Beth performed their San Francisco shows, they were in front of packed houses. Now, the band is coming back for SF Sketchfest, arguably the greatest comedy festival on the globe. They will hit Kanbar Hall in the Jewish Community Center at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31.
“We’ve got some fun, pizzazz-y songs planned, some sweet songs and everything in between,” Mullally said. “It’s getting very entertainment value-y. There’s a bit of a burlesque/Vegas vibe. I think what’s interesting about the band is the age difference. We’re 30 years apart. I’m the younger one. When you watch the show, I don't think you can quite figure it out. It lends an element of mystery.”
Nancy and Beth isn’t a comedy act per se. They’re sort of like the Andrews Sisters (minus one sister who’s passed out on
the floor after last call in a hooch den). The act is peppered with tunes from 60-70 years ago, such as a harmonious take on the Louis Jordan R&B classic, “Jack, You’re Dead.”
“What’s the use of havin’ muscles, if your life hangs by a thread? If you ain’t got no red corpuscles, Jack, you’re dead,” Mullally and Hunt croon to a bouncing, four-piece ensemble. From there, out come some ’80s sneaks for a take on Run-D.M.C.’s “My Adidas.”
“We have the actual green and yellow Adidas. I had to order them from Japan because they don’t make them in the states. Because yellow and green are for when you want to get ill,” Mullally reminded. “And that’s what we're trying to do at shows,” Hunt added.
Mullally may be best known for her Emmy-winning stint as Karen Walker on the classic NBC sitcom, “Will and Grace,” but her comedy and music cred go way beyond that defining role. She’s added to the chortles on cult fave shows like “Party Down” and “Children’s Hospital” and has wowed Broadway crowds in the musicals “Grease” and “Young Frankenstein.” Mullally also released two eclectic solo abums before aligning with Hunt for Nancy and Beth.
It was the brutal heat of Texas that brought Mullally and Hunt (“Friday Night Lights,” “Californication”) together in Megan’s air-conditioned car on the set of the indie film “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” “I had my ukulele with me. I started singing. I said, ‘Would you sing this part with me?’ It was there in the air-conditioning that we realized our voices sounded really good together,” Hunt said.
“Our voices blend really well. Also, Stephanie does really great harmonies. She’s kind of insta-harmony. That's nice for me because I don't have to learn harmony parts,” Mullally laughed.
The tone of their voices as well as their flavor for songs was instantly in simpatico. They dove into Mullally’s vast library of ditties and created a “freak out” set list, which has grown and changed over the last year or so. Nancy and
Beth recently added head mics so they can create more complicated choreography. You can often catch them rehearsing anywhere there’s a mirror, they said, including hotel lobbies.
“We like to go vintage clothes shopping. Sometimes while we’re shopping, we will pause in front of the mirror and try out some of our clothes to make sure they will work for the show,” Mullally said.
They also recently recorded a cover of rapper Gucci Mane’s song, “I Don’t Love Her,” for the Nancy and Beth debut album.
“Somebody said, it seems like during the show, we’re f****** with the audience a little bit, but at the same time we’re genuinely trying to be entertaining. I think that’s great if people feel that way,” Mullally said.
So, Castro, be ready. If it’s Jan. 30, and Nancy and Beth have seats open for the show on Jan. 31, they’re coming to get you. The Lampshades, featuring Kate Flannery (“The Office”) and Scot Robinson will open the show. Visit sfsketchfest.com for more information.
Corey Andrew has been interviewing comedians and writing about comedy for the last decade and a half. He recently published the book, “Laugh Lines: Conversations with Comedians.” Corey was a writer and performer with Midwest sketch troupe, The NonProphets, before moving to the Bay Area with his family several years ago. If you have ideas for future columns about comedy, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/coreyshame.