By Tate Perez,
Davis High alumnus Cole Stratton knew from a young age that he wanted a career in theater, film or comedy. Twenty years out of high school, he has taken part in all three. These days, Stratton is a comedian, the founder of SF Sketchfest, a co-host of the Pop My Culture podcast and much more.
Stratton graduated from DHS in 1994. While in high school, he participated in many theater and musical groups, including Acme Theater Company and Jazz Choir.
“Jazz Choir gave me a chance to explore the musical side of me, especially under the great Dick Brunelle,” Stratton explained. “Dave Burmester taught me a lot about theater and drama–having been a part of his ACME and Awkward Stage Theater companies–and he ran an improv group called Improv CORE at DHS, which gave me a chance to do a lot of comedy, which is what I make my living doing today.”
On top of his performances, Stratton also had an internship at The Davis Enterprise.
“He was a real asset to our staff,” said Debbie Davis, editor and assistant publisher at the Enterprise.
SF Sketchfest is arguably Stratton’s most successful project so far. Founded 15 years ago in partnership with David Owen and Janet Varney, the month-long festival has featured big names in comedy like Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd and Conan O’Brien, as well as many other famous and up-and-coming stars.
“It also affords me the opportunity to perform, as I hop onstage and do improv, sketch, movie riffing and other things,” Stratton said. “It’s a ton of fun bringing together performers, both known and up-and-coming, and putting them all together at 20-plus Bay Area venues every year. Lots of work, but quite exhilarating.”
Stratton said that many comedians have influenced him throughout his career.
“The Kids in the Hall were very influential on my love of sketch comedy and definitely an inspiration in us founding a sketch group while in college, called Totally False People,” he said. “The fest grew out of that, and it was truly surreal and great to have them at the fest and to now call them friends. Albert Brooks is also a big influence on me, as are Steve Martin, Alan Arkin and tons of people from Saturday Night Live.”