The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here
• A laugh riot: We’re not sure anyone, except maybe the organizers, appreciate what a staggering achievement SF Sketchfest is. It arrives every January and floods San Francisco comedy joints and other venues with some of the best and most eclectic comedy performances imaginable. Seemingly every sort of funny business — stand-up comedy, film and TV show screenings, live podcasts, improv performances, comedian interviews — is represented among the more than 200 shows slated for this year’s event, which runs Jan. 9-26. Tony Shalhoub, Macaulay Culkin, Monkees band members Michael Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz, Kevin Pollak, Busy Philipps and Brian Regan are among the guests and/or performers. Oh, and Sandra Bernhard we’ll be there too, in conversation with Peaches Christ. How delicious is that? There’s too much fun to do justice to it all here. Check out the schedule and other details at www.sfsketchfest.com. Prices vary, but most shows cost between $25-$45.
• Rodent philosophy: It’s not easy following Bill Murray, whose portrayal of an obnoxious TV personality forced to live a day over and over again until he becomes a decent human being made “Groundhog Day” a classic film comedy. But now there’s a stage musical version of “Groundhog Day,” too, which debuted in 2016 and is getting its Bay Area premiere at the San Francisco Playhouse. It was written by Danny Rubin (who was the film’s screenwriter) and has songs by Tim Minchin (“Matilda”) and stars Bay Area stage actor Ryan Drummond, who’s excellent in the Murray role. The musical runs through Jan. 18. Tickets are $35-$125; 415-677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.
• A split musical personality: A string quartet AND an award-winning jazz ensemble? Wow. Meet the Atom String Quartet, a classically trained group of swinging cats from Poland, who have been a going concern since their days at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw in 2010. They captured the Grand Prix of the 13th Bielska Zadymka Jazz Festival the following year and have popped up at festivals all over the world since, making their debuts in China, Russia and the United States last year. They also released a CD of the music of modern composer Krzysztof Penderecki last year and — perhaps — may dip into it when they return here for a concert at the Taube Atrium Theater in San Francisco on Jan. 10 at 8 p.m. Tickets, $35-$55, are at www.eventbrite.com and at the door at 401 Van Ness Ave.
• Heck of a harp show: Bay Area mainstay Mark Hummel is a terrific harmonica player and consummate bluesman, not to mention an all-around nice guy. He warms up every winter with his annual Blues Harmonica Blowout concert, featuring some of the best harp players in the country. This year’s lineup includes Magic Dick, best known as a member of the wild rock/R&B outfit the J. Geils Band; Lee Oskar, Jerry Portnoy and Duke Robillard. The Blowout comes to Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage at 8 p.m. Jan. 11 and 7 p.m. Jan. 12. Tickets are $15-$30 at 510-644-2020; www.thefreight.org.
• MTT the composer: Outgoing San Francisco Symphony director Michael Tilson Thomas and his current artist in residence, the estimable mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, and bass-baritone Ryan McKinney will introduce the maestro’s own “Meditations on Rilke” to the world in concerts Jan. 9 through Jan. 12 at Davies Symphony Hall. On the San Francisco Symphony programs in addition to that world premiere are the Overture to Berlioz’s “Benvenuto Cellini,” selections from Mahler’s “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” and that ravishing “La Valse” from Maurice Ravel. Find tickets, $20-$185, at 415-864-6000 or www.sfsymphony.org.