Guest article by Ben Snyder
SXSW is a moment when Austin gets the chance to show weird-seekers and perpetual partiers from around the world what it’s been doing for the past year.
We’re highlighting four live comedy shows coming up during SXSW 2015 that will showcase the growing comedy scene in Austin, so you don’t miss this year’s comedy awakening.
Live at Coldtowne
One of the longest running comedy shows in Austin is Live at Coldtowne, at Coldtowne Theater off Airport Blvd. Danny Palumbo took the mantle from the show’s creator Ramin Nazer and has been at the helm ever since the 2012 Funniest Person in Austin left for Los Angeles.
Palumbo describes the show as “Ladder-ish,” meaning rapid fire acts of several comics in a row crescendo into a headliner at the end of the night. Palumbo says he doesn’t do the headliner as much (thus the “ish). Really it’s just a perfect show for comics to come and perform new stuff and feel free to experiment and work on their craft.
Live at Coldtowne is a great show to come and enjoy the unique venue that is Coldtowne Theater, an intimate setting nuzzled next to I Luv Video with a sweet donut shop down the street (Mrs. Johnson’s!).
Palumbo says SXSW gives him a perfect opportunity to go through his rolodex and invite out of town comics who might be visiting for the festival. So expect a few surprises when you show up to Live at Coldtowne during this SXSW, as you never know who might swing by Austin’s longest running comedy show.
Stoned vs. Drunk vs. Sober
Comedian and comedy programer Rob Gagnon first concocted this wild concept as a competition for Austin’s The New Movement Theater. Three teams of stand up comedians must admit before the performance who is stoned, who is…well, you probably figured the whole thing out from the snazzy name.
But there’s more to this show than just laughing at drunks and potheads. Rob says the show turned a corner when he brought on new co-host and programmer Lisa Friedrich, who worked with Rob on another event that features local comedy called ATX Comedy Hour (keep reading for more info). Unlike other showcases, when Rob and Lisa handpick each comic for this show, they not only consider the comic’s talent, but also whether they can personally trust them.
“There was a point and time when I was like…should I really be doing this?” Rob confesses. He knew the show’s appeal was the obvious “unknown” of seeing how comics (who are already known for their delicate psyches) would perform under impaired conditions. But they found out first hand how out of control it could become when they performed the show in Los Angeles and Lisa was on Team Drunk. “We showed up and I was on a mission. Within an hour I was falldown…It was bad,” Lisa admits. “So now I’m the moderator.”
Rob and Lisa make sure all the drunk contestants have a cab ride home after the show and stress “These are our friends. We’re going to take care of them.”
It is the challenge coupled with the danger of ‘over-indulgence’ that makes this show a must-see. Comics know they are putting themselves in a vulnerable position, but they have such a strong bond and friendship with the organizers that they often do some of their most fearless work from this stage. “When comics come to me and say, ‘Oh, man, thanks for having me on the show – and you can tell they mean it – I’m not gonna lie, it feels good,” Rob gushes.
The event will take place downtown at The New Movement Theater on March 13, 2015 from 10:30-11:30 PM. Jay Whitecotton will be on Team Drunk and The New Movement head honcho Chris Trew will also join the fray! Catch the trailer for the show and purchase tickets online.
Cap City Comedy Presents: Just For Laughs Showcase
The Just For Laughs Comedy festival has taken place in Montreal for over 30 years now and is the largest international comedy festival in the world. For about 10 years, they’ve been coming to the Funniest Person in Austin Contest at Cap City Comedy Club, where General Manager Margie Coyle says they often pick a local comedian to go on to the festival. “They come and they watch, and they take notes,” Margie explains. “They go to Chicago, New York and LA, with NY and LA being the biggest in the entertainment scene…but they always grab somebody from here.”
The yearly contest held at Cap City is one of the best shows to watch for local comedy talent because the comics are bringing their A game for the scouts that are coming. But it’s the yearly Just For Laughs showcase during SXSW where they often get their first taste. “The Just For Laughs Showcase is always an amazing show…one of the best, probably,” explains Margie. “While the scouts often pick someone from the Funniest Person in Austin Contest, local comics get on the radar at this showcase. They might not be ready this year, but further down the road they might follow this person. It’s an interesting, fun, long process to watch talent grow, but it happens.”
One example of this process is Cody Hustak, who performs at the Just For Laughs showcase before going on to win Funniest Person in Austin. “As the comedians develop their sets and make them stronger and more polished, they eventually get rewarded,” Margie concludes.
The Just For Laughs Showcase starts at 8 PM on March 15, 2015 at Cap City Comedy Club with Danny Palumbo, Avery Moore, John Buseman, Bob Khosravi, Chris Cubas, Zac Brooks, Maggie Maye and Lashonda Lester – to name a few! Details will be added to the venue’s website soon.
ATX Comedy Hour
Monday night’s at Spider House are quickly becoming “the place to be” for Austin comedy. During SXSW this year, event organizer and programmer Lisa Friedrich has a fantastic show planned with co-host Rob Gagnon.
“ATX Comedy Hour was born from its sister show, NOLA Comedy Hour out of New Orleans,” Lisa tells me. “We’ve been putting up a monthly showcase at Spider House Ballroom since November 2013 on the third Monday of the month. It showcases stand up comedy and every now and then we’ll have some really great sketch comedy mixed in.”
On March 16th during SXSW, ATX Comedy Hour will feature local greats Mac Blake (whose album Bird Drugs was just released), Brian Gaar (who filmed his special at Spider House Ballroom), Avery Moore, Danny Palumbo and some very special guests, including Mark Normand, Ben Roy and Andrew Orvedahl.
Lisa also tells me comics can get “tapes” of their performances if they choose, and their sets can even be posted online.
ATX Comedy Hour on March 16, 2015, will be part of a FREE unofficial SXSW party called Freaks Meet Folks Fest, put on by Eva Mueller and Jeremy Rogers. The event features fantastic musical acts after the comedy show!
@theAustinot wants to know:
What comedy events will you be attending during SXSW 2015?
Since forming The Show! Austin in 2011, Ben Snyder has produced multiple web series and films, many of which have found success on the festival circuit. He currently writes for several projects for Spiderwood Studios in Austin, TX, including the 1960s comic acquired by Charlton Comics titled “Mercury Man.”