In my opinion, comedians are the new rockstars of SXSW. It’s about time, since SXSW Comedy is celebrating its tenth edition during the multi-track festival. Over the past 10 years, SXSW has showcased the comedy industry’s influential and up-and-coming comics.
There were amazing comedians around in 1987 when SXSW started, but it wasn’t considered a necessity at a festival that put its primary focus on music. Back then, the organizers considered SXSW to be a regional event. They expected around 150 people to attend, but over 700 showed up.
Let’s take a quick journey back in time, to examine how comedy came to be an undeniable part of SXSW.
The Beginning of SXSW Comedy
When Comedy was added to SXSW in 2008, it was a one-night event. Typically, comedians only showed up to host things like the “SXSW Web Awards.” It seemed as though they were merely there to liven up the crowd between music sets and film premieres. But over the next five years, SXSW Comedy grew immensely in popularity. Attendance rates were skyrocketing, so by 2012, you could find comedy performances every night of the festival. This made room for comedians on the national and international level.
Launchpad for Success
It’s no secret that hundreds of people in the film, music and tech worlds have skyrocketed in notoriety after speaking or performing at SXSW. For some comedians, it’s no different. In 1998, a young Fred Armisen launched his comedic career by premiering a short film at SXSW, dressing up as various characters, and interviewing attendees and musicians. In 2006, Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford and Brian Posehn premiered their documentary “Comedians of Comedy” followed by a stand up set at Emo’s. For comedy fans, this was mind-blowingly great. Other successful comedic movies have been premiered at SXSW, such as the massive hit “Bridesmaids” in 2011.
A few years later in 2014, Jimmy Kimmel hosted a week-long tapping of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which indicates how much the comedy scene had grown over the course of a decade. Kimmel had some lovely things to say about his experience, such as, “I love Austin. I really do. The people are friendly. The food is delicious. The cowboys here don’t wear UGGs like they do back in L.A. Here’s maybe the best thing about Austin: Everywhere you go, they offer you a beer—for free. I got offered beer in a clothing store.” Spot on, Jimmy.
Present Day SXSW Comedy
Nowadays, anyone with a wristband or SXSW Badge can check out SXSW Comedy. From March 10 to March 19 this year, laughter will be found in all corners of the city. Between live shows, broadcast tapings and podcast recordings, comedians are hustling to entertain thousands of attendees.
You’ll be able to find huge names in comedy production, such as Upright Citizens Brigade, Comedy Central, Earwolf and Above Average. Notable comedians are due to perform, including Bob Odenkirk, Bonnie McFarlane, Al Madrigal, Chris Hardwick, Doug Benson, Janeane Garofalo and Doug Stanhope.
Read more –> “How to Get the Most Out of SXSW Comedy 2017”
The Future of SXSW Comedy
Who really knows what’s in store for SXSW Comedy in the years ahead. What we all might be able to agree on is our universal love to laugh, connect and perceive ourselves and the world differently–because that’s what comedy allows. The way things are heading, we could see more live tapings of comedy specials, podcasts or even virtual reality comedy sets. If I had it my way, Steve Martin and Bill Murray would surprise us every year, though I guess then it wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Who’s your favorite comedian at SXSW Comedy this year?