ASF Hot Seat: Wink Planet

Wink Planet has spent the last couple of years producing full-length sketch shows. They made their festival debut at last year’s Austin Sketch Fest and followed it up with a coveted slot at Out of Bounds. Then they followed that up with sold out run of shows at ColdTowne Theater with Off The Wall.
The kids from Wink Planet including some made up members tell us about their process.

You’ve been together for over two years at this point. How has the creative process evolved for you?

Taylor Stewart: Early on we would come in to a meeting with scripts written and the shows would be just a series of unrelated sketches. Now we often come in with a basic idea and try to flesh it out more collaboratively. We’ve also made an effort to connect all the sketches and incorporate overarching themes.

Matt Vaught: We turn the pressure cooker up on ourselves in hopes to make each show better, tighter, and hopefully more funny than the last one. We’re gaining experience everyday and thats never a bad thing.

Jared Robertson: We’ll sit around pitching premises and riff on them until they are as picture-perfect as a baby’s bottom.

Steve Moore: I don’t think that’s how the phrase goes.

Jared: Regardless, we have been trying to be more aware of how people will experience the show as a whole instead of just working on a few sketches, smooshing them together, and then getting real boisterous because we’re “finished.”

Sanjay Rao: We’re more efficient too. We [Sanjay just stopped typing here.]

Steve: I keep saying Rube Goldberg Machine. I want a Wink Planet show to feel like a strange contraption that is continuously running from the moment the lights first go up and we drop the marble into the little slot where it knocks of the dominos. Then, when the show is over, you’ve had some laughs and the machine has made you some toast or something.

Matt: We haven’t made toast quite yet but we’re very close.

This is your second sketch fest? What were the highlights from your first year? Or did I fuck up? My google’s broken.

Matt: SKETCH FEST NUMERO DOS FOR THE WP! The first one was a blurrrrsville but seeing all the great shows and meeting the other performers, local and out of towners was the best. Just being “IN” Austin Sketch Fest in the 1st place was pretty freaking highlighty as well!

Taylor: Last year was so great. Seeing My Mans was a real eye-opening experience. I didn’t realize sketch could be natural and fun but also polished at the same time. Does that even make sense? No? What about time? Does time make sense to you? Time.

Jared: Last year, I had to change pants backstage when Tim Robinson was getting ready for his My Mans show. So he saw my jockeys. I wasn’t facing him, but I could feel his blue eyes on me. I didn’t hear him giggle playfully, so it must have been a silent playful giggle.

Steve: I got to see Jared take off his pants in front of a guy who was on SNL.

How did your group get together?

Taylor: Most of us met in sketch class at ColdTowne in early 2013. Former member Ashley Siebels made a video with Steve Moore where they were a couple of unscrupulous half-twins selling razor wire. After Ashley left for San Francisco we agreed that Steve was a good addition because he A) shared our comedic sensibility and B) he was committed enough to drive to a ranch in Georgetown to buy several pounds of dangerously sharp razor wire. That’s commitment you can’t find just anywhere.

Steve: Razor wire is expensive. If at all possible, write your sketches so that any necessary props can be constructed out of painted cardboard.

Taylor: This isn’t an answer to your question, but we have made a lot of really great props out of cardboard. For example, a man-sized wearable tank.

Matt: I wore that man-sized wearable tank made of cardboard and let me just tell you….engineers from engineer school couldn’t have made it any better. Also I second that we met at ColdTowne Theater. Austin, Texas Baby. If this looks like fun it is. They teach classes. Boom. Do it.

Who are your influences? Who are some of your favorite sketch comedy acts performing today?

Taylor: Like every sketch comedian, Mr. Show and SNL. I have a huge crush on Broad City. Locally, Vanessa Gonzalez is doing some of the best sketch I’ve ever seen.

Jared: Agreed! I really enjoyed the first season of The Birthday Boys too. I hate that their show was cancelled. I listen to a lot of Best Show too.

Steve: What they said. I also grew up watching Kids in the Hall when Comedy Central would play it for like two hours everyday. I remember not really getting it when I was younger but wanting to get it. I think that show somehow cemented the idea that sketch should be a little challenging, by which I mean it should confuse you the way the Chicken Lady confused a small towheaded boy from Ohio.

Matt: Jon Lovitz.

What makes you laugh the most?

Jared: Dumb stuff. Just like, really really impressively dumb stuff. I love when an exorbitant amount of effort is put into something very very stupid. Like the pyramids.

Taylor: My boyfriend and fellow Wink Planet cast member Jared Robertson and I will create these bizarre, nonsensical comedy universes that only we understand. Sometimes just the idea of putting them on stage in front of people will make us collapse into a laughterpile.

Steve: I find myself rewatching stuff with subtle, jokes based in human relationships, but I find myself laughing out loud at things that surprise me, like when someone suddenly projectile vomits without warning. I’m complex.

Matt: Watching a performer make a “Mistake” on stage and seeing them turn it into beautiful magic always blows my mind and makes me so happy. Also guys dressed as ladies and farts.

What’s the best thing about the Austin comedy scene?

Taylor: It’s growing fast and the talent pool is so deep. If you want to do a show and you’re really committed you can get stage time. I think people are doing exciting things here because there’s no red tape. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe how great this whole scene is!

Jared: Everything seems to be growing, so everyone is forced to work hard to keep up. Everybody’s getting funnier. Sketch is becoming more popular. New shows are popping up at different venues around town. There are people in the scene that moved to Austin specifically to take classes at ColdTowne, which makes me feel validated.

Steve: People in the Austin comedy scene are super open and friendly and genuinely excited to do funny, creative work.

Matt: It’s the people for sure! There are so many talented folks in this Muthaship we call home its ridiculousssss! That and the Freeeeedommm to do whatever the fuck you want to do on stage. It’s amazing.

Hoarp: Stage time is abundant, so it didn’t take long to get over what I call my “FEAR OF AUDIENCE.” At first, my “FEAR OF AUDIENCE” was hefty. Whenever I was on stage I would be stricken with what I call the “NERVY WIGGLES” (which were triggered by my “FEAR OF AUDIENCE”) until I left the stage. The more shows we did my “CONFIDENCE” increased as my “FEAR OF AUDIENCE” decreased until finally my “NERVY WIGGLES” were imperceptible.

Jared: GET OUTTA HERE HOARP, YOU’RE NOT IN WINK PLANET!

Do you have any fun “worst show” or “worst audience member” stories?

Matt: No. I dont. I want these “worst moment” stories but I don’t have any yet. I mean I’ve personally bombed and forgotten my lines occasionally but thats normal right?

Steve: Anything involving Ian Townsend.

Do you have any fun “best show” stories?

Taylor: In November we did a six week long mainstage run at ColdTowne with another sketch group, Off The Wall. I had never had the experience of running a sketch show multiple weeks in a row like that and we sold out almost every performance. It’s the shiniest trophy in my comedy trophy case. It takes up A LOT of room. I might need to move to a bigger house. Help. I can’t stop making trophies for myself. Seriously. Help. It’s expensive. I can’t pay my bills.
We also took part in sketch cover night at Spider House Ballroom last year and we decided to do the Vitameatavegamin sketch from I Love Lucy. I was obsessed with that show as a kid and trying to be even a tiny fraction as wonderful as Lucille Ball was intimidating. The whole thing went over really well and I got to see Ashley gallop across the room as Little Ricky with a tiny conga drum slung over her shoulder. Also, the “Vitameatavegamin” was straight Jagermeister, so I might be misremembering how great it went.

Matt: You Killed it. You’re remembering it correctly.

Steve: A lot of the time we’ll end up making a mess on stage as part of the last sketch in a show- it just happens organically. During the first night of that six week run, Matt discovered that Kraft Singles will stick to the wall when thrown, assuming of course they have been satisfactorily smooshed into a ball a gooey yellow ball of cheese chemicals. Comedy.

Matt: We’ve definitely had some memorable Wink Planet shows the past couple of years. I mentioned I was a singing cardboard tank once sooo… that’s up there for me personally. I’d say our best show is yet to come.

Jared: Ashley Siebels once ate a pound and a half of chocolate covered doughnuts during one 4-minute scene. That.

Taylor: We’ve been talking about Ashley a lot. Come back Ashley!

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What acts are you looking forward to at this year’s festival?

Taylor: I’m going to use my insider knowledge of the line-up and say that I’m in a show that Aly Dixon and Elizabeth Schantz wrote called 2girls1pup. They are new-ish to sketch and super weird and funny. My favorite combination.

Matt: I’m looking forward to all the groups from Chicago. New York. Cali. Austin. Boston. Phoenix. Not Ft. Lauderdale though. New Orleans yes. Seattle. Denver. Philly of course. Sorry Pensacola not you.

Share with us your tips for a job interview.

Jared: When they ask you your greatest weakness, tell them that you often underestimate your own abilities. And when they ask you where you see yourself in 5 years, mention that you have a trampoline and that anyone at the office will be allowed to come over and jump on it for as long as they want if you get the job.

Steve: Be confident and clearly convey that you want the job. Go ahead and tell them directly that they should hire you. So many people never actually ask for the job.

Taylor: Interviewer: Sell me this pen. [He hands you the pen].

You: Could you write down your name for me?

Interviewer: I don’t have a pen.

You: Exactly.

Then you murder everyone else that interviewed.

Matt: Brush your teeth and poop first. Make eye contact. Congrats on now being employed.

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What is your group looking forward to this year?

Matt: Filming more of our material is something we’ve been wanting to do for a bit so thats going to be pretty great. Also, performing in other sketch fests is a goal so hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to do so!

Jared: I’m doing a sketch show with a swath of funny people directed by Dave Buckman. We’re basically writing it through improv like the Second City puts their mainstage shows together. Everybody involved is fantastic.

Taylor: I’m just looking forward to spending more time with these weirdos and seeing what comes out of their beautiful heads.

Matt: We do all have beautiful heads.

Hoarp: We’ve also been making parody commercials for the Got Your Back podcast. Goddamn are they fun to make. We archive them here.

Jared: HOARP, GIT!!!! GIT, I SAY!!! GIT!!!

Wink Planet performs Tuesday, May 19th, 10pm at ColdTowne Theater along with AFL and the Chicago Hot Guy Sketch Show. TICKETS HERE.