ASF Hot Seat: Unsuspectingly Sponsored By


Where did the idea for Unsuspectingly Sponsored By come from?
Erik Horn: For me it really came out of years of being frustrated by different clients. I always want to make the best and funniest thing I can for every client that walks in the door, but sometimes they just want a “mini-documentary” or an “infographic animation” – basically not funny stuff… I hear “no” a lot in my job – and after doing my improv training it was so refreshing to only hear “yes” on stage. We joked one day at the office (Brad Parret and I are Creative Directors at Arts+Labor) that we should just produce one of our ideas that had been rejected for a particular client without them knowing about it – and the idea of the “Unsuspecting Sponsor” was born. Brad coined “Non-consensual advertising” and I think that sums it up really well.

I thought it would be a good format for a sketch show. I’ve always liked the SNL commercial sketches more than anything else, and thought a show of just fake commercials would be really funny. I pitched the idea to John, Andy, Joe and Robert and they liked it. We did our first show at Moontower last year for P. Terry’s and it was a blast.

Do you guys have a dream client?

Erik : It’s fun because when we do the show we only pitch it to dream clients. Because the unsuspecting sponsor doesn’t pay for anything we produce it’s hard for them to say no – and then we have ultimate freedom. This isn’t supposed to be mean spirited at all – so we’re only picking brands that we really like and want to work with anyway – hence P. Terry’s – Hops and Grain – and upcoming Good Pops. Since meeting Josh at Hops and Grain I’ve turned into even more of a total beer nerd, even home brewing my own and frequenting the brewery tours for “inspiration” for the show.

But I would love to do one in the future though where the Sponsor literally has NO idea we’re doing it. For a really big brand like Coke or Honda. That would be fun – but hard to get them on stage.

What’s your writing process like?

Andy Smith: It usually involves us eating and/or drinking somewhere and just making jokes and either trying to top each other or just add onto someone else’s joke or idea. There’s a lot of laughing and is always a good time.

Erik: It’s very similar to how I write for work actually. We whiteboard ideas in the conference room at Arts+Labor and brainstorm – it’s just later at night and with more beer.

You guys won the Sketch Fest 24 sketch challenge. How was that?

Erik: That was totally unexpected and fun. We did something more like our improv material (we’re all in a brand spanking new troupe called Car Chase that will premiere at ColdTowne in June). It was super meta and involved time travel and a lot of video sketches. It was a great experience and humbling to be among a bunch of great sketch troupes that we’ve seen at OOB, Sketch Fest and around town. Your Terrific Neighbors actually put on my favorite set of the night – they were totally robbed.

What are you looking forward to at Austin Sketch Fest?

Andy: Hopefully being done with all of our preparation for our show so we can enjoy seeing some of the out of town troupes, watching local favorites and hanging out with everyone afterwards. And, of course, Superego and Paul F. Tompkins.

Erik: I’m sincerely hoping we’ll wrap up all of our videos before the fest starts so I can enjoy all of it. But I think I may turn into a squealing fan boy when SuperEgo and P.F.T. takes the stage. I haven’t been so into a sketch troupe since The State. I quote them all the time around the office and confuse everyone.

John Gross: Superego once made an Ellen Cleghorne joke that made me weep with laughter.

What can we expect from your ASF show?

Erik: Free beer! Everyone in the audience gets one free Hops and Grain. I‘’s part of the show.

John: Unless you’re a cop. And if you are you have to tell us. It’s the law.

Erik: We’re working on some spots for HG that I’m really excited about but can’t talk about. My favorite part of the show is watching the client’s first initial reaction to our mockery of their life’s work. It’s super fun and all in good sport. I think they’ll actually end up using some of these for real.

Unsuspectingly Sponsored By performs Sunday May 26th at 8pm along with Old Fashioned and Kat Ramzinski.