ASF Hot Seat: Victrola!

Victrola! is an improvised sketch comedy podcast lovingly piloted by ColdTowne Theater’s Michael Jastroch. In the past 12 months, Victrola ha racked up some glowing reviews and made a live appearance at the Dallas Comedy Festival, and now this homegrown podcast will record an episode live at Austin Sketch Fest. We asked Michael Jastroch some questions ANDGETTHIS, he answered them.

How did the podcast get started?

Michael Jastroch: About six years ago a bunch of us, including Bryan Roberts, Josh Krilov and I road tripped to do a sketch show and some workshops in Oklahoma City. We pretended to prank call each other for the entire seven hour car ride. Without the audience pressure being there, the improv bits were pure magic. Almost ready to just script out and perform. More importantly, we were doubled over in laughter the entire car ride. We started getting together and recording bits – but nothing ever came of them (other than some good times).

As someone who has always been drawn to improv and sketch, and who had been focused on doing live shows for almost a decade, there wasn’t actually much of a record of any of the work I’d done, aside for a small handful of things here and there. I’d been looking for a format that could capture what I loved most about live comedy – amazing jokes and the infectious energy of collaboration – and actually be something I could share with people.

And then my friend Matt Callan introduced me to the podcast Superego. I loved the format and the execution, plus it seemed like something I could actually do despite my limited technical ability. After putting so much effort into teaching and directing other people’s stuff, I really wanted to stop making excuses and just get something done that I was proud of that could last past the 30 minutes I was on stage.

So basically, I ripped off Superego – although they are not the first people to develop sketch through improv. Improvised audio bits have existed for a long long time, so I felt like my theft wasn’t too egregious.

I culled together $300 worth of recording equipment, invited some of my favorite people into the cast and got cranking.

How does an episode of Victrola come together?

Michael: Every Monday night, the cast gets together and riffs for about an hour or so. We usually go on for anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes per segment. After that I – or Dalton Allen, the Assistant Editor – cuts it down to the best 3-7 minute sketch and then adds sound effects.

Basically, the recording process is kept as informal as I can keep it, so the performances have an off the cuff feeling to them, as if they’re being performed live. That’s an energy you can’t fake, so if it’s too directed, the comedy won’t translate.

I can sometimes tell in the room whether or not the thing will ever see the light of day, but not always. Sometimes, we’re having a blast making each other laugh and then I listen to the raw recordings and it’s not actually funny. Sometimes, something that feels really boring in the room has enough gems to make it worth cutting. So I have to listen to everything.

I could probably get away with just releasing the full recordings, but there are too many podcasts where people just riff. I love being able to craft an episode for maximum laughs. My goal is to cut away anything that’s just “kinda funny” and leave the explosively funny moments.

Also, every episode, if you listen carefully, you can hear my dog barking, ‘cause she hates that there are people over.

Lance Gilstrap, David Jara, and Jericho Thorp lay some jokes on wax during a Victrola recording session.
Lance Gilstrap, David Jara, and Jericho Thorp lay some jokes on wax during a Victrola recording session.

Any favorite segments?

Michael: Yes! From season 1, Mac Blake and David Jara (separately) guested on the podcast and both of their sessions were home runs. As in, I could use literally every segment we recorded. From those, “Jurassic World” and “Mr. Peter’s the Bus Driver” stand out. You can hear them on Season 1 greatest hits.

Recently, “Jellystone Park Family Campground” took some amazing bizarre turns.

And of course, my all-time favorite from the very first episode, “The Trouble With Scrum.” It’s the first thing I edited, before I was jaded. It’s pitch perfect and features my two favorite Austin Comedy performers – Bryan Roberts and Bob McNichol – who, if there were any justice, would be in everything ever. Victrola’s lucky to have them on exclusive retainer.

Do you have a dream contributor to the show?

Michael: Any member of Superego, of course. And a million improv crushes that I have that most people don’t know. I’m self conscious and don’t like to put people out, so when an opportunity like that comes up, my first reaction is, “I don’t want to bother them with my stupid thing. I’m stupid. I should probably see what’s on TV.”

What can people expect from the live show?

Michael: We’ll have a set list of old favorites and new premises and we’ll riff around em into microphones while doing SFX from the stage! Special guests! And plenty of phone call sound effects!

We need to increase the visibility of this article. Any suggestions for a click-bait headline?

Michael: Seven ways local podcast rips off superego. You won’t believe number 5!

Victrola! Live Podcast recording kicks off our Saturday shows at 7pm, on Saturday, May 28th, at Spiderhouse Ballroom.