With the retirement of STAG Comedy, Your Terrific Neighbors “officially” became the oldest “serving” non-Esther’s sketch comedy group in Austin. YTN is also now the only group to have performed at every Austin Sketch Fest. Curtis Luciani and Courtney Hopkins are two of the busiest comedic actors and writers in Austin, appearing in dozens of scripted and improvised productions each year.
In addition to YTN, you can see them both in performing in original plays. Curtis is currently in Subject to Control – a darkly comic take on cultish pseudoscience – at the Salvage Vanguard while Courtney can be seen in Paper Chairs’ Poor Herman at the Off Center through this weekend.
Now that you’ve succeeded in destroying STAG, Your Terrific Neighbors is officially Austin’s resident sketch group. How has the scene changed over the years?
Curtis Luciani: Every year, we see exciting young people doing their thing at Sketch Fest or otherwise. Then they move away to “chase their dreams” or “experience life” or whatever bullshit. Rinse and repeat. We’re not going anywhere, though. We are rooted to this soil and our ambitions in the wider world have withered.
Courtney Hopkin: I’m so tired.
How has your approach to the work changed over the years?
Courtney: We were just looking through our old sketches. There a lot of really classic sketch setups in there, like stuff we teach when we teach a sketch workshop. They were funny and surprising because a lot of what we write now is very inscrutable. A half page of three-times-removed mapping of Donald Trump’s presidential bid on to a medieval puppet show and then three pages of Gremlins references. I guess I’m saying we’re slipping.
You both are busy busy busy with a ton of projects – how do you choose and prioritize?
Curtis: Well, timelines and deadlines help. When in doubt, freak out about whatever’s happening next. Then freak out about the next thing.
Courtney: I’m so very tired.
What’s next for YTN? Individually/collectively?
Courtney: Trying desperately to prove we’re relevant. Or just offering advice to youngsters. I don’t know, really. We’ve done so many things, we’ve done so many shows where we’re like “we’re gonna take sketch comedy to a different level,” now we’re just like “aren’t simple jokes amazing?”
What do you have planned for Austin Sketch Fest this year?
Curtis: As usual, we’ve put together a show with a kind of amusing framework that ties all the sketches together. We’ve gone deep into the extensive Your Terrific Neighbors back pages and pulled out some weird stuff that makes us laugh.
What are you looking forward to at Sketch Fest?
Curtis: So glad that Girls with Brown Hair will be back! Their show made me laugh my guts out last year.
Courtney: I’m excited about Blade Brown and all the amazing one-woman shows we have scheduled.
Any favorite Sketch Fest Memories?
Courtney: Coming to terms with the fact that I might die in Spider House Ballroom during a tornado warning last year.
Curtis: That was a good one.
Who are your influences?
Courtney:I watched Danger Mouse religiously as a child. A few years ago I saw they had DVD sets for sale somewhere. I bought them and never opened them. About a month ago I was wishing I had cable so I could watch Saturday morning cartoons and I realized I had all these Danger Mouse DVDs. I put them in, and I had this weird tingling sensation all over. I was just sitting there with my mouth open thinking “this is why I am the way I am.”
Do you have any fun “worst show” or “worst audience member” stories?
Curtis: Christ. We did a run of a show a few years ago, and while we were super proud of it and mostly had great, responsive crowds, on one particular night we somehow ended up with an audience that was completely baffled by what they were watching. I’m talking, like, not a single laugh during the entire 50-minute show.
Courtney: It was an intense test of how much we really want to keep doing this.
Do you have any fun “best show” stories?
Courtney: We did the 24-hour sketch smackdown (or whatever it was called) a few years ago. The premise was you get 24 hours and some suggestions from the organizers to create a sketch show with. We wrote this intense golf sketch (based on the suggestion “golf buddies going nuts”) that was a tangled amazing web that dealt with gender privilege, wealth and status with some fucking great vaping jokes and … honestly I don’t know if we’ll ever do anything that good ever again.
What should people interested in comedy know that you didn’t know when you started?
Courtney: I’d say try not to be precious with your material. Fight for what you believe in but, really, if you want to maintain a healthy working relationship with the people you write with, you’ve got to learn to let shit go. You’ll be happier, I swear, with a beautiful supportive friendship than you will be clutching all your carefully controlled material in a dark corner somewhere.
We need to increase the visibility of this article. Any suggestions for a click-bait headline?
Curtis: Why Your Terrific Neighbors’ Austin Sketch Fest Show is The Perfect Antidote to the Patriarchy, And … (wait for it) … Why That’s Actually Bad for Feminism
You can catch Your Terrific Neighbors in performing Friday, May 27th at 10pm at Spiderhouse Ballroom, along with One Idiot and Martin Urbano. TICKETS HERE