Austin Comedy 2015: Joe Versus the Tornado

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by Mac BlakePhotos by Steve Rogers

Joe Wengert’s show during Austin Sketch Fest, “Stages of Adulthood”, was the funniest show I saw in Austin this year. The Kroll Show writer and performer lovingly brought to life an assembly of characters representing a parade of struggle. My favorite was the constantly about-to-cry CEO of Ross Dress for Less, giving a speech to his assembled store managers that included advice on what to do about packs of feral dogs that roamed the stores. Each character was introduced by the “real” Joe Wengert, played by Holly Prazoff.

The memorable show was made more notable by what was going on outside the cozy confines of the Spider House Ballroom. A massive storm. One of many that weekend which would culminate in Austin’s Memorial Day Flood.

Moments before the show was supposed to start, most of the audience’s phones erupted with National Weather Service alerts. I asked Wengert and Prazoff what they remembered about the night

Holly Prazoff: All the sudden everyone’s iPhone went off because there was a tornado warning. I was like ‘should we cancel the show?’ I remember that Joe went out first and was on stage performing when I was alone backstage. I was really starting to panic. The wind was so loud. Next thing I know I was up. I jumped on the stage and just went with it. Then all the sudden the power went out.

Joe Wengert: I was really impressed with how she improvised and handled the situation.

Holly: It was lucky because I was hosting so I could straight up call it out. I remember saying something like, “well if we all die here tonight we will go out laughing.”

Joe: I addressed the storm when I got out on stage and then just tried to put it out of my mind and barrel through. The most surprising part of the whole thing was how calm the audience remained. They were a great crowd and everyone stayed put.

Holly: I could not believe how much fun the show was. It felt like we were all on this crazy adventure. The power came back very quickly and we had such a fun time doing the show. It was a show to remember.

Holly Prazoff as Joe

The green room is not as insulated as the main show area, so as someone watching the show I had no idea how bad the storm was. I remember leaving the theater later to go to the ASF afterparty and being shocked at how much structural damage had occurred during the show. Trees knocked over, power lines down, most of the Hyde Park neighborhood was without power––a small tornado had touched down in North Austin.

The show, which also featured a killer set from NYC’s Bullshit Women, was so funny it already felt like a comedy miracle––that the show went on relatively unfazed by severe weather, made it seem like an actual one.

Joe: I am advertising future performances of the show as “the show audiences prefer to being outside in a tornado.”

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Mac Blake is an accomplished stand-up, a frequent performer at ColdTowne Theater, and one of the producers of Austin Sketch Fest.