ASF Hot Seat

ASF Hot Seat: Vanessa Gonzalez

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Vanessa Gonzalez is pure comedy gold – notable for her sketch, improv, AND stand-up chops. But she’s made perhaps the biggest splash with her series of one-person sketch shows “I Don’t Know Words,” “I Don’t Know Dating,” and now, “I Don’t Know Why You’re Saying That.”
In the last few years she’s taken her shows on the road including multiple stops the prestigious San Francisco Sketchfest.

This is your third year at Austin Sketch Fest. How has the comedy scene here changed since then?

Vanessa Gonzalez: The Austin comedy scene has grown so much in the past 3 years! There are so many more shows going on every week. There’s a big improv/stand-up/sketch crossover, and it seems like the community is coming together more to showcase each other. It’s so great.

Your one-person shows have been getting some great national attention – but you seem pretty committed to sticking around Austin. What’s the attraction?

Vanessa: I love Austin so much. Out of all the places I’ve traveled, Austin definitely has some of the funniest people in the country living here. The comedy scene here is so good, hard-working, and determined and it pushes me to want to be better and better. Also, my best friends and family live here or near here and that’s a huge plus! Also, breakfast tacos!

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Tell us about your new show pretty please.

Vanessa: I wanted to do something different with my latest show, “I Don’t Know Why You’re Saying That.” It’s more of a traditional autobiographical one-person show. No sketches or costumes, just me talking. When I was writing it, the thought of performing it really intimidated me because it required me to be really honest and vulnerable but I really wanted to see if I could do it. I’ve been having a lot of fun performing it so far.

It seems like you started a tiny avalanche of solo sketch acts in town (that’s my premise and I’m sticking to it). What should people doing solo shows keep in mind during the creative process?

Vanessa: I think it so awesome that more people are doing solo shows in Austin. There are so many powerhouses here. I’d say just stay true to your voice and what you think is funny. Have some truth in your show, and don’t be afraid to show your real self.

Who are your influences?

Vanessa: I love love love John Leguizamo. I’ve followed his one man shows and career since I was in 6th grade. I got to see him live at The Paramount a few years ago and that definitely blew my mind. There’s so much production and precision in his performances. It’s so inspiring to watch. Ithamar Enriquez and Girls with Brown Hair are also some of my favorites to watch live.

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

Vanessa: Last year at FunFunFunFest, Tig Notaro’s flight got canceled so she had to miss her show, so they asked me and Micheal Foulk to fill in for her. It wasn’t a bad show but it was definitely terrifying to tell a tent full of a hundred plus people, waiting to see Tig Notaro, that Micheal Foulk and I aren’t Tig Notaro.

Do you have any fun “best show” stories?

Vanessa: My sketch group Bad Example got Kevin McDonald from “Kids in the Hall” to be in one of our shows. It was so surreal to get to perform with him! The whole cast had this electric energy and we had such a killer show.

Vanessa Gonzalez on stage at Austin Sketch Fest 2K15. Photos by Steve Rogers.

What shows are you looking forward to at this year’s fest?

Vanessa: Girls with Brown Hair and Your Terrific Neighbors!

Got any advice to someone starting out in live comedy?

Vanessa: Don’t wait to be asked to do shows. Take the initiative, network, and get yourself stage time wherever you can.

What else – comedy wise – are you looking forward to this year?

Vanessa: I’m looking forward to doing more stand-up, writing, and going on the road with my comedy partner in crime, Micheal Foulk! You can catch “This is HANDBOMB” every Tuesday @ 8pm at The New Movement.

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

Vanessa: This girl thought that she was getting breakfast tacos but what she got you won’t believe!


You can catch Vanessa’s show “I Don’t Know Why You’re Saying That” Friday May 27th, at 9pm along with Abby Rosenquist and ASF headlining group Newphew, at the Spiderhouse Ballroom. GET TICKETS HERE.

ASF Hot Seat: The Hustle Show

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For the last three years and change, The Hustle Show – a monthly comedy variety show featuring sketch, stand-up, games, and other mayhem – has been holding down the second Thursday at 10:00pm slot at ColdTowne Theater. Built from a motley crew of improvisers, stand-ups and sketch comedians, the cast of the Hustle show has always been a “Who’s Who” of Austin comedy.
This year’s Austin Sketch Fest will be their fourth appearance. We spoke to show producer David Jara about the ins and outs of keeping a lovable cast of misfits together.

You guys have been at it, every month, for the last three years and change. How do you keep a marriage like that exciting?

David Jara: It helps when there are seven other people in your marriage. (And that’s true in any walk of life WINK) Having such a large and diverse group helps take the pressure off any one person, and pressure is something we strive to avoid when putting this show together. The Hustle Show is our excuse to get together, have a few drinks, and put on a fun show. If we accomplish those things, everything else is profit.

What have been the highs? The lows?

David: I truly believe The Hustle Show is currently in its “high” period, and it came as a direct result of our “low” period. We had a stretch last year where (co-founder) Mac Blake had just left the show, and we were having a bit of an identity crisis, and attendance was starting to dip, and you could tell that all of this was starting to take its toll on the group. But then we took a step back and thought, “Why are we getting stressed out about this?” And that, in a weird way, became our identity – to do the show for ourselves. If we don’t enjoy the process of producing and performing this show, then we’re doing it wrong. I really feel like we’ve hit our stride with our recent shows as a result, and that’s a neat feeling.

The Hustle Show just went to the NYC Sketch Festival. Who was the biggest pain in the ass to travel with? 

David: Unfortunately I wasn’t able to travel with the rest of the group, so I’ll just give the predictable answer and say the most difficult person to travel with was Curtis “The Dapper Diva” Luciani.

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

David: I’ll tell you who is really influential these days – the Austin sketch comedy community. Hell, look at this festival. To look at how much it has grown, and all of the great Austin acts this town is churning out. STAG Comedy is great, Bad Example is great, Vanessa Gonzalez – Vanessa effing Gonzalez! If you can watch Vanessa Gonzalez perform and not immediately feel motivated, I don’t know what to tell you.

What does David Jara do to kick back and chillax?

David: Sleep.

Can we join you?

David: Fuck no, you creep.

What makes you laugh the most?

David: Those times in Married With Children when Al would fall off the roof and it was clearly a dummy. I feel like that’s pretty much my comedy philosophy in a nutshell.

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

David: You don’t have to lie about it. It’s genuinely good! I could pick any night of the week and I know there are going to be several shows happening that I’d consider dependably funny. There aren’t many other cities with a batting average as high as ours.

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

David: We’ve had people bring a baby to our show, and recently someone brought a tiny little dog that was terrified of everything. You might think having a baby or frightened dog in the audience would cause us to decrease the level of yelling or smashing we do in our shows, but you would be wrong, my man.

Do you have any fun “best show” stories?

David: This is kind of a cop-out answer, but every sketch that works is a “best show” story. We write sketches because they made us laugh in the writers’ room, but we’ve also been doing this long enough to know there are no guarantees when it comes to audiences. So, when you have zero expectations for a sketch and the audience eats it up, it’s the best feeling. You know that part in The Incredibles where Dash realizes he can run on water? Yeah, it’s like that.

What are you looking forward to at this year’s Sketch Fest?

David: I’m excited to see all of the local groups put their best foot forward and put on their best shows. It’s a really fun weekend to be a fan of Austin sketch comedy, and I’m looking forward to enjoying it.

Share with us your tips for a job interview.

David: After every question, pretend you’re not happy with your answer and angrily mutter, “Man, I really wanted this job!”

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

David: What The Cast Of The Hustle Show Has To Say About The Heaven’s Gate Cult Will Make You Sick. (Please don’t delete your question about the Heaven’s Gate cult or else this won’t make any sense.)

The Hustle Show performs at Austin Sketch Fest on Tuesday, May 19th at 8:30pm at ColdTowne Theater. TICKETS HERE.