Austin Comedy

ASF Hot Seat: Bryan Gutmann and Brendan K. O'Grady!

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Bryan Gutmann’s brand of laid back absurdism has been a force in the Austin stand up scene for close to a decade. He’s appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and at the Moontower Comedy Festival, not to mention at the prestigious New Faces showcase during the 2011 installment of the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.
Bryan is teaming up with the (relatively speaking) new kids on the block, Sure Thing Records to record his debut album during Austin Sketch Fest. Duncan Carson and Brendan K. O’Grady co-host the hit weekly Sure Thing live show at Austin Java. Last year, they released their first album as a record label.

We digitally sat down with Bryan Gutmann and Sure Thing’s Brendan K. O’Grady to talk some shop.

What made you decide to go with Sure Thing?

Bryan Gutmann: I was originally going to sign with RCA. Steve (Lillywhite) and I were really excited about some different ideas we had for the record. But, after a few conversations, it turned out that this was going to cost me a couple million dollars to pull off. Also, I don’t think that guy was Steve Lillywhite.

I’ve thought about recording an album for a while now. I have actually made a couple half-baked attempts at cobbling one together myself before, but it never played out the way I wanted. When Brendon and Duncan told me about their label and the ideas they had for it, it just made sense.

Stand-up! At a Sketch Festival! That’s insane, right?

Brendan K. O’Grady: It sure is. We’re all about pushing the limits of your fragile illusion of sanity with humorous mind-bombs. That’s why we booked Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, The Faceless God and Stalker Among the Stars as Bryan’s opener. Oh, and I think Eric Krug might do some time as well.

What kind of prep work are you doing to prepare for the recording?

Bryan: As many rap battles as possible.

Brendan, your record label Sure Thing is releasing albums from a ton of local talent — including festival producer Mac Blake. Is this nepotism?

Brendan:  In the case of Mac, I’d have to say “yes.” But that’s ONLY because we’re also sleeping together.

This stupid town is lousy with comedy – stand up, sketch, improv and probably something else weird that people are into. Gimme a unified field theory of what makes something funny.

Bryan: I’m really not sure that I know. Even just focusing on the stand-up comics in town, they’re all so different from each other. I guess the one thing they all have, that also makes them great, is that they’re trying to be themselves. The comics I love watching are really trying to bring what they think is funny to the stage. You do walk away getting some sort of idea about who they are.

Brendan: Kenneth Burke wrote that humans seek for vocabularies that are reflections, selections, and ultimately deflections of reality. I think that “funny” is what happens when our deflections of reality manage to provide the clearest reflections of the human experience. And anything with Melissa McCarthy is funny.

Duncan Carson and Brendan K. O'Grady from Sure Thing Records

Why keep it local, with the focus on home-grown talent? Why not just pick up and move to LA? Why Austin?

Brendan: The simple answer to a very complicated question is: Because AUSTIN, man! We just love it here, and we truly believe that the ceiling for talent here is as high as anywhere else in the country. We founded SURE THING RECORDS because we know that there are so many great comics in Austin who truly deserve to have their comedy find a larger audience.

We know that so many people still think comedy must not be very good if it’s not in New York or Los Angeles, and that’s just crazy. As the industry continues to change in the era of new media, the models for how comedians can go about pursuing their goals are changing too. We’re here to help great comics do the things that they want to do, to help create a bigger platform for Austin comedy, and ultimately to support other great independent comedy scenes all over the country.

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

Bryan: It’s definitely changed over the years. When I started really taking in as much comedy as I could it was Jim Gaffigan, Mitch Hedberg, Dave Attell. Those guys are all obviously still legends, but you just start discovering what seems to be an endless list of great comedians. Maria Bamford, Todd Glass, Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron. A current big influence for me is Paul F. Tompkins. Few people can make me laugh like that guy can, and it’s really inspiring to see someone who can be funny in so many different ways.

Brendan: New Orleans is actually home to several of my favorites right now: “Rude.” is the brainchild of Colleen Allerton and Lauren LaBorde, and they’re always doing really funny, insightful stuff. Stupid Time Machine is like a NOLA sketch super-group. And I don’t think anybody works harder than the guys behind “Massive Fraud”, Andrew Polk and Joe Cardosi, who blend sketch and stand-up in a series of extremely popular shows. They’re absolutely killing it right now.

What makes you laugh the most?

Bryan: Mitch Hedberg was the first comedian I ever saw live, and I’m not sure that I’ve laughed harder at something since then. The night is now just a blurred memory of me almost falling out of my chair. Also, episode #338 of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast is the most recent thing to have me pounding the table with laughter. That’s something I’m really grateful for – comedy podcasts.

What’s the best thing about the comedy scene in your city?

Bryan: It’s a really supportive town. Everyone is just so on board with the idea of being original and creative and always moving forward. Comics in Austin are genuinely excited to see the new person go on stage and be really, really funny.

Brendan: By far the best part of being a comedian in Austin is how wonderful our audiences are. We have such a great number of locals who actively seek out live comedy, consistently attend shows, are enthusiastic about a wide variety of kind of comedy styles, and spread positive word of mouth about the scene. As comedians, we’re incredibly spoiled here compared to most other cities.

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

Bryan: They’re all so fun I wouldn’t even know which worst moment to pick. But it probably happened in San Antonio.

Do you have any fun “best show” stories?

Bryan: Taping a set for “Live at Gotham” (an old show on Comedy Central) was a really great experience. It was just a combination of doing stand-up in New York City, for television, on a comedy channel that I grew up watching. All things that I was also doing for the first time. And the set even went well. It was just an all around really memorable time. So as far as “best show” stories, it was probably that or the show I did in a pizza parlor last week.

Share with us your tips for a job interview.

Bryan: Don’t show your teeth, it’s a sign of aggression.

Brendan: Confidence, baby. It’s one thing to project strength, but I suggest taking the extra step of breaking down, or “negging”, your interviewer. Try something like, “That’s nice tie. It would really look good on somebody with better bone structure.” And when that doesn’t work, grovel.

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

Bryan: The Top 8 Shoes You Didn’t Know Were Racist. (even we can’t believe number 6!)

Brendan: Just change all of the proper nouns to “Hannibal Buress.” You’ll be fine.

Bryan Gutmann records his debut album for Sure Thing Records at Austin Sketch Fest on Sunday, May 24th at 7pm at the Spider House Ballroom. TICKETS HERE

ASF Hot Seat: Girls With Brown Hair

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One of the great things about producing a comedy festival are those times you’re pleasantly surprised by someone you’ve never heard of. Girls With Brown Hair surprised the hell out of us last year. Hell, they straight up sucker punched us with how hilarious they were. Several of the producers stopped watching the tape, just so wouldn’t spoil the rest of the show.
Girls With Brown Hair – Becky Chicoine and Sam Reece – hail from New York City’s UCB theatre. Their last show, WOMANTOWN, toured around the country appearing in Austin Sketch Fest, Chicago Fringe Festival, New York City Sketch Fest, Jangleheart Circus in Chicago, Upright Citizens Brigade Los Angeles and the Philadelphia Improv Theatre. They are bringing their new show, Through the Back Door!, to this year’s Austin Sketch Fest.

Girls With Brown Hair play the Austin Sketch Fest Thursday, May 21st at 8pm at the Spider House Ballroom with Rachel and Dave.  TICKETS HERE.

We’re super excited that you chose to come back. We know why we’re excited, but why on Earth would you want to come back to this place? 
We had the best time last year! The audiences were so great to perform for and everyone at the festival was so supportive. Also we’re excited to eat tacos for every meal again.

Okay, catch up time. It’s been a year since last we saw each other. What have you two been up to? 
Oh so many things! We finished up our run of WOMANTOWN at UCB and took it to UCB LA, then toured a few other cities with it like Chicago and Philly. Then we were chosen to be featured in a Nikon campaign together which was super crazy #iamgenerationimage. And we just started another run at UCB with our brand new show, Through the Back Door!

What can audiences look forward to in the new show? 
Butt stuff. No but seriously, a ton of butt stuff. And original music. But mostly butt stuff.

This is your second sketch fest? What were the highlights from your first year? 
We set a goal to eat tacos for every meal and we achieved that goal very easily. Also the biggest highlight for us was My Mans. Their show blew our minds. 

How did your group get together?
We were both interns at The Upright Citizens Brigade a few years ago and we decided to perform together in the Intern Showcase. It was love at first sight and we’ve been married ever since. 

Who are your influences? Who are some of your favorite sketch comedy acts performing today? 
Our biggest influences come from a few places. Musical theater is a big one since a lot of our material is very musical. We’re also very influenced by dads. We love dads. Mustaches. Beers. Joy. Our favorite sketch comedy acts are definitely Key & Peele and The Kroll Show. We love playing characters and these are both amazing character shows. 

What makes you laugh the most? 
Honestly? Each other.

What’s the best thing about the comedy scene in your city? 
The comedy scene in New York is insane and weird and awesome. The indie shows are ridiculous and so much fun. The community is overall very supportive and it’s exciting to see all the videos and shows our friends are producing.

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Do you have any fun “worst show” stories? 
We did a show at this one theater that both of us dislike and think is cursed by witches. Within the first 10 seconds of our performance, Sam accidentally blurted out the punchline to the first sketch and from there everything went to shit. We couldn’t stop laughing and no one knew what was going on. 

Do you have any fun “best show” stories? 
Performing WOMANTOWN in Austin last year was exceptional. The audience was extremely supportive and every line got a great laugh. There were a few women in the front row that were crying laughing. We hugged them after and now we’re actually friends with one of them who lives in NYC!!

What are you looking forward to while visiting Austin? Any acts you’re looking forward to at this year’s festival? 
Good Neighbor stuff! We’ve been such a huge fan of their web videos and can’t wait to see them live.

Share with us your tips for a job interview. 
Don’t smile, talk a LOT about your personal opinion on birth control, and end every sentence with “thanks Obama.”

We need to increase the visibility of this article. Any suggestions for a click-bait headline? 
Live nudes! Becky and Sam take their tops off for comedy!

What else – comedy wise – is your group looking forward to this year? We’re planning on filming a lot more videos, working on our pilot and eating more salads.

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Festival Lineup! More Early Bird Passes!

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Memorial Day Weekend is fast approaching, and that means that the 4th annual Austin Sketch Fest is only three months away. We’ve got some more lineup announcements to make, and we’re not going to lie: we’re pretty pumped about these shows.
We’ve already announced our headliners, Superego (w/ special guest Paul F. Tompkins). We’re also excited to be bringing down Ennis & Kaye, Matt Kaye and John Ennis’s (Mr. Show writer/performer) sketch project.

Joining us from NYC is Beige, a UCB Maude Team. (see Video). From Portland, comes self-help guru Lance Life, who’s one man Ted Talk-inspired lectures will change your life.

The Austin Sketch Festival raison d’etre is to bring together the very best of the Austin comedy community. Master PancakeYour Terrific NeighborsStag ComedyTastemakersEvery Girl’s AnnualUnsuspectingly Sponsored ByLaugh DammitAustin Comedy Hour, An Historic Evening w/ Brendan K. ‘Grady and the Hustle Show will all be featured.

As confirmations roll in, we’ll have even more out of town guests and locals to announce. In the meantime, we’re releasing a second round of discounted Early Bird Passes good for all shows (PURCHASE THEM HERE). The first round sold out in minutes, so jump on this!

The Festival will take place at the Spider House Ballroom and at ColdTowne Theater. The full schedule and tickets for individual shows will be released soon.

The Austin Sketch Fest is produced by ColdTowne Theater, Austin’s home for live comedy, featuring more sketch, improv and stand up per square foot than any other venue in Texas.

SUPEREGO w/ Paul F. Tompkins Headlines Austin Sketch Fest!

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Austin comedy fans! We are excited to announce that our favorite podcast, SUPEREGO, will be headlining the Austin Sketch Fest this Memorial Day weekend w/ special guest Paul F. Tompkins!
We’re still working booking acts and completing the schedule for the Festival, which will take place Memorial Day Weekend. In the meantime, there are a limited number of early-bird all access FESTIVAL PASSES available that include tickets to the SUPEREGO show. Get them here.

If you’re interested coming to Austin to perform for the 2013 Austin Sketch Fest over Memorial Day Weekend – May 22nd through May 27th – follow this link. Deadline is February 1st ($15 payable via Paypal). If you have any questions, you can email us at info@atxsketchfest.com.

SUPEREGO began in 2006 when Matt Gourley and Jeremy Carter finally decided to record some of the stupid things they’d been saying. Luckily, Podcasts were just starting to emerge as an obscure form of media that no one was listening to. They remained patient and kept recording what would become the Superego Podcast: a collection of improvised, character-based sketches presented through the loose psychological framework of analytical Pscience™. Soon after, Mark McConville officially joined the staff as well as resident video specialist Jeff Crocker. Since then, they’ve steadily garnered over a million downloads, been featured on the iTunes main podcast page, and welcomed such guests as Patton Oswalt, Jason Sudeikis, John Hodgman, Andy Daly, Drew Carey. Superego: Profiles In Self-Obsession!

2013 Submissions Are Live!

2012 was an exciting year for Austin Comedy that saw an explosion new of sketch, scripted comedy, short films and video sketches. The Austin Sketch Fest’s goal is to bring comedians from all over central Texas and the world together and to showcase the explosive and diverse growth of the Austin Comedy scene.
Last year, the ATX Sketch Fest grew by leaps and bounds. We brought in Paul F. Tompkins and expanded to three venues all over Austin. This year, we’re going even bigger. We’re interested in seeing your live scripted comedy shows — from sketch ensembles to one-man storytelling shows, weird conceptual game shows and everything in between.

If you’re interested in coming to Austin for the 2013 Austin Sketch Fest over Memorial Day Weekend – May 22nd through May 27th – FOLLOW THIS LINK. Early Registration Deadline is January 1st ($10 payable via Paypal). Late deadline is February 1st ($15 payable via Paypal). If you have any questions, you can email us at info@atxsketchfest.com.