Hot Seat 2014

ASF Hot Seat: Everyone's Favorite Game Show

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Our closing night is going to be hella fun. Starting off the Sunday Sketch Fest line-up is Everyone’s Favorite Game Show, a live comedy game show from New York City’s UCB Theater. Three contestants battle it out for a grand prize of twenty american dollars. One of the contestants is drawn from the audience each night, so if you think you have what it takes, put your name in the bucket. The show’s host and ringmaster Ryan Simmons gave us some more info.
Where did the desire to do a live game show come from?

Ryan Simmons: At the UCB in New York, they are always encouraging us to create and work on as much original stuff as we can on our own. I wanted to start an original show that had something special about it, and for a very long time I was coming up empty. Then I realized I’ve always been a huge fan of game shows, and I was obsessed with them as a kid. So doing a real game show with actual trivia questions but some sort of comedy element seemed fun and an opportunity to try something new.

You pick a contestant from the audience each show. Ever get any weirdos?

Ryan: Most of the time, the guest contestants have just happened to be other comedian friends of ours, so they’ve been relatively friendly. We’ve had a few strangers, but we haven’t had any weirdos. But even the most docile person becomes a competitive monster when their actual mental prowess comes into question, so the game can get pretty heated!

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There’s a clip from your show where you had contestants whisper some strong profanity to your actual mom. She seemed like an amazing sport. What did she say after the show?

Ryan: She didn’t know anything about what we were going to put her through until the moment it was revealed on stage. After the show she actually came out and had a beer with us and was just happy to be a part of the show!

What can we expect from your ASF show?

Ryan: You can basically expect a lot of insane characters that just constantly come in to interrupt or otherwise ruin a straight-laced game show… You never know who is going to show up or how our planned guests will sabotage everything.

What are you looking forward to about the Fest?

Ryan: Sticking it to the dean at the local university! And the BBQ. And getting to know all the cool and supportive comedians here in the liberal heart of Texas!

Everyone’s Favorite Game Show kicks off our closing night, Sunday May 25th, 8:30pm at Spider House Ballroom. Tickets here.

ASF Hot Seat: Rabbit Rabbit

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Chicago’s Rabbit Rabbit came to Austin Sketch Fest last year and blew us away. Fast, inventive, and so very funny, their show was easily one of the most talked about at the Fest. That’s why we were so delighted to have the duo of Andrew Bentley and Chris Blake back this year.
How did Rabbit Rabbit come together?

Andrew Bentley: We started as a four-man group in college, back in 2007. Chris and I discovered our mutual love of sketch in one of our acting classes, and since our program didn’t really have an outlet for that we grabbed two other performers and made our own.

Chris Blake: We enjoyed working together and so we decided to move from Virginia to Chicago to really pursue it, and that’s when it became just the two of us.

You guys killed it at last year’s fest. What made you want to come back for a second straight ASF?

Andrew: Thank you for saying so! We had an incredible time last year. A lot of festivals we do can be kind of perfunctory- show up, do sketches, go home- but ASF had such a sense of hospitality and collaboration. The audiences were great, the venues were great and the other performers were great.

Chris: Oh first and foremost going back to Austin, which is a fantastic city to visit. The festival itself is our favorite one we’ve done, because of the support from patrons and the other performers. Just a wonderful group of people doing comedy. What more can you ask for? Tubing… you also have tubing.

Andrew: And sunlight. Wonderful sunlight.

You guys are so rapid-fire, and it’s just the two of you. Are you exhausted after shows?

Chris: I think if we were not breathing heavy and sweating (some more than others) we would not be happy with the result of the show we just performed. We pride ourselves in making sure every bit of energy, both physical and mental, explodes on stage.

Andrew: When we get off stage we’re usually riding a sort of adrenalin high. The exhaustion comes later, when we’re counting how many bruises we got from falling over the scenery this time.

What’s your writing process like?

Andrew: Kind of a three-step process. We tend to write in batches. First we meet at a diner for a couple weeks and spitball ideas and talk about where they could go. When we’ve got some we like, I lock myself in a room with coffee until we’ve got a script. I take that to Chris and we start working it, with Chris adding jokes and making the character his own.

Chris: Sometimes it works right away, other times it is just the two of us standing in Andrew’s living room working an idea til we are fed up with it, or it finally clicks.

Andrew: Yeah, sometimes it just doesn’t work like we hoped, and we have to gut it and start again. Most of the time though it goes straight to stage.

Chris: Also, coffee is gross.

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

Chris: I am looking forward to enjoying the other performers at the festival! STAG Comedy is hilarious and we are looking forward to seeing them again on and off stage. Also, fellow Chicago natives My Mans will be there and they are always a blast to watch

Andrew: Can I say the flip cup tournament? Is that a secret? If so you can edit it out. The shows of course, especially the acts sharing our performance block: Katie Pengra and The Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting.

Rabbit Rabbit takes the stage at the Spider House Ballroom this Saturday, May 24th at 10pm with Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting and stand-up from Katie Pengra. TICKETS HERE.

ASF Hot Seat: Master Pancake Theater

At this point, I think it’s safe to call Master Pancake Theater an Austin Comedy institution. The vast majority of their shows at the Alamo Drafthouse shows sell out, they’ve won “Best Comedy Troupe” in the Austin Chronicle Readers poll six years running. They’ve done shows with Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Joel Hodgson, Doug Benson, Elijah Wood and more. We’re super excited to have them close-out the fest Sunday night. We talked to head pancake John Erler.
How’s 2014 been treating you so far?

John Erler: Great. We’ve been taking the show on the road a lot. We perform at Alamo Drafthouses in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio on a monthly basis. We’ve got some fun new shows on the horizon in Austin, including a mock of Space Jam for the NBA Finals, and an overnight slumber party where we watch all five Twilight movies back-to-back. We’ll start at sundown and go to sun-up so that we can call it “From Twilight til Breaking Dawn“. Get it? Look for it probably in August.

Last year for Austin Sketch Fest you mocked an episode of Law & Order. This year, it’s the spicy cousin SVU. Do you have a favorite?

Erler: Between SVU and Original? No. Each has its merits. I like Jerry Orbach a lot. I also like Ice T and sex crimes. For me what matters most is that the story is ripped from today’s headlines. And as long as it’s got unbelievably glib dialogue concerning gruesome events, punctuated by the “chu-chung” sound effect and a graphic of the current location, that’s really all I need.

You seem to genuinely like the movies you make fun of, or at least grow to like them. Is there a movie you grew to hate, the more you watched it?

Erler: No. Strangely, it’s really hard to like something LESS the more I watch it. Doing a full run of a movie (weeks and weeks of it) is always a discovery process. I see new things each time. Or an audience member will point something out that I haven’t seen. Or I’ll grow attached to certain characters. I’ve developed a strong case of Stockholm Syndrome for the Twilight movies. I get a little choked up whenever I watch Bella and Edward’s wedding in BDp1.

What are you looking forward to at ASF?

Erler: So many things, most of which I won’t be able to see because we’re doing shows at the Alamo simultaneously: it kills me that I won’t get to see Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction, Ithamar Enriquez, Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting. BUT I am super excited I’ll get to see to see the new STAG Comedy show on Thursday.

Master Pancake Theater performs Sunday May 25th, 10pm at the Spider House Ballroom along with stand-up from Brian Gaar.

ASF Hot Seat: Hot Property

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Hot Property shows were nuts. Things got smashed, cast members were abused, people at a Yelp event were offended. One of their sketches involved them pretending to be comatose on stage for the entirety of Drowning Pool’s “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor.” An endurance test for many reasons. Then Nick Ramirez moved to New York. The other three members continued on with STAG Comedy and that was that. But now, Nick Ramirez is returning for a special Hot Property reunsion show closing out Night 2 of Austin Sketch Fest. We asked HP some Qs.
How’s New York treating you, Nick?

Nick Ramirez: As Alicia Keys famously told us, New York truly is a concrete jungle where dreams are made of.

Lance Gilstrap: Of what, Nick? Made of WHAT?

David Jara: I was saddened by the news that Alicia Keys was eaten by a subway lion. A portion of the proceeds from our show will go for the safe and humane release of subway lions back into their concrete jungle habitat.

How did Hot Property come together?

Nick: Lance and I worked together a lot in our improv and sketch comedy team Midnight Society, and also did a very strange two person show as “Ramirez and Gilstrap.” We knew Mac and David from their radio show and podcast The Mascot Wedding Show and we thought they were incredibly funny. I don’t remember what happened next.

Lance: I think next was a Bugs Bunny style trick where we somehow convinced Mac and David to be in shows with us.

David: How many opportunities will I ever get to be part of a supergroup? It was a no-brainer. I just wish someone had warned me about how filthy Lance’s comedy can get.

Mac Blake: I was initially very intimidated by Lance and Nick because they were big shots at ColdTowne. Once I got to know how mentally weak they were, it was smooth sailing.

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You guys are sketch-prov right?

Mac: Right. We know the beats of each sketch, where it begins, ends, who comes on when, etc. But what we do in between is up to the performer. A lot of it is trying to make each other laugh so they break.

What can we expect from your ASF show?

Lance: It’s always hard to know exactly what to expect from a Hot Property show, but one thing is usually guaranteed… it will be dirty. Very very dirty.

David: Leave your monocles at the door, greyboxes. Stuffed shirts are not allowed in Lance’s Filth Pit.

Mac: There’s one sketch that’s very gentle. But then right back to boner talk.

What other show are you looking forward to seeing at austin sketch fest?

Nick: I’ve already seen and can vouch for a lot of the great New York shows that are coming down. I hope everyone checks out Brandon Gulya, Stone Cold Fox, and Everyone’s Favorite Game Show. And of course, I’m excited to see Austin favorites “STAG Comedy”. Those guys are pretty funny.

Lance: (please edit out the part where Nick pathetically kisses everyone’s ass by plugging Stag.) I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the acts that played at last year’s festival and finding out what they’ve been up to since.

David: Good grief. Do I have to pick just one? The lineup for the entire week truly is solid; like, every night has at least a couple of can’t-miss acts. But, if I had to pick one, I’m excited that Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting is coming back to Austin. They’re insanely funny, and they’ve also never spit on me, which I consider a plus in any walk of life.

Mac: I don’t think we’ll get to see AC Lerok, because they’re going on right before us and we’ll be doing some last minute yelling at Nick. BUT – I’ve heard their recent stuff is billy bezerk.Plus Chris Tellez is a sweet champion. Definitely come to this show.

Hot Property performs TONIGHT, Wednesday at 10pm at ColdTowne Theater, with sketch duo AC Lerok and stand-up Chris Tellez. Tickets here.

ASF Hot Seat: MY Mans

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My Mans was set to perform in Austin a couple years ago at the Out Of Bounds Comedy festival, but RIGHT before that happened one half of the Mans, Tim Robinson was whisked away to SNL. Tim and Mark Raterman are now returning to Austin to fill that My Mans-shaped hole in our hearts.
When is the last time My Mans performed together?

Mark Raterman: We last performed together probably 2, 2 1/2 years ago in Chicago as My Mans. We’re both members of the improv group Cook County Social Club, though, too. So we’ve improvised together a lot with the other guys in that group since the last official My Mans show.

You guys have worked on a lot of projects. What is it about My Mans that makes it stand out?

Mark: I think if people like the show it’s partly due to our dynamic on stage. We’ve performed together a lot and we enjoy each other’s comedy. We generally laugh at the same stuff. And structurally (along with our director and co-writer Andy Miara) we’ve tried to create a unique format that marries stand alone sketches with a narrative arc. It’s something that’s been done here and there, but we have our own take on it, I think.

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What’s your process like for creating a My Mans show?

Mark: Usually the three of us (Andy, Mark, Tim) get together and share a bunch of sketch ideas and bits to see what’s making us laugh at that given time. Then we test those ideas out on stage in front of an audience. After a few shows like that we not only see what’s working, but what kinds of themes and connections start emerging. At some point, Andy puts together a handful of running orders and we work those until we have one solid running order with a cohesive narrative.

What can people expect from your ASF show?

Mark: Something close to what I’ve described above. But probably also a lot of improvising, forgetting lines, cues and entrances because we haven’t run a My Mans show in a few years. Which hopefully will create some fun moments.

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What are you looking forward to about ASF?

Mark: Eating pork belly tacos at Tyson’s.

You have two chances to catch My Mans at ASF. Friday, May 23rd at 8:30pm with Brandon Gulya (TICKETS), or Saturday, May 24th at 8:30pm with Stone Cold Fox and Maggie Maye (TICKETS). Both shows are at Spider House Ballroom.