There may be some overlapping themes and concepts among the groups performing at this year’s Austin Sketch Fest, but one group is guaranteed to tread ground un-treaded by other treading enthusiasts. Magician vs. Clown is a competing and complimentary performance of a magician (Nathan Livni) and a clown (Jericho Thorp). MvC helps kick off ASF with an opening night performance. We asked them for some beans to spill.
Where did the seed for Magician vs Clown come from?
Jericho Thorp: Nathan always seems to have a better handle on this one. My memories of the beginning have faded into the mists of time. We were both performing at ColdTowne Theater. We had similar appreciation of vaudeville, old radio shows, slapstick, fucked up relationships, and Andy Kaufmann. We both also enjoy screwing with the boundaries of perception and being underestimated.
Nathan Livni: I remember a time when I didn’t know Jericho and then I did know Jericho. I don’t really remember meeting or talking about this. Just one day we were doing it. That’s indicative of our relationship actually: things just kind of move forward organically and it’s hard to point out where exactly an idea or action came from.
What is your writing process?
Jericho: We talk, riff, and drink. We tried using agile methodologies for a while, but that kind of faded away. One of us will come up with a bit or premise and we’ll bounce it back and forth for a while. If it’s interesting to us, and does something original, we write it down and begin to tease out the details. I’m not that great at writing alone. It’s almost necessary for me to be around someone else to get things done. We’ve had many shows that were raw when they first got onstage, but were fleshed out and better by the end of a run. We listen to each other, and pay attention to what happens in a performance and use that to polish a show script. But I just want to be clear that ASF is getting a fully cooked meatloaf. Nothing raw about this baby.
Nathan: The relationship between our characters is the central force that drives the show. The shows are generally an exploration into the world they live in. Our theme is magic shows, so we make a point of surprising
Jericho: We try to write a new show for every run that we have. So far we’ve got 7-8 shows in the bag. We write parts of the show in “pods”. This means we write stuff that can be a fun 5-minute thing, and can be mixed and matched with parts from other shows to create something new. We’ve also spent an insane amount of time fleshing out the world we created for MvC. Everything onstage has a back story that you never see, but it helps us to immediately understand a sketch and helps with the complexity of the performance.
What can we expect from your ASF show?
Jericho: A steamy, hot meatloaf of a show. There’s magic of course, but it’s not the point of what we’re doing up there. It’s all in the service of the scenes and our relationship. I’ll say we’re doing something funny, gross, emotionally disturbing, and extremely original.
Magician vs. Clown helps kick-off the festival, Tuesday, May 20th, 8:30pm at ColdTowne Theater along with Bad Example and Wink Planet. Tickets available here.