Wink Planet

ASF Hot Seat: Wink Planet

Wink Planet has spent the last couple of years producing full-length sketch shows. They made their festival debut at last year’s Austin Sketch Fest and followed it up with a coveted slot at Out of Bounds. Then they followed that up with sold out run of shows at ColdTowne Theater with Off The Wall.
The kids from Wink Planet including some made up members tell us about their process.

You’ve been together for over two years at this point. How has the creative process evolved for you?

Taylor Stewart: Early on we would come in to a meeting with scripts written and the shows would be just a series of unrelated sketches. Now we often come in with a basic idea and try to flesh it out more collaboratively. We’ve also made an effort to connect all the sketches and incorporate overarching themes.

Matt Vaught: We turn the pressure cooker up on ourselves in hopes to make each show better, tighter, and hopefully more funny than the last one. We’re gaining experience everyday and thats never a bad thing.

Jared Robertson: We’ll sit around pitching premises and riff on them until they are as picture-perfect as a baby’s bottom.

Steve Moore: I don’t think that’s how the phrase goes.

Jared: Regardless, we have been trying to be more aware of how people will experience the show as a whole instead of just working on a few sketches, smooshing them together, and then getting real boisterous because we’re “finished.”

Sanjay Rao: We’re more efficient too. We [Sanjay just stopped typing here.]

Steve: I keep saying Rube Goldberg Machine. I want a Wink Planet show to feel like a strange contraption that is continuously running from the moment the lights first go up and we drop the marble into the little slot where it knocks of the dominos. Then, when the show is over, you’ve had some laughs and the machine has made you some toast or something.

Matt: We haven’t made toast quite yet but we’re very close.

This is your second sketch fest? What were the highlights from your first year? Or did I fuck up? My google’s broken.

Matt: SKETCH FEST NUMERO DOS FOR THE WP! The first one was a blurrrrsville but seeing all the great shows and meeting the other performers, local and out of towners was the best. Just being “IN” Austin Sketch Fest in the 1st place was pretty freaking highlighty as well!

Taylor: Last year was so great. Seeing My Mans was a real eye-opening experience. I didn’t realize sketch could be natural and fun but also polished at the same time. Does that even make sense? No? What about time? Does time make sense to you? Time.

Jared: Last year, I had to change pants backstage when Tim Robinson was getting ready for his My Mans show. So he saw my jockeys. I wasn’t facing him, but I could feel his blue eyes on me. I didn’t hear him giggle playfully, so it must have been a silent playful giggle.

Steve: I got to see Jared take off his pants in front of a guy who was on SNL.

How did your group get together?

Taylor: Most of us met in sketch class at ColdTowne in early 2013. Former member Ashley Siebels made a video with Steve Moore where they were a couple of unscrupulous half-twins selling razor wire. After Ashley left for San Francisco we agreed that Steve was a good addition because he A) shared our comedic sensibility and B) he was committed enough to drive to a ranch in Georgetown to buy several pounds of dangerously sharp razor wire. That’s commitment you can’t find just anywhere.

Steve: Razor wire is expensive. If at all possible, write your sketches so that any necessary props can be constructed out of painted cardboard.

Taylor: This isn’t an answer to your question, but we have made a lot of really great props out of cardboard. For example, a man-sized wearable tank.

Matt: I wore that man-sized wearable tank made of cardboard and let me just tell you….engineers from engineer school couldn’t have made it any better. Also I second that we met at ColdTowne Theater. Austin, Texas Baby. If this looks like fun it is. They teach classes. Boom. Do it.

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

Taylor: Like every sketch comedian, Mr. Show and SNL. I have a huge crush on Broad City. Locally, Vanessa Gonzalez is doing some of the best sketch I’ve ever seen.

Jared: Agreed! I really enjoyed the first season of The Birthday Boys too. I hate that their show was cancelled. I listen to a lot of Best Show too.

Steve: What they said. I also grew up watching Kids in the Hall when Comedy Central would play it for like two hours everyday. I remember not really getting it when I was younger but wanting to get it. I think that show somehow cemented the idea that sketch should be a little challenging, by which I mean it should confuse you the way the Chicken Lady confused a small towheaded boy from Ohio.

Matt: Jon Lovitz.

What makes you laugh the most?

Jared: Dumb stuff. Just like, really really impressively dumb stuff. I love when an exorbitant amount of effort is put into something very very stupid. Like the pyramids.

Taylor: My boyfriend and fellow Wink Planet cast member Jared Robertson and I will create these bizarre, nonsensical comedy universes that only we understand. Sometimes just the idea of putting them on stage in front of people will make us collapse into a laughterpile.

Steve: I find myself rewatching stuff with subtle, jokes based in human relationships, but I find myself laughing out loud at things that surprise me, like when someone suddenly projectile vomits without warning. I’m complex.

Matt: Watching a performer make a “Mistake” on stage and seeing them turn it into beautiful magic always blows my mind and makes me so happy. Also guys dressed as ladies and farts.

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

Taylor: It’s growing fast and the talent pool is so deep. If you want to do a show and you’re really committed you can get stage time. I think people are doing exciting things here because there’s no red tape. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe how great this whole scene is!

Jared: Everything seems to be growing, so everyone is forced to work hard to keep up. Everybody’s getting funnier. Sketch is becoming more popular. New shows are popping up at different venues around town. There are people in the scene that moved to Austin specifically to take classes at ColdTowne, which makes me feel validated.

Steve: People in the Austin comedy scene are super open and friendly and genuinely excited to do funny, creative work.

Matt: It’s the people for sure! There are so many talented folks in this Muthaship we call home its ridiculousssss! That and the Freeeeedommm to do whatever the fuck you want to do on stage. It’s amazing.

Hoarp: Stage time is abundant, so it didn’t take long to get over what I call my “FEAR OF AUDIENCE.” At first, my “FEAR OF AUDIENCE” was hefty. Whenever I was on stage I would be stricken with what I call the “NERVY WIGGLES” (which were triggered by my “FEAR OF AUDIENCE”) until I left the stage. The more shows we did my “CONFIDENCE” increased as my “FEAR OF AUDIENCE” decreased until finally my “NERVY WIGGLES” were imperceptible.

Jared: GET OUTTA HERE HOARP, YOU’RE NOT IN WINK PLANET!

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

Matt: No. I dont. I want these “worst moment” stories but I don’t have any yet. I mean I’ve personally bombed and forgotten my lines occasionally but thats normal right?

Steve: Anything involving Ian Townsend.

Do you have any fun “best show” stories?

Taylor: In November we did a six week long mainstage run at ColdTowne with another sketch group, Off The Wall. I had never had the experience of running a sketch show multiple weeks in a row like that and we sold out almost every performance. It’s the shiniest trophy in my comedy trophy case. It takes up A LOT of room. I might need to move to a bigger house. Help. I can’t stop making trophies for myself. Seriously. Help. It’s expensive. I can’t pay my bills.
We also took part in sketch cover night at Spider House Ballroom last year and we decided to do the Vitameatavegamin sketch from I Love Lucy. I was obsessed with that show as a kid and trying to be even a tiny fraction as wonderful as Lucille Ball was intimidating. The whole thing went over really well and I got to see Ashley gallop across the room as Little Ricky with a tiny conga drum slung over her shoulder. Also, the “Vitameatavegamin” was straight Jagermeister, so I might be misremembering how great it went.

Matt: You Killed it. You’re remembering it correctly.

Steve: A lot of the time we’ll end up making a mess on stage as part of the last sketch in a show- it just happens organically. During the first night of that six week run, Matt discovered that Kraft Singles will stick to the wall when thrown, assuming of course they have been satisfactorily smooshed into a ball a gooey yellow ball of cheese chemicals. Comedy.

Matt: We’ve definitely had some memorable Wink Planet shows the past couple of years. I mentioned I was a singing cardboard tank once sooo… that’s up there for me personally. I’d say our best show is yet to come.

Jared: Ashley Siebels once ate a pound and a half of chocolate covered doughnuts during one 4-minute scene. That.

Taylor: We’ve been talking about Ashley a lot. Come back Ashley!

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

Taylor: I’m going to use my insider knowledge of the line-up and say that I’m in a show that Aly Dixon and Elizabeth Schantz wrote called 2girls1pup. They are new-ish to sketch and super weird and funny. My favorite combination.

Matt: I’m looking forward to all the groups from Chicago. New York. Cali. Austin. Boston. Phoenix. Not Ft. Lauderdale though. New Orleans yes. Seattle. Denver. Philly of course. Sorry Pensacola not you.

Share with us your tips for a job interview.

Jared: When they ask you your greatest weakness, tell them that you often underestimate your own abilities. And when they ask you where you see yourself in 5 years, mention that you have a trampoline and that anyone at the office will be allowed to come over and jump on it for as long as they want if you get the job.

Steve: Be confident and clearly convey that you want the job. Go ahead and tell them directly that they should hire you. So many people never actually ask for the job.

Taylor: Interviewer: Sell me this pen. [He hands you the pen].

You: Could you write down your name for me?

Interviewer: I don’t have a pen.

You: Exactly.

Then you murder everyone else that interviewed.

Matt: Brush your teeth and poop first. Make eye contact. Congrats on now being employed.

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

- 10 Naked Pokemon Every 90’s Kid Will Remember. You won’t BELIEVE how naked Number 7 is! – Not Looking at These Perfect Boobs Could Kill You…For Life. – Free Baby Coupons (NSFW) – She Forgot Her Swimsuit at Home and You Won’t BELIEVE What Happens Next… (NSFW) – You’ve DEFINITELY Been Breathing Incorrectly Your Entire Life. – 8 Words That Every 16th Century Spaniard Will Definitely Remember – Your Shoes WILL Blind You (NSFW) – Did This Scientist Invent WORKING X-Ray Specs!?!?!? (NSFW) – Austin Texas! Live Comedy Capital of the World! (For about a week!)

What is your group looking forward to this year?

Matt: Filming more of our material is something we’ve been wanting to do for a bit so thats going to be pretty great. Also, performing in other sketch fests is a goal so hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to do so!

Jared: I’m doing a sketch show with a swath of funny people directed by Dave Buckman. We’re basically writing it through improv like the Second City puts their mainstage shows together. Everybody involved is fantastic.

Taylor: I’m just looking forward to spending more time with these weirdos and seeing what comes out of their beautiful heads.

Matt: We do all have beautiful heads.

Hoarp: We’ve also been making parody commercials for the Got Your Back podcast. Goddamn are they fun to make. We archive them here.

Jared: HOARP, GIT!!!! GIT, I SAY!!! GIT!!!

Wink Planet performs Tuesday, May 19th, 10pm at ColdTowne Theater along with AFL and the Chicago Hot Guy Sketch Show. TICKETS HERE.

ASF 14 kicks off tonight, The Show of One-Person Shows preview, and a fan-made video

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Firstly, follow us on instagram! It’s empty right now, but it’ll start flowing tonight!
The 2014 Austin Sketch Fest gets started tonight at 8:30 at ColdTowne Theater with performances from Bad Example, Magician vs Clown, and Wink Planet. That’s going to be a hot hot show guaranteed. Get tickets here.
Then at 10pm we have “I Didn’t See You There: The Show of One-Person Shows”. That show is going to be NUTS. Here’s what you’re in store for:

-Will Cleveland in “Max O. Comedian”
-Amy Wright in “Foul Mouse”
-Curtis Luciani in “Curtis Luciani: My Sweet Youth”
-Juliet Prather in “Tilly in the Mirror”
-Kyle Sweeney in “Aging Humanoid and The Ocean (not to be confused with ‘The Old Man and the SeaTM‘)”
-Scott Raney in “The Reformation of Tit Bastard”
-Adam Trabka in “Mime Story, My Story”
-Kirk Johnson in “Tending Bathroom”
-Erik May McNichol in “The N62 to Midway.”
-Byron Brown in “Ghetto goofball”

Hosted by Mac Blake. Tickets available here.

And finally here’s a video a fan made for us:
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Dave Buckman's ASF Picks

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Dave Buckman already told us why he couldn’t be more excited for Ithamar Enriquez’s show. We asked Dave for some more festival picks. Here’s what he sent us.
5 OTHER SHOWS I CAN’T WAIT FOR:

5) Wink Planet
Tuesday May 20th, 8:30pm, ColdTowne Theater.

A hot new sketch troupe of recent ColdTowne graduates who are some of the funniest new kids on the block.

4) Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting
Saturday, May 24th, 10pm, Spider House Ballroom.

These two ladies from NYC have been coming to Austin for the past several years to perform at the Ladies are Funny Festival and at Out of Bounds. They always bring the heat and they always sellout. Every time they come, they seem to ignite and inspire a frenzy of female sketch comics in Austin to write their own shows.

3) “I Didn’t See You There” The Show of One-Person Shows
Featuring Adam Trabka, Amy Wright, Byron Brown, Curtis Luciani, Erika May McNichol, Juliet Prather, Kirk Johnson, Kyle Sweeney, Scott Raney, and Will Cleveland
Tuesday, May 20th, 8:30pm, ColdTowne Theater.

A murders row of some of the funniest improvisers in Austin Improv right now making fun of one-person shows?
Yes, please!... Curtis, Erika and Byron alone would be worth the ticket price, but you also get Kirk, Kyle and Scott a triumvirate of alpha-male lunacy. Newcomers Amy, Juliet and Will are all about to have break out summers on Austin’s comedy stages and this will be one of your last chances to catch Bad Boys’ Adam Trabka before he moves to Portland in June.

2) Hot Property
Wednesday May 21st, 10pm, ColdTowne Theater.

Lance & Nick, (the Mick and Keith of Midnight Society) + David & Mac (the Gervais and Merchant of Mascot Wedding) are not only all brilliant comedians in their own right, but they make this troupe special in that they perform sketchprov. They have a loose frame of beats within a sketch but the way they get to those jokes are improvised. No one else on the scene does this and it has the effect of watching a masterful Jam Band like the Black Crowes work their way through a setlist.

1) My Mans
Friday, May 23rd and Saturday, May 24th, 8:30pm, Spider House Ballroom

Seth Meyers has declared that Tim Robinson (SNL, Late Night with Seth Meyers) one of the funniest people on the planet…and clips online of My Mans proves him right. He was so underused on his one on-screen season on SNL, it’s a shame because he is a true comic talent. My Mans was supposed to headline Out of Bounds 2 years ago but he got SNL and had to bow out (Noel Wells had to do the same thing this past year), so it’s been a long time coming to get them here in Austin. I can’t wait to see them live.

ASF Hot Seat: Wink Planet

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The return of the Austin Sketch Fest means the return of the ASF Hot Seat, where we launch the softest softball questions every softed at ASF performers. First up is Wink Planet (get tickets to their show here), the newest and cutest sketch group from ColdTowne Theater. Seriously, even with cake on their faces, I still want to buy them more cake. We asked them Winks some questions.
How did your group come together?

Jared Robertson: All of us but Ashley took Sketch Level 1 & 2 at ColdTowne together in early 2013. We’ve gone through a few lineup changes since then.

Ashley Siebels: Yeah, I begged Daniel Erving to let me join the group. He relented after I made a video sketch about walking around under overpasses.

Taylor Stewart: I was excited when Ashley joined because I didn’t want to get stuck with all the girl parts, but as it turns out, Ashley is at her best when she’s playing young boys and old men.

Sanjay Rao: Yeah, Ashley’s been a fantastic addition to the Wink Planet family. We also get a lot of help from Eric Rutherford who taught our original sketch classes and still directs our shows.

Are there any themes that you find yourselves coming back to?

Jared: I always end up writing sketches about made-up professions. There was the Mom and Pop homemade battery store. There was the professional backscratcher. There was the former exterminator that will dress up all of the mice in your house in costumes so that they’re cute instead of scary. For some reason, fake jobs + bad fake accents = comedy.

Matt Vaught: I usually write scenes about overweight southern redneck guys who drink a lot and play with rodents. Either that, or I’m the president.

Ashley: I’m always interested in putting vulnerability up against superficiality. Sometimes this happens between multiple characters, but often it’s a rift in just one complicated loud character.

Sanjay: My scenes tend to be pretty basic in structure. I establish a game early on and heighten from there usually centering around a big character with a wacky voice.

Taylor: My sketches usually live in super-absurd-bizarro land. When I was seven years old I wrote a short story about a bunch of anthropomorphic pasta that lived under a couch. Not much has changed in my artistic point of view since then.

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What is your writing process?

Jared: I have a huge list of nonsense scene ideas that I keep in my phone. Most of them are really awful. One of them just says “smork.” I don’t even remember what it was supposed to be. I don’t delete anything though. One day smork might just save my life. Occasionally we’ll have a meeting just to brainstorm scene ideas. We write most of our first drafts individually, though. The majority of our progress is made through group discussion and rewrites.

Matt: We meet up a lot, hang out, eat cheese cubes, laugh at each other, write solo, collaborate, prepare ahead of time or cram last second. So far it’s all worked pretty well for us.

Taylor: I keep a few ideas in my phone, but I never really know where I’m going to take them until I sit down to write in the throes of a low-grade panic attack. Then I word vomit onto the page and 80% of the time something decent comes out.

Ashley: I think I’m definitely the slowest writer in the group. I’ll brainstorm on a concept for a few days before I write a draft. Then I keep coming back to it adding a joke or two each time. It’s always a tremendous help when the group takes interest and offers feedback. I definitely believe everything I write is better once it’s been filtered through the group. Especially, Eric Rutherford! Eric is a brilliant coach and director. He polishes every piece of garbage we throw out until it’s shiny, shiny garbage.

Sanjay: I also keep a list of weird, quirky things that I think could be a good premise for a sketch. Also, I get inspiration from improv scenes where a detail or a character gives me a starting point to expand on.

What can we expect from your ASF show?

Jared: We’ve been big into comedy hats recently. So comedy hats.

Matt: We don’t even know which scenes we’re doing yet but we know a show will definitely happen!

Ashley: You guys, that makes us sound like a bunch of unemployed steel workers. We really have too many ideas, we have to put them through some sort of Wink Planet gauntlet to see what will make it to the glitz and glamour of the ASF stage.

Taylor: Delight.

Sanjay: When is this show again?

What are you looking forward to about Austin Sketch Fest?

Jared: Other than performing, I’m really looking forward to seeing My Mans. Tim Robinson is the best. I watched the two pilots they’ve made online and they were so original. I’m a huge fan of their confident nonsense.

Taylor: Definitely My Mans! I’m excited to see anything new and interesting. Sketch in Austin can feel a little isolated sometimes and it’s going to be great to get a breath of fresh comedy air.

Matt: That we’re in it! Plus watching all the other shows and meeting other cool like-minded folks who love comedy. It’s a win-win!

Sanjay: I’m really excited because this will be the first comedy festival that I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve seen most of the sketch groups in Austin and am looking forward to seeing groups from other cities.

Ashley: I want to see Girls with Brown Hair…because I HAVE BROWN HAIR! Also meeting people from San Francisco because I’m moving there and I need new friends. FAST.

Jared: Wait…you’re moving? Fuck.

Anything you think you’ll miss about Austin?

Ashley: Of course, I’ll miss everyone at ColdTowne and all the people I met playing in troupes there. There will always be a special place in my heart for Wink Planet. In particular, I’ll miss Taylor’s impression of a British orphan boy, Jared’s nasally northern Pennsylvanian accent, the way Matt can pull off wearing a silk robe in every sketch, and Sanjay’s impersonation of an elderly Chinese man in a wheel chair.

Wink Planet will kick off the 2014 ASF, Tuesday May 20th, 8:30pm at ColdTowne Theater along with Bad Example and Magician vs. Clown. Get advance tickets here.