Today I want to tell you about how I ended up hooked on comedy.
The Dark Ages
I’m from a rural Texas town, and to this day it is a bustling metropolis of nearly 5 thousand people. My home didn’t get access to a version of cable television until the early 90s about 1992 if I’m remembering correctly. Sure we had antenna TV, but that was for news and sports mostly. There isn’t a movie theater, but thankfully the venerable video rental store was there to tether us to the world. I remember my parents renting Eddie Murphy Raw, and then forbidding my brothers and I from coming out of our room while they watched it. This of course immediately caused us to sneak out and listen to this forbidden message. Comedy Central became a staple in the home as soon as it was available on TV. That’s where stand-up comedy and most theater stayed for me for a really long time.
In 2014 a good friend introduced me to her favorite theater, the Alamo Drafthouse. I’d lived in the Austin metro area since 2007, but had only ever been once or twice with friends and I didn’t get what the fuss was about. Patiently I was shown how much more convenient the seating was, and most importantly how great it was to get alcohol brought to you while you watch a film there. The big moment came in December of 2014. We went to see a Master Pancake Christmas show. This is a comedy troupe, anchored by the sharp witted John Erler and elastic ball of energy Owen Egerton, that mocks movies similarly to MST3K , but a little more R rated. Their trademark feature that is so amazing to me is the mid-show sketch. During most shows costumes are pre-arranged, but at this Christmas show it was compelteyl improvised. It was so amazingly fun and witty. I was really happy. I then found out about Choose Your Own shows where audience members can bring a movie in and then try and pitch it to the audience as the movie the group has to mock. I really enjoyed these shows and started going to them on my own as often as I could. As I did I started to notice the same people over and over. There was a community of fans that were showing up at the shows all the time. I’m pretty shy but eventually in 2015 or 2016, I cant remember right now, I spoke to some other regular attendees and learned about their fan group on Facebook. This was really transformative for me. I was able to chat with and virtually hang out with people who enjoyed the same comedy as I did. Master Pancake is typically 3 to 5 people and some of the spots are rotating with a local or formerly local comedian. This is how I came to appreciate the comedy stylings of Andrew Rosas, Mac Blake, Kath Barbadoro, Ralphie Hardesty , Ella Gale, Martha Kelly and I’m sure a few others. It was and is still one of my favorite shows to go see.
2017 comes around and the Pancake group has grown into a full on la fanmilia, like in Fast and Furious. A member of the fam asks hey man you want to come to Punch! at Cap City Comedy club? Mac Blake, who is one of the regulars for Master Pancake, is going to be on the show. The night was Tuesday March 21, 2017 and it’s a night that I’ll remember for a few reasons. I was doing something outside of work or Master Pancake with people I had not met at work. Woah. That was a big step for me. Then second I saw stand-up comedy performed in person. The experience was one of the rarest and most surreal feelings that I’ve ever had as it was much like learning about a new color, cyan anyone? The night is a blur of good feelings and excitement in my mind, but I know two things concretely about that night. I laughed really hard at Mac’s stand-up and Arielle Norman told me about cyan. She ended her set with a plug for a podcast she still is doing called Leading the Blind. The next day I woke up thirstier for knowledge than I had been in a long time. I spent the next week listening to as many episodes as I could. Through the show I learned about Sandbox with Rob Gagnon as well as several other amazing locals. Rob is a hilarious performer, and the show Sandbox he does is an experimental comedy show. This means that the guests and host are not doing something tried and true they’re pushing the envelope some how. Okay so I find out about that show and go to the theater’s website. There I learn about another show on the hour before, Playpen, and that there is actually a site that lists most of the shows in Austin. Holy cow!
Chasing the Dragon
I went to Playpen and Sandbox every week for several weeks and I started recognizing people and getting to learn their jokes. As I got comfortable I started stretching out and trying other shows. The speed mic at the Velveeta Room, the Open Mic at Kick Butt coffee, Monday night shows at Spider House. At the moment there are probably five shows that I try and go to every week with any special showcases added on. There are so many aspects to this art form that even watching the same exact jokes three or ten times you can get something from it. What changed about the joke over time? Was it the audience size, composition, time of the set, composition of the line up, were they sick, was their spouse or significant other there, and just on and on. I have been doing this for several months and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I’m going to try and talk about some of the shows I go to, but I don’t think they’ll be called reviews. I have a feeling I may have to make more generic trend posts although I feel like that’ll be pretty uncommon.
Thanks so much for reading. This is my longest ever blog post. I’ll try and be less verbose when I do the other Back Story posts.
Added After Posting
Twitter is one of the best ways to keep up with things in my opinion. Here are links to people and places I mentioned.
- The New Movement Theater https://twitter.com/TNM_Austin
- The Velveeta Room https://twitter.com/thevelveetaroom
- Cap City Comedy https://twitter.com/CapCityComedy
- Spider House Ballroom https://twitter.com/spiderhouse
- Alamo Drafthouse https://twitter.com/drafthouse
- Andrew Rosas
- Arielle Norman
- Ella Gale
- John Erler
- Kath Barbadoro
- Mac Blake
- Martha Kelly
- Owen Egerton
- Ralphie Hardesty
- Rob Gagnon
- Matt Bearden
Not People, Not Places