AUSTIN– Unsurprisingly, day two of SXSW’s comedy offerings did not disappoint. The evening began with a live Comedy Death Ray Radio podcast taping featuring none other than Pee-Wee Herman creator Paul Reubens.
Anyone hoping to see a live interview with Pee-Wee would be disappointed. Reubens dressed comfortably in jeans and a green button up shirt instead of donning his infamous gray suit; he fielded questions from CDR producer Scott Aukerman with touching sincerity and calm thoughtfulness.
Sure, there were plenty comedic moments. Even with the more serious tone, though, the interview was a fascinating glimpse into the creation of the character from the beginning.
Act II fell in a slightly different vein. Following Reubens were Dave Foley and Thomas Lennon character’s Li’l Gary, the obnoxious announcer and former piñata. The sound system made Gary barely intelligible to the audience and incomprehensible to Foley and Aukerman, requiring an audience member with astute ears to translate. Quick summary: chocolate ice cream is made of the nightmares of Haitian children.
Following the podcast taping was a stand-up showcase entitled “Dark, Bitter, and Sweet,” hosted by Austin native Matt Bearden. Ben Kronberg kicked the show off reading from his trademark small black joke book, and the audience was mostly onboard with his awkward demeanor and often poop-centric one-liners.
Punchline Magazine’s comedy album of the year winner Anthony Jeselnik took the stage next. After commenting on the niceness of Austin residents, he quickly steered his set into familiar territory, bantering with the audience in his typical arrogant, cringe-inducing presence. And it killed with this nerdy, perhaps slightly self-loathing crowd.
Closing the evening was, naturally, Marc Maron. I could hear him pontificate for days – so it was a pleasant surprise when he stayed onstage for a full hour. His vignettes and bits about his cats and text messages were weaved seamlessly with characteristic forays into the raw Maron mind.
Towards the latter half of his set, Maron engaged in a conversation with an 18-year old seated in the front row, offering “direct, cynical honesty.” The wonderfully organic exchange touched on the sober reality of life and personal limitations, clearly uplifting advice for any young man to hear.
And, as the evening came to a close, Maron paused the discussion a moment to exasperatedly ask a fitting question: “Is this not humor anymore?!” Judging by the audience’s response all evening, the answer was yes. There’s nothing funnier – and sadder – than a jaunt into darkness.