AUSTIN — Sweet fancy Moses, we’re halfway into SXSW! This whole week is a marathon of networking, alcohol and hearing the words “innovation” and “creative flow” so many times you’ll probably have an aneurysm, so think happy thoughts for those of us who continue powering through the madness.
The fourth day began with a comedy nerd’s dream panel discussion at the Austin Convention Center: Chris Gethard, Scott Aukerman, Marc Maron and Fred Armisen (returning for his first SXSW since 1998! Welcome back, buddy!) conversed about transitioning alternative comedy to TV, a subject close to those comics’ hearts.
One of the heroes of this story, according to all four gents, is IFC, a channel that has valued emerging and alternative comedy in both its syndicated shows and its development projects like Maron, Portlandia, and Comedy Bang Bang. Aukerman noted that that branding allows IFC to take changes on oddball niche ideas.
But beyond the brand, Armisen noted that a changing mediascape is also a boon for emerging comedians, because cable channels like IFC and movies are on similar planes. Maron agreed with that assessment, suggesting that the ability to find an audience on any platform means comedians have “no need to pander or adapt to as many people as possible” – the creator’s vision is the real name of the game.
Lest you think the panel was all work and no play, Armisen showed off his acting chops by presenting a slew of regional accents: London, Liverpool, Australia, Ohio (?), Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, and, yes, California.
Following the panel, it was only fitting that the rest of my day was spent ensconced in the alternative comedy world. First up was a live taping of Kevin Pollak’s Talkin’ Walkin podcast, a production whose central conceit involves Pollak doing a show in the guise of a spot-on Christopher Walken.
Joining him onstage was Kyle Kinane, and, for whatever reason, the duo inevitably ended up talking about various animals’ asses and ass-related turns of phrase. An example you can take home with you: apparently “your ass sucks buttermilk!” signifies “I don’t believe you.” Bust that out at the next family reunion and you’ll be the hit of the party!
My evening closed with a stand-up showcase hosted by Robert Kelly called “The Nasty Show,” featuring some of the more cringe-y, cruder gentlemen (and Aisha Tyler) I’ve seen here at SXSW; the show featured Matt Braunger, Jay Oakerson and Mark Normand . Kelly stole the show with a lengthy, in-depth discussion of the travails of the baby makin’ process that left me wondering how our species has survived into the 21st century. Because it isn’t a comedy show until you’ve been invited to ponder existential questions.
Tonight we’ll see some more comedy shenanigans within the music portion of SXSW, which, as I mentioned yesterday, means more emaciated hipsters than you can shake a stick at. But it also means that the likelihood of finding the czar of SXSW Music, Mr. Bill Murray, increases tenfold. Readers: think happy thoughts and help make this happen. Bill: I will find you.