AUSTIN – Day 3 of South by Southwest was tightly packed with more comedy delights. Like a really, really thick sausage that kind of sprays hot juice on you when you bite into it because the casing is so strained and taut from the vast amounts of meat inside. (Side note: I haven’t had lunch yet. Too obvious?)
Anyway. My Monday kicked off with a special preview screening of Billy on the Street hosted by Billy Eichner at Lustre Pearl, an outdoor bar normally known for its ping-pong tables and terrible parking. We caught a glimpse of the second episode of the new season hosted by Girls creator and SXSW keynoter Lena Dunham.
Dunham offered a stellar performance in Billy’s various quizzes, although one unexpected highlight was learning how she originally thought Girls costar Zosia Mamet’s name was pronounced. Spoiler alert: Mam-AY is not right.
After the screening (and after nabbing some free Billy on the Street swag), I hopped over to the Austin Convention Center for a panel discussion on The Pete Holmes Show, featuring Holmes, head writer Karen Kilgariff (pictured below), and executive producers Nick Bernstein and Oren Brimer.
The four discussed how they hope that the show fills a gap in late night television that blends elements of stand-up, sketch comedy, and podcasts— all of which Pete has delved into over the past 10 to 15 years.
Rather than interviewing all guests in front of a studio audience, for example, Holmes and his team prefer remote interviews in small, intimate rooms, where both parties can forget that they’re involved in a very public chat. And, consequently, both parties can relax a little and be more spontaneous in their conversations. “There’s a different energy when you know you can go anywhere,” remarked Holmes.
That vibe was unsurprisingly drawn from Holmes’ experiences with his You Made It Weird podcast, an interview show that, like Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, delves into the inner depths of its guests. But lest you imagine that the show is all serious business, he noted that the show is an utter joy to create: says Holmes, “I feel like I work in a magical chocolate factory.” That would make him Willy Wonka, which means he is going to leave the show to one of five entitled dickish children in about 30 years after testing their moral mettle with a planted henchman who claims to want an absurdly advanced piece of candy. Sounds correct, based on the history of torch-passing among late night television, am I right?! Heyoooooo.
The podcast vibes continued with a live taping of a podcast helmed by drier than dry stand-up Todd Barry at Esther’s Follies later that evening, who was also joined by Ben Kronberg, Iliza Shlesinger and Andres du Bouchet. I was happy to learn Shlesinger and I share an absolutely profound, biblical hatred for the false authority of the TSA (the agents, she describes, are “urinal cakes for a living”). We also learned about the ins and outs of working as a writer at Conan from du Bouchet: a breakfast sandwich often kicks off the day, and then there are anywhere from zero to three meetings. Wild, wild stuff. Late night gets crazy, y’all!
But perhaps the best quip of the night came from Barry himself, who succinctly summed up the SXSW experience: “You stand in line for an hour for a taco from the Samsung Store.” Truer words were never spoken.