Yes, Kerri Lendo's going to be performing at Moontower Comedy Festival this year – but that's not what this post is about.
Because, are you kidding? We're still maybe four weeks out from SXSW, we're already gonna start raising some hairy huzzah about what's going on after that annual film/interactive/music juggernaut's had its way with our fair city again?
No, this post is about Austin's No Shame Theatre, the long-running performative open mic that happens at Salvage Vanguard Theater on the first and third Friday of each month – and is hosted, these days, by that same Lendo. Because maybe a burgeoning – yes: burgeoning – stand-up career and a day job and so on aren't enough for a person?
We had to ask.
Austin Chronicle: How did you first get involved with No Shame Theatre?
Kerri Lendo: Right before I moved to Austin, I didn't know anyone who lived here, so I put up a Craigslist ad, "Hey, what's the deal with comedy in Austin?" Which is my idea of research into the city. This was at the end of 2004, and I got a few emails back, and somebody was like, "There's a kind of open mic at The Hideout. It's not just comedy, but you can come check it out, it's pretty fun." So I went to watch it – I think I dragged my roommate with me – and it was totally fun. And I was like, "OK, this is something I can do," it wasn't overwhelming. And I remember Shannon [McCormick] being there, and Bryan Roberts and other people. And I was hooked after one show. It was like, this is exactly what I want.
AC: And then No Shame went on hiatus for a while?
Lendo: Yes, probably a year or two later, it left The Hideout and was waiting for Salvage Vanguard to open. So it was like three or four years where it wasn't going on – but we always knew it'd come back.
AC: And now you're in charge of it.
Lendo: Well, I get a lot of help from other people, too. But, yeah, I try to keep it going.
AC: And how did that happen?
Lendo: Back when Gnap! [the theatre company founded by the abovementioned McCormick] was first starting, we were talking about what we wanted to do in terms of roles and things, and it kind of made sense, because I was part of No Shame before – and I was certainly excited.
AC: Did Shannon ask you, or … ?
Lendo: I don't even remember. It might've just ended up that we were doing No Shame, and I was coming all the time.
AC: And what sets No Shame Theatre apart from other open mics in town?
Lendo: There's no kind of restriction: It's not just a poetry open mic or just a stand-up open mic or an improv jam or whatever. It's kind of anything-goes, whoever wants to come. We get a lot of comedy people, but we get serious pieces, too – we've had dance and monologues and stuff like that. So I think that's the main difference. And, also, another part of it is that the term "No Shame" really does apply, more than anything: It's where people will get more out there than any other open mic.
AC: What's the weirdest thing you've seen?
Lendo: You know, there's been a lot of body parts going on. But mostly, it's the crazy monologues that will morph into song and interpretive dance. We've had people get into a life-size balloon. We had somebody who, it was kind of a male strip-tease, but also kind of acrobatic, and they ended up moving their pecs on-beat to AC/DC. [laughs] Which got a standing ovation! And there are a lot of regulars. We've had people come and go over the years, but right now we close the show every week with Paul Normandin telling a story. And Bryan Roberts is coming and going, and Shannon's been coming out more lately – which is great – and a stand-up comic, Luke McClory, has been performing a lot.
AC: Do you do stand-up when you perform at No Shame?
Lendo: Well, sometimes, but I try to take the opportunity to not do stand-up? The past couple months I've been able to exercise some, ah, stranger ideas of mine. Which included eating spaghetti off my own head, last time.
AC: Uh, why spaghetti off your head?
Lendo: It was part of a larger piece – scripted, written, it was kind of like a mock work-out video – and I wasn't sure if it was funny at all. So I figured I'd try doing it, and – it was also Friday afternoon, and I was like, "Ah, I need something for No Shame and I don't wanna do stand-up!" So I dumped the spaghetti on my head, and I was eating it. And here's a tip: If you're ever going to use spaghetti as a prop? Make sure not to overcook it, because it gets very sticky and you can't get it out of your hair. If you're ever using comedy spaghetti, try for al dente.
AC: [makes note]
AC: And what are some of the more serious things at No Shame?
Lendo: We've definitely had some serious slam poetry. And not long ago we had a woman talk about a past abusive relationship, kind of in a cleansing way – she was trying to end it, and she ended up burning the script outside in the parking lot. Recently, Patton Quinn, who used to come and do comedy, has started reading part of an actual serious book she's working on.
AC: So – serious, silly, a whole mix of stuff. And anybody can perform? They just need to, uh, can they call in for a slot? Or how does … ?
Lendo: We have a strict sign-up, where you have to sign up that night at 9:30, you have to be there in person, and it's restricted to 15 people.
AC: And there's a decent audience for this thing?
Lendo: We've had ups and downs over the years, but, yeah, the past few months we've had some good audiences.
AC: Are any of these No Shame shows recorded? Like for a YouTube channel or anything?
Lendo: We don't record them, but sometimes some of the performers do. I'd like to record them regularly – there's a series on Vimeo that we did for a few weeks – and there are so many things that have been done there, that I've done there, that might not be done again. That might not ever work again, as perfect as they were in that moment. I know other people probably feel the same way, so, yeah, it'd be great to capture it. Although I feel like No Shame is something that's best to see live.
NOTE: The next iteration of No Shame Theatre is: Friday, Feb. 15, 10pm at Salvage Vanguard Theater.
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