Bartenders often know the best damned stories.
That's the basic idea behind the new show at ColdTowne Theater, one of this city's epicenters of comedy and improv, on Airport Boulevard near Komé and Your Mom's Burger Bar: Bartender have the goods on getting involved with some fucked-up, sometimes hilarious, shit.
At the "Dads in Bars" show, those bartenders share the stories with some lucky audience – after having first plied that audience with their signature cocktails.
Yeah, that's sounds pretty win-win to us, too.
But, wait: It gets better. The show's not called "Dads in Bars" because all the bartenders are Dads. No, there've been two bartenders so far in the series, and one of them was a woman.
"Our second bartender was Laurie Barbero from The White Horse," says Carlos LaRotta of the ColdTowne-based improv troupe Precious Dads; he's also the main man behind this show. "I have a friend who used to work at The White Horse, and he knew Laurie and hooked me up. And that was an amazing show, actually. Laurie's also the former drummer of Babes in Toyland. So she had not only great bartending stories, but these crazy rockstar stories to tell us."
And the first bartender of the series?
"That was a guy named Joe Hollyfield from Mugshots on Seventh Street," says LaRotta. "My day job is Kebabalicious, a food trailer that's right across the street from Mugshots, and I knew Joe already – so he was my first pick. And coming up next is Seamus Martin. He's from Posse East."
Austin Chronicle: How'd all this stuff get started, anyway? Even the name – Dads in Bars?
Carlos LaRotta: OK, right now my main improv troupe is Precious Dads. I was in a troupe called Dads, and there was another troupe called Precious, and we were always subbing each other out if somebody was sick or couldn't make it. And finally, some of the staff at ColdTowne, they were like, "You know, it'd be a lot easier if you guys just combined for scheduling purposes." And so we did.
AC: And how does the show work? I mean, where does the improv come in?
LaRotta: With "Dads in Bars," what we're doing is an Armando format. That's where you bring in a guest speaker to do a monologue, and then you improvise scenes offa that for ten or fifteen minutes, then bring them back out and do it again.
AC: So it's like ColdTowne's "Stool Pigeon" show on Tuesdays.
LaRotta: Exactly, it's the same format. We stand onstage with the bartender and we banter with them, they tell a story, and we do the thing.
AC: And why bartenders?
LaRotta: I was trying to think of an idea, a group of people who could bring in customers to ColdTowne, and I was thinking of people who were already used to going out but perhaps hadn't thought about seeing live comedy. So – bars. Because a lot of people are used to going out to bars, and I thought that bringing in their favorite bartenders might work.
AC: And how long is the show scheduled to run?
LaRotta: Just this month, every Saturday in January – at 8:30pm. But I plan to re-submit the show, and I think ColdTowne has liked it so far, we're getting packed houses, so I'm definitely gonna resubmit for March and April.
AC: Now, OK, it's seven dollars to attend a show – but the drinks are free. How are you doing that?
LaRotta: Well, ah, something new that ColdTowne's experimenting with is giving the troupes a percentage of ticket sales. And I don't remember the numbers, but we get thirty-five percent of ticket sales if I sell all the seats. And with that money, ColdTowne fronts the cash to buy the booze – as well as pulling money from the troupe. So we buy the booze.
AC: And does each bartender make their own personal, ah, specialty?
LaRotta: Right. The event starts at 8pm sharp, to give us 30 minutes of pure booze. The bartender shows up at 8, and we just start pouring drinks. And it's their personally curated drinks. Joe Hollyfield did one called the Pay Day – and that was Jameson, ginger ale, and bitters on ice. And for the most recent show, Laurie also made a Jameson drink: Irish Speed, which is Jameson with Bailey's, shaken and then strained. It's supposed to be served as a shot, but we served it as a cocktail last night. The third one, tomorrow night, I'm not sure what Seamus is gonna want to do. And then there's one more week after that – and that week we still have open, still looking for the bartender for that one. We're hoping to get someone from The Draught House.
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