The Pie and Ear Show: Old-School Austin Improv, Activate!
Tyler Bryce, chief wrangler of Thinning the Herd, has now gathered together some of the godparents of Austin comedy improv – those redoubtable stalwarts of years-back Comedysportz – and is bringing them to a once-a-month Wednesday night at The Vortex on Manor Road. And the first show's tonight, Wednesday, at 8pm.
"It's like the Beatles getting back together," says Kerry Awn, longtime ATX stand-up fixture and poster artist.
[Note: Awn's not part of the show himself. We just saw him make this comment on Facebook and figured it'd play well as an endorsement.]
Unlike the Beatles, however, none of The Pie and Ear Show performers have to be resurrected from the dead. No, Bryce and Les McGehee and Jodi Egerton and Owen Egerton and Megan Flynn won't be shambling in zombielike motion across the stage: They've been alive all this time, doing shows and writing books and generally making this city a better place to be.
Well, except that Bryce himself (who'd led the Austin Comedysportz troupe from 1995 to 2001) had been busy elsewhere:
"In 2001," he says, "I moved to New York. Two months before September 11th."
But eventually, after a few years in that Big Apple, Bryce realized what he was missing the most:
"I kept trying to make a life plan," he says, "and each time I tried, I'd go, 'OK, I'll go to L.A. and stay in L.A. for five years, and then I'll move back to Austin.' Or I'd go, 'OK, I'll go to Chicago and I'll be in Chicago for three to four years, and then I'll move back to Austin.' And eventually I went, 'Wait, all of these plans … have something in common.' And Austin's really become a haven for improv at this point, it's really got this lovely improv scene. And I love improv, I love Austin, I missed my family and friends here, so I figured it was time to come back."
Thus Thinning the Herd. And thus The Pie and Ear Show.
"It's me getting to go back to my roots and play with friends," says Bryce. "Because there's so much improv in the city, but there are very few people who are doing fun short-form like Les does, like Owen and Jodi know how to do. Although, right now Megan's doing really beautiful long-form work – and I'm not opposed to us doing long-form in these sets. For each show, a different member of the cast gets to decide what we're going to do and direct the other people in doing it. You can probably expect a musical show, a long-form show, a short-form show when Les is in charge. Just some really interesting things each time."
And, again, that's starting tonight.