Quips & Squealers

Monday, Apr 5

CONSPIRACY THEATRE COMPANY: You know it's all a damn conspiracy, and these guys from Chicago are out to prove it. They take totally unrelated audience suggestions and weave them into a conspiracy by the end of the show. The group comes from an Annoyance Theatre background, and it shows in the no-rules, in-your-face, quick-cuts form that can be like a comic slap in the face. Their work can get down and dirty quickly, but hey, that's how conspiracies are, right? (Esther's Pool, 8pm Mon; Maggie Mae's, 10pm Sat) --J.C. Shakespeare

ONLY 90% EFFECTIVE: Austin's hottest young troupe of theatrical comedic performers aren't afraid of shit. They'll make fun of anything from the Holocaust to stroke victims and believe it or not, you have to laugh. These kooky kids blend intelligent writing with a vast repertoire of physical comedy and slapstick stunts. BS4 features the debut of "RASSLE," their show about a "young professional wrestler and his plucky leprechaun trainer." A lot of troupes call themselves edgy; these guys leap right into the abyss. (Esther's Pool, 10pm Mon; Paramount Theatre, 8pm Thu) --J.C. Shakespeare

LONE STAR COMEDY: Down from Dallas, Lone Star Comedy brings their finely honed funny bones deep in the heart of Texas. Director Randy Bennett of Groundlings fame leads this talented ensemble cast through long-form pieces with the feel of spontaneous sitcoms. In fact, their latest show, Lone Star Means Funny TV, will skewer the eminently skewerable world of late second-millennium TV. This group spends a lot of time working and rehearsing offstage, and those long hours result in polished performances from a tightly-knit cast. I predict a lot of these Lone Stars will soon be TV stars. (Esther's Pool, 10pm Mon; Scottish Rite Theatre, 5:30pm Fri) --J.C. Shakespeare

Photo of Brainwaves

Brainwaves

BRAINWAVES: While most troupes are clamoring to invent new twists on improvisational structures, this group from Portland, Ore., does classic short-form improv and does it damn well. With Brainwaves having been founded in 1986, most members have at least seven years of performing together under their belts. The professional polish really shines in their fast-paced "Brainwave TV" piece, which showcases a plethora of splendid impressions from favorite shows both new and old. Yo, if you like your improv "old-school," check out the Brainwaves. (Maggie Mae's, 10pm Mon; Velveeta Room, 8pm Fri) -- J.C. Shakespeare

ONE HIT WONDER: They may be called One Hit Wonder, but these boys ain't no one-trick pony. They combine a wealth of talents to bring music, dance numbers, and brilliantly conceived sketch comedy into a seamless and polished show. Out of a rather large stack of tapes of several fest performers, their "gay father and son fishing" sketch was the only thing that brought tears to my eyes. I even rewound the tape and called my roommates in to watch. The barbershop harmonies on "Diggin' Up Princess Di" will stick in your head for days. Who'd have guessed something this damn funny could come out of Oklahoma? (Velveeta Room, 10pm Mon; John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 8pm Sat) --J.C. Shakespeare


TUESDAY, APR 6

Holy Mackerel: Picture it: a couple of loud, dumb, grunged-out guys wildly overacting and weakly goofing on Christian paraphernalia. Fake vomiting? Sure. Over-acted falls? Yup. And bad Christian jokes to boot. Lots of 'em. Why, oh why, when good Christian jokes are so easy to come by? I mean, it doesn't take much effort to exploit the comic potential of W.W.J.D. ("What Would Jesus Do?") bracelets. Why work so hard? (Esther's Pool, 5:30pm Tue; Velveeta Room, 8pm Thu) --Ada Calhoun

Improv Asylum:This sleek, well-seasoned Boston troupe sift together pop culture, camp, and classic improv and sketch (Puff Daddy meets Puff the Magic Dragon). Led by the quick-quipping Paul D'Amato, this group makes what feels like a genuinely daring and inspired moments of comedy. (Esther's Pool, 8pm Tue; Maggie Mae's, 5:30pm Thu) --Sarah Hepola

The Chainsaw Boys: Neither boys nor high-powered machinery, this New York City troupe of four men and three women instead seek to create one well-oiled, uninterrupted comic buzz with their Chicago-style improv, using unusual sketches and musical numbers.(Esther's Pool, 8pm Tue; Maggie Mae's, 5:30pm Fri) --Sarah Hepola

Photo of Oui Be Negroes

Oui Be Negroes

OUI BE NEGROES: One of the few African-American troupes in the improv world, the Negroes are a perennial favorite at Big Stinkin'. Creative Director Shaun Landry is an "improv guru," meaning she's been doing this a long damn time. Her background in Second City brings a classical structure to the troupe, and they fearlessly dive into all types of improvs. Political commentary, racial foibles, and good old-fashioned improv are all woven together in a show that's a rollicking stomp on the wild side. You know Landry has a sense of humor; she's married to Hans, the token honkey! (Paramount Theatre, 8pm Tue; Velveeta Room, 10pm Fri) --J.C. Shakespeare

Urban Komedtry: This irreverent group of black comedians from Los Angeles are equal opportunity offenders, tweaking the reliable, well-traveled road of mama jokes, Asian store robberies, and newscasts to make for a big helping of BET-style entertainment that lampoons cultural stereotypes of all hues. Give it up, y'all. (Paramount Theatre, 8pm Tue; Maggie Mae's, 5:30pm Thu) --Sarah Hepola

The Perks:A large L.A.-based improv troupe with a Kids in the Hall-esque aesthetic (though not quite that group's cleverness and chemistry), the definitely perky Perks do musical numbers, dance numbers, and basically whatever else the audience commands with considerable enthusiasm. (John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 10pm Tue; Velveeta Room, 8pm Thu) --Ada Calhoun

NAKED BABIES: These young pups from New York City like their sketch doggy-style. Four comics, fed up with the NYC comedy gristmill, decided to bust loose and do whatever the hell they wanted. They're young, they're wild, and they're free, and a wonderful chemistry exists in their clever and delightfully naughty stage work. While all four come from solid comic backgrounds, this new combination seems to be clicking for them. (Maggie Mae's, 10pm Tue; Velveeta Room, 10pm Fri) --J.C. Shakespeare

The Management: Emerging from the fog of San Francisco -- and stints with practically every comedy group therein -- The Management may do its best work in the dark! Peer into the lunatic mists of these four cool Bay Area big bangers for sketch comedy that has rocked SF like, well, like an earthquake, duh! (Esther's Pool, 10pm Tue; Maggie Mae's, 8pm Wed) --Robi Polgar


WEDNESDAY, APR 7

LESTER McFWAP: Another L.A. group with a pre-festival "buzz" going on, Lester McFwap is hot off a win at Caroline's Sketch Comedy Festival in New York. This quirky troupe specializes in "cerebral, silly conceptual comedy." If you're into alternative comedy, then McFwap is right up yo alley. (John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 5:30pm Wed;Scottish Rite Theatre, 8pm Fri) --J.C. Shakespeare

THE NEW INGREDIENTS: The New Ingredients have emerged from Chicago's fabled improv scene with a biting blend of improv and sketch. Their fresh ideas and inventive comedy justify the name. They score with an improv in which an expert on an audience-suggested topic has to describe a slide show created by actors in shifting physical tableaux. Very clever, very funny. Their show can even be educational; you just might learn to be a better pimp! (John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 5:30pm Wed; Velveeta Room, 10pm Thu) --J.C. Shakespeare

Well Hung Jury: In case their name didn't give it away, Well Hung Jury is sophomoric humor of the purest stripe. Which isn't to say that the eight young turks that make up this Austin-based improv group aren't talented or that their jagged comedy isn't seasoned beyond their years. In fact, their classic improv games take on a velocity all their own, with wild tangents and manic energy, and hey, what they lack in experience, they more than make up for in puns. (Velveeta Room, 5:30pm Wed; John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 10pm Thu) --Sarah Hepola

The Perch Theatre: The fish are flying -- or dancing -- out of Charlotte, N.C. This young, rowdy sketch comedy troupe turns its fins on Saturday Night Live-style gags-without-end by actually writing sharp finales to its skits. Music, movement, song, and sharp reversals make these fish the catch of the day. (Maggie Mae's, 8pm Wed; John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 10pm Fri) -- Robi Polgar

LATINO COMEDY PROJECT: Riding the crest of the wave in the Capital City's burgeoning Latino comedy scene is the Latino Comedy Project. Most of their humor lies in skewering the Latino relationship to white culture, and their social and political commentary is usually right on the mark. They do some fine character work and the joy they bring to the stage is contagious. Best time to catch them: Wed, April 7, when the Latino Comedy Showcase hits the Paramount stage. (Paramount Theatre, 8pm Wed; Scottish Rite Theatre, 5:30pm Sat) --J.C. Shakespeare

Photo of The Improv Bandits

The Improv Bandits

THE IMPROV BANDITS: You'll wanna go way downunder with these four strapping, charming lads from Auckland, New Zealand, as they leap across the big pond for a diplomatic mission to prove that despite the distance between, we all speak the same language: Funny. With neither script nor prop, Xena and Hercules veteran Wade Jackson and his fellow En Zed hunks quick-draw topics from the audience and turn them into shell casings of farcical hilarity, all the while stealing hearts and laffs with their silly, decidedly Brit-dry wit, and sexy Kiwi accents. Pow! (John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 10pm Wed; Maggie Mae's, 8pm Thu) --Kate X Messer

THE HAVE-NOTS!: Greg Tavares, Timmy Finch, and the rubber-faced Brandy Rucker make up South Carolina's pro-laugh staff The Have Nots! This three-nut juggernaut of sharp-witted absurd-o-philes put you in stitches with character-driven improvs as a troupe member offstage hollers out new personality disorders for the lucky onstage performers to slam out with dizzying and belly-busting aplomb. No matter what they're trying to say with that name, by the end of their set, it's clear that when it comes to comedy, these actors are The Haves! (John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 10pm Wed; Velveeta Room, 5:30pm Fri) --Kate X Messer

CHUCO TOWN RAIZ: Take a trip to the barrio with these vatos and chicas from El Paso. While some of their humor is a trifle juvenile and predictable, their youthful enthusiasm and authenticity makes up for it. Their sketches involve some very funny character work and you can tell they have a great time performing. Ride that Latino comedy wave, baby. (Velveeta Room, 10pm Wed; Scottish Rite Theatre, 8pm Sat) --J.C. Shakespeare


THURSDAY, APR 8

Kairos! Co.: Using the ever-helpful comedy-troupe-as-war-movie metaphor, Kairos! Co. is best described as Red Dawn. Like the freedom-loving teens of John Milius' testosterone-fueled Eighties "godless-Commies-invade-America" flick, this Austin comedy power trio (with integral audio support guru Tim Giradot) refuses to accept the repressive conformity and groupthink of the ruling culture, so they take to the woods, slip under the radar, and lob their satiric grenades at the Evil Empire. While the group's satire isn't always as fresh and radical as they appear to think, their blazing commitment to their material and powerful physicality is. This crew has acquired some real polish over the past seven years, and it makes their best bits -- a raucously biting slam poetry competition, the true story of Jesus and the wedding at Cana -- hit you in the gut like a guerilla sucker-punch. But what comes out after is a belly-laugh.(Velveeta Room, 5:30pm Thu; Maggie Mae's, 8pm Sat) --Robert Faires

The Transformers: And you thought transformers were kids' stuff! This group of adult men may look like mild-mannered improv comics, but they never stop!!! Maybe all that waiting around on the freeways of Los Angeles has created the need to run about like chickens (well, at least one of the Transformers seems to have been so blessed). Now they're here to try Austin's brand of road rage. Batteries most definitely included. (John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 10pm Thu; Austin Music Hall, 8pm Sat) --Robi Polgar

Monks' Night Out: When BS season rolls around, plenty of ink is spilled over local troupe Monks' Night Out for hosting this comedy confab, but considerably less is sloshed over the group's own comedic contributions to the fest fun. And that should change. At BS3, the Monks put themselves in the position of opening the fest's big gala -- the one with the touring company of the legendary Second City troupe headlining -- and our hometown heroes proved themselves more than worthy of the spot. Their set of sketches was crisp, polished, and, most importantly, funny, with the players revealing a knack for offbeat premises, smart dialogue, and a keen sense of how to provoke laughs without ever saying a word. These Monks provide divine comedy. (Esther's Pool, 10pm Thu; Paramount Theatre, 8pm Fri) --Robert Faires


FRIDAY, APR 9

2BD + 1BA: Los Angeles comedians Jeff Lewis and Jackson Douglas' two-man show concerns the agonizing social licks you take to keep that flagging conversation going. Meeting at a movie, the one asks the other to move into his apartment, creating less an odd couple, more a disturbed couple out of the two seemingly innocuous guys. Discomfort for them, comic fits for you, so drink the last of the milk and share a laugh with that pseudo-stranger next to you. (John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, 5:30pm Fri;Maggie Mae's, 8pm Sat) --Robi Polgar

The Impromptones: Many a comedy group lays claim to doing improvised musicals, but often their facility in this sub-genre of improv doesn't extend beyond some ingenious rhymes in the lyrics. Comedians with a genuine command of musical styles, not to mention just being able to carry a tune, are as rare as long-form improvs with funny endings. What distinguishes this Los Angeles quartet is the members' true talent in all things musical. Their voices are fluid, their harmonies clean and clear, and their grasp of styles as diverse as minimalist opera and country-western solid. They're so good that you'd want to listen to them sing even if they weren't concocting the songs out of thin air. But, of course, they are, and that makes listening to them all the more delightful. They are choice in the improvised music game -- and they ain't half-bad with those ingenious rhyming lyrics, either. (Paramount Theatre, 8pm Fri) --Robert Faires

SGT. PICKERY'S MECHANICA WONDERFRA: This oddly named, three-man sketch troupe from Los Angeles stands apart from the crowd. Their witty, cosmopolitan blend of slick humor is very weird and very funny. A send-up of BBC's existential, incomprehensible Euro- intellectual films was just a sweet setup for the homoerotic cowboys who have spent way too much time away from women. But they ain't gay! Honorable mention for cleverest puppet gag, too. (Maggie Mae's, 10pm Fri; Scottish Rite Theatre, 10pm Sat) --J.C. Shakespeare

Photo of Houseful of Honkeys

Houseful of Honkeys

Houseful of Honkeys: Get any bunch of longtime SXSW attendees together to tell stories of conferences past, and you'll find that each has a tale of that unexpected magical set -- the one that they stumbled on in some tiny bar, when the band was already in the middle of its set (typically it's a band they hadn't planned on seeing), and the room was packed and hot and it was hard to see, but there was something remarkable going on, and the band was into it and the crowd was into it, and it was thoroughly captivating. Well, similar things happen at the Big Stinkin', friends. Last year at BS3, I'd left the last big showcase at Palmer, content from having seen Second City and our own Monks' Night Out, and, as the show had run long, I was pretty sure I'd missed most of the late-night showcases. But on a hunch, I scooted over to the Dougherty Arts Center, where I found the tiny DAC Theatre was overflowing with a crowd roaring over an improv set from this Los Angeles troupe and special guest Fred Willard, who was joining in on the fun. It was tightly packed and hot and I had trouble seeing, but it was thoroughly captivating, not so much for the games, which seemed mostly standard-issue short-form structures within a game-show format, but for the very engaging personalities of the cast members and their sense of playfulness, with regard to each other and to the audience. Put simply, they seemed to be having fun, and it made all the difference. They were into it, we were into it, and it was magical. (Scottish Rite Theatre, 10pm Fri, Austin Music Hall, 8pm Sat) --Robert Faires


SATURDAY, APR 10

THE VILLAGE IDIOTS: Another power trio of improv, this Dallas-based group does fun stuff with improvs based on sources like the Yellow Pages or the newspaper. You never know what will pop up, but don't be surprised if it's raw and raunchy. The group is a self-proclaimed "equal-opportunity offender, making fun of all races, genders, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations and physical suggestions." If you don't like that kind of stuff, they have an audience suggestion for you; "Go watch reruns of The Cosby Show!" (Velveeta Room, 8pm Sat) --J.C. Shakespeare

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