Big Stinkin' International Improv & Sketch Comedy Festival 4

Festival. In Austin, the word can inspire terror.

Especially after March, when the three-headed festival beast known as SXSW has held sway over the city for three full weeks. You can see the word in print and it makes you involuntarily begin to shudder. That's when I break in with my soothing authorial voice and reassure you that you don't have to worry about being overwhelmed by this festival. It's about being funny, about making you laugh. It's a hoot, no joke.

The Big Stinkin' International Improv & Sketch Comedy Festival is in its fourth year now, and in that brief period, it's become one of the local celebrations worth shaking off that festival hangover for. It offers us the delightful opportunity to laugh ourselves silly for six days straight, with some 55 comedy troupes from across the land (and this year a couple from halfway across the globe) sharing their gifts for foolery in short sets at some of our town's coziest clubs and theatres. In addition to double-barrelled showcase bills at smaller venues, the BS festival also lines up a series of gala shows at one of the city's larger performance venues. This year's special shows kick off with a special screening of two episodes of Mike Judge's animated TV hit King of the Hill at the Paramount Theatre, with series writers and cast members in attendance. Then, later in the week, cast members from the comedy series MAD TV and Whose Line Is It, Anyway? will take the stage to perform live for local audiences. And they'll be joined by some lesser-known but no less funny comedy crews, such as Houseful of Honkeys, the Impromptones, and Austin's own Monks' Night Out (coincidentally the host troupe for the festival). As I've noted before, it's a comedy bacchanal.

So what's to get worked up over? You go, you listen, you laugh. If all those other fests have you totally stressed out, that's what you need to do anyway, so the timing couldn't be better. And we've made it even easier for you to figure out when to go and who to see with even more coverage of the Big Stink than we had last year. Okay, so just about anything would be more coverage than we had last year, but there's some really helpful stuff here. Honest. --Robert Faires

Picks to Snicker

Quips & Squealers

Festival Schedule

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