Cool Jerks

Twisted Tips on Beating the Heat From Austin Comics

Martha Kelly: This transplanted Los Angeleno moved here and promptly took the Austin comedy scene by storm, winning this year's Funniest Person in Austin contest with her wickedly sharp sense of humor (see related feature). Beware of inviting her to your barbecue, though: I like to go to parties and say really rude things to people. There's nothing like a constant stream of drinks being thrown in your face to keep cool.
Martha Kelly: This transplanted Los Angeleno moved here and promptly took the Austin comedy scene by storm, winning this year's Funniest Person in Austin contest with her wickedly sharp sense of humor (see related feature). Beware of inviting her to your barbecue, though: "I like to go to parties and say really rude things to people. There's nothing like a constant stream of drinks being thrown in your face to keep cool." (By Robert Faires)

One of the best things about summer is that our city's Old Guard stops bitching about all the technogeeks and Californians who have ruined their fading memory of Austin's halcyon days and unites with their new brethren for a few months to bitch about the hellish heat. As the rain clouds dry up and the brash Texas sun swings down low to torch the Hill Country to a delicious golden brown, the oppressive heat sits upon all our shoulders like the weight of the world upon poor Atlas. (For those of you wondering what the heat has to do with a book of maps, please proceed directly to the funny drawings.) Adversity always spawns creative and inventive solutions, and Austinites of all vintages love to share their favorite ways to "beat the heat." Of course, "beating the heat" is a rather quaint euphemism. The heat is like Michael Jordan; you cannot stop it, you can only hope to contain it. So in the spirit of good-natured fatalism that gets us all through the next half-year, we asked some of Austin's hottest comedians for their favorite tips on surviving summer in the white-hot heart of Texas.

Why comedians? Well, it takes a cool character to weather the hot lights of a comedy club stage, to stand alone in a room full of strangers with a sign on his forehead that reads, "I'm funny." Comics have to prove that night after night, and the one cardinal rule is, "Never let them see you sweat." Audiences, like wild jackals, can sense fear, so a comic needs to have some sort of frosty liquid coursing through your veins; usually that frosty liquid is gin. With that in mind, here are a few of the local jokers' trade secrets for surviving summer -- along with a reminder that even if you're sweating your ass off, a good laugh will take your mind off the heat.

Chris Fairbanks: Comedy scene newcomer whose quirky stage presence and clever material got him to the finals of the Funniest Person in Austin contest his first time out. Fairbanks just moved here from a small cabin in Montana and is about to face his first Austin summer, but he passes along that most beloved of Texas weather clichés, acquired after his recent relocation.

"I'm playing golf and a guy says to me, 'Yup, if you don't like the weather in Texas, wait five minutes -- it'll change!' You know, I heard a guy from Delaware say that once. Even a girl from Oregon. In fact, I think the five-minute weather rule is universal. 'You no like weather in Thailand, wait five minute!' 'You don't like weather in Russia, comrade, wait ... in line for bread!' 'Don't like weather on Mars? Wait five remlacks!'"

Kerry Awn: This veteran South Austinite has been slaying local audiences since the Armadillo was the hot spot in town. When he's not on stage with Esther's Follies, you'll probably find Awn next door at the Velveeta Room (named after Awn alter ego, Ronnie Velveeta) chilling out with a cold Shiner Bock. His surefire method for lowering your body temperature? Stop listening to our city's crack meteorologists.

J.C. Shakespeare: Go to long, long summer movies. If you can find a double bill of <i>The Green Mile </i>and<i> Eyes Wide Shut</i>, you can stay cool and catch up on some much-needed shuteye.
J.C. Shakespeare: Go to long, long summer movies. If you can find a double bill of The Green Mile and Eyes Wide Shut, you can stay cool and catch up on some much-needed shuteye. (By Robert Faires)

"Not only is it ho-o-ottttt!" rants Awn, "the weathermen make it even hotter with the heat index. Do we need the heat index in our daily life? 'Well, it's 95 degrees outside today, but if you have red hair, you're overweight, you're wearing a black polyester jumpsuit, and you're doing jumping jacks in a freshly paved asphalt parking lot, it feels like it's 112!'

"Well, if I'm in my house, in my underwear, in front of the air conditioner, it feels like it's 62! We know it's hot. Don't make it hotter!"

Doug Connolly: This newcomer to Austin comedy gets his biggest laughs the way Johnny Carson did: when a joke bombs. Connolly's terse one-liners, deadpan delivery, and self-deprecating humor make him a favorite with other comics, especially when the audience turns against him. Connolly's advice for beating the heat may not work for everyone, but other comics will know just what he means.

"How do I stay cool? Quit doing open mikes. Stops the flop sweat."

John Rabon: Austin's very best Grumpy Young Man. His act, which is infused with hearty helpings of righteous indignation on everything from frat boys to organized religion to the Backstreet Boys, keeps him from bursting into flames.

"For God's sake, stay inside when the sun's out," grumbles Rabon. "Don't listen to your freaky environmental friends who say, 'It's a beautiful day! Go outside and enjoy nature!' Eat me. I'll enjoy nature in the spring and the fall. Just remember to drink lots of fluids, like Jack Daniels and tequila. Hopefully, you'll drink enough to pass out and wake up the next day when the sun's going down.

Mark Fradl: This comic left the stage a few months back to pursue his filmmaking career. He currently writes and produces shows for Internet startup Sundown Broadcast System. He's also a very sick man: Two words: Slurpee enemas.
Mark Fradl: This comic left the stage a few months back to pursue his filmmaking career. He currently writes and produces shows for Internet startup Sundown Broadcast System. He's also a very sick man: "Two words: Slurpee enemas." (By Robert Faires)

"If you have to go outside, and you're downtown where the heat is unbearable, set fire to a Starbucks. That way, when the fire truck comes, you can convince the firefighters to let Satan's coffeehouse burn to the ground and spray you with the hose instead. Everybody wins."

Matt Sadler: Winner of last year's HBO-sponsored Aspen Showcase -- which didn't mean that he actually got to go to the Aspen festival, but he did get to perform at the Improv in Los Angeles and was wined and dined by showbiz weasels. Apparently, he learned a few tricks in Hollywood that are helpful here in Texas.

"Nothing keeps you cool like a full-body Vaseline rubdown!"

Ray Prewitt: This local actor, founding member of the sketch comedy troupe Ray Prewitt's Fourth Grade Class, and veteran drinker cracks a beer on the big screen this summer in the opening scene of Where the Heart Is. He suggests a certain legendary local watering hole for sweet release from a torpid summer afternoon: "Drink a beer at the Dry Creek Saloon and stay cool under that proprietress' icy stare! Have you seen that woman? She's scary!"

Or for a more permanent solution: "Drink booze till they bury you in the cold, cold ground."

Trey Galyon: An up-and-coming young comic you may recognize from K-EYE's fascinating, in-depth look at Austin comedy: "I go on lots of dates. The women I date -- very, very cold."

Justin Sanders: This finalist in the 2000 Funniest Person in Austin contest is not only the front-runner to win the contest next year, he's a notorious flouter of all fashion laws: "I like wearing Daisy Dukes with no underwear. I mean, it works for Leslie, why shouldn't I give it a shot?!"

J.C. Shakespeare: Though I've retired from the stage to become a full-time heckler, I have a few of my own suggestions for keeping your body temperature somewhere below boiling: Replace your Juiceman Juicer with a frozen margarita machine; heavy drinking will rid you of that dangerous compulsion to exercise. If your own AC breaks this summer, find one of those goobers that goes door-to-door in those little pickup trucks selling frozen steaks and seafood. You can hang out in their freezer all day and not once have the cold disturbed by them opening the door for a sale. The best way to stop thinking about the heat, however, is to get together with some friends and head out for a few laughs. All the comedy clubs in town are air-conditioned, they all serve ice-cold drinks, and all of these folks that have shared their wit and wisdom are even funnier live than they are on paper. end story

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