For the past 15 years, Austin + January + performance festival has always equaled FronteraFest. (See "Risk Immersion
.") But those creative sneaks in the city's improv community, who seem to be able to infiltrate just about anything (see also FronteraFest), have been carving out a corner of January for their very own little performance festival. If you're not yet familiar with see. hear. speak., the key to the four-night celebration of comedy is simple: Each verb in the title corresponds to a specific performance medium that is the focus of that evening's entertainment. "See" is video (Thursday), "hear" is music (Friday), and "speak" is spoken word (Saturday and Sunday). And that's all you need to know. Well, except for the fact that the comedy being showcased in the fourth iteration, Jan. 15-18, covers some of the city's most energetic sketch and improv troupes, plus a smattering of guests from the wilds of New York City and Los Angeles. For example:
• "See" will not only feature video from local sketch factories the P! Company and Studio 8 but the eternally sozzled Lovey & Lovey giving us their tipplers' take on scenes from classic cinema.
• "Hear" serves up the loop-de-loops of Austin playback manipulation master Chuck Watkins and the Francotacular cabaret stylings of faux Parisian duo Le Sexy; the West Coast improvisers whose every scene ends in self-murder, Pacto Suicidó; Phoenix musical duo Dangerville; and the indescribably out-there Imagine the Band, with the wetsuit-clad Eric William Pierson belting out original songs to backup musicians you have to conjure in your own cranium.
• "Hear" brings to town stand-up kings Sean Patton, Upright Citizens Brigade alumnus Sean Conroy, and Saturday Night Live writer Ali Farahnakian, plus an Austin spin on the after-hours chat show, Late Night With Midnight Society, hosted by the local troupe.
All shows are at ColdTowne Theater, 4803 Airport. For a full schedule, see Arts Listings. For more information, visit www.seehearspeakfest.com.