Out of Bounds Comedy Festival

Success is now spelled O-O-B

Impro Melbourne's Patti Stiles with P-graph's Kaci Beeler
Impro Melbourne's Patti Stiles with P-graph's Kaci Beeler (Photo courtesy of Jon Bolden)

The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival has come and gone, leaving in its wake a scattered community of local performers only now beginning to pay back their massive sleep debts. Seven nights of impromptu antics can take a toll on the most robust of humans, so we won't be surprised to see the Austin Improv Collective's Andy Crouch lurching zombielike across the cityscape or Kaci Beeler of Parallelogramophonograph crashed on a street-side bench, Available Cupholders' Ace Manning mumbling incoherently in an alleyway or Jason Vines of Improv for Evil in nothing but a frock coat, tied halfway up a lamppost. And you, Jeremy Lamb, OOB executive producer, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

This year's Out of Bounds comprised those seven nights, four venues, and more than 75 troupes from all over the country – and one from Australia. Your OOB news team, catching only 10 of the dozens of shows available, was impressed – by the constantly packed houses, the relative smoothness with which this vast machinery ran, the uncountable number of smiling faces in (and the easy camaraderie radiating from) the scene. And – by the shows themselves?

Well, look. Sturgeon's Law dictates that 90% of everything is crap. And OOB has doubled in size in recent years. Still, Sturgeon's Law was possibly turned inside out by this festival: Personal extrapolation and word of mouth suggest that 90% of it was anything but crap.

Damn, we saw some terrific performances! Austin's own Confidence Men, anchored by the Institution Theatre's Tom Booker and Asaf Ronen, was a nearly note-perfect rendition of David Mamet's staggering machine-gun dialogue and men-being-men posturing in a big-city aquarium; the show, a success overall, contained stretches where we had to remind ourselves, "No, it doesn't matter how fast they're going, how well the conversations are meshing, how fucking funny that one line was: These guys are making it all up as they go along." (See "Confidence Men/Start Trekkin'.") On the Spot, a troupe from Hawaii, slayed the audience with its silent-movie style improvisations, mugging and maneuvering like actors in some Mack Sennett reel, plying the physical comedy so well you'd think slapstick was a synonym for "sublime." The Knuckleball Now's show was its usual continual explosion of madly intersecting tangents, the ideas flying so fast and furious it was as though Michael D'Alonzo, Mike Joplin, Craig Kotfas, and Ace Manning were operating as one schizoid brain that had been in contact with Arthur C. Clarke's monolith.

Theatre artists Jenny Larson and Hannah Kenah brought their scripted show "Guest by Courtesy" to the Hideout; the extended skit ripped apart a contentious relationship between two cousins, with the humor and sheer physicality of the piece sufficient, we reckon, to overwhelm an entire parlor of Available Cupholders. Austin's Get Up started a night at the Independent in excellent long-form duo style, conjuring Norwegian and Russian seamen hunting a ghost whale to the bottom of the ocean and back. Impro Melbourne, from that island continent of Oz, added a couple of P-graphers to its wacky mix of scenes from a publishing house's slush pile. The amazing things that Scram from Minneapolis and Chicago did with structure would've confounded Tarantino. And the headlining pride of the festival, Cackowski and Talarico. Oy, Jesus, you can understand why these guys are professionals: Their long-form technique, smooth and deeply character-based, is unsurpassable.

If this is your first indication of what went down OOB-wise in Austin last week, we invite you to Google the festival's name and follow links to all the blogs and Flickr accounts that will be babbling about it for months to come. That way, friend, you'll know better what you missed. That way, you may decide to reserve your tickets for next year's Out of Bounds Comedy Festival now.

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Out of Bounds Comedy Festival, improv, Austin Improv Collective, Parallelogramophonograph, Knuckleball Now, Get Up, Available Cupholders, Improv for Evil, Confidence Men

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