The Velveeta Pack
Vegas had its Rat Pack, that fraternity of show-biz legends (most of them anyway) whose collective superstar wattage outshone everything around it. Well, Austin has its own all-star brotherhood, five veteran stand-ups who, like their Sin City counterparts, can be counted on to eclipse all else on our version of the Strip, Sixth Street. Which is precisely what you need when the roar of tens of thousands of souped-up Harleys threatens to drown out all sound Downtown. With the rumbling return of the Republic of Texas Biker Rally, the gang at Esther's Follies is taking the weekend off, but they've left the keys to the Pool with the Velveeta Pack – aka the V Team – who have ample power to keep the funny rolling; these venerable comics boast more than a century of punch-line prowess among them. Led by original Funniest Person in Austin winner Kerry Awn, the comedy crew includes JR Brow (FPIA 1992), Howard Beecher (FPIA 1997), Matt Sadler (Carnival Comedy Challenge winner 2005), and John O'Connell (champion, fifth-grade spelling bee). The Chronicle contacted Awn, local comedy's Chairman of the Board, to learn what we can expect when the swingers of stand-up face the hordes of hardcore hog riders.
Austin Chronicle: You, JR, Sadler, O'Connell, and Beecher – that's an old-school all-star team of Austin stand-up.
Kerry Awn: Yes, it is old-school. In fact, we're not only old-school but also home-schooled. We're the founding fathers of Austin stand-up. We discovered, built, and maintained Austin stand-up since day one.
AC: No question you'll be funny, but how do you plan on being heard over all those revving motorcycle engines?
KA: Actually, the main ROT parade and activity is now on Congress Avenue. Sixth Street is just a parking lot for all their toys. Plus, we have microphones.
AC: Have you guys been working up new motorcycle jokes just for this weekend?
KA: We've been polishing our do-rags and pressing our leather chaps. Beecher rides a Harley, so we might just bring it onstage and rev it up so the audience can get the full effect of the weekend.
AC: What if you get heckled by a ROT Rally rider during the show?
KA: We'll come back at him with something he can relate to: a doctor, lawyer, or Viagra joke.
AC: Will you guys be doing anything to make this feel like a Rat Pack show? Say, sharkskin suits or some swingin' singin'?
KA: We'll be drinking heavily and making rude, crude, and suggestive remarks, if that's what you mean. Leave the kids at home, as this is not your grandmother's Esther's.
We are making a short film to open the show to introduce ourselves to any unsuspecting audience members. Also, we plan on closing the show with all five of us onstage swingin', singin', and flingin' jokes. It's like a supergroup reunion, and we'll be presenting some of our most famous routines along with lots of new bits.
AC: What's the best thing about the five of you on the same bill?
KA: The best thing is that you're getting five road-tested, experienced comics that have faced down years of drunken, indifferent audiences all over the world. Once you've played Enid, Oklahoma, the biker crowd is just a bunch of pussycats.
Not only are these guys proven laugh-getters, but they're also some of my closest friends. We will have fun regardless, and I think the audience will see that and join in the party.
AC: And the worst thing?
KA: Probably the hangovers and string of broken hearts we'll leave behind.
The Velveeta Pack performs June 10-12, Thursday, 8pm; Friday & Saturday, 8 & 10pm, at Esther's Follies, 525 E. Sixth. For more information, visit www.thevelveetaroom.com.