The Austin Chronicle

SXSW Comedy

Really taking funny seriously

By Robert Faires, March 9, 2012, Arts

For several years, South by Southwest has been quite the flirt when it comes to comedy, teasing it with stand-up showcases that each year it's let go a little farther and a little farther ("one night, now two nights, now four nights ...") and the steadily expanding number of comedy special events, yet never taking the relationship seriously enough to bestow upon it the full conference status of Music, Film, and Interactive. Well, comedy still doesn't have a ring on its finger this year, but SXSW is showing more signs of commitment. Look for more showcases (eight nights now), including some from high-octane presenters Funny or Die and Upright Citizens Brigade; afternoon performances during the week on the SXSW trade show Next stage; special events with Kelly Carlin (daughter of George), Paul Provenza, Reggie Watts, and Doug Benson; a slew of live podcast tapings; panels during SXSW Interactive; and, most significantly, its own official named track through the three conferences. To give you a sense of this breakthrough year for SXSW Comedy, here's a guide to select events through next Thursday.

A Carlin Home Companion

Saturday, March 10, 5pm

Austin Convention Center, Ballroom G

The comedy rebel who gave the world the "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television," "Religion Is Bullshit," and "Stuff" bits also gave us Kelly Carlin, a writer, storyteller, and expert in Jungian psychology who's carving out quite the career as radio interviewer on the weekly podcast Waking From the American Dream and shiny new monthly program The Kelly Carlin Show, which debuted in February on Sirius XM. Her original solo show reviews the life and career of her father from her perspective as his only child, watching her straight-arrow stand-up dad as he literally lets his hair down and becomes the counterculture comic who says things others won't. The show, which includes family photos and videos, has been called "equal parts heartbreaking and humorous."

Funny or Die: Future of Comedy & Everything Else

Sunday, March 11, 3:30pm

Austin Convention Center, Room 18ABCD

Four top execs at Funny or Die – Andrew Steele, Dick Glover, Mike Farah, and Patrick Starzan – reveal the inner workings of the Web comedy juggernaut, how it grew from a Will Ferrell/Adam McKay side project into a new media leader partnerning with HBO and releasing its own feature film, and what's next.

The Not So Allied Forces of Social TV Comedy

Monday, March 12, 12:30pm

Austin Convention Center, Room 12AB

Thanks to the BBC, comedy consumers on both sides of the Atlantic have been able to enjoy the envelope-pushing genius of everyone from the Goons to Monty Python to the League of Gentlemen. So when the network turns to the Web and social media to develop comedy for the 21st century, it's worth noting. The BBC Comedy Department's Will Saunders and Iris Worldwide's Jon Burkhart share what's cooking in the online lab, including a live Twitter-powered experiment just for SXSW.

Podcasting: Breeding A New Class of Comedy Nerd

Monday, March 12, 3:30pm

Austin Convention Center, Room 12AB

The nine comedy podcasts doing live recordings at SXSW 2012 barely scratch the surface in terms of professional funny folk with digital shows. Why are comedians seizing on this medium and how are they shaping its development? Scott Aukerman, Emily Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani, and Kevin Pollak explain this and more.

Tricking People into Reading Again

Monday, March 12, 5pm

Sheraton Austin, Capitol EFGH

Joe Randazzo of The Onion, Chris Monks of McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and Jack O'Brien and Oren Katzeff of explain how comedy on the Web isn't just "Drunk History" videos and LOLcats. Some sites are breathing new life into the written tradition of humor and satire, creating for the 2010s what National Lampoon was to the 1970s.

Funny or Die & Caviar Present The Super Serious Show

Monday, March 12, 8 & 10:30pm

Esther's Follies, 525 E. Sixth

From the City of Angels comes this smorgasbord of live performance and short films, featuring Jerrod Carmichael, John Hodgman, Kyle Kinane, Kumail Nanjiani, Aparna Nancherla, Jonah Ray, Reggie Watts, and more. T.J. Miller hosts.

Funny or Die's How to Succeed in Videos by Trying

Tuesday, March 13, 2pm

Austin Convention Center, Austin Suite

If comedy is hard, viral video comedy is even harder. Funny or Die writers Owen Burke and Alex Fernie, producers Ally Hord and Betsy Koch, and editor Darryl Gudmundson explain how much harder in a behind-the-scenes look at the company's creative process, from conception to promotion – with actual FOD videos!

RISK! True Tales, Boldly Told

Tuesday, March 13, 4pm

Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 3/4

Want to hear people "tell true stories they never thought they'd dare to share in public"? Then this live show from Los Angeles and New York is for you. How risky are these stories? Hear some samples on the podcast or the website at Kevin Allison of the State hosts.

Banded Together: Touring as a Standup Comedy Group

Wednesday, March 14, 11am

Austin Convention Center, Room 16AB

Slapping a handful of joke-slingers onto one bill and schlepping them from coast to coast has proven lucrative in the past – see Spike Lee's Original Kings of Comedy, the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, and Comedians of Comedy – but there can be downsides as well as ups. Kristine Levine, Eugene Mirman, Henry Owings of Chunklet, Jack Vaughn of Comedy Central Records, and moderator Julie Seabaugh share road stories.

Upright Citizens Brigade Presents The Chris Gethard Show

Wednesday, March 14, 4pm

Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 3/4

All you really need to know is that it's from Upright Citizens Brigade and it's called "the most bizarre and often saddest talk show in New York City." But you can also expect stunts that range from the physically painful (being beaten by kickboxers, being electrocuted) to the conceptually inspired (luring P. Diddy on the show via Twitter or using social media to direct the route of an unplanned cross-country trip). And expect to be interacted with. Mostly, expect Chris Gethard.

Set List: Standup Without a Net

Thursday, March 15, 11:30pm

Esther's Follies, 525 E. Sixth

Troy Conrad and Paul Provenza give stand-up an improvisational spin by making the comics who take part provide material off the cuff from topics that are handed to them just as they step up to the mic.

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