SXSW Comedy: Week 2

Who's good and who's evil: Reggie Watts vs. Tom Cruise in <i>Legend</i>
Who's good and who's evil: Reggie Watts vs. Tom Cruise in Legend (Photo courtesy of Wendy Lynch Redfern)
SXSW Comedy: Week 2

'Legend' with Reggie Watts

Friday, March 16, 11:30pm
The Velveeta Room, 521 E. Sixth

If you can wrap your brain around the incongruous pairing of 23-year-old Tom Cruise in leafy tunic and stringy pageboy and 39-year-old Reggie Watts in urban work shirt and mushroom-cloud Afro, then you're the target audience for this audacious remix of sound and cinema. Watts has taken Ridley Scott's 1985 overripe fantasy Legend, with the post-Risky Business, pre-Top Gun Cruisester channeling Peter Pan and Prince Valiant, and stripped its audio, which he will fill live with an improvised score, narration, and dialogue. Based on reports from Watts' four-day Reggiedency at the San Francisco Sketchfest in February, the presentation has the comedian-musician working somewhere between a band providing a new original score to a silent film and Austin's Master Pancake Theater. He plays his own music throughout, albeit with shout-outs to Tangerine Dream's Eighties synth noodling on the original soundtrack, but also dubs lines in silly voices – a "ditzy whine" for Mia Sara, a "doltish bumpkin" for Cruise – and "marvelously snarky narration that explained everything happening on the screen in awkward but hilarious accuracy." Given Watts' fearless inventiveness and singular wit, this qualifies as a must-see, but alas, the one showing will be in the small Velveeta Room, which seriously limits the number of attendees. Since Watts has become a regular visitor to town (Fun Fun Fun Fest, Fusebox Festival), perhaps he'll bring this back someday in a larger space.

The Benson Interruption

Friday & Saturday, March 16 & 17, 8:30pm
Esther's Follies, 525 E. Sixth

Heckling has a long and well, not exactly distinguished tradition in the field of comedy, but it's the rare comic who hasn't been or isn't prepared to be interrupted midjoke by some wisenheimer who thinks he has something funnier to say. With The Benson Interruption, Doug Benson has given a new spin to that occupational hazard, building into a show the act of breaking in on stand-ups midroutine. Only instead of the usual anonymous voice of a stranger from the dark recesses of the club, Benson has cast himself as interrupter-in-chief and positioned himself on stage in full view – indeed, within a mic's throw of the working comic, who is typically one of his friends. What follows is less like what you think of as heckling and more like stand-up jazz, with the two comics riffing off each other's themes and concepts and each trying to punch out a line even funnier than the other's. Given Benson's own skill at stand-up and the quality of his friends – last year's SXSW show included Eugene Mirman, Chelsea Peretti, Aziz Ansari, Doug Mellard, and Brody Stevens – those riffs can generate some pretty spectacular laughs. Benson parlayed the success of the stage show into a Comedy Central series in 2010, but as with so much comedy, the recorded version can't capture all the improvisational energy of a live performance. For these interruptions, you'll want to be as close to the action as, well, Doug Benson is.

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