Austin Sketch Fest
Rise of the Planet of the skits
Quick, while the stand-ups are still exhausted from their marathon battle for punch line supremacy (see elsewhere on this page) and the improvisers are resting up for their annual weekend-long endurance test in a couple of weeks (see ... well, we haven't written that one yet), now is the time for Austin's sketch comedy writers and performers to seize the spotlight, garnering some of the attention they just don't get as much of most of the year.
It seems a bit, you should pardon the term, funny that sketch has wound up the Rodney Dangerfield of the local humor scene – gettin' no respect – given that the city's first legitimate comedy sensation, Esther's Follies, was built on sketches and continues to pack the house with them 35 years on. But the not-so-funny fact of the matter is, outside that celebrated laugh palace, Austin simply hasn't seen the steady stream of brilliant and original talents in sketch comedy that it has in the stand-up and improv communities.
That's been changing over the past few years, and that sparked the brain trust at ColdTowne to found the Austin Sketch Fest, a five-day jamboree of scripted comedy from funny folk both local and from across the nation. According to ColdTowne majordomo Michael Jastroch, "We started Sketch Fest because we wanted to provide a crucible for locals doing scripted comedy to come together and build a scene that is as vibrant, dynamic, and nationally well-regarded as the improv community. Since we began the festival, people who previously had little knowledge of each other have begun coming together and working on material." Jastroch cites sketch successes on the viral video front with video sketch collective Humordy and the consistently sold-out live performances of Stag Comedy, The Hustle Show, The Encyclopedia Show, Ghetto Sketch Warlock, and Mac Daddy's Bar and Grill.
For its third iteration, Sketch Fest will feature 12 acts in nine shows over five days in three venues. At the top of the heap is Mr. Show alum Paul F. Tompkins, who will perform his new batch of stories, Crying and Driving, twice at the Spider House 29th St. Ballroom. Also among the imports: Chicago's Astronaut Theatre, Los Angeles' Fantasy Sex Picnic, and, making its triumphant return to Sketch Fest, L.A.'s Delicious Moments, with Ithamar Enriquez and Brian Shortall bringing their self-created, self-aware sitcom to the party. Representing the hometown will be Austin's very own Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumna, Mary Jo Pehl, performing her new solo show, One Across; Your Terrific Neighbors; Spirit Desire; Hot Property; The P! Company; There's Waldo; previously mentioned Stag Comedy; and a special Sketch Fest edition of The Encyclopedia Show. With such an impressive lineup, it appears that Austin's sketch renaissance is well under way.
The 2012 Austin Sketch Fest will take place May 23-27, Wednesday-Sunday, at ColdTowne Theater, 4803-B Airport; Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd; and Spider House 29th St. Ballroom, 2908 Fruth. For a full schedule, visit www.atxsketchfest.com.