For the 14th year, the Hideout Theatre brings 25 troupes together for a toasty mix of improv and free waffles
"Improv comedy in Austin is growing exponentially, and it can be hard to get a handle on everything that's going on," runs the description on the website for the Hideout Theatre on Congress in Downtown Austin.
"Fortunately," the spiel continues, "WaffleFest features more than 25 different troupes from all the improv camps in town, all united under one sticky banner of free waffles."
It's a welcome relief to read a description that's precisely that: a factual description, instead of a superlative-flooded parade of self-aggrandizing hype, right? Rather a sweet change of public-relations pace, isn't it?
Still: What the hell do you do now, citizen?
Because, yes, you know you enjoy improv comedy, or you've decided that this weekend will be your first foray into experiencing the art form live, and it's a big bonus that the prices are the same but the waffles and their myriad toppings are free. But there are so many different shows to choose among, even just the 11 at the Hideout this Thursday through Saturday, not to mention the other regular venues in this busy town ... there are so many options that your mind is already slightly boggled.
Allow me to give you a few suggestions? And I will, but first: Why does WaffleFest exist at all? What launched this local tradition that's been going on for 13 years? For the answer, I sought out Kareem Badr, co-owner of the Hideout and member of globe-trotting improv troupe Parallelogramophonograph.
"We inherited WaffleFest from Sean Hill, the founder and daddy of the Hideout," says Badr. "I believe his logic went something like this: Dad's Garage in Atlanta has BaconFest. What other foods would people go crazy for? How about ... waffles?"
So, as simple as that. Which is why the Hideout, catering shows for the increasingly popular festival, now lays in, ah, how many provisions? Is there a rough estimate, or –
"Brenner," says Badr, "it just so happens that I am an anal-retentive idiot." And he hands me a printed inventory.
Two hundred pounds of waffle mix. Eight cans of cooking spray. Eleven bottles of syrup. Five jars of Nutella. Two large jars of peanut butter. Two bags of chocolate chips. Two jars of jam. Thirty pounds each of strawberries and bananas. A dozen cans of whipped cream. And there's even more, for the three nights of WaffleFest, the details of which are obsessively tracked by Badr – "I've even calculated the calories," he says, "and it's over half a million." – but produced by the indefatigable Paul Normandin.
"Paul's been wrangling this sticky mess for months," says Badr. "It'd be impossible without him."
But why stop there? Why just once a year, and with vittles more closely associated with morning-time breakfast devouring? Because, sure, waffles – everybody loves waffles. But what about something even more tasty, even more fortifying and nutritionally diverse and closer to the appropriate day-part? What about the possibility of PotRoastWithMashedPotatoesAndGravyFest?
"OK," says Badr. "I just scheduled it. It's in February."
"Yes," says Badr. "And you're the producer. I'll assign Asana tasks to you tomorrow."
Right. Sticking with just reporting on the Hideout's WaffleFest, then, thank-you-very-much. For which I offer these three recommendations for your entertainment pleasure:
Thu., Nov. 19, 10pm, downstairs: Behold the distaff and scientific quartet of Physics Curse; UT's short-form specialists known as Gigglepants; and the downright legendary Available Cupholders in one improv-wreaking bloc of goodness.
Fri., Nov. 20, 8pm, downstairs: This show features the Escorts, Confidence Men, and The Amazon & the Milksop. Might be the fiercest lineup of the whole Fest right here – and you especially don't want to miss a chance to catch the Mamet-inflected sausage-party antics of those Con Men.
Sat., Nov. 21, 10pm, downstairs: All-Star Maestro. Even good troupes sometimes stumble. Even exciting formats can suffer an off night. But when you've got the best improvisers in town battling it out for audience-scored supremacy in a fast-paced series of improv challenges, that's your guarantee for one no-fail spectacle of hilarious hijinks.
The 14th annual WaffleFest takes place Nov. 19-21, Thu.-Sat., at the Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress. For more information, call 512/443-3688 or visit www.hideouttheatre.com.