The Institution Theater's Fuck, It's Hot

The Austin-oriented sketch show has its rough spots, but it delivers lots of laughs as a cooling balm in the dog days

Tess Hermes (l) and Mason Pitluk
Tess Hermes (l) and Mason Pitluk (Photo by Michael Yew)

Thanks to Netflix, I've been catching up on Saturday Night Live. I haven't been an avid fan since the Wayne's World years (I know, I know), but with SNL's 2010 offerings currently streaming, I'm feeling much more current in the pop culture-sphere. I mention this, obviously, because just about any sketch comedy show is going to be held in comparison to the standard-bearer of Studio 8H at 30 Rock. The Institution Theater's current offering, Fuck, It's Hot, however, is all Austin, all the time – a delightful break from the heat, if not the norm.

These days, it seems there's almost as much to hate about Austin as there is to love, and depending on who you ask, there's likely a lot of overlap. Fuck, It's Hot lovingly lampoons current trends both local and national, skewering everything from Trump to Pokémon Go, making sure the audience knows the Austin-centric stance on it all. A musical number opens the show, quickly bonding the ensemble and audience together against, yes, this fucking heat. This sticky, humid, jungle heat that makes nearly all of us question every August why we live here, before the temps drop and ACL rolls around and all returns to normal. The ensemble gleefully sings all of our feelings, sometimes belting away about finding refuge in beer and pot before we move on to the sketches.

Clearly, I don't want to ruin the jokes that the Institution Theater has in store, but a strong cast puts together a mostly strong hodgepodge of comedy, its lack of polish part of its charm. The show is at its best with the shorter pieces, particularly the recurring contestants on Shark Tank trying to pitch Austin ideas with terrible names, a Pokémon Go player hunting Pikachu in the worst of places and times, and a hilarious look at the inner thoughts of your local barista. Also included in the evening are a local elementary school (Zilker, I think?) debate between nominees for class president, The Real Housewives of Austin, pitches for silly local start-ups, and more. Cast members Ashley Blom, Marcone Cangussu, Claudio Fox, Tess Hermes, Cody Herring, Clifton Highfield, Mason Pitluk, Sam Schak, Amanda Smith, and Sarah Swofford work incredibly well together, with Hermes, Pitluk, Schak, and Swofford as standouts. The comedy scene in town seems tightly knit, with many friends in attendance on the night I caught the show. This fact occasionally felt like the laughs were more for the actor than the material, but more often than not, the comedy is solid.

Much like SNL, though, there are some sketches that don't quite hit the mark. The debate sketch, for example, had me way ahead of the joke, knowing quickly we were going to get a satire of the Trump/Clinton face-off, landing a bit one-note and lasting too long. And a sketch-turned-Phantom of the Opera-based musical number about the I-35 rock tosser goes on far longer than the humor within can maintain.

Still, with its many nods to Austin life – Lone Star beer, tacos, hipsters, left-leaning political views, and oodles of skoodle marijuana gags – Fuck, It's Hot had the audience hooting and hollering, with many flat-out guffaws throughout the evening. Director Tom Booker certainly knows what his audience wants and how to give it to them: laughter as a cooling balm.

Fuck, It's Hot

The Institution Theater, 3708 Woodbury
Through Aug. 27
Running time: 1 hr.

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Institution Theater, Tom Booker, Ashley Blom, Marcone Cangussu, Claudio Fox, Tess Hermes, Cody Herring, Clifton Highfield, Mason Pitluk, Sam Schak, Amanda Smith, Sarah Swofford, Austin sketch comedy

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