Austin's Improv Comedy Marathon 2014

Supposedly sane people, totally making shit up for 45 hours straight

Bridget Brewer may well asplode before it's all over.
Bridget Brewer may well asplode before it's all over. (Photo Courtesy of The Hideout/Jon Bolden)

Of course, a veritable army of local troupes will be performing, too, will be coming and going pretty much as they please … while eight improv stalwarts stick around hour after hour after hour to push the walls of sleep back, waaaaaaay back, in The Hideout Theatre's 45-Hour Improv Marathon.

The Confidence Men will do a show, as will Parallelogramophonograph and The Knuckleball Now and Girls Girls Girls and the Seventies cops of Cochise! and the courageous officers and doomed redshirts of Start Trekkin' and the eldritch, Dagon-enthralled habitués of The Black Vault, and so on and on. So many genres and formats of improvisation, all through the night and the morning and the afternoon and the next night and even farther. And, still, the eight performers will continue, will be working their quick-thinking improv skills (and, eventually, trying not to drool) in show after show after show as the clock ticks on, from Friday, June 20, at 5pm until Sunday, June 22, at 1pm.

Madness? Perhaps.
Fun? You bet your sweet ass it's fun.

Regard ye, with no small awe, the names of these eight valiant strivers: Bridget Brewer, Dave Buckman, Jay Funky, Katie Dahm, Mike Ferstenfeld, Rachel Madorsky, Ruby Willmann, and Troy Miller.

Lunatics? Perhaps.
Champions? Yes, and.

Also check out this one dude, Ryan Hill, who's the producer of this year's even-longer version of the annual stunt. Ask him why he's chosen to ride herd on all of this inspired lunacy that's set to take over the Hideout Theatre this weekend. Or, never mind, because we already asked him for you last week:

Austin Chronicle: You're producing the improv marathon at the Hideout this year?

Ryan Hill: I am – second year in a row. Because I love it. Because it means a lot to me: It's how I got into improv.

AC: By producing a marathon?

RH: No, no, I started off watching the Marathon. The 42-Hour Marathon, three years ago. I started off watching it, and I watched like twelve or fifteen hours of it, and somewhere around two in the morning, watching a really crazy show, I had that jolt of fear: Oh, I'm gonna have to start doing improv myself. I knew it.

AC: You'd never done improv before?

RH: No, but it was like, "Oh, this is so awesome, I've gotta do this." And eventually I did. And one of the reasons I started producing is because Roy Janik asked me, because it's one of their new models to get the community involved, to get volunteer producers to help them out. Like, Paul Normandin produces Wafflefest, and Thedward Blevins produces the Improvised Play Festival, and I've been producing this. And by the time the Marathon rolls around next year, I'll probably still want to do it.

AC: Right now you don't want to be doing it?

RH: Right now I don't really want to be doing it – but that's because it's crazy right now.

AC: It must be a lot of work.

RH: It takes a whole lot of people, and it's mostly volunteers. You've got the Hideout management team, they're all involved with the theatre, and we start planning about three or four months out, start having meetings, and there are a whole lot of things that need to get done for marketing and wrangling volunteers and choosing the troupes – Roy's the Hideout artistic director, so he makes all the decisions about troupes, and – there's a ton more, a ton of stuff to do. We're pretty cool about it, we're pretty relaxed, and things just kind of get done; but then, today, I looked at the task list and I was like, "Oh my goodness, it's ten days away!"

AC: So no more breaks for you. Like those eight performers going through the whole Marathon – they don't get breaks, right?

RH: They do get very small breaks – maybe ten or fifteen minutes, between each hour – but, other than that, yeah, they're going all the way through.

AC: And you're not doing that – you're not among The Unsleeping Eight.

RH: No, but I wanna be someday. But you have to be invited, and it's generally people who have a lot of skill and a lot of enthusiasm and – ah, I'm a little bit older than your average Marathoner: It takes some endurance, it takes some stamina. Although older people have done it. Like John Ratliff – oh, he'll love it, me calling him An Older Person – but he's a couple of years older than me, and twentysomethings obviously have it a little bit easier.

AC: But, still, 45 hours of nonstop activity – is there a medical team standing by?

RH: You know, we actually talked about that for the last couple of years. Cat Drago – who, for the last two years, has watched the whole thing – she's actually an intensive care nurse. So she's around. So we don't have any dedicated medical people, but there are a couple of people in the improv community who are medical personnel of some kind or another. But, really, doing the whole Marathon isn't quite … dangerous. It's not healthy, no, but, two days? It's not that big a deal. You know? For me, it'd be psychologically arduous. I'd start yelling at people after the first 24 hours – and that doesn't make for good improv.

AC: In the history of this thing, has anyone fallen asleep onstage? Has anyone gotten really stupid?

RH: People have fallen asleep while sitting on the sidelines, but most people power through the whole thing. And some of them do get very stupid – and that's what's so great about it. Because you get really good improv when people's walls are down. Improvisers are actually trained to get their walls down, so they can just speak off the cuff. So at 3am on Sunday morning, when people have been improvising for 35 hours or whatever, some really awesome improv happens – because they say stuff they would normally never say, they do things they would normally never do. So those wee hours are kind of another level of improv that's really cool.

AC: What are you doing to promote this thing?

RH: We're doing our usual postering. We're doing lots of social media stuff. Talking to those – heh-heh – those awful press people.

AC: [Makes note.]

RH: Also, Ceej Allen made a mini-documentary about the marathon, it's maybe five or six minutes long. He's got pictures from the different years, and interviews with the players and producers.

AC: And, OK, before we wrap this up, I've gotta ask: Do y'all plan on continuing to add another hour each year? Until it's, like, impossible?

RH: That's been a topic of discussion lately. A lot of people are saying we should stop at 48. But, then again, 50 is an excellent number – and it's only two hours more. I know that 50-hour improv marathons are done in other places … so I'm guessing we'll stop at either 48 or 50, because it does get to a point where there's an actual health concern.

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45-Hour Improv Marathon, The Hideout Theatre, improv in Austin, Ryan Hill, The Unsleeping Eight

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