When Is Austin Comedy a Sure Thing?
Maybe on a Wednesday, definitely on a Saturday
By Spencer Beghtol and W. A. Brenner,
1:30PM, Wed. Feb. 3, 2016
It’s Wednesday again in Austin, Texas. And even on a Wednesday – because you are in Austin, Texas – you can find some night-time comedy show or other that’ll probably make you laugh your ass off and help you make it over the long week’s hump. But can you find a sure thing?
Hell, Chris Cubas is hosting The Sting! at King Bee and Lashonda Lester, Joe Hafkey, Abby Rosenquist, Zac Brooks, and Derek Phelps are featured there tonight. That’s gotta be a sure thing, right? Also, Donnell Rawlings is at Cap City tonight – and Bob Khosravi’s his opener; that’s pretty much the definition of “sure thing.” And there’s improv and sketch all over town, too, and of course those umpteen comedy open mics that Joe Faina’s told us about. But are any of them a sure thing?
Here’s a not-so-secret secret: There’s a stand-up comedy sure thing that’s actually called Sure Thing. Only problem is, it happens on Saturday nights. Still, if you catch one of the Wednesday shows listed above, you can likely make it all the way to Saturday before needing another fix for your comedy jones, right?
But, yeah, how do you know that even something called Sure Thing is a … sure thing? It all depends on the night’s line-up, right? More or less? Still, we dispatched one of our newest comedy-craving Chronicle interns, the redoubtable Spencer Beghtol, to check out the Sure Thing action last week when Pat Dean was the headliner, and this is his report:
Sure Thing is a weekly standup showcase at Austin Java, hosted by Brendan K. O’Grady and Duncan Carson. It’s been running strong for about four years now, packing out Java’s back room every Saturday night at 8pm. As a lover of comedy, but one who had never seen standup in Austin before, I was more than excited to attend.
Around 6:20pm I called ahead to confirm the show was still a sure thing. The person on the other line said it was, but people were already starting to get there and that I should hurry up if I wanted a seat. I inhaled the rest of my frittata and scurried over to Austin Java. Upon walking in to the coffee shop, I was informed that seating started at 7:30 and that I could take a seat until then in the main area, which, to my surprise, was only occupied by a handful of patrons. People soon started trickling in and forming a line zigging around the inside of the coffeehouse. Doors opened at 7:30 and the early folks (yours truly included) filed in to their seats while later guests had to stand.
The night began with O’Grady welcoming everyone, then getting the show on the road with some of his own material. O’Grady’s quick wit and self-deprecating humor complements his crowdwork skills nicely, proving why he makes a good co-host. The other co-host, Duncan Carson, took the stage immediately after to talk about his views on life, babies, and crime shows. His soft but eccentric voice added to his deliveries, which landed well with the crowd.
The first act up was Danny Palumbo. Though his jokes’ contents varied from quitting cigarettes to internet search histories, his segues were so smooth and seamless that it was hard to notice where one joke ended and another began. His delivery was on point as well, allowing for continuous laughter from the crowd throughout his set.
After Palumbo was Adam Hrabik, who may have had the most diverse assortment of one-liners that night. He has a knack for being able to rattle them off in rapid succession, or can elaborate on some and turn them into entire bits.
Peggy O’Leary followed soon after. She’s a New Yorker who isn’t afraid to be crude, and makes it a point to be aware of that fact. Sometimes jokes about genitalia can be trite, but she certainly found a way to navigate around that obstacle with some jokes which received a pretty hearty response.
The penultimate performer of the night was Michael Good. Don’t let his young looks fool you, he’s a comedic pro who knows exactly how to pace and deliver his jokes. He had the crowd in stitches throughout his short tenure on stage. Of course, I may be biased, as his set ended with a joke about Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler – which made this Green Bay Packers fan very happy.
Headlining the night was Pat Dean, who employed anecdotes, one-liners, self-deprecation, and crowd work to keep the audience rolling. His uniquely fun cynicism was especially evident in his asides as well as the frequent yet brilliantly unexpected turns his jokes took. Pat Dean commanded the stage with his quips and fun stories, making the whole night end with a bang, definitely the cherry on top of a great night of comedy.