'The Show!' Goes On

Comedy/film mashup lands at Spiderhouse Ballroom for good

Bryan Poyser (The Bounceback)
Bryan Poyser (The Bounceback)

What is The Show!? The Cliff's Notes version is that it’s a mixture of short films and live improv comedy. But for creator Ben Snyder, it’s more than that. It’s two of Austin’s fastest growing scenes coming together.

Snyder founded The Show! in 2011 as a way to merge the two scenes. He said, "It's not your typical ‘sit down and watching a movie’ kind of thing.” Comedy acts intersperse screenings of locally made shorts and scenes from films in progress, with the added bonus of filmmaker Q&As. For Snyder, it’s best when there are people who straddle both worlds. Snyder said, "When you see a film that they're in and then see them as a part of the live comedy community, it makes a connection."

This is no one-man show for Snyder. On the comedy booking side, he admits he depends on Michael Jastroch, founder of ColdTowne Theater and producer of the Austin Sketch Fest. The newest addition to the team is Paul Jensen, producer of Natural Selection and South by Southwest roadtrip from hell Scenic Route starring Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler. For him, The Show! is about "a local community of film makers collaborating and highlighting their efforts. It shines on how many filmmakers there are in town."

After bouncing around between theatres and clubs, on July 29 The Show! finally settles in to a permanent home at Spiderhouse Ballroom. After that, the plan is for a monthly event every second Sunday, always at Spiderhouse. Jensen called the two-year hunt for the perfect venue "a Goldilocks process” of finding somewhere that is “a) cost-effective and b) has the right kind of energy."

Snyder credited the new management at Spiderhouse for understanding what The Show! needs. Previously, it was much more a music venue that could also handle screenings. However, as a devoted fan of cabaret and mixed media experiment, event coordinator Jessica Ryan has made Spiderhouse "more conducive for this kind of event," he said.

After two years of experimenting, Snyder and Jensen think they’ve got the equation right, and they know that booking a show can't just be about throwing darts at a board. In May, the headline guest was YouTube sensation and Chronicle cover star Jon Cozart. When Cozart suddenly achieved international fame for his homage to Disney princesses, Snyder asked himself: "What can I do to fit a show around having him as a success story? That's the thinking with my booking." The final part of the equation was having actor Johnny Walter (Bone Boys) anchor the whole night as MC, acting as what Snyder called "a cheerleader for Austin film.” He said, “The host was the key ingredient. You needed a comedian or actor to hold the whole night together.”

Now The Show! returns after a summer hiatus, with cinematic multiple threat Jonny Mars (America’s Parking Lot, Good Night, “Black Metal”) taking over hosting duties. "I'm amazed he's available,” Jensen said. “He's involved in so many projects." Mars will be the first in a series of rolling guest hosts, followed in August by voice actor par excellence Shannon McCormick (Red vs. Blue, The Intergalactic Nemesis, DC Universe Online.) As Jensen put it, "Each of these people has their own fan base, and we're trying to capitalize on them."

It seems everyone wants to crash this party. Bryan Poyser will be screening a scene from The Bounceback, while UT student Brian Schwarz will show his Student Academy Award-winning short "Ol' Daddy." There’ll also be a double dose of Steven DeGennaro, who brought arthouse sensibilities to gross-out comedy during SXSW with his toilet-bound comedy “First Date,” and the first footage from his upcoming feature, Found Footage 3D. No, don’t panic, this isn’t a Scary Movie wannabe. DeGennaro said, “Every distributor will tell you that there's a wave of parodies coming through, but nobody has done what Scream did." His plan is to scramble some brains with a fresh take on not one but two genres. He said, "I had one of those shower ideas about making a mockumentary about people making a documentary about a mockumentary." Throw in another twist: The found footage film-within-a-film is actually in 3D. It was a concept so goofy that he had to write it into the script. He said, "Well, a found footage movie doesn't make sense in 3D, but that's one of the first jokes in the movie."

The Show! returns to the Spiderhouse Ballroom, July 29. Visit the event website for complete details.

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The Show!, Ben Snyder, Bryan Poyser, The Bounceback, Jonny Mars, Shannon McCormick, Paul Jensen, Spiderhouse Ballroom, Brian Schwarz, Steven DeGennaro

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