SXSW Comedy: Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel Present Late Night Trashcan

Late Night with Seth Meyers writers share jokes from the reject pile

“Are you ready to hear some garbage?” While not a typical rallying cry, comedian Jenny Hagel used it to great effect at the outset of Saturday’s podcast session.

Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel speak onstage at Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel Present: Late Night Trashcan (Photo by Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images for SXSW)

Hagel was joined by fellow Late Night with Seth Meyers writer and comedian Amber Ruffin (who was recently featured on TIME’s list of “23 People Who Are Changing What’s Funny Right Now”) to perform sketches and monologue jokes they had pitched and had rejected from the show, and in so doing, celebrate and interrogate the idea of creative failure.

Jenny Hagel speaks onstage at Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel Present: Late Night Trashcan (Photo by Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images for SXSW)

It seems fortuitous that such a potentially vulnerable conversation was set in such a cozy space – the session, which was being recorded for eventual release on the Late Night with Seth Meyers Podcast, took place late afternoon in the JW Marriott’s smaller Brazos Room. Ruffin and Hagel read and discussed from an informal living room set on a small stage, at one point both perching on the top of the brown leather sofa, after they expressed concern that audience members at the back of the room might not be able to see them otherwise.

This was not the first time Ruffin and Hagel have shared their rejects with the public – they’ve participated in and hosted versions of Late Night Trashcan at the UCB Theatre in years past – nor is it their first time at SXSW. (Last year, they recorded an episode of the Late Night with Seth Meyers Podcast with Joy Reid about diversity in late night and news.) Their comfort with this subject matter and format, on top of the strong impression you got that they are co-workers who collaborate well and genuinely like each other made for a warm, easygoing room where everyone felt in on the joke.

Amber Ruffin speaks onstage at Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel Present: Late Night Trashcan (Photo by Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images for SXSW)

You might understand why, say, a sketch about police shooting civilians might not make it to air – and in some cases Hagel and Ruffin unpacked how and why a particular piece, like the #InternsSoWhite roast that Hagel wrote after the White House interns photo was released last year, had been turned down – but almost all of their self-professed failures earned huge laughs from this audience. The personal mantras they shared also hit home. “You are not good until you have failed completely,” Ruffin told the crowd cheerfully. When they received questions from fellow comedians who struggled with jokes that died mysteriously and wondered how to make sure you don’t fail too big when you are a woman, a queer person, and/or a person of color, the hosts answered with generosity and candor. “I’d rather you take the risk and burn a bridge than play it safe,” Hagel said, close to the session’s close. “Don’t be a watered-down, safe version of you.” It’s advice they’ve both clearly taken to heart, and it makes you excited to see their next failures and subsequent glorious successes.


Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel Present Late Night Trashcan

Saturday, March 9, Marriott Brazos Room, Level 2

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
The Hidden Cost of Labor Calculated in <i>Building the American Dream</i>
The Hidden Cost of Labor Calculated in Building the American Dream
In the rubble of the NOLA hotel collapse, Chelsea Hernandez's documentary remains relevant

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 6, 2019

Gun-Filled Weekend Prompts APD Action
Gun-Filled Weekend Prompts APD Action
Spring fest unrest

Mike Clark-Madison, March 22, 2019

More by Rosalind Faires
Top Fiction of 2020 for the Angry Girls
Top Fiction of 2020 for the Angry Girls
Rosalind Faires chooses several tales of righteous indignation

Dec. 18, 2020

<i>Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents</i> by Isabel Wilkerson
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
In her second book, the author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines and breaks down the unacknowledged social structure baked into our country

Nov. 13, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW 2019, SXSW Comedy 2019, Jenny Hagel, Amber Ruffin

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle