The (Just For) Tonight Show! Turns Two!

The (Just For) Tonight Show! is a completely improvised late night talk show based on audience suggestions that features a rotating cast of Austin’s best sketch and improv actors bringing to life guests such as Cul-de-sac Donna, Larry Jenkins (Full-time mortician / part-time magician) and Donald Trump’s best friend “Ronald Grump”. With past special guests that include James Adomian from Comedy Bang Bang and Katie Rich of SNL, The (Just For) Tonight Show has showcased some of the most memorable moments on the ColdTowne stage from the last two years.

The (Just For) Tonight Show! 2 Year Anniversary Show is on December 30th and features a cavalcade of special guests, including performances by Allison Webster, Brian May, Carlos LaRotta, Chloe Ingram, Chris McKeever, Christian Payne, Christina Parrish, Conor Sullivan, Dalton C Allen, Danielle Gonzalez, Devon Coleman, Dylan Garsee, Griffin May, Jericho Thorp, Jonah Yohana, Josephh Stahlman, Katie Kohler, Katie Moore, Katie Stone, Kyle Romero, Lane Ingram, Mac Blake, Maria Pond, Mason Pitluk, Matt Needles, Michael Jastroch, Michael Perkins, Nathan Sowell, Nicole Russell, Peter Parsons, Will Cleveland, Yamina Khouane, and Yola Lu. GET TICKETS HERE!

We spoke to Austin Sketch Fest Producer AJ McKeon about his journey to Austin and 2 Years of the (Just For) Tonight Show!


You moved here not THAT long ago, relatively speaking. What brought you to Austin in general and ColdTowne specifically? What were you thinking? I moved to Austin with my then fiancé now wife for work. She got a job down here, and I had never lived anywhere but NYC. I figured it was time for a change and to take a chance and it has really been one of the best experiences of my life. Before moving one of my main concerns was what the comedy scene was like. With the UCB in New York, the opportunities were endless there, but the scene here is even better. I looked at all the theater options to see what their “Improv Philosophies” were, and ColdTowne’s aligned the closest with UCB, so that is where I checked out first. I went to a few shows and auditions and got put in a show and it really took off from there. I owe a lot to Will Cleveland (the Sidekick on The (Just For) Tonight Show! and fellow UCBNY alum) for reaching out and pulling me in to the community.

There’s suddenly a lot of UCB ex-pats floating around ColdTowne. What are the differences in the scenes? NY is soooooooo big, but the concentration is around mainly the UCB. Down here, we are also big, with 5 theaters, but there are specific camps. You can kind of pick a lane and do whatever you really want. The coolest thing about CT vs UCB is if you want to put a show up, just submit it and if it’s cool you’ll get a slot.

Two years of the Just for Tonight Show, huh? What was the genesis of the show? I am a huge fan of The Chris Gethard Show from it’s days on NYC public access. Each year on the show, they would do an episode called the Crowd Sourced Character Contest where fans would submit names of a character and nothing else. Then, performers would have to do them on the show. I’m also a big fan of Comedy Bang Bang, where extremely talented performers come in as characters, and the host Scott Aukerman has to deal with them and be the perfect straight man. I loved Conan growing up and am a fan of how weird Late Night would get at times. Specifically, the Brian Stacks bits on the show were the inspiration for the interruption section of The (Just For) Tonight Show!.

How has the show evolved or changed over the last two years? We originally started more along the lines of the crowd sourced character contest where the audience would submit characters they wanted to see and then at random I would call them out and perfumers would come on and be them. We switched over to performers coming in with characters they wanted to play, so there was more ownership and we could get to a game faster. Will and I still have no idea what the character are going to be other than their names, and maybe occupation so we are still able to find things to explore and play with as they come up. We also for a time had improvised musical guests but have moved away from that since it’s a really unique skill.

Any memorable moments or stories? There are a bunch that stick out to me. This show has given me the chance to perform with some of my idols, James Adomian and Katie Rich just to name a few, not to mention so many talented people in Austin. Other highlights: Ryan Darbonne playing the Rock but not knowing anything about the Rock’s wrestling career. Jared Robertson playing Joe Pesci as a musical guest preforming a song titled “Butt stuff” that lead to multiple people walking out. In our very first show Conor Sullivan came in with panty hose over his face and a gun, so that was a great way to kick off the run.
Really anything that Will Cleveland would interject with, he is the perfect sidekick / co-host and I love him dearly. Chrissy and Carlos’ Universal Studio Employees who worked on the Jurassic Park ride but knew nothing about any other movies and just loved fidget spinners was so fun. Having a full band for our festival shows with Jonah Yohana, Stephanie Thoreson, Jared Robertson and Chris McKeever there is always awesome!

And then of course Ray Jay McKeon. Ray Jay was a character that Michael Perkins did on a show at ColdTowne and he brought the house down! It is one of the funniest performances I have ever been a part of and then we brought him back a few more time including our show at OOB last year with James Adomian and he killed it again. He brought me a birthday cake (it wasn’t by birthday) with the number 69 on it for no reason. Michael Perkins is the best!

What are you looking forward to – creatively speaking – in 2018? Creatively, the biggest thing I am looking forward to in 2018 is creating a baby, due February 6th, but I am also going to try and figure out what the next iteration of The (Just For) Tonight Show! is as I shift my focus to fatherhood and see if we can keep the show going in some way shape or form!

Girls Girls Girls Holiday Spectacular!

Girls Girls Girls celebrates 15 years as an improv troupe this year and is performing their last show of 2017 5:00PM Saturday, December 9 at Coldtowne. Bring your funny holiday story and laugh along as GGG turns it into a mini-musical! GET YOUR TICKETS HERE.

Beginning as Austin’s only all-female improv group, GGG soon added improvised singing and dancing to become Austin’s only musical improv troupe. From there, they started Ladies Are Funny Festival in 2007, the first comedy festival in Austin featuring only female comics and performers.

In many ways, GGG paved the way for all the talented, all-female groups, musical improv groups, and women thriving in the Austin Comedy scene.

“Being an all-girl group used to be quite the novelty act. No longer! Now there’s a ton of all-female groups all over Austin. I like to think we had something to do with that,” says founding troupe member Shana Merlin.

“It’s like Survivor. GGG has outlasted so many tests and treacheries of life to stay together continuously. It helps that we rehearse weekly and have seen each other through marriages, divorces, online dating, health scares, and the births of 6 babies during our time together. We aren’t just performers anymore. We are a tight-knit sisterhood with all that comes with that,” says troupe member Cynthia Oelkers.

“We do it because we love stepping outside of our daily lives and just PLAYING. And it wouldn’t work if we didn’t support the hell out of each other. One performance note we often get is about how well we support each other on stage. It’s because we support each other like that in real life. We babysit for each other, listen when someone is struggling, call to check in, and drop off groceries if needed. We call each other out and hold high expectations of ourselves and our troupe mates. We expect everyone to bring themselves fully to the process, do their troupe jobs, and show up every week. We also respect each other’s limits. Sometimes you can’t make rehearsal because you were up until 2 am with a sick baby or you have a huge project at work or your in-laws are in town. We have a running phrase: ‘I’ll allow it.’ We each have blanket permission from the group to do what we need to do to make it work,” says Amy Averett.

GGG has performed in many theaters around Austin: Salvage Vanguard (rest in peace), The City Theatre, State Theater, The Paramount, Dougherty Arts, The Hideout, The Institution, The Spiderhouse Ballroom, The New Movement, ColdTowne, and ZACH, among others.

“We have loved working with so many iconic Austin theaters – headlining at cozy improv theaters, performing between runs at the City Theatre, and singing at the historic State Theater with the Out of Bounds Festival,” says Sarah Doering.

Girls Girls Girls Improvised Musicals has been an artistic collective since September 2002. They have performed in festivals in New York, Minneapolis, Seattle, Honolulu, Atlanta, Dallas and, of course, our home of Austin, Texas. GGG is the 2012 recipient of the B. Iden Payne “Excellence in Improvisational Theater” award.

Austinites Receive Gift of Improv Class. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next…

There’s just under one week left to take advantage of ColdTowne Theater’s annual holiday sale (aka the Holiday Class Pass!). $99 buys you or your loved one an eight week improv experience (over 50% off), along with a tee shirt and a printable gift certificate to stick under the tree, along with the knowledge that you didn’t phone in your gift this year!

Check out what some of our students have to say about their level 1 improv experiences!

Purchase the pass!

 

“A little over a year ago, I was hanging with a new friend who happened to be an improviser. She insisted that I’d like improv and should take classes. A few days later, she texted me the link to the baller $99 holiday special.Santa/my mom gives me a $100 limit for Christmas presents these days, so I swiftly forwarded said link to The North Pole.

Cut to today as I’m writing this during my Sunday night intern shift at the Coldtowne box office. I’m currently in my second level of classes, my level two showcase is in two days, and I’m pumped to start level 3 in January.

If you’re considering taking classes, do it. Really. I find myself feeling more focused, challenged, and present than really any other activity I’ve tried recently. Well, maybe spin class, but I know better than to try to convince a bunch of strangers to start spinning. So try it out! Buy one for a friend! And if they/you don’t dig it, you can get your money back in approximately 48 business hours.”

-Caitlin Gorman, Level 2

“I received the Holiday Pass as a Christmas gift last year from my girlfriend. I always talked about taking improv classes but never committed, and this gift was the kickstart I needed. It was terrifying at first, but as I grew trust in the process and trust everyone in class, that terrifying feeling was quickly squashed by an overwhelming feeling of love.

One class in particular sticks with me. I was having an anxiety spell and almost walked out of class. I just reminded myself to trust what was going on and to calm down. I ended up not leaving class and having a great day in class. Haven’t missed a class yet!

I am currently in Level 4 and my class consists of the same great group of people I started this journey with. We are not performing outside of the class shows, but we have started the process of getting more involved with getting stage time.

If there is one thing I can take away from all of this, it’s that the ColdTowne community is so welcoming. I currently intern at the theater and I’ve met so many awesome people in the process.”

– Joseph Juarez, Level 4

“At the time I got the holiday pass, I was getting a bit bored and wanted to take up a new hobby. I had taken a few classes and felt bored with them, and then my friend suggested improv. He took it up at Dallas Comedy House and loved it. So I started looking into classes here.

My experience in level one was amazing. It felt weird at first, but it was structured in a way that it eases you into being comfortable. I felt a good and safe connection with my class instantly (which basically went on to be the Loverboy we all know and love). To me, being in this class started to help me realize what I was really missing out on in my life, and why I had been getting bored. This class made me realize oh god I miss doing creative things.

I am still performing, and now I have a few troupes that play regularly and a sketch show that has a monthly slot. What I got out of the experience is more than I ever could have imagined. I was rock climbing for a few months and thought, “Oh, this community is friendly and supportive.” But the improv community is 20x as supportive. I’ve made hundreds of new friends, and I’ve laughed harder than I thought was possible.

Taking the class has literally changed my life, and I can not recommend it more. The $99 deal is way too good to not try. Sure improv isn’t for everybody, but when it sinks in oooo baby does it feel good.”

– Brian May, Graduate

$99 Holiday Class Pass Goes On Sale Black Friday!

By popular demand – our HOLIDAY CLASS PASS returns for a limited time only Black Friday, November 24th 2017. 

Purchase the pass!

We genuinely believe that improv classes can change a person’s life. It certainly has for all of our students, performers, staff, and faculty, and it seems like each day we see a new piece of writing espousing its benefits. (Read about a ColdTowne alumn’s experience with the pass here.)

To best share that magic, for a limited time we are offering Level 1 Improv or Sketch Class gift packages for just $99.

ColdTowne Improv or Sketch Class Gift Package – $250 $99  (offer begins November 24th and ends December 10th)

  • Eight weeks of Level 1 improv or  sketch classes.
  • Sign up to begin as early as January.
  • A Digital Gift Certificate
  •  Tee Shirt on the First Day of Class!

Black Friday madness deals can go right to hell! This offer is available through December 10th!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Martini Ranch’s 2nd Full Length Revue Debuts This Weekend!

Following a sold out Austin run this past spring, ColdTowne’s mostly queer sketch comedy group, Martini Ranch, returns with a new revue, Queer & Now. A light-hearted blend of social commentary and silly giggles, the must-see show features original songs, brand-new sketches, and a whole lot of glitter.

We caught up with Martini Ranch director Keith Horvath to get some insight into the process and to hear his thoughts on the deteriorating state of the world (our words, not his).

Queer and Now debuts Saturday, November 4th at 8:30pm! TICKETS HERE.

This is Martini Ranch’s SECOND full length sketch revue in Austin. How did the first show came about? What can we expect with this second revue? It is! I can’t believe in less than a year we’ve created two shows. The talent in Martini Ranch is incredible.

For This is (Not) the Gayest Show You’ll Ever See I had it in my mind that I wanted to create a group that would stick together and write multiple revues. I don’t expect everyone to stay forever, but I wanted to get a group and a brand established. I don’t think any of the cast knew that was my intention, though. After they were cast, I revealed that I wanted to do multiple revues. I hoped everyone would want to as well. Good news: they did.

Our process is very Second City driven, as that is where I got the majority of my training. However, with everything I do, I incorporate my own style and blend other aspects of theater that I have learned over the course of my career. A general rehearsal will start with me getting titles for scene pitches, and then I go away for about 20-30 minutes while the group discusses their pitch (I don’t want to get ideas about where I want the scene to go before I see what the writer intended in the first place).

When I come back, we will either improvise through those scenes, or we will read a written script. After I give notes, the group goes home to edit, and we make adjustments along the way. It’s a very collaborative environment, too. I’m the director and technically have the most experience, but like any good sketch director, I trust the instincts and ideas of my ensemble (otherwise what is the point of having them write the show?).

Often, we will have group discussions and everyone will throw out their ideas, like a writers’ room. I make the final decisions, but the ensemble has permission to interject their ideas.

This allows for us to have a strong creative and collaborative group. The shows feel like we all own them. Even though each scene usually has one specific writer – multiple if they’re improvising it – we all have a say and all our voices are heard.

The first revue was just us getting our feet wet. A few of the ensemble had never written or performed sketch before, and I was blown away with their natural talent and writing ability.

We were informed, via a review, that our political material was not the strongest in our first show, so for Queer and Now, we decided to focus on having fun and being silly. I don’t want to give away too much, but this will feel very different from the last revue. I wanted to show how nothing is as it seems right now, and there are several layers to everything. I want the audience to kind of be mind-fucked while they are watching it.

It’s fast paced, and if anyone knows sketch comedy/big-time directors, they will see a lot of Mick Napier’s style. If you don’t know Mick Napier, look up The Annoyance and read his books. He’s brilliant, and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

It seems like everyone in Martini Ranch really bonded. Is that unusual? I don’t know if it’s unusual or not, but I pride myself on creating cohesive groups. It’s one of my strong-suits as a teacher and director. I think the fact that we are all queer (except Katie, who is an incredible ally) and have a mutual understanding of the struggles we go through helped us to create such a tight-knit group as well.

Right now we are actually working on filming some of the scenes we’ve done and want to start having an internet video presence. We will also be writing another revue for next summer, so come see it! Tell your friends!

How does working on a revue like this in Austin compare to Chicago? In Chicago, there is a LOT more sketch and writing in general. I think part of that comes from it being a bigger city and having more opportunities – there are over 200 theaters in Chicago – and part of it comes from the fact that if you want to get on SNL or get picked up for Late Night, you’re more often than not a writer. All of the people I know who are working in mainstream entertainment/comedy are writers. Even if they are acting, they still write. Writing is the key to getting a professional job in this industry, and even if you don’t want to be a writer, writing every day will help you to articulate your ideas, and help you break down scripts as an actor.

Additionally, I feel many people down here aren’t used to longer rehearsals. Most are usually 2 hours, and Martini Ranch rehearses from 10a-1p every Sunday during our process. It may seem like a lot to some people, but there are days I wish we had another hour.

2017 America is a hellscape. True or False? True, but I also think a lot of this comes from Social Media. So much gets blown out of proportion, or is sensationalized, and too few people check a variety of sources. I’m sure we all know that person who shares a meme about x, y, or z and it has information that upsets us. But if we were to verify the facts, we would find it’s partially true, or not at all. Everyone is suddenly an expert at everything, and everyone is looking for someone else to blame and be a victim. I hate it so much.

For me, I always tell myself that things will get better, and things will change soon. There are two quotes that have always stuck with me. The first is from Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who said: “No same man could walk through the same river twice, as the man and the river have since changed.” So no matter how dark things may get, there will always be hope down the road. We just need to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing that comforts me.

The other quote – and this one is something I personally always need to work on, because I’ve found myself getting so irritated and mad at everything recently – is a quote from the Buddha. I may be paraphrasing a bit, but he said: “holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; in the end you get burned.” I think this is accurate and poignant. When we are angry, we hold onto negative feelings. We no longer are as productive as we usually are,  and are distracted from the things that make us happy. An old friend of mine had further put this into perspective for me by saying: “Whenever I feel anxious, or depressed, or angry, I rationalize my emotions. I name them. I remind myself that I’ve been through this before, it hasn’t killed me, and I’ll get through it this time.” I find rationalizing emotions, particularly negative ones, helps me process so I can move on.

One other thing. I don’t think many people think about this, but no one can make you feel anything other than you. If I’m walking down the street and a stranger says I’m a dumb piece of shit, I don’t care. If my husband does that, I’d feel devastated. Yes, we have a strong bond, but I’ve allowed his words to affect me. Conversely, if I let that stranger upset me, then I’ll be upset because I allowed it to affect me.

Overall, my husband is the glue that holds me together right now. Without his love and support, I don’t know where I’d be.