Interview with Keith “Keebler” Horvath, Director of This is (Not) the Gayest Sketch Show You’ll Ever See

Keith “Keebler” Horvath is a veteran of the Chicago Comedy and Theatre scene. Keith has nearly twenty years of theatrical training and experience, and has devised and directed over three dozen original sketch revues, plays, musicals, and solo shows, and has coached dozens more improv groups. He is a former director of Sketch Cast and Coached Ensembles in The Second City Training Center, and was AD for BlueCo, one of The Second City’s National Touring Companies. Also: He lights up the room.

Director, Keith Horvath

Director, Keith Horvath

In this interview, we chatted him up about his newest hit machine “This is (Not) the Gayest Sketch Show You’ll Ever See” (which is like fourteen of those little fireball emojis, according to everyone who has seen it).

Hi, how are you?

Sleepy, as I’m sure everyone is. Everyone is hustling to make their dreams a reality and therefore sacrifice sleep most of the time. Right?

Absolutely, same here, but it’s all good stuff, right?

Without a doubt. I’ve fallen in love with Austin, and I’m so happy I moved here to continue pursuing my art.

Can you tell us a bit about the show?

Sure! This is an original sketch comedy revue that’s inspired by the LGBTQ community. We have been in process since December of last year, and we’re very excited to share what we’ve created with the Austin community. You will see sketches that have been written by the actors performing in the show, and I facilitated the process along the way. It is a very organic process that yields a lot of material, so it was difficult for me to whittle down to the running order we have. There was simply too much good material because I am fortunate to have such amazing writer/performers and crew. Luckily on April 29th, which is our last performance, we will be showcasing some of the material that did not make it into the final running order. Some of those scenes may end up in our next revue!

What motivated you to focus on the LGBTQ community?

I really wanted to showcase the LGBTQ community because there’s a lot the general population doesn’t understand about us. Even within our own community, there are so many different aspects of what it means to be LGBTQ that we are all constantly learning, evolving, and growing each day. With that in mind, our goal was to encompass as much of the community as possible and to give a voice to those who may not otherwise have the chance to express themselves. While we have a lot of scenes that focus on queer issues, you’ll also see scenes about our political climate, scenes about family dynamic, and scenes that poke fun at the status quo of our communities. The purpose of a revue is to showcase variety, and I think we accomplished that quite successfully.

So the show isn’t completely improvised? What is the difference between improvisation and sketch comedy?

Cast of Not the Gayest: Ashley Blom, Laura de la Fuente, Luke Wallens, Mason Kerwick, Javier Ungo. Not pictured: Katie Stone

Cast of (Not) the Gayest from L: Katie Stone, Ashley Blom, Laura de la Fuente, Luke Wallens, Mason Kerwick, Jake Garrison, Javier Ungo.

No, the show has scripts the actors improvised and wrote themselves. Sketch comedy differs from improvisation in that sketch comedy is almost always written, whereas improvisation is made up on the spot. Sometimes sketch comedy revues have improvisational scenes, or utilize improvisation in some way, but not always. Sometimes people create premises before the show, then improvise with or without audience suggestion – we call this ‘sketchprov’. For (Not) the Gayest, we mostly brought in ideas for scenes, or a ‘pitch,’ and would improvise around that premise in rehearsal. From there we would test out scenes in front of an audience and reimprovise in rehearsals to find the structure that worked best for that particular scene – very much so in that Chicago/Second City style.

Why was it important for you to utilize Second City’s sketch comedy techniques/methods?

Growing up I had always wanted to be the next Jim Carrey or Robin Williams. As I got older, I discovered that a lot of my comedic heroes, especially those on SNL, had come from Second City. When I officially moved to Chicago – I grew up in the south suburbs, but no one knows where “Mokena” is –  I learned SO much about not only theater and acting, but comedy, and even life. I was immersed in this satiric lifestyle that was allowing me to challenge myself to get to the heart of what I wanted to communicate with the audience.

(Not) the Gayest cast members: Laura de la Fuente, Ashley Blom and Katie Stone

(Not) the Gayest cast members: Laura de la Fuente, Ashley Blom and Katie Stone

This is such an important part of comedy, in my opinion, the heart. Without it, the audience can’t connect with the scene or the actors; we would be saying jokes that didn’t make sense, or lacked a point. The power then, of improvisation, is it takes away the impulse to be funny, and instead focuses on people, relationships, and emotion. Improvisation forces you to connect with another person on a deeper level, and react in an organic way. This honest connection creates a visceral, empathetic response in the audience, allowing them to go on the journey with us. So, by using improvisation, we cut through the BS of trying to be funny, and instead become real people. The in-the-moment reactions to the situations within the scenes generate a heartier laugh, one that comes from deep within and is uncontrollable – a genuine laugh. Once we have this in place, we are then able to structure our scenes and our comedy within a framework that helps us organize our comedy. Within sketch, we generally have an average of 4 minutes before the lights go out and we move on, so there isn’t much room to (for lack of better terms) “half-ass” it.

Did I go off on a tangent? Sorry.

That’s ok, it was relevant. 

Oh, good.

What do you hope the show will accomplish?

I hope when people see the show, particularly those who are not directly part of the queer and trans community, they recognize and appreciate how much depth we all have as humans. It is easy for us to lump an entire group of people into one category, so this show invites the audience to take a step back and realize that everyone has depth, everyone is three-dimensional, everyone is complicated.

I think a key takeaway is that people are more than just their orientation or gender identity. For instance, I am an avid video gamer, and I am also bisexual. My husband and I like to watch TV, take our dog for a walk, go on hikes, and we enjoy trying new wines. When put together, we see that my orientation is a very minor (but important) part of who I am as a person. There’s so much more to me than who I am married to, and I want more people to see and understand that.

Remember: “Ogres have LAYERS” – Shrek

Did I sound like Shrek?

Close enough?

I’ll take it.

How has the rehearsal process differed from when you were in Chicago?

It’s been surprisingly similar to how I ran rehearsals in Chicago; the only difference is that I’m not struggling to find a place to put up a show, find rehearsal space, or procure actors dedicated to a show. I have not seen as much overbooking down here as I did in Chicago. There are a LOT of people in Chicago who are interested in doing work, then show up late, don’t show up at all, miss several rehearsals, all because they are doing too much at once. I have heard through the grapevine that this happens in Austin, but if that’s the case, I’m impressed with how hard the actors work down here to make all of their obligations a priority!

What’s been the best part of working with ColdTowne on this show?

People who know me know I am not one who tends to be sappy unless I am being sarcastic…however, the people at ColdTowne have truly changed me for the better. The pure love for this work has reinvigorated my passion for creating comedy, and the support from the ColdTowne community is overwhelming in the most wonderful way possible. ColdTowne is a theater that embraces diversity and inclusion, is open to new ideas, and most of all, is a fun place where people hang out, exchange creative philosophies, and create amazing art. I came from Chicago, considered the “mecca” of improvisation and sketch comedy, and I couldn’t be more impressed with the level of professionalism and aptitude the artists at this theater showcase day in and day out. We may not be millionaires, but we are creating theatre GOLD! There are several performers I’ve encountered already that could easily rival the talents of the many-many-many-many proficient improvisers in Chicago. I can say with authority that Austin, and ColdTowne in particular, is a really special place doing amazing things. I will always be loyal to ColdTowne because of the opportunities I’ve been given, and the warmth and passion of this community that looks out for each other.

That’s great to hear! Anything else?

Go see the show, and I have great hair! Ask to touch it the next time you see me*, it’s soft as FUG!

*I will decline if I have not showered that day.

You can ask to touch Keith’s hair and get the full experience of ColdTowne’s latest sketch show run every Saturday at 7pm through April 29th. Tix recommended at least one week in advance, as presales are already high for upcoming shows. Get em here.

 

You Gave Me a Mountain (of a Show): An interview with Elvis’s director Will Cleveland

Will Cleveland is the Artistic Director of ColdTowne Theater, and has performed, produced and directed shows at the theater since moving to Austin from NYC in 2013. Prior to coming to ColdTowne, he managed UCB’s traveling team and was a producer for UCBComedy. He is a native of Arkansas and you can see him in Play by Play with Chris McKeever every month at ColdTowne.

Tell us about the show.

Elvis’ Rockin’ Nativity is a throwback variety show from TV shows like The Johnny Cash Show, The Dean Martin Show, Sonny & Cher, and The Smothers Brothers. It’s final conception asks what if Elvis had a Christmas Variety Television Special and things didn’t really go as planned. Elvis is the host of the show and his friends play different roles in the Nativity Christmas Pageant like Johnny Cash and June Carter who play Joseph and the Virgin Mary.

What inspired you when creating this show?

I grew up watching reruns of the Smothers Brothers, Sonny and Cher, and sketch shows like Laugh-In, and Carol Burnett. Also, I’ve always been a big Elvis fan. I wrote and directed a version of this show in 2012 at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater East in New York. I was on a video production team for UCBComedy and wrote it as a commercial parody first, but couldn’t really see us producing it as a short video, so I pitched it to the theatre as a full show. So, we put up a 25 minute version that was a lot of fun, but one night only, so it really left me wanting more.

Kim Lowery plays Elvis, and there are several other male characters played by females. Tell us about the thought process behind that casting decision.

Kim Lowery as Elvis.

Kim Lowery as Elvis.

Yeah! When I was in high school, I found a “lost” episode of Seinfeld online, and directed it as my senior project for theatre class. Jerry, Elaine, and George were no-brainers, but nobody in my class could play Kramer. Except Rachel Harding. She was taller than anybody and she was really funny. And then, of course, she crushed the role. After that, I never really questioned casting roles based on gender – especially for comedy. When casting Elvis for this show, I thought about some awesome dudes to play Elvis, but something was holding me back from asking or even holding auditions. I went to see a play at Vortex in the summer and Kim was there too. After the play, we were having drinks in the courtyard, and it just kind of hit me. I think it was something about Kim’s rock and roll style and her very open mind, but I thought she should play Elvis, so I just asked her right then and there. Once we started our writers meetings, all bets were off and every role that was written was on the table for anybody to play.

If someone isn’t familiar with Elvis, will they still enjoy the show?

No doubt about it. We have a short film intro to Elvis and who he was at the top of the show. And, even though it’s set in 1970-something, the sketches are very contemporary and satirical to issues we’re still talking about today. There’s something for everybody in this show.

Why Elvis?

There’s so much to explore with Elvis – Rock Star, Movie Star, Soldier, Karate Master, Spiritualist, “Government Agent”…all these things are ripe for parody. but Elvis is already such a big, larger than life character – almost a myth, like John Wayne, Teddy Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart. Of all the things Elvis accomplished in his career, he never made a Christmas movie or TV show. He made some Christmas albums, but of the 31 movies he starred in, there wasn’t a Christmas Movie or TV special, so it was just kind of up for grabs so to speak.

What else should we know about the show?

It’s about 70 minutes long. BYOB if you’re into that. We have a very merry atmosphere in the lobby before and after the show.

Elvis’s Rockin’ Nativity runs through December 17th, Saturdays at 8:30pm. Tickets are $10 advance and $12 at the door, with advance tickets strongly recommended due to the popularity of the show.  Pick up your tickets here, darlin’.

Groundhog Indicates: It’s a Good Year for Improv!

Wondering if you or your loved one will enjoy taking classes at ColdTowne? Check out this blog post from Megan Mowry from this past March: she started in our free 101 class (every other Monday at the theater) and hasn’t looked back since.

Want to go ahead and snag that holiday class pass?

 Purchase the pass!

By Megan Mowry

Groundhogs Day 2015: Me, my birthday, and a free improv class at ColdTowne Theater. It didn’t feel significant at the time, but in retrospect, it was honestly the best gift I have ever given myself. I sat down next to Laura de la Fuente  (now a fellow SHESHESHESHE troupe member and BFF) and I remember us being like two chihuahuas in a handbag, both extremely excited and kind of neurotic nervous, but happy to be in the same purse. Flash forward one year later, and we’ve done countless shows together, both performed in mainstages at ColdTowne,  and most importantly, we’ve met so many amazing people in the improv community!

ShePoster-Frank-Mills-optAfter graduating from college over a year ago, I felt like everyone I knew had left Austin, and I was determined to find new friends. I tried intramural kickball, but I don’t really enjoy group sports. I tried a doodle meet up, but it turns out all we had in common was the fact that we all loved our dogs. And then there was improv! Improv class is this magical place filled with humans that come from many different background, yet are somehow all kind, open, honest, and creative individuals playing make believe together. Seriously, what is more fun that that? 

ColdTowne should rename Improv Level 1 to Therapy Level 1. Nat Miller was an amazing teacher. He cultivated a safe and trusting environment for my class to express ourselves in ways that most of us had never done before. I’m not sure about most of you, but I sit at a desk all day in my head, in a car for an hour in my head, even at a workout or yoga still in my head. Improv class feels like the first big stretch after being in a confined space all day. It’s the off leash dog park for humans, it’s standing on a chair in front of room full of people and throwing a full on temper tantrum because it’s  “your character”. Happy freaking birthday to me, it’s been a damn good year!


Megan Mowry performs with her all female Cagematch champion troupe  SHESHESHESHE.  She is in the cast of Fuck This Week, exploring your shit ass week every Monday night at The New Movement. She recently the  joined resident cast of Tarantula, an organic, odd, vibrant web of collective consciousness type of improv, happening the second Saturday of every month at The Institution Theater. Outside of the comedy world, Megan enjoys Karaoke, tiny coffees, and watching improv.

The Art of Good Filth, by Will Dwyer

image1There is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing your show get a spot on ColdTowne’s calendar and this is one you won’t want to miss.

The one thing we wanted to demonstrate when we were planning this variety show: the bluest comedy that Austin has to offer, displayed at its highest intelligence. A taboo joke is often at best the laziest route to a laugh; at its worst, it can be an offensive reinforcement of hate. In a vacuum, however, there is no reason a fart joke cannot be as smart as one about quantum mechanics. We see the beauty in the raunchy comedy being crafted by some of the best comedians in Austin and want to showcase it with Pure Unadulterated Filth: a variety show coming to ColdTowne Theater, September 23rd at 11:30 pm.

Sex, drugs, farts, death, politics, race, and gender are among the ledges that P.U.F. wants to challenge Austin comedians to step out onto. A good comedian can take a topic that is isolating and make it relatable, allowing those things that are dark within all of us to be more safely approachable. Reductress pretty much did all of the work of proving our point with their recent day dedicated to addressing rape; dozens of articles about sexual assault struck at the heart of something unspeakably dark with beautifully pointed satire. Whether your comedy punches up expertly at the power structures in place or seeks to delight with the underbelly of human vulnerability, we want to showcase the best this town has to offer.

We believe that blue comedy is so much more than lazy jokes that attack vulnerable groups of people, and then hide behind free speech — decrying the PC nature of modern society — when faced with criticism. Comedians performing at P.U.F. shows don’t hide. They stand tall behind the comedy they have created, because they have worked hard to craft a voice which can deftly address topics that most find uncomfortable. So, in the end what does this all mean? Have conviction, above all else. Even in the face of a fart joke.

Our Pure Unadulterated Filth variety showcase features standup from Christina Parrish, sketch from Pendulum and improv from Toxic Chakra. It’s a powerhouse show. Friday September 23rd, 11:30 pm. Tickets will sell out.

– Pure Unadulterated Filth is a show by Kara King and Will Dwyer

Congrats Cené, Danny and Dave!

ColdTowne Alumna/Alumnus Get Hired
We are late to the party, but are incredibly excited to announce that Loverboy’s Cené Hale was recently hired as a cast member for Boom! Chicago – Amsterdam, joining them in August. She follows in the footscene-300x200teps of former cast members such as Jordan Peele, Becky Drysdale and Seth Myers, to name a few. If you’ve seen Cené, you know what a talent she is. She’s already performing in the cast at Boom! and we enjoy living vicariously through her photos of thcatlow_dannye city.

Just recently, former student and Bad Boys founding member Danny Catlow was added to the cast of the Second City – Chicago tourco. Since arriving in Chicago a few years ago, he’s been seen all over Chicago and performs regularly at the revered Annoyance Theater.  We couldn’t be more excited for Danny and the recognition of his talent in a city filled with the good stuff.

Thank You Out of Bounds!
Closer to home, ColdTowne Executive Producer Dave Buckman recently wrapped up another hella successful Out of Bounds. We hope you made it to a show during the festival because it was boss for anyone with a propensity to laugh. Bringing Austin some of the finest acts from all over the world to your from doorstep for a jam-packed week might seem like magic, but that magic takes a lot of work, and along with a team of committed staff and volunteers, the producing team is responsible for pulling it all together.

Dave is a long-time member of the producing team along with Jon Bolden (Bad Boys, noted director), Roy Janik (Hideout Artistic Director) and leader Ruby Willman (LA-based producer and teacher). He has been key in booking many of the headliners that wow Austin-audiences each year and keeps the students and performers at ColdTowne supplied with inspiration and audiences supplied with good times. Thank you Dave and team!

ColdTowne featured on KLRU with Stand Up Empire (June 26th)

The comedy scene in Austin is exploding. With eight comedy theaters (and counting), and hundreds of improvisors, stand ups and sketch comedy performers, Austin is quickly producing talent that competes easily with comedians from larger markets, such as Chicago, LA and NYC. To chronicle the exploding comedy scene in ATX, creators Mike Wilson and Brently Heilbron developed Stand Up Empire, which is produced by local PBS affiliate KLRU.

Directed and produced by Chris Shea, Stand Up Empire chronicles the comedy scene in Austin, with a distinct focus on the top-notch stand up scene.  We were recently featured on the fourth episode, with interviews with Executive Producer Dave Buckman, Managing Director Erika May McNichol and Loverboy’s Stephanie Thoreson.

We were delighted to have Stand Up Empire recognize ColdTowne as a hotbed of comedic talent across all the comedy types, and to be featured alongside Live at ColdTowne regular Martin Urbano and Avery Moore.

Check the whole thing out, and watch for the segment on ColdTowne around 21:40.

You like? Check out Live at ColdTowne Fridays at 10pm and Loverboy on Wednesday nights at 8:30pm.