Thursdays in June, PATIO TALK presents BettyFest featuring an all female lineup of talented performers. Each week will showcase a different opening improv troupe and will be hosted by one of Austin’s finest stand up comedians. The first three shows sold out early so be sure to pick up your tickets for the final show on Thursday, June 26. In this edition of Know Your Troupe we sit down with Kasey Borger, Juliet Prather, Chrissy Shackelford, and Amy Wright of Patio Talk. Formed in the winter of 2013, Patio Talk mixes character and relationship work with high energy fast play.
How did you get your start in improv?
Chrissy: I’ve been performing improv for a little over two years now. I started during my senior year of college on a whim when I decided to take an improv/sketch intensive at The Second City Chicago. I was sitting at Mozart’s coffee shop studying for finals and just wanted some sort of spontaneity in my life, I was an acting focus in the Theatre & Dance department at UT and was feeling a bit jaded with it and wanted to find the joy in why I loved performing and entertaining people again, so I reserved the last spot in an SC winter intensive starting a week later and booked a flight to Chicago. Since then I’ve never stopped.
Kasey: I’ve been performing improv for a year. I had always wanted to do something with comedy but never really felt like I had a way to do that, other than stand up. Not that stand up isn’t cool, I just don’t have the balls to do it. A friend of mine suggested I do improv and I said “What’s that?” Once I finally signed up and started, I was hooked. In a level two class showcase the instructor said “Your job in this show is to make the other people on stage look like they are the funniest person in the world.” I loved that idea so much and wanted more.
Juliet: I’ve been doing the improv for about a year and a half. My journey with it started when I saw a show at UCB in New York that made me feel like there were people in this world that thought like me, except funnier and faster. Within probably 30 seconds, I knew I wanted to be a part it. I signed up officially probably 8 months later because improv is really scary. I love it, though, and I’m grateful everyday that we’re together.
Amy: I’ve been doing improv for about a year. I was first introduced to it through an acting program I did in Chicago while I was in high school and I totally fell in love. But it also took me a while to sign up, a couple years actually. I was scared and shy and just being a turkey about the whole thing. Then I met Juliet and we became friends and she was so head over heels in love with improv and she basically spent an entire summer convincing me to sign up for classes – I think she might be my Fairy Godmother. I can’t imagine my life without improv and all the people I’ve met through it.
How did Patio Talk come together?
Kasey: Other than Amy and Juliet, we all met at the theater. I think we became involved in projects together, saw each other play, and realized we all had the same very specific type of humor. We just wanted to collaborate and do something fun together and the cagematch is the perfect place for that. We were originally just going to do the cagematch but we had so much fun we wanted to do more! Our name is derived from the format we all came up with together — just a coupla broads talkin’ and drinkin’ on a patio.
Chrissy: I feel like my involvement came from Kasey and I just really wanting to get brunch together.
Juliet: In all honesty I just had a big girl crush on all of them at one point or another and made the decision to pursue. Geez they are all so funny.
Amy: I feel like we all sort of collected each other, like we scouted out the people who we wanted to play with the most.
Was it deliberate to form an all-female troupe?
Kasey: No, it was not deliberate.
Chrissy: We all liked how the others played and valued each others’ talents first. I think it was a secondary coincidental thing that we all happened to be female.
What spurred you all to create BettyFest?
Kasey: After a CageMatch show where Patio Talk played Control Match, someone approached us and said that the energy in the theater was different that night with all females playing. And it’s true. Not better, just different. We got to thinking about how many nights a week tend to be dominated by all male troupes, and we realized that we wanted to bring that different energy to the theater.
It also spurred from just wanting to showcase the amazing pool of talented women in the community. We talked about our biggest influences, or shows that kind of changed how we saw improv. For a lot of us it was seeing a woman (Erika May McNichol) on stage who didn’t stick to playing traditional female characters but who also didn’t shy away from it if the scene called for that. She just played and was funny and also happened to be female. My classes have been all males except for myself since level two. I ended up playing a lot of feminine characters and kind of felt like, well, this is what I can and should add. But, watching a woman play who played with the boys but didn’t stick out just for being a woman was really inspirational to me. I guess we just wanted a whole night where we could showcase that.
How do you get pumped up for a show?
Chrissy: Our character transformations get pretty rambunctious and then without
fail we end up singing in the lobby or in the parking lot right before we go on.
Kasey: Yes! Character transformation is Patio Talk’s jam. If it weren’t weird do to improv warm ups on stage, I think that would be a highly entertaining thing to watch Patio Talk heighten characters so far and so quickly with only four people. We also just try to connect, talk about our day, and maybe share some funny anecdotes.
Juliet: Same thing as everyone else, as well as just talk with each other.
Amy: Personally, I always try to force us to sing. I don’t know, it just works for me.
Best thing that’s happened during a show? Worst?
Chrissy: Best — one of the most fun moments was probably a series of scenes from one of our earlier shows (might have been our first) that included a family having a terrible Christmas, finding out it was because their father was Santa and then deciding to go and reconcile with their estranged father by having to wait in line and sit on Santa’s lap at the mall just to talk to him. Everyone just had such a well defined character and then all the characters got on the same page to do this thing together but never dropped their character stuff. Worst — most recently, I got gum in my hair during a “Bridgeport Correctional Facility Short Form Impromptu Skit Players” show.
Kasey: Best — realizing during the first Patio Talk show that this is something special. We were a CageMatch troupe who just wanted to do a show together because, why not? After our first show, however, we all couldn’t wait to do it again. I know it’s cheesy but there is almost this magical element when we play together that can’t really be described. It’s incredibly freeing.Worst — I think that every bad moment in improv is self inflicted. Improv lends itself to such a wonderful, supportive community who has your back no matter what. When I feel the worst is when I am being too hard on myself or judging too harshly and thus not being supportive. Improv, above all, is about having fun. It’s the worst when you suck the fun out of it for yourself.
Is there an official troupe drink?
Chrissy: If you asked Juliet she would say a “Martreuse Goose with Raspberry Gin” which is not a real drink. She can’t pronounce Moscow Mule.
Kasey: Long island ice teas!
Juliet: Both of those answers are true!
Favorite band. Bonus points if you name a song.
Chrissy: Bright Eyes. I can name almost all Bright Eyes songs, particularly the I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning album. That was my introduction to Mr. Oberst. My aim screename was WeMustStare326. LAME!
Amy: I have a Neutral Milk Hotel tattoo. My aim screenname was FunkyMonkey3013, which is not a reference to a song at all but is also lame.
Kasey: I like Jenny Lewis, I like Bright Eyes, I like Miley Cyrus, I like almost all Pop Punk, I like musicals– What I’m really saying is: this is TOO HARD. Also my first screen name was akachickenlips. It was a joke my dad made. Comedy runs in my blood.
It there a Patio Talk theme song?
Chrissy: Yes! You may have seen it in our Facebook videos. It goes: Patio, Patio, Patio Talk. P-P-P-Patio Talk, Patio Talk. And it basically just repeats that.
Favorite moment in comedy. Ever?
Chrissy: I have lots of favorites for many different reasons but I’ll boil it down to characters. I love great comedians who are also great actors and just go head first into the premise and their characters. For starters, the Vitameatavegamin Girl bit in I Love Lucy, “The Audition” sketch from Mr. Show, Maya Rudolph’s SNL sketch “Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Laughs,” Gilda Radner’s SNL Judy Miller Talk Show, Andy Daly in anything he does, Nathan Fielder, Tony Hale, the entire cast of Reno 911! Oh man, there’s so much more. I can’t keep going or else I won’t stop.
Amy: I like things that are so bad they’re good. See: The Room, Troll 2, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and Liz Lemon’s phone sex commercial on 30 Rock. For whatever reason, that really just kills me. I think maybe because its so hard to do on purpose, so you either have to be really dumb or really smart to pull it off? Also you know what, anything on 30 Rock. These are such vague answers and I’m cheating but I don’t care. I’m obsessed with 30 Rock, its all gold. Also Molly Shannon fucking falling on top of those metal fold-up chairs as Mary Catherine Gallagher, oh my god.
Kasey: I guess I love when funny things happen when someone isn’t trying to be funny. I love when anyone breaks on SNL, I love when people use funny voices in real life, and I especially love when someone is genuinely honest about something they shouldn’t be in a reality show.
Juliet: I honestly do not have an answer. I can say though that my favorite performers are those like Will Ferrel and Amy Poehler who mesh great, devoted, character work with a class clown-level of goofiness. They do whatever they can to make sure that the people they’re playing with have fun, and I love to watch that.
Patio Talk the TV show. Discuss.
Kasey: Broad City meets 30 Rock meets Parks and Rec meets SNL meets Law and Order SVU meets Friday Night Lights meets Transformers the TV show meets the “Californians” bit from SNL meets home videos from when we were kids.
Chrissy: …meets Gilmore Girls season 3 meets Ahh! Real Monsters meets Scandal meets Clueless the TV show meets the KXAN News at 9 meets that episode of Friends, “The One Where No One’s Ready” meets Project Runway meets Amazing Race meets The Jamie Kennedy X-periment.
Amy: …meets YouTube videos of people falling down meets Mad Men meets the opening credits to Game of Thrones meets MTV’s Next meets Say Yes to the Dress meets General Hospital.
Kasey: … meets Degrassi.
Juliet: Sounds like a pretty fucking good time to me.
What would you say to someone who has thought about taking classes, but hasn’t pulled the trigger yet?
Kasey: I know everyone says this, but it will change your life. It will humble you, it will teach you to be supportive, it will free you, but most of all, it will be fun.
Chrissy: If you take an improv class you will have more fun. Then you will start asking yourself in all situations, however miniscule or monotonous, how can I have more fun right now? And that is a way more invigorating way to live. And then all of a sudden you love getting your oil changed because you’ve found the fun in sitting in that waiting room with the 3 day old USA Today’s and the vending machine filled with Grape Crush.
Juliet: It’s great and you’re great so just do it already
Amy: You’re wasting time!! Just get drunk and put money down on it so you can’t back out, that worked for me. You’ll only regret that you didn’t do it sooner.
Besides Patio Talk, who should people check out at ColdTowne Theater?
Chrissy: I always, without fail, love watching the CageMatch at 10PM on Wednesdays. I think there is such fun and fearless improv happening every week in that slot. There is better than watching other people love and have fun with each other on stage. That energy is infectious and the Cagematch feels like a high school pep rally but a pep rally that you would actually want to go too. Same with The Graduation shows.
Kasey: Every show, every night. I know this is another question I am cheating on, but there is so much amazing improv going on and you really don’t know when you’re going to catch an amazing new troupe or be inspired by an established one. It’s so essential to watch people who have a better, or even just different, grasp on improv than you.
Amy: The Frank Mills, Saturdays at 10!!!! Also check out the stupid good sketch shows that are happening all the time — Wink Planet shouldn’t be missed, go listen to all the commercials they did for the Got Your Back podcast RIGHT NOW! And Off The Wall is doing two cool shows that I want to see. They did a sketch about Nazi hunters that I saw during The People’s Sketch Show that made me cry.
Juliet: Friday night is always fun. Movie Riot at 7pm is one of the most fun group of players you can get to see, and Bad Boys are always super solid at 8:30. Also, I just saw the Bridgeport show last Saturday and it was amazing. Everyone should see that while they have a chance to (Saturdays in June at 8:30).
Favorite thing about improv?
Chrissy: The human brain is weird. I like hearing how weird we all our when we just let ourselves have fun in the moment.
Kasey: I guess when I think about answering this question, I think about my favorite thing about learning improv. I love the idea of supporting unconditionally. Going out on stage and believing that anything that comes out of anyone’s mouth is correct is so incredibly freeing and fun. You can’t fail when you play with someone who supports unconditionally and especially when you do the same. I also love to see grown adults act like goofballs.
Amy: I like shouting and climbing on top of people and I like when other people shout and climb on top of me — I love giving and also feeling the support that something like that requires.
Juliet: You can’t be good at improv unless you support, listen, and ultimately make other people look good. I love that. It sort of forces you to be a better person.
Be sure to check out BettyFest, Thursday at 8:30pm in June. Come early to enjoy Long Island Iced Teas with headlining troupe Patio Talk, stay late to enjoy cheap beers in the parking lot with headlining troupe Patio Talk.
6/26 Hosted by: Caroline Bassett With: Casscade (Cat Drago, Sarah Marie Curry) – Get Tickets