Troupe Spotlight: Kingz

kingzHow did Kingz come to be?
A group of lady improvisers were talking about times that they had dressed as men in their lives (Halloween, for shows, etc). We talked about who enjoyed doing it, who didn’t enjoy it and also if at any point you were perceived differently if someone did actually think you were a man. It was interesting to hear the different accounts of various women in the community. For those who were perceived as men while in drag they had noticed people speaking to them differently, having different body language around them, and relating to them differently when they were thought to be male. Some of us loved dressing up in drag, some of us had never done it, and some of us were uncomfortable doing it but wanted to explore it more. We decided it would be a fun cagematch idea and we submitted. Not only did it end up being fun, but we found that the particular group of people that had come together had amazing comedic chemistry. Performing together felt easy and fun and we decided we didn’t want to stop after our reign as cagematch champions ended.

What format do you use, and how did you decide on it?
We do a monoscene with pop outs. It’s basically where the characters stay in one location, exploring a moment in time. The exception being if someone mentions a time in their life, a memory, etc we might do a “pop out” and explore that memory or moment briefly and then go back into the monoscene. We all really enjoy relationship based performances. The format allows for us to explore our male alter egos more fully. At this point they are very familiar to all of us. Down the line I don’t know if we will always have the same guy character every time, but for now it’s great getting to know our dude selves better and better with each show.

What makes you different than other troupes out there?
I guess the obvious would be that we dress in drag. I doubt we are the only improv troupe that does this but at least in Austin we are the only drag king improv group that I am aware of. It’s fun to explore gender roles and stereotypes with these characters. We don’t try to make all our characters walking male stereotypes. They’re all over the spectrum. Sensitive dudes, dudes filled with anxiety, cocky dudes, mellow dudes, etc. There’s also usually a lot of dick jokes.

kingz at oob 2Is it difficult to play women playing men, and then if the scene requires it, women playing men playing women? What are some difficulties that come from your unique form?
Not really. Occasionally someone might slip up and call someone she when they are their dude character but that seems to happen less and less the more shows we do. When we do the pop outs and become female characters it’s just like becoming a female character in a regular show. I don’t know that we go as deep as to do it as how our male character would play a woman.We are a troupe with a large number of people. Monoscene’s tend to work a bit better with smaller troupes. The main challenge is trying to give some focus to all our different characters and to not talk over one another. Sometimes one persons character gets highlighted more in a show, but that’s ok. It’s sort of like with each show we get to learn a little bit more about the lives of our characters.

What is your favorite show you’ve ever done?
It’s so hard to pick just one! We’ve had a lot of really fun and wonderful shows. We had one the other night where everyone just kept breaking because we were all cracking each other up so much. I know breaking in scenes can be frowned upon but I think all of us get quite a bit of joy out of making one another laugh.

What advice do you have for new troupes and new performers?
Have fun. Play with people you like. Play with people you’ve always wanted to play with. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to do a troupe with you if you want to perform with them, more often than not they will be flattered and say yes. Hang out with your troupe mates outside of improv shows. Some of the best warm ups can just be talking to each other about what happened that day.

Who is a teacher/coach (at any theater!) who inspired you?
We have so many! Erika McNichol, Jill Bernard, Kristin Henn, Mick Napier, John Ratliff, Rich Talarico, Rachel Madorsky, Michael Jastroch, Clifton Highfield, Stephen Kearin, Roy Janik, Shannon O’ Neil, and so many more. We could go on and on. But if you haven’t you should check these folks out cause they’re all rad.

What is your favorite Austin landmark?
I feel like the dudes in Kingz (especially Tyler) would really enjoy Hippie Hollow.

kingzTell us a bit about your current run!
We are coming to the end of our crazy fun Februrary run, OKingzCupid! Each week we try and “date” different all female improv troupes. They perform a set, then us and then we do a big mash up speed dating round at the end where one person from each troupe gets crowned the King and Queen of the night. Kitty Nasty hosts the whole thing and there’s a photo booth and free Kingz Boozy Love Punch at each show. Our last one is on Februrary 25th at 8:30PM and Toxic Chakra will be opening up for us. It’s a great time and features some of the funniest ladies in Austin.

Kingz is:
Arian Brumby aka Dan
Lisa Jackson aka Freddie B
Molly Moore aka Jason
Meredith Roberts aka Tyler
Xaria Coleman aka Denzel
Emma Holder aka Tony
Cene Hale aka Carlos

BIO:
Kingz is an Austin, TX based improv comedy troupe of women who dress like dudes. Through the art of drag and audience suggestions these gentleladies bring the perfect combination of laughs, beard stubble and manliness to their relationship based performances. It’s good to be the Kingz.

Know Your Troupe: After Midnight

After Midnight started on a whim when some Level 1 students decided to enter the ColdTowne CageMatch.  They went on to win that series and have kept performing together regularly at ColdTowne while still taking classes.  Now in Level 5, Chelsea Bunn, Vickie Dinges Grier, Kim Lowery, Brian May, Lance Nealy, Frances Nguyen and Bobby Stover tell us what it’s like to play shows while still learning the basics.After Midnight

Before we get into the nitty gritty, can you all explain what exactly the ColdTowne CageMatch is?

Lance: The CageMatch is like a bracket-style tourney.  Each Wednesday night at 10, two or three troupes will each play twenty minute sets with the audience voting on who they liked best.  The team that wins that night advances.  There are usually a few weeks of preliminaries, then the semifinals and then you’re ultimately left with two teams.  The troupe that wins that final round are made CageMatch champions and get to sign their name on the chump chucker, this barbed wire-wrapped 2×4.  It’s bad-ass.  They’ve also recently added a four-show run to the deal.  Since Raw Power won the last series, they get to host the current one and close out every CageMatch show.  But the best part is that anyone can form a troupe and enter.  The commissioner can only take so many troupes, but pretty much everyone has an equal shot.  That’s how we got in, dumb luck.  Part of winning is putting on a good show, but an equal part is marketing it, so you get all your friends to show up and vote.

Bobby: For me Cagematch epitomizes what I love about Coldtowne: that everyone, regardless of experience level, is eligible to perform and participate. It just makes the improv community seem so open and inviting.

How long have you all been performing improv comedy?  What made you start?

Brian May

Brian May

Brian: I started in January along with most of these people.  I had recently gone to NYC and seen some amazing stand-up that got me really into the whole comedy world, and I had always watched “Whose Line” growing up.  Then I had a friend from forever ago that tried improv to get stage experience for Blue Man Group, and he loved it.  I took his suggestion and ran with it, couldn’t be happier he told me to go for it.

Kim: My husband sent me a text one day with a picture of a ColdTowne poster someone had hung up in the break room in his office. (Thanks Sarah Coker!) His message said, “You could do an improv class =)” So I went to the free Monday night class with Cody. It was so exciting, and I was happy for the challenge.

Bobby: I saw a rap battle show at another improv studio in town and thought it looked like a lot of fun. Then Frances and I wound up in the same free class with Kim and, BAM! Next thing I knew I was standing on stage, blinded by bright stage lights. Nicely done Cody!

Vickie: A friend did an interview with Sam for the my husband’s podcast and I fell in love with the idea. The hubs got me Level 1 classes as a Christmas gift.

Lance: My neighbors took me to see The Frank Mills and Midnight Society at ColdTowne and I had a blast.  I kept that ticket stub with the free class info on my desk. I was working from home at the time, and was new to Austin so I really needed to get out and meet people.

How did you all meet?  How did After Midnight happen?

Brian: We all just met through classes at improv.  Bobby just asked who wanted to try to enter the CageMatch, and then a Facebook chat was born, and eventually we got to the CageMatch.

Bobby Stover

Bobby Stover

Bobby: I became aware that Level 1’s can participate in Cagematch on the eve of the deadline so as Brian said, I just asked everyone in my class and signed us up that night. Luckily you can change rosters before the first show because we lost about half of the people who originally said they were interested. So between those few brave remaining souls and a couple free agents we picked up as late as the evening of our first show – Kady and Vickie I believe? After Midnight became a thing!

Vickie: I believe Bobby is right. I asked if they had enough people and Bobby said “come on.” When we advanced the first night, I didn’t even realize they said our name.

Lance: Yeah, Vickie was totally “What just happened?”  That first show was so much fun and just crazy.  At this point I feel like we need to pour one out for our dead homie Kady Ferris.  She’s not dead, but she moved to Portland after we won the CageMatch series, which basically makes her dead to us.  But in a nice way.  Hi, Kady!

Where did your name come from?

Frances: Bobby signed our group up for the CageMatch, but he did so after the deadline which is at midnight. Hence, After Midnight.

Lance: I used to really hate the name, but it’s totally grown on me.  It definitely fits the material we did in that first run of shows.  Very perverted.  Very blue.

Brian:  I’m with Lance, I really didn’t like it, but it is growing on me, plus some one found a theme song with our troupe name, so that’s not a bad thing.

Bobby: I stand by my late-night, half-thought out decision on a name. Glad ya’ll finally came around!

Are you nervous before you go on?  What’s the mood like in the hallway?

Frances Nguyen

Frances Nguyen

Frances: Excited mostly. A little nervous. And just trying to keep the momentum from warming up going as we’re waiting. My favorite part is right before going on when we all pat each other on the back and say, “I got your back.” It’s slightly cheesy and totally sincere.

Brian: I’m always really excited before and not nervous at all before we get into the hallway, then it’s like game time and the mood gets more serious, and we do the got your back thing, Frances hit the nail on the head, if you read this I applaud your dedication to the interview.

Kim: I’m not always nervous until I get in the hallway, then I’m pretty much immediately giddy and sweaty and unsure. It’s like being strapped into the seat of a Roller Coaster ride. There’s no turning back, and I almost always regret my decision to put myself in these situations. But afterward, I’m so excited and proud that I did it.

Vickie: Love Fest!

How do you get pumped up for a show?

Brian: I love warming up, it’s just a great way to shake everything out and get psyched for whatever is about to happen.

Kim: Warming up in the parking lot is so fun. We play games and run through our opening. It’s pretty incredible being able to play with friends like I did when I was a kid and know that they won’t make fun of these stupid and sometimes vulgar things popping out of my mouth.

Vickie Dinges Grier

Vickie Dinges Grier

Vickie: Usually, Kim says something about poop or Lance gives a character the attribute of having one leg shorter than the other. I also love the addition of Chelsea, who brought Bunny and Froggy into our lives.

Lance: There was some Yelp review online that complained about shows not being improvised because people were rehearsing in the parking lot.  To the uninitiated, we’re not rehearsing lines or anything, we’re mentally stretching.  Getting loose.

Is it weird taking classes, but also performing?  Has one helped the other?

Brian: I don’t think it’s weird, it’s so helpful to have both sides of it going.  Currently we’re doing some coaching as well, which is extremely fun and helpful.  We have class which we really break stuff down and play less, but learn SO much.  It’s nice to be able to play in coaching, and then get down to the nitty gritty the day after, let our minds go over it and then we play again.

Kim: It was weird at first. I sort of had the thought, “Who do we think we are, we don’t know anything yet!” But I think that’s what made us decent. We were learning and we were excited. It still feels that way most of the time.

Vickie: I think they go hand in hand. Classes are the hard work and preparation that make performing fun. And, yes, some of the Level 3 sessions were difficult for me, but I learned a lot. Thanks Dave!

Lance Nealy

Lance Nealy

Lance: It’s actually funny how quickly we all moved from being terrified of being on stage to being absolutely addicted.  Most of us are in multiple troupes now because we just love playing.  There’s Loverboy, Side Hugs, Sorry For Your Loss, GameTowne, Grounded in Harmony, Save By the Bell, Replacement Mark and probably a few more by the time you read this.

What’s it like coming off stage?

Brian: It’s always a little strange, it never feels like it was 20-30 minutes, it goes by in what feels like 5 minutes every time.  Sometimes I get so caught up in watching the troupe that I almost forget that I am supposed to get up and play too.

Bobby: Oh man, I always feel in a daze and can barely focus on anything people are saying right after a show. It’s an adrenaline rush being under the lights in front of a room full of people. I love it!

Kim Lowery

Kim Lowery

Kim: After a good show where we each got a few laughs, coming off stage is exhilarating. But we recently experienced coming off stage and sort of staring at each other in disbelief. We all knew we hadn’t had fun out there.

Vickie: It’s a feeling of exhilaration and relief all at the same time, but then we start talking about what was good and what could’ve been better. I love it when our coach, Emma, is there because we can get notes right away. I am glad she didn’t see the show Kim described though. It was craptastical.

Lance: Yeah, that one show.  We had a run of shows we had really enjoyed.  I think part of them was “Wow!  We did it.  We got up.” And we were inexperienced enough that we didn’t see things we should have done better.  I think the longer you’re doing it, the more likely you are to find fault with something you did on stage.  Well, we finally hit that show that was just craptastical, as Vickie said.  It just wasn’t fun.  We had weird energy going in, lots of people had crappy days, etc.  But, two days later we had a great show.  So much fun.  For me it was very much like, “Well, nothing could be worse than that crap fest that just happened.”

Do you all hang out when not in classes or practice?

Frances: No. We all actually hate each other. Sometimes I pass Kim in the hallway, and we try really hard not to make eye contact with each other.

Brian: There’s some animosity in the group, so it’s best to act like we get along on stage.

Bobby: Occasionally we’ll show up to the same bar by accident and it’s super awkward. Lance usually gets buzzed on fruity drinks and then things just get weird!

Kim: Lance sometimes sends us nude photos. Of course, they’re unwanted but it’s nice that he’s reaching out, trying to keep us all connected.

Vickie: The troupe has kind of made me the mom figure, which means we are horribly dysfunctional.

Lance: Can you feel the love?  Seriously though, we do hang.  After Midnight is very fond of happy hours and day-drinking.  Except Chelsea.  She doesn’t like to drink.  So never offer her a free beer.

After Midnight

After Midnight

Is there something you feel you still struggle with?

Brian: I feel like I struggle with keeping it slow and not jumping to something for a crazy statement.  Characters are also not my strong suit I feel, but now you guys all know what to look for and to point out how terrible I am at them, GREAT.

Vickie: Impulse control and remembering to develop relationships with the other characters. I like playing with Frances because she is really good at both.

Bobby: So many times in a show you wind up just jumping up on stage at a moment’s notice which makes it very difficult to truly internalize a character and be able think and act like they honestly would in the various weird obscure scenarios we create. Thank goodness for practice time!

Frances: Aww, thanks Vickie! Something I struggle with is just going with my gut and having confidence in what I have to say, which is something I think a lot of members in our group, especially Vickie, are great at.

Lance: Holding onto a character.  Although I recently took a character workshop with Dave Buckman and I’m definitely working on that  And I agree with Brian, slowing things down and working on developing characters, versus just doing bits.  Also spacework.  Good lord do I suck at pantomiming.

Now that you’re way past the halfway point in classes, is there a tip you’ve learned that you’d pass on to other students/performers?

Chelsea Bunn

Chelsea Bunn

Chelsea: Sit in on classes with different teachers to see what kind of coaching best suits your learning style.

Lance: Try not to be hard yourself.  The thing you hated that you did, someone else thought was hilarious.  I’m still pretty bad at this one though.  It’s good advice but hard to follow.

Brian: Listen, listen, listen.

Vickie: I second all of that. Learning to be open and just letting go can be harder than you think. Turn into the skid!

Bobby: Go to jams early and often! Doing this helped my understanding of what we were learning in classes immensely.

Frances: See shows! There are times when I get in my head about how I’m doing in classes or performances. And then I force myself to go see a show and am reminded why I started taking classes in the first place: when you see a great show, it’s brilliant and funny and inspiring.

Lance: Also if you have the time, try to intern.  You get a discount on classes, but more importantly, when you’re doing tech you get to watch shows.  You learn so much from just watching shows.

Favorite drink.

After Midnight

After Midnight

Chelsea: There is a fierce “beer v. liquor” debate within AM. I think we all know which is better… it’s beer.

Lance: Meh.

Brian: I got Lance to say he liked a beer, and of course he denied it afterwards.  But I’m a huge imperial stout fan, I used to mainly drink liquor, but this whole craft beer goodness is too good to me.

Vickie: Vodka and ginger ale—not ginger beer, not coke and sprite mixed together, not soda with bitters in it—ginger-freakin’ ale! Lance and I are the liquor hounds!

Lance: I’m a big American whiskey fan, almost anything brown.  But I’ve also been digging on the Mezcal lately.

Favorite movie.

Brian: Wet Hot American Summer, I have watched the first half of that movie drunkenly and passed out at 3:30 am than any other movie.  It’s my I-have-people-over-and-we’re-all-drinking-we-have-to-watch-this-movie-right-now-and-then-I-pass-out-halfway-through movie.  And there are so many small gems in that movie that you have to watch multiple times through, or at least I did.

Kim: I like all the movies. Especially from the 80s and 90s.

Vickie: The Big Chill, Best in Show, Caddyshack, Dogma, Toys, and A Fish Called Wanda.  I also have to watch Snakes on a Plane and Deep Blue Sea any time they are on. Hilarious!

Favorite moment in comedy.  Ever?

After Midnight

After Midnight

Brian: That’s a tough one, I honestly can’t say.  Maybe watching “Whose Line” growing up with my dad.  That’s such a hard question though, there’s so many new moments, definitely doing improv now, every time you play there’s something that is so funny that it blows you away.

Kim:

Clark: Whew, it’s warm in here.

Mary: Well you have your coat on.

Clark: Ah yes I do, why is that?

Mary: Because it’s cold out.

Clark: Yes it is, it’s a bit nipply out. I mean nippy out, what did I say, nipple? Huh, there is a nip in the air.

Vickie: I love watching classic stand-up, especially George Carlin, Steve Martin, and Richard Pryor. The Original Kings of Comedy has me in tears every freakin’ time and John Leguizamo and Eddie Izzard are pretty genius. Yes, I know I didn’t answer the question.

Lance: I can’t pick a favorite moment in comedy, but the hardest I’ve ever laughed was during the Happy Fun Ball SNL commercial.  Something about it just tickled me to the point where I started hyperventilating and I passed out.  I woke up and my friend Chris was standing over me laughing at me.  I then started laughing again and almost passed out.

Favorite thing about improv?

After Midnight

After Midnight

Brian: The ability to do whatever you want and it’s always right.  No matter how ridiculous it comes out of your mouth, it always just works.

Kim: With very few exceptions, I go home feeling inspired and encouraged. The audience is ready to laugh and support us. The best improvisers, the ones I look up to, have been so great to give a pat on the back or an encouraging word. My troupe and classmates have become some seriously awesome friends.

Vickie: I think it’s the unpredictability that comes with playing with other people. I’ve done some stand-up and this is a totally different vibe. You have no idea what’s about to happen, but you feel fearless because you know the others are there for you.

Lance: Totally sappy, but I really love making up stuff with my friends.  It’s not always gonna be funny, but it’ll always be fun.  Also, I love being in the wings cracking up, watching my friends on stage and I look across at the other wing and I see people there laughing too.  That’s the best.

What would you say to someone who has thought about taking classes, but hasn’t signed up yet?

Brian: Either try a free class on the first Monday of the month, or maybe wait until there’s a deal if you’re looking to save some money.  I can tell you it’s been worth every penny and I can’t think of anything better to spend it on then learning more and playing with these fine people.

Bobby: Stop hesitating! It’s worth it. And who knows, you may just find out a thing or two about yourself; like that your go-to dance move is a pelvic thrust.  Lance!

Kim: DO IT! Seriously, you won’t regret it. I’m always surprised that I am doing this. I love that I’m attempting to learn how to do something that I admire in other performers.

Vickie: It’s a gift to yourself. For two hours a week, you can play and be totally in the moment. Work, traffic, bills, and anything else that’s stressing you out gets pushed completely from your mind.

Best thing that’s happened during a show? Worst?

After Midnight

After Midnight

Brian: There are so many good things that have happened, I can’t remember the best thing, they all blur together after a while.  Each CageMatch show we have had had a main point to it that we kept hitting on, and we were going through learning what we were doing, that may be the best part, but that’s just the experience on the whole… Worst thing, I can’t even think of anything bad, anything that feels rough you just forget about and move on, go through the rest of it and it all works out.

Kim: I’m not sure how this qualifies, but in one of our first shows, Bobby’s character made me get on a donkey. Everything in the show had been leading up to seeing a Donkey Show. I was thinking, “If he makes me fuck a donkey, then it’s on like Donkey Kong.” Thanks Bobby for having my back and taking our donkeys on a sunset ride on the beach.

Vickie: I have had some really funny scenes with Brian where I have gotten all up in his personal space. I also liked when I was Lance’s mom and gave him electro-shock therapy. Bobby and Frances invariably make me play the mom in scenes, which can be best or worst. (Remember our trip to the brothel, Bobby?)

Bobby: I had my improv mom, Vickie, meet my real mom once…it wasn’t awkward until Vickie said “so I took your son to a brothel last week…”. Not a bit.

Lance: There was moment on stage where Bobby and I were father and son and we were working at an Arby’s.  I said something about beating the meat and I could see Bobby almost start to break, at that point I knew it was gonna be a good night.

When people come to an After Midnight show, what are they going to see?

After Midnight

After Midnight

Brian: Honestly, who knows.  Our shows tend to have some dirty subject matter, I feel like Vickie, Kim, and I help to really drive that, maybe unintentionally, but it always happens.  We’re testing out formats, and as of me writing this we haven’t even decided what we’re doing yet, we might just make it up all on the spot.

Frances: A group of people having fun! We like performing with one another and are still learning. I feel like I’m getting up there and laughing along with my troupe and the audience.

Kim: They will see a bunch of grown ups playing on stage. We usually have so much fun, and I’m always proud of my troupe mates when they’re up there.

Vickie: Hopefully a high-energy, totally random, completely inappropriate event that’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Bobby: What Vickie really means is: donkey stuff.

If your troupe entered the Hunger Games, who would win?  Who would die first?

Frances: I think we talked about this over drinks once, but I can’t remember who we decided would win. I’m pretty sure Bobby and Lance decided to form an alliance to kill everyone else. Typical.

Lance: I don’t know, I’d probably try to form an alliance with Vickie.  She always seems to have the skinny on what’s going on in Austin. She’d probably know where all the good knives are buried and which bush is the most flammable.

Brian: I would probably talk a lot of trash and then die about halfway through, but I also haven’t seen the Hunger Games or read the books, so I don’t even know what I’m talking about.

Chelsea: Kady would definitely die first.

Kim: I would win. Because Kim gets Hangry.

Bobby: Guys, I think Chelsea killed Kady!!!

Vickie: Lance is right! I’d put your money on me. I mean, I am the person who sent out pictures of corn dogs and vodka to the entire group. I wouldn’t count Frances out either. She makes a mean cupcake and she will cut a bitch.

After Midnight

After Midnight

Besides After Midnight, who should people check out at ColdTowne Theater?

Brian: I enjoy those Miller and Purselley boys.  I’m also partial since I did graduate from high school with Pierce, and we had a very touching moment in my first improv class that we both forgot we were in class, and it stopped cause he “had to keep keeping class” or whatever.

Kim: Miller and Purselley. Anything with Juliet Prather or Sarah Coker. There are so many people to stalk… I mean watch… on stage from a safe and respectable  distance.

Bobby: The Frank Mills are awesome, Patio Talk is always hilarious, and pretty much anything involving John Ratliff leaves you wanting to become a better improviser; especially Ratliff’s Church of Indeterminate Divinity show every 3rd Sunday of the month at 5:30pm! (shameless plug, anyone??)

Vickie: There is such a variety: Frank Mills, Wink Planet, Glamazon. The jams are always a chaotic mish-mash of awesome. I also like the Triple Threat shows that combine improv, sketch, and standup.

Lance: Oh, Science! on Sundays is great and if you get a chance, catch Dervish!


All photos by Kim Lowery.

You can see After Midnight perform Wednesday, November 5 @ 8:30pm – tickets available now.

Check out the next FREE Improv 101 Class,  the first Monday of every month at 7pm.

Know Your Troupe: Patio Talk

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 Shackelford

Chrissy Shackelford

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 Borger

Kasey Borger

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 Prather

Juliet Prather

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 Wright

Amy Wright

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?

BettyFestKasey: 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

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