That Time of the Month celebrates its 3rd birthday!

First impressions aside, That Time of the Month is actually a late night show hosted by a woman that your heart has long desired, but broadcast networks have never delivered! Once a month, Meghan Ross showcases all types of talented comedic acts including music, stand-up, characters, sketches, and general weirdness from women beings, with improvised commercials in between.

Before relocating to Austin, Meghan produced the show in New York for 2 years with co-creator Liisa Murray, featuring past special guests Aparna Nancherla (Corporate), Jo Firestone (The Tonight Show), and Akilah Hughes (Genius Kitchen). She adapted the show at ColdTowne Theater shortly following her move.

That Time of the Month 3-Year Anniversary Show is on Saturday, March 17th at 11pm and features performances from Andie Flores (Muy Excited), improvised commercials from Say Uncle (The Say), a Strong Female Lead(er) interview with Tiffany Lopez (OH TIFF!), stand-up from Avery Moore (Moontower Comedy), plus free champagne along with treats and giveaways from sponsors Zucchini Kill Bakery, Adamo Nail Bar, and OH TIFF! GET TICKETS HERE!

We spoke to That Time of the Month host and producer Meghan Ross about the past 3 years of That Time of the Month!

What was the inspiration behind That Time of the Month?

My fellow improv teammate and sisterwife from another misterwife, Liisa Murray, and I started scheming for our own variety show in New York. We came up with the insane premise of hypothetical TV network executives giving two women their own late night show (there are no women late night hosts on broadcast networks – Full Frontal with Samantha Bee premiered a year after our show, and that was on cable). Since these “TV network execs” clearly didn’t trust us to do a good job, we called each episode a pilot, and at the end of each show, we’d receive ridiculous notes from them on what we should change about ourselves and the show (written by us – shoutout to internalized sexism!).

In between our self-deprecating womonologue jokes that poked fun at stereotypes placed on us, we featured comedic and musical performances from humans who happen to be women, along with late night-style couch interviews. It was important for us to provide more stage time to women, since then, and still today, you often see a lack of diversity in casting and show lineups – both in the comedy scene and in the TV and film industry.

How has the show evolved or changed over the last three years?

Shortly after I moved to Austin, the 2016 Elections happened, so I took some time off from comedy to sit shiva for the country, and to get my shit together for the next iteration of the show. That’s when I decided to incorporate a Strong Female Lead(er) segment, where I interview an activist or entrepreneur doing kickass work in the community. It’s been one of my favorite additions, and I’ve met some incredibly inspiring ladies that have helped restore my sanity and faith in humanity.

Hosting the show solo versus leaning on my co-host Liisa for emotional support and general Stevie Nicks witchy vibes was also a new challenge, but it’s forced me to gain confidence in my ability to run a show by myself in a new city. Or at least pretend I’m confident for 60 minutes.

Also, for the first year and a half, Liisa and I would start the show by dancing to a song (for a while it was Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman”) for the entire length of it (upwards of 5-6 minutes). We’d end up out of breath for our monologue, and when we kept running over our 60-minute slot, we’d be like, “Well, what unnecessary thing could we possibly cut to save time?” and proceed to include the entire dance intro for 20 episodes. It was inspired by how Abbi and Ilana used to start their Broad City Live show at UCB (gotta point out that this was pre-TV show, post-web series, because I’m a recovering comedy snob), since they looked like they were having so much damn fun together, and we wanted to convey that up top. I’ve retired that bit, and accepted that no one wants to see me dance alone on stage for that long.

Any memorable moments or stories?

During the third pilot episode, which was also my birthday show, our late night desk (a cheap folding table from the props closet) collapsed on one side right after one of us said, “Legalize pot,” causing everything to go flying into a puddle of champagne. It was the funniest, dumbest visual ever for our low-budget show and the best comedic timing I’d ever witnessed.

About a year after that, I got the brilliant idea to host a dog wedding on the show, and since no one could really tell us no, we did it. During the desk bit segment, we had a barkelorette party for the dogs, because dog toys look a lot like sex toys. We had a real ordained minister, comedian Lauren Brickman, lead the ceremony and we married off comedian Lily Du’s puppy Jacuzzi to singer Jessica Rowboat’s dog Frodo. The dogparents even read beautiful vows on behalf of their doggos, and afterwards, Jacuzzi ate a doggie cupcake to consummate the whole thing. It was pretty weird of me to force these dogs (neither of which are mine) to marry, but even weirder was when I ended up fostering and adopting my dog Dreidel just a week after the wedding. Second best comedic timing.

My Aunt Dawn, who was like another mother to me, passed away suddenly this past May. I thought about cancelling the May show, but realized she would have wanted me to still do it (not via some Field of Dreams voice, but more because she’s that kind of selfless person and was very supportive of my comedy). I dedicated the show to her and tried to include as many details in her memory, like baking funfetti cookie sandwiches for the audience, which were her specialty, and making a show playlist of her favorite songs. I wrote about her for my monologue as I was flying back to Austin, but didn’t have time to prepare a written desk bit. I decided since it was right around Mother’s Day, I would do an improvised “Call Your Mom” segment where I ask if anyone would be willing to call their mother on speaker at midnight in the middle of a late night show. Improvisor Laura de la Fuente volunteered, and her amazing mom answered the phone and casually chatted with us (in front of our audience) while rushing to catch a plane, and indulged us with an embarrassing story about Laura that had everyone in tears from laughing so hard. After experiencing a family tragedy, that episode really helped me use humor to cope.

What are you looking forward to – creatively speaking – in the next year of the show?

I’ve started partnering with women-owned businesses to showcase and promote women entrepreneurs and business owners in the Austin community, and in return, they generously provide the audience with treats and prizes. I’m also investing a lot of my time and resources to growing the show in 2018, turning it into more than just a side hustle. If given the opportunity, I’d love to make some real TV network executives uncomfortable with my presence.

 

Interview with Michael Jastroch of Victrola

Victrola is a weekly comedy podcast produced by ColdTowne founder and senior faculty member, Michael Jastroch, who recently appeared in the 2017 SxSW comedy lineup. In this post, we discuss Victrola’s start, the cast and their selection as finalists in the first annual Improv4humans/Earwolf competition.

How did you get started with Victrola?

Funny. I just had a facebook memory come up for this. Bryan Roberts posted in 2013 the phrase “Car Bits, Seriously.” It refers to a road trip we took to OKC along with Josh Krilov and Steve Donovan to perform sketch. The way there and back, we improvised dumb audio bits for seven straight hours – basically pretending to prank call us and it was maybe the hardest I’ve ever laughed.

Josh, Bryan and I started getting together to record audio bits from time to time with the intention of turning it into something –  a podcast or a stage show – but nothing ever came from it. Mostly because of lack of know how and proper equipment.

I have a few recordings from that time, and I may release some of them someday as curios. There’s a bit – unedited – we did that I eventually cut up into an audio add for ColdTowne. I can’t find the finished version, but the unedited clip is pretty solid.

A few years ago, I got fed up with doing shows and having no record of my work or “product” to sell. A decade of shows, and the only thing to point to was some vague memories. The kicker was one night doing a show one night with Irene White that may have been the best thing I’ve ever been involved with and realizing that even though 50 people saw it, it’d be forgotten in two months.

Film is challenging, because you need a lot of people to make it happen and having relied on goodwill and favors for most of my creative life, I knew it’d be difficult to put stuff out consistently. With podcasting, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t happen, I’ve only myself to blame.

So I bit the bullet, dropped $500 on audio equipment and podcast hosting, taught myself some basics, and made myself a rule. I’d never miss a deadline, even if I put out crap, I’d put something out. Recording sessions are deliberately kept fun and casual, so people never have to feel like a dick for not making it  – although everyone in the cast makes 9 out of 10 sessions. And here we are.

My only regret is Krilov moved so he can’t bit out with us.

Bryan Roberts, Jericho Thorp, Dalton Allen

Recording: Bryan Roberts, Jericho Thorp, Dalton Allen

What do you think each of the cast members brings?

I casted the thing mostly based on a history of hanging out and doing bits. How easy does this person play and get what makes something funny? So they all have that in common. Plus, they all have a few voices up their sleeve. We all make each other laugh, and that’s important.

Lance Gilstrap – the perfect straight man. Very few people can maintain that much anger on stage and keep the ball rolling. It’s a skill I envy.

Molly Moore – such great character work. You never know what’s going to come out of her mouth, completely sincerely, as whatever nutball she’s playing.

Bryan Roberts – perfect timing and delivery. He could make a phone book funny. He’s also great at constructing actual jokes on the spot.

Bob McNichol – plays three dimensional chess while the rest of us are playing checkers. He doesn’t say the most, but everything that comes out of his mouth is funny on another level. Plus, he’s got that amazing dry delivery that sounds so sweet on podcast.

Cortnie Jones – is such a great character actress and she swings for the fences with

Molly Moore

Recording over a weekend retreat in west Texas: Molly Moore (foreground). Michael Jastroch and Bob McNichol (background).

whatever she’s doing. If Molly plays the affable loons, Cortnie plays all the sociopaths.

Jericho Thorp – One of the best character improvisers in the city. Such a great listener and so wonderful at making even the nuttiest stuff grounded in truth.

Me – I don’t know anymore.

Also, Dalton Allen, who helps with the editing and is unofficially now in the cast has a wonderful dry wit.

What do you think is the biggest deal about Victrola as a comedy podcast?

The great thing about podcasts is they are so easy to start. The horrible thing is they are so easy to start. Meaning, it’s real easy to assume you’re charming enough to carry on unscripted comedy – scenic or banter. But the truth is, that’s not only difficult to do, if you’re not a known quantity, no one gives a shit.

I didn’t want to do another four dudes talking around a microphone podcast. That niche is filled. So what makes us a big deal is when we put stuff out, the extra effort has been put in to make it as funny as it can be every time. Otherwise there’s literally no point in us existing.

If you could have one special guest superstar, who would it be?

All of Superego, who are huge inspirations. We were doing these bits and thinking about releasing this before we heard Superego, but they showed us the way forward.

What’s up with Improv4Humans and Earwolf?

Yeah! We are among the top three finalists in the Improv4Humans Contest4Humans. Which is awesome, because locally and nationally we were up against some heavy hitters. It’s a real honor and very validating to make it this far.

We’re recording a set on Tuesday the 28th. If we win, we get flown to the Del Close Marathon in NYC to record with Matt Besser. Which, given that we’re laboring in obscurity far away from industry or celebrity, would be very validating and hopefully expose us to a wider audience.  We don’t do this to be famous, but so much work goes into the thing, audience is nice.

How many sandwiches have you eaten at once.

More than 2, less than 6.

What do you have strong opinions about?

Everything. It makes me a better teacher and director, but occasionally paralyses me as a performer.

On the podcasting tip, one thing I hear all the time is how awesome Victrola sounds. Which to me is nuts, because I literally have no idea what I am doing and basically watched two youtube videos.

Which means if your podcast sounds like shit, you don’t care enough to watch two youtube videos. If you’re going to phone it in, isn’t there a better way for you to spend your time?

Recording: Lance Gilstrap and Molly Moore.

Recording: Lance Gilstrap and Molly Moore.

ALSO – I support crowd funding thing as a concept, but I think we’ve gone too far. What happened to – you know – paying your dues. I’m annoyed by people who have never made anything asking for handouts for friends and family. Make a few things on your own dime before you start begging for funds. You’ll learn more.

If Victrola wins and gets to go to DCM, what are you going to do to celebrate?

Go to New York on Matt Besser’s dime is all the improv reward I need. Maybe finally get one of those fancy VIP DCM wristbands so I don’t have to wait in line 6 hours to watch shows I used to be able to just pop into back in 2005.

Victrola records for the Improv4Humans finals tonight at ColdTowne at 10pm.  Check out the Facebook event here. Even better, subscribe to the podcast for weekly goodness.

ColdTownies Doing Cool Sh*t: “Beach Day” Director Dalton Allen

Dalton Allen is a student and performer at ColdTowne Theater, and graduate of the University of Texas Film Program. “Beach Day”, a piece he wrote, performed and directed (with collaborator Matt Stryker) was recently selected for the SxSW Film Festival, wrapping up this weekend. We asked him about the film in this brief chit chat.

Dalton and Matt in Beach Day. From the SxSW 2017 Film website.

Dalton and Matt in Beach Day. From the SxSW 2017 Film website.

Tell us about the short.
The film’s a short, absurdist comedy about my friend and I, who go to the beach on a slow day. It doesn’t go as planned.

What was your inspiration for making it?
My co-director and co-star Matt had the initial premise. We hadn’t made anything for ourselves for a long while so we just wanted to dust the cobwebs off. It was all found on the day. There was no script; we would shoot something and then talk through the beats of what comes next and then shoot that. It very much mirrored improv that way – we worked purely on instinct and discovery.

Who inspires you as a film maker or comedian?
This is a tough question for me because I always want to get comprehensive, but that’s impossible. At least for Beach Day, and I think I can speak for Matt too here, we’re big fans of recontextualizing things that wouldn’t themselves be funny but the situation they’re happening in makes it so it is. Also, playing something that’s deeply silly as straight as possible.

Edgar Wright comes up a fair bit between us. Wright has such a mastery of using the medium of film itself to help frame and tell a joke and he doesn’t waste a frame doing it (in much the same way, I’m a huge fan of Satoshi Kon). That efficiency really appeals to us. We’re both filmmakers first and comedians, or anything else, second, so we’re very concerned about using the camera dynamically to help us be efficient and dense with our comedy.

Beyond SxSW Film, where else can people catch your short?
We’re considering right now if we want to continue with a festival run or move on to something else. However that bears out, the short I’m sure will appear on YouTube at some point in the near future. It seems the natural home for something so silly. If anyone wants though, you can always contact me and I can send you a private link.