ColdTowne’s Victrola Debuts Album

ColdTowne Theater’s sketch and improv comedy podcast, Victrola, debuts album

ColdTowne Theater’s sketch and improv comedy podcast Victrola’s debut album, Virtual Aurality, is due out on Austin label Sure Thing Records October 5th.

Victrola is a monthly smorgasbord of sketches written and performed by some of Austin, Texas’s best improv comedy talent – Michael Jastroch, Bob McNichol, Bryan Roberts, Lance Gilstrap, Cortnie Jones, Jericho Thorp and Molly Moore. As regular performers at ColdTowne Theater, the cast of Victrola have been performing with one another for over a decade.

Splitsider called Victrola “Plucky” and “delightful” and “painstakingly edited.” Another dope on the internet said Victrola was his favorite podcast. Recently, Victrola was a national finalist in the popular Earwolf improv podcast Improv4Human’s Contest4Humans and produced a podcast pilot for Audible.com. So, people are talking.

Recorded in the middle of nowhere over a long weekend in February of 2017, Virtual Aurality employs the technique Victrola uses for their podcasts. Namely, recording hours and hours of improv and cutting out the parts that aren’t funny. The end result is hilarious and chaotic, and captures the spontaneity of a live improv show without all the awkward bits.

Virtual Aurality will be available on online retailers (iTunes, surethingrecords.com,victrolapod.com) starting October 5th and is available for pre order and sampling right now.

We sat down with some Victrola cast members to to discuss the upcoming release.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady

What was the recording process like for the album?

Jericho: We recorded at my cabin in west Texas. It’s near an old Union fort where they stationed Buffalo Soldiers. The cabin is on the San Saba River, not too far from Menard, TX. It’s beautiful, quiet, and peaceful out there. The perfect place for a bunch of comedy nerds to get intensely liquored up and laugh loudly around a fire.

Lance: A lot of the sessions ran really long and we would often start the day a little slowly, holding back ideas because we were just getting warmed up. By the time a two hour or more session was almost over, we would get very ridiculous. To the point where I don’t think anyone was afraid to say anything and we supported it all.

Bob: We spent Friday night hanging out and talking about ideas we had, and put them all on the huge piece of paper. We went through all of those ideas and more over the course of recording on Saturday and Sunday. We had fires going outside for alot of the weekend, and it was so far away from big cities that you can see so many more stars than usual. Like 10 or 20 more stars. Insane.

Molly: Someone brought a very fancy telescope, but I got there late and everybody had already had their telescope fun so I went out alone. The trek to the ‘scope was cold and spooky and dark and no doubt filled with lurking snakes and once I got there, I couldn’t figure out how to work it so instead I just looked up with my own two (20/20, bragging) eyes and invited the cosmos right in. Another cozy moment happened around the fire as we listened to a playlist curated by soundhound Bob that was heavy on deepcut soul, funk, and reggae — all very warm music. As each song began, there would be an identical fifteen-second pause before Dalton would say “hey, this is great. What is this?” and Bob and the rest of the guys would geek out about the song.

Cortnie: My favorite part was Dalton, who brought a stick of cinnamon. We never used it, I have no idea why he brought it but it sat on the counter. I also saw a hat at the cabin that I assumed came with the cabin. A week or so later I saw Dalton wearing it and thought he stole it. Turns out, it was just his hat. It was really fun to stand in front of mics and just fuck around with what was funny about each sketch idea. Michael is really good coming up with usable premises. Bob’s understated straight man paired with Lance’s crazed straight man is always hilarious. Lubu brings the jokes and Molly and Jericho’s voices and game ridden bits are over the top hilarious. I think I almost peed myself twice during recording. Two days of recording sketch comedy is pretty tiring, but I was pretty proud of us for all getting along and still having fun and coming up with some really good sketches and jokes in the end. I’m really proud of the work we’ve all put into the album, especial Michael, who has worked endlessly on editing out all our thirty hours of bullshit material into one hilarious album.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady

What sketch from Victrola – album or podcast – did you have the most fun recording?

Molly: We entered some strange time vortex during the recording of Smorgasborg and emerged – no joke – an hour later sweaty, disoriented, and newly registered with Discover. It was JAZZ, my man! It’s also always fun meeting up with grumpy old Mr. Peters and ragging on the guy.

Bob: We did one recently with Juliet and Aly sitting in where we were in a Target dressing room. I could not stop laughing during it. I’d say Jastroch and Dalton cut maybe 60% of it out, and rightfully so.

Jericho: I love any sketch that devolves into the characters and world succumbing to some ultimate evil. I mean, just in general. One of my non-evil favorite moments is when I brought my horse to a dog training class and insisted it was just a really big dog.

We make each other laugh constantly. I’m always surprised/pleased when a moment where we all are laughing makes it into the final product. People do this sort of laugh/word vomit thing to get out their line before they bend over and try to laugh as quietly as possible off the mic. When we’re all doing that together, it’s pretty great. I think people seeing that from the outside without any context would assume we were all having some kind of fit.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady

Any moments from sketches that you wish weren’t cut out?

Cortnie: There was a moment with special guests Kasey Borger where we were at a swimming pool, we were lifeguards and I said, “Tweet!” thinking Jastroch would cut it out and replace it with a whistle, but Kasey asked why I said that, so I explained and the whole thing made it into the episode. It’s pretty funny, but I wish I had just made a better whistle noise. We are improvising, so it’s nice when those little reminders pop into episodes.

Bob: Cortnie and I played these bumbling cops early on in the first season.  It was super-fun and super long. It was eventually released as like 6 minutes, but I’m pretty sure we went on for like 30 minutes as these cops.

Molly: There have been a few moments that I have felt personally attacked for being left on the floor (one about mixing up the name for Netflix comes to mind). Whenever this happens, I confront Dalton who says something to the tune of, “I think it played better to the room than it would in an episode.” Very polite but also VERY RUDE.

Lance: I do remember Molly doing some kind of counting thing once that got cut and when I heard the episode, I thought to myself “why would that not be in the episode? I was literally on the floor, laughing when she did that! But I don’t remember the specifics and I’m sure there was a good reason. Maybe you had to be there.

Jericho: Jastroch, Dalton, and anyone else that helps with editing/recording do a pretty great job of picking the most perfect cherries to put into the episodes/album. I pretty much trust them at this point to make me sound way more witty, quick, and amazing than I do in real life. They left in a bit where I gradually reveal that not only am I James Taylor, but also a ghost hovering outside a man’s window, giving him life advice. Not sure what else I could want.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady

What’s been a favorite Victrola memory ?

Cortnie: I love our live shows. My favorite is when we went to Dallas and did a show for three people, Dalton being one of them. The lobby was so loud we could hear them during our entire set. It’s those times we have the most fun.

Molly: We did a SXSW show this year. The setup was two big chairs in front of a mic and a small couch with a mic. Cortnie and I took the chairs while the guys squeezed onto the couch, a reality I didn’t realize or appreciate until a photo surfaced. I do remember watching the guys struggle to pass the mic around on their tiny little couch while I sat cross-legged on my giant chair in front of my very own mic and felt at peace. QUEEN ALERT!!

Jericho: Improv is usually a very in-the-moment, “you had to be there” form of comedy. Writing the show on the fly with some of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life has been such a great experience. These people are not only my creative partners, they’re my friends. It’s kind of amazing to have something like this together. We meet once a week, walk into a tiny room together, and have the best time. Then that’s distilled into something that’s genuinely funny and of which I am very proud.

Lance: My favorite part is always getting lost in recording a sketch. One where we are all cracking each other up and then we end it and we’re like “we were recording that ONE sketch for forty five minutes.”

Bob: I just love how easy it is to get together on Mondays and record. It’s low pressure and everyone’s open to whatever ideas we bring in. I don’t know if it’s a favorite memory, but we’re frequently listening for practicing drummers or trumpet players who live in the same building as Jastroch and Cortnie. I’m sure it’s tough to edit around, but it makes me laugh when i start hearing trumpet scales bleeding into some scene in our headphones.

Courtesy of An Indoor Lady

 

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.