ColdTowne Theater’s sketch and improv comedy podcast, Victrola, debuts album
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.
We sat down with some Victrola cast members to to discuss the upcoming release.
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.
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.
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.
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.