Congratulations! You survived Austin in August. Your reward is a month of solid comedy in September. And no better way to start off the month than with Austin’s longest-running comedy festival, Out of Bounds.
The festival opened this week and continues through Labor Day, featuring more than 130 acts in stand-up, improv, sketch comedy and podcasting. Artists from Chicago to Shanghai make the trek, and this year I am thrilled to see a particular prodigal Austinite returning to Austin after making a name for herself in Los Angeles.
I first met Edi Patterson about 20 years ago when we both appeared in a short-film festival at the Dobie Theater. Since then, she has been a mainstage member of the Groundlings — the troupe famous for churning out alumni such as Pee-wee Herman, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon and Kristen Wiig — and turned a small part into a scene-stealing loose-cannon teacher on HBO’s "Vice Principals." Series star Danny McBride also has tapped Patterson to co-star in his upcoming televangelist-themed satire "Righteous Gemstones."
I spoke with Patterson about her return to Austin for Out of Bounds.
What are you looking forward to doing when you come back to Austin?
I look forward to performing, eating, walking down South Congress and maybe getting another shirt from Triple Z Threadz (I have a Bigfoot one), and hanging with pals and family. I love Austin. It always feels magic to me, and I feel so lucky to be able to come and do shows in the place where I first started doing improv for audiences and fell in love with it. Improv was a life/game changer for me, and Austin is the geographical origin of that.
I read a lot of interviews about the "girl from Texas City making good." From one native Texan to another, how has the Lone Star State shaped your comedy?
I think Texas has shaped my comedy by infusing it with darkness and a sense of the absurd. I think that comes from my mom and dad, each in different ways, and because they grew up in Texas, too, from Texas itself. There is an existential bigness and literal heat to Texas that can infuse a weird little chip into a personality that is simultaneously fearless and aware of every danger. It’s hard to explain, and I don’t know if I’m being totally articulate, but there is a strangeness in certain cities that for a curious person like me who loves seeing characters, Texas can be endlessly fascinating.
There is a great wave of Austinites making the journey out west; what is the best and worst advice you could give?
The best advice I can give is to get into something as soon as you can, and to not be afraid to ask questions. LA is a sprawling giant, and the vibe can be confusing at first, but once you kind of find your "world within the world," you find that it is such a great city. I really love it so much. For me, starting to do stuff with Impro Theatre and starting to take classes at the Groundlings were the portal into LA being a happy place and a blast. I guess the worst advice I could give would be to get an apartment by yourself and start making a "Homeland"-style string and photo wall planning out your career as a serial killer?
The Groundlings has a reputation for being the CrossFit of comedy schools. It’s a hard workout, but the results speak for themselves. Is that rep deserved, and do you feel part of that lineage?
I think there is something to that metaphor in that it is most definitely a challenging and long process, and you definitely feel a deep sense of accomplishment if you become a Groundling. The comedic giants who have come out of the place are amazing and numerous. I love the Groundlings — the people, the place itself, the focus on characters — I love all of it, and I feel so grateful to call it home. I do at least one show a week there, sometimes five or six a week if I’m doing the main show, and I feel truly blissed out and "in the zone" on stage there more often than not. That’s so special, and I’m lucky to have it.
You’re working in the tradition of scene-stealers like Madeline Kahn. Your profile is certainly rising, and you’re working with some pretty amazing people. Has the definition of success changed for you at all from when you first arrived?
I think my definition of success has stayed pretty consistent. I want to make awesome things with awesome people who are smart and passionate, hopefully on a level that can garner a big audience. My intention is for my approach to be as fearless as possible, whether that be in TV/film or live performance. Some times are easier than others to get my head right around that, but I manage to get there more than ever lately, which is exciting.
Flour or corn tortillas on your breakfast tacos?
Kick off the month with Patterson on Sept. 1 at the Institution Theater as part of the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival; find out more about the fest at oobfest.com.
Here are more samples from Austin’s comedy buffet in September.
Dudley & Bob + Matt Sideshow at Cap City Comedy Club. The popular KLBJ-FM morning show Dudley & Bob + Matt has been a good home for both local and touring comics; they launched their "Sideshow Podcast" four years ago. Guests for the live "Sideshow" in the past have included comedian Ron White, former Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and a multitude of musical acts.
Sept. 7 and 8
Kath Barbadoro at the Velveeta Room. Kath has been on Comedy Central’s "Roast Battle" and PBS’s "Stand Up Empire" and was a correspondent on the CW’s "ATX Uncensored(ish)" when she was making the Austin comedy rounds. She is now based in New York and is one of the funniest self-proclaimed "mean tweeters" I know. Catch her live at the 30-year-strong Velveeta Room when she returns to Austin to school us all.
"Smile More!" at Institution Theater. The future of comedy is female. "Smile More!" is a feminist stand-up comedy show curated by Valerie Nies that’ll have the audience smiling, but not because some random dude on the street suggested it. September’s lineup is stellar and includes Melody Shifflet, Norah Franklin, Maria Geary and Sarah Szarzynski.
Hannibal Buress at ACL Live. Yes, that Hannibal Buress. The comic whose onstage ad lib started the domino fall of Bill Cosby; the comic who earned cult status on Comedy Central’s "Broad City" and Adult Swim’s "Eric Andre Show." Yes, that’s his real name. In the Six Degrees of Austin Comedy game, he also appeared in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" with longtime Austinite Martha Kelly. Buress is loose, free and fiery as a furnace.
Tim Allen at Bass Concert Hall. Who hasn’t heard of Tim Allen’s story? His troubled beginnings, which included a prison stint? His trademark grunt, which catapulted him to fame in the hit series "Home Improvement"? Hey, the guy even played Santa Claus! Allen made news last year when his show "Last Man Standing" was abruptly canceled by ABC and rose like a TV phoenix with a new home on Fox. Through all of it, Allen has been solidly touring as a stand-up. The larger-than-life Bass Concert Hall is the perfect setting for this larger-than-life comedy star.
Martini Ranch presents "Hidden Valley" at ColdTowne. LGBTQ sketch comedy group Martini Ranch returns to ColdTowne with a new show after their last sold-out run. "Hidden Valley" is hilariously honest, surprisingly tender and all-inclusive, directed by Abby Lincoln with musical direction by Brady Marchand.
"#IMOMSOHARD" at Bass Concert Hall. Moms, best friends and funny ladies Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley are the creators of the web series "#IMOMSOHARD." The moms have hit the daytime TV circuit via "The Today Show" and "The Doctors," exploring motherhood with a bottle of wine in tow. They are currently developing a series for CBS, part of their plan for complete world mom-ination — yeah, I went there. Don’t hate. A good pun is its own reward.
Bruce Bruce at Cap City Comedy Club. Nobody loses it quite like Bruce Bruce, the former host of BET’s "ComicView" and constant go-to comic for Martin Lawrence, Mike Epps and Steve Harvey’s respective tours. Can you name another comic who’s been named-checked by the Ying Yang Twins in their song "Salt Shaker"? Nope.
Paul Reiser at Stateside at the Paramount. Will the real Paul Reiser stand up? Remember him in James Cameron’s "Aliens"? Bad guy. How about the past season of "Stranger Things"? Bad guy. Then there were the good-guy roles in TV’s "Mad About You" and "My Two Dads." More importantly, Reiser has been an accomplished comic for more than 30 years, dating back to the iconic Johnny Carson era. See him live when he hits the intimate Stateside Theatre downtown.