What does summer in Austin mean to you? Blazing sidewalks? Long lines at Barton Springs Pool? Boiling queso? It’s time to explore new meanings of summer vacation.
"Summer Vacation" is the new comedy show from the sketch group Y’all, We Asian. It’s notable in being Austin’s first Asian-American improv mainstage show ever, which co-creator Kim Tran said she finds "sad, but also exciting!"
For Tran and co-creator Yola Lu, this show is about how, for many Asian-Americans, summer vacation didn’t mean waterparks and ice cream. It meant working at their immigrant parents’ restaurant and going to the motherland to visit distant relatives.
Tran said she wanted to "connect to our community in a specific and funny way. So we invited Asian-American community leaders in Austin to tell hilarious and heartbreaking stories of summertime, and we do improv inspired by them."
Lu and Tran had known each other for a few years and were both doing comedy in Austin. In May 2017, the two were in an acting class together when Lu told Tran how she wanted to do something to mark Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The two scrambled to throw a comedy show together. They had improv, live sketch, stand-up, storytelling and short films from the Asian-American talent in this town. Trans’s mom even cooked food for the audience.
To Tran and Lu’s surprise, "Y’all, We Asian: A Comedy Showcase" sold out within 48 hours. Austin’s Asian-American community was "excited and impatient to see themselves represented in a way that empowers them and challenges stereotypes," Tran said. "After that, Yola and I got the performers from that show to officially form the improv troupe Y’all, We Asian."
Tran said she sees representation in the Austin Asian-American comedy community "very slowly getting better."
"I know for me and a lot of my friends, seeing "Asian AF" (an all Asian-American comedy show) do their thing in New York and L.A. to increasingly sold-out audiences and watching Ali Wong’s rise, it has been inspiring," she said.
Y’all, We Asian is headed to New York to perform at the Del Close Marathon, the largest improv festival in the world, on June 30 and will perform in Austin’s Out of Bounds Comedy Festival in September. Until then, check out Y’all, We Asian’s "Summer Vacation" the first three Saturdays in July at ColdTowne Theatre. The run has been selling out, so get tickets now.
But summer vacation is just getting started. Here are some other comedy delights heating up in July.
"Rubber Room Open Improv Jam" at Institution Theater. C’mon, you know you’ve always wanted to try it. Check it off your bucket list and improv(e) yourself at "Rubber Room," the free improv jam open to improvisers of all skill levels. Find your fun at the Institution. It’s too hot to be nervous.
JR Brow at Cap City Comedy Club. Brow is a former Funniest Person in Austin winner and one of the original Austin comics on the scene for the past 30 years. He cut his teeth opening for legends like Bill Hicks and Steven Wright and is what my father would refer to as a "comic’s comic." He absolutely works harder than anyone in the room. Armed with jokes, music and the solid timing of a touring comic, JR Brow is an Austin original who should not be missed live.
"Hail to the Queen" at Fallout Theater. I’d say it’s about time Austin had an improvised drag extravaganza. Aren’t we all obsessed with "RuPaul’s Drag Race"? "Hail to the Queen" promises all the divas, the drama and enough thrown shade to cool us down from the hot July sun. Part comedy, part drag show, all party. Featuring the comedic talent of Alonso Salas, Cara Arlauskas, Dylan Garsee, Jake Garrison, Linzy Beltran, Marcone Cangussu, Mase Kerwick, Mike Carreon, Nicole Russell and Sarah Doering.
"Darren Knight’s Southern Momma An Em Comedy Tour" at the Paramount Theatre. Where will the next generation of redneck comedy take us? Find out when Alabama’s own Darren Knight, aka "Southern Momma," takes the stage. To paraphrase the band Cracker: What the world needs now is a new Jeff Foxworthy.
"Big Gay Musical" at Hideout Theater. The title says it all. Expect a vibrant, joyful, vulnerable and fully improvised musical spectacle with a cast of 14 of Austin’s LGBTQ improvisers and performers.
Jermaine Fowler at Cap City Comedy Club. Fowler is everywhere right now. He starred in the CBS sitcom "Superior Donuts" and has done the roster of guest appearances on HBO’s "Crashing," Adult Swim’s "Robot Chicken" and "The Eric Andre Show," "Family Guy" … he even announced the freakin’ Emmys. As always, the best place to see a rising star is live on stage at the beautiful Cap City Comedy Club.
"Playpen" at Fallout Theater. The connection that forms between audience and participant is a great example of what makes Austin comedy great. This is a rare show where literally every joke is new, a comic’s most vulnerable moment. Maybe the joke will end up on Comedy Central or die the death of a million groans. You bear witness to it all as hosted by Nikita Redkar and Elizabeth Spears. Did we mention it’s BYOB and pay what you want?
"Buzzkill Comedy" at Buzzmill Coffee. Secret’s out. "Buzzkill" is a superb comedy showcase, expertly booked and hosted by Allison O’Connor and Devon Walker on Wednesdays at the East Riverside hot spot. The vibe is like being at summer camp in a log cabin with a fully stocked bar. In short, it’s awesome. And free. Go!
"Gutbusters" showcase at Hops and Grain. "Gutbusters," hosted by Nathan Ehrmann, is going on four years strong. It’s becoming a new tradition in Austin to have a comedy room inside a brewery, but it is not automatically conducive to stand-up. In Ehrmann’s words, "It’s a weird, fully lit room with the constant whir of industrial equipment and fans and an overhead PA that makes you sound like an assistant principal, but the beer is good and so is Austin comedy." Check out "Gutbusters" for the amazing price of free. Pro-tip: Stick around after the show, and if you’re lucky Ehrmann will play some amazing stride on the house piano.