My comedy heart goes aflutter for Brendan K. O’Grady and Duncan Carson’s weekly comedy show “Sure Thing.” No foolin’. O’Grady and Carson are like sommeliers of comedy, curating every “Sure Thing” show like a full-course meal, and the love of what they do is palpable. They also run Sure Thing Records, a comedy record label, producing an aces roster of local and national artists.
After a five-year run at Austin Java that ended in the summer of 2017, the duo revived their show nearly a year later in the newly minted Fallout Theater downtown. Their first show back was in July of this year. I spoke with the hosts to discuss their new home, plans for the future and their ongoing support for the Austin comedy scene.
Why did you decide to end in the first place?
We went away because our original venue closed down. We had an excellent run of packed shows till the very end, then we looked up and before we knew it, we were done.
When we met with the new team (at the Fallout), we were really bowled over both by how complete their vision was to remake that space into less of an improv-centric environment, and how enthusiastic they were about about having us as a building block for what they want the theater to become. We left that first conversation with a really strong sense that it was going to work out, and it became official very soon thereafter. So far it’s been pretty much a dream come true — we get to go back to doing what we love to do, every single weekend.
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What are the biggest changes in moving from a free show to a ticketed event?
There are a lot of good reasons for why that change had to happen, but what it all boils down to is that now we get to pay every comedian who does the show, no matter how long the spot is.
It also means that we get to put on more of a “professional” show overall. Having such an enthusiastic partner venue is pretty infectious. We’re all excited to put on the best show possible.
Lastly, having a new beginning also gives us the opportunity to incorporate new elements into the show. Some are related to basic production values like tech, and some are part of the creative content of the show. We’ll definitely always be a stand-up showcase,, but we hope to also throw in a few twists and turns and surprises, too.
What do you have planned for the label in 2018 and beyond?
Duncan’s album is about to get a release date, and we’re currently in post-production on albums from John Ramsey and Carina Magyar. We have a couple of other things in the works that we can’t quite talk about yet. …One thing we’re pleased to say is that we’re redoubling our efforts to focus on working with Austin-bred comedians. We’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with some of our favorite comics who are based elsewhere and doing great things in their careers, and hope to continue to do so. But we never want to stray too far from prioritizing the label as a platform for the incredible amount of talent that’s made our comedy scene one of the very best in the country. We’ll ride for Austin until none of us can afford to live here anymore.
“Sure Thing” runs every Friday in August (and hopefully forever) at the Fallout Theater downtown.
Here is just a sampling from the comedy buffet in August.
Larry Garza at the Velveeta Room.Garza is the 2016 Funniest in South Texas winner, plus a Funniest in Texas and World Series of Comedy finalist. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer that same year and has dealt with this the only way he knows how: by laughing in the face of adversity. Come on out to the Velv and support a true champ!
Chingo Bling at Stateside at the Paramount.The Stateside is a wonderful place to see comedy, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Bling is fresh off the success of his Netflix special “They Can’t Deport Us All.” His comedy speaks to our current time and is relevant, fresh and wholly necessary.
Martha Kelly at Cap City Comedy Club. Martha! Martha! Martha! This hometown hero, whom Zach Galifianakis wrote a part for on the FX series “Baskets,” has done it her way. A recent cameo in “Spider Man: Homecoming” indicates that Hollywood is catching on to what we already know. See her in multiple dates at Cap City during August.
“Hellhole” at ColdTowne Theater.“Hellhole: Improvised Supernatural Teen Comedy” is a love letter to pop culture touchstones such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the workplace sitcoms of late 1990s. This show is the first ever ColdTowne mainstage show to feature a mixed-age cast featuring teenage improvisers alongside Austin’s best comedic performers. The show is part of the overall Excused Absence Comedy Festival happening at ColdTowne in August.
Ninja Sex Party at ACL Live.Comedy band Ninja Sex Party is ready to shake your booty and make you laugh. In that order. Yeah, the NSP may be NSFW, but with over a million subscribers on YouTube, they just might be onto something.
Brad Williams at Cap City Comedy Club. I had the good fortune of hosting Williams at a Moontower Comedy Festival show in 2016, and the guy was as nice as he is hilarious. Williams was born with achondroplasia and released his first comedy album “Coming Up Short” in 2011. Since then, he’s appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Tonight Show” and most recently in his comedy special “Daddy Issues.” See the master at work in multiple dates at Cap City this month.
Aparna Nancherla at State Theater. Nancherla hits Austin for one night only after a banner year with a roles on HBO’s “Crashing” and Netflix’s “The Standups.” She cut her teeth writing for Seth Meyers, W. Kamau Bell and Amy Schumer, as well as appearing at every comedy festival you can think of, including our own Moontower Comedy Fest. Honestly, her list of credits is too vast to detail in one blurb. Nancherla is an alumna of NBC’S Stand Up for Diversity program and continues to be an exciting voice on the comedy scene.
Kathy Griffin at Bass Concert Hall.Make Comedy Dangerous Again. Few comics can influence the national discourse like self-proclaimed “D-Lister” Griffin. Case in point: that picture that brought the attention of the Secret Service. Griffin is back, and she just might have a thing or two to say about it when she appears live at the glorious Bass Concert Hall.
Jake Johannsen at Cap City Comedy Club.Johannsen got me through junior high. I had never seen a comedian seemingly embody the absurdity of the band They Might Be Giants and still be razor-sharp cool. The legendary Johannsen appeared on late-night TV with David Letterman 45 times, and here’s a factoid for you courtesy of Jerry Seinfeld: He actually refused the part of George Costanza on the series “Seinfeld.” Johannsen hasn’t stopped performing stand-up comedy since the 1980s, and we should all be thankful for that.
Brently Heilbron is a writer, emo puppet and host of the PBS series “Stand Up Empire.” Got a show to recommend? Reach out @Brently on Twitter.