SXSWORLD March Film + Interactive 2011


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Comedy Program Gives All Registrants a Chance to Laugh by Amy Benfer O Armisen, whose 1998 "Fred Armisen's Guide to SXSW" is often referred to as the defi ning moment when he went from punk rock drummer to professional comedian). Th is year's comedy presence is the biggest yet, as well as the fi rst time that live comedy will run con- currently with the Interactive, Film and Music events and be open to all badgeholders. But comedy showcases have not always had such prominent billing at SXSW. Comedian Eugene Mirman fi rst came to SXSW in the early 2000s, when his website— then featuring little more than a few videos and a Flash-animated singing baby— was nominated for an award: "I had no idea what it was. I just really wanted to stay. And I had no money." So he and his web designer went down to Kinko's and made fake letterhead claiming that they covered music on their site and scored press passes. Meanwhile, some guy stopped Mirman on the street and asked, "Hey, are you that guy from the Internet?" Next thing he knew, Mirman had agreed to do an set opening (unpaid, of course) for some band doing a day party on 6th Street. Mirman has come back every single year for the past decade, acquiring credentials without resorting to forgery and deceit, doing his own stand-up comedy and acting as host for both the Interactive and Film awards. He and comedian Scott Aukerman (who will be hosting live podcasts of his show Comedy Death-Ray throughout the week) remember the early days when comedy, from the performer's stand- point, was a much dicier proposition (one memorable year, a bunch of comedians were housed miles out of town and left Austin wondering, in Mirman's words: "What is this? Why am I doing fi ve shows and trying to fi nd some weird rickshaw at two in the morning to take me back to my dirty motel full of disease off the interstate?"). After the fi rst year, Aukerman said he vowed never to come back. But ver the past decade, SXSW has presented live comedy from dozens of performers (including David Cross, Margaret Cho, Aziz Ansari, Kristen Schall, Patton Oswald and Fred the next year, he not only came back, but agreed to help organize and program the comedy lineup for the rest of the conference. "You know the old adage," says Aukerman. "Every comedian wants to be a rock star; every rock star wants to be a comedian. We are linked by fandom on both sides." Comedians, of course, have always made movies and TV shows and and hosted radio. But over the past decade, comedy has become, once again, an integral part of the music scene. "Th ere's a mutual admiration and aesthetic to indie music and alt-comedy," says Mirman, who started touring with bands such as Modest Mouse and the Shins in the earlier part of the decade, and is now signed to Sub Pop, along with David Cross, Patton Oswald and Flight of the Conchords and hosts a variety show with novelist and musician John Wesley Harding. Comedian Doug Benson fi rst came to SXSW in 2008 for the pre- " Every comedian wants to be a rock star; every rock star wants to be a comedian. We are linked by fandom on both sides." Maron and Eugene Mirman, you know the secret ones have to be pretty great," says Aukerman. "Th is year, it's going to be really huge," he says. "It's going to explode all over people's faces and chests." ■ "When the people we can talk about are Chris Hardwick, Marc miere of his fi lm Super High Me, which documents what happens if one smokes pot every day for a month. "Watching my movie premiere at the Paramount that year was the greatest thing ever," he says. "After that, I was hooked. I wanted to go every year." Th is year, he will present his show Th e Benson Interruption and tape his live podcast, Doug Loves Movies With Doug Benson. "I like to be coy about the guests on my podcasts," says Benson, but he points out that he expects to see a lot of musicians and actors in town. 56 SXSW ORLD / M ARCH F ILM- I A 201 1 Esther's Follies (525 East 6th St.) will host all SXSW comedy events. Showcases during Film and Interactive will be held nightly at 8 and 10:30pm through Tuesday, March 15 and will be open to all SXSW Film, Interactive, Gold and Platinum Badgeholders. Live tapings for the SXSW Comedy Podcast Series will be held nightly through Tuesday, March 15 at 6pm. During Music, events will be held on Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19. Both nights will feature Doug Benson's live stage show The Benson Interruption at 8:30pm, followed by live comedy showcases at 10 and 11:30pm. Check for more details. BRIAN TAMBORELLO

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