Amber Bixby: Anxiety Be Damned

 

(Credit: Dustin Svehlak)
(Credit: Dustin Svehlak)

Audio By, Valerie Lopez. Word By Richard Goodwin

When catching an Amber Bixby set at Spiderhouse and she gave a peek into her experiences with anxiety and depression, I recognized a bit of everyone in her words. Or I saw a lot of me and I’m projecting, but I digress.  Like some of my favorite comedians, she isn’t afraid to cut her privacy almost down to the bone to give a look into how she deals with the world.

In Part one of her interview, we take a look at a past that we won’t quite call turbulent. Bixby shares with Valerie  Lopez how her dreams of stage stardom were born, and the circuitous route that landed her on the fair concrete shores of Austin.

Amber Bixby: The Past

The beginnings of a comedy career are rarely easy. We learn how a low point (or two or three) in Amber Bixby’s life inspired her to take on the challenge of a stand up comedy career. As a single parent, I know that time and child make for an interesting balancing act with a profession that is uniquely difficult to schedule. Amber gives us a glimpse into how she juggles priorities in passions and parenting.  We also get some great tips on getting out of the house, and how to get people to have fun in detention.

Amber Bixby: Current

When she’s not on stage (or in the gym), Amber Bixby has a prolific video career, like the web series Pretty Awful , the short film Opciono Dos (picked up by the Texas Independent Film Festival), and the instructional parenting documentary Flour Baby*.  In part two of her interview, she also covers how a past encounter led to opening for someone amazing – an opportunity that meant the world to her.

Looking for more of Amber Bixby? In addition to her special appearances, you can frequently catch her at Sure Thing, and the show she hosts Wednesdays @ 7:30 at Austin Java, Detention (See? I told you it was fun).

* Not necessarily instructional. Or legal?   

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Amber Bixby

Valerie Lopez

Richard Goodwin

Comedywham

 

Devon Walker: No Retreat, No Surrender

(Credit: Claudio Fox)
(Credit: Claudio Fox)

Audio By Valerie, Words By Richard

Fans of the Moontower Comedy Festival, will no doubt remember a historic Piranha performance when Devon Walker was one of the first comedians to turn the Shark Tank style contest on its head.  His rise to notoriety wasn’t easy, but a rocky start didn’t keep him down. Getting up – getting better and better – it’s the signature of a future star. 

Born in Washington but raised as an Austin native (with some Pflugerville thrown in. We don’t judge), Walker threw on a George Strait shirt, went back to the mic, and immersed himself in the vibrant local comedy scene… all the while simultaneously pocketing a pretty unique Master’s Degree in a subject you’ll never guess.

Devon Walker: The Past

In addition to regular appearances at Cap City Comedy Club, Walker recently tackled his first Funniest Person in Austin set, and is already planning for next year. You may also have seen him at local mainstay shows and venues like Sure Thing,  The Spiderhouse Ballroom, and Strange Brew Coffee. Shortly after this interview, Devon was also announced  as one of the new co-hosts along with Alison O’Connor, of Buzzkill Comedy on Wednesday nights at Buzzmill Coffee.

Devon Walker: Current

His confidence and discipline come through as he and Valerie discuss his plans to put all his chips on comedy. Between his Master’s Degree (which turns out to pair perfectly with his drive and strategy) and his seemingly bottomless optimism and confidence, Devon has set his sights on a bright future in Austin comedy and beyond. As you might’ve guessed, Walker is a busy dude so check out his Facebook page for upcoming events and appearances. 

Gratuitous freebie: Here’s a bonus clip from ATX Uncensored(ish) of Devon Walker, Kath Barbadoro, and more as they take offense to, well, just about everything.

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Devon Walker

Valerie Lopez

Richard Goodwin

ComedyWham

Funniest: The Life and Times of Austin Comedy

(Credit: Dustin Svehlak, Font: Mario DiGiorgio)
(Credit: Dustin Svehlak, Font: Mario DiGiorgio)

Audio by Valerie, Words by David

I’ve known Dustin Svehlak (pronounced “Sway-lock’) and Norm Wilkerson (pronounced “Norm”) for some time. As I wrote in the Katie Pengra article, I met Svehlak several years ago while he was recording material at Cap City Comedy Club, and in other venues around town. I’ve seen Wilkerson at some intentionally blue comedy shows like the Punch Comedy Cringetacular and Wilkerson’s own, Comedy Séance. He likes to occasionally cosplay as Jesus Christ’s Ivan Drago, Satan.

Wilkerson started in the comedy scene while living in the Washington D.C. area. He began his career at an age older than most of our interviewees. He quickly embraced the gritty, blue style of comedy popular in D.C at the time and brought it with him to Austin – where he’s endeared himself to the local scene. Wilkerson’s self-effacing, nonchalant style of comedy makes you love the guy, and while his comedy may make a few sensitive types cringe, it will make you think.

We’ll be seeing both of them again soon in a documentary called Funniest. Well, we’ll be seeing Norm Wilkerson along with several other Austin comedians. As for Dustin Svehlak, he was behind the camera and in the editing room with Katie Pengra.

Comedy Wham Presents: Funniest

Funniest follows Wilkerson and his peers (representing a cross-section of Austin’s stand up scene) over several weeks surrounding the 2015 Funniest Person in Austin Contest that’s held annually at Cap City Comedy Club. I could write several hundred more words about Funniest, but I want Valerie Lopez’s interview with Svehlak and Wilkerson to do the talking (no pun intended).

I will say this. Funniest isn’t only about stand-up comedy. It’s about the people behind the scene, their lives, and the events that shape their personas on the stage.  Svehlak and Pengra follow Wilkerson and his fellow comedians as they nervously have a smoke before performing their sets; deal with illness; care for loved ones; choose the path less taken; and fight time, age and the daily grind. It makes you want everyone to win the contest. Unfortunately like Highlander, there can only be one.

Details

Ah, it looks like I wrote those extra words anyway. Here are some details:  Funniest is premiering at the Austin Film Festival 8:30 pm on October 16th in the Rollins Theater at the Long Center.  If you’re unable to make that date, there will be another showing at 9 pm on Wednesday, October 19th at the Stateside Theater.  To keep up with the Funniest documentary, follow it on Facebook.  Svehlak’s other projects can be found at Voltaic Video.

As for Norm Wilkerson, despite being grey headed and a new father of twins, he’ll be donning the dark lord of Hell’s garb once again on October 29th for the annual Comedy Seance at the Spider House Ballroom at 7:30 pm.

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Funniest

Norm Wilkerson

Dustin Svehlak

Valerie Lopez

ComedyWham

 

 

It’s Always A New Episode With Joe Barlow

(Credit: Annie Ray)
(Credit: Annie Ray)

Audio by Valerie, Word by Richard Goodwin

Valerie Lopez sits down with Joe Barlow and teases out the many-realmed path from the edges of Illinois (not Wisconsin), to an almost-uncensored comedy/variety show in Austin. (R.I.P….ish?)

Barlow set out to learn from the masters, and, true to his work ethic, made it an all out quest. You’ll recognize the names: Colbert, Conan, Letterman, and SNL all served up marathon style. As a man with a voracious TV and comedy appetite of my own, I stand in awe and approval.

Joe Barlow: The Past

Before landing the critically-lauded (yes, we’re counting ourselves among the fans, dear listeners) ATX Uncensored-ish, Joe Barlow developed his on-air personality on TV screens across central Illinois. Having this kind of variety under his belt made him–while not yet the wry Austin commentator we’d soon come to love – a natural fit to helm the independent, personality driven show.  He spent countless hours peering into the lives of Austin entertainers and citizens; this is our chance to turn the mic on him.

Joe Barlow: Current

While ATX Uncensored-ish is no more, Barlow has jumped right into the next phase of his career. You can catch him three times a week as the CW Entertainment Reporter on KXAN News on The CW at 9pm.  Valerie (and a particularly racy Kitty Purrington) digs into how the new job is treating him, where (geographically and philosophically) his sights are set in the future, and the dirty secrets of being just the right shade of camera ready.

If you’d like to check up on Barlow, he’s got a  profile on the CW Austin website. Oh and what about episodes of ATX Uncensored-ish? Thank the universe for YouTube.

 

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Joe Barlow  

Valerie Lopez

Richard Goodwin