Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Joe Hafkey originally found his hometown lacking when trying to satisfy his comedic desires.
Hafkey grew up with sketch shows like Mad TV & SNL, and was a fan of heavy hitters like George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld. At first he wasn’t sure that comedy was going to be a focal point in his life. But when a job at the local (and really only) venue in Richmond eventually led to a guest spot on its established show, the hook was set. Not satisfied with the opportunities in the local scene, Hafkey did what many comics have done – created his own. Running 2 years, the show he created provided a more open and inclusive space for comedy in Richmond.
URGENT AND TIMELY HEADS UP: Make it a priority to grab tickets to the February 19th live taping of Standup Empire. Go now. We’ll wait.
Done? Great. Let’s continue.
Comedy fans in Austin will almost certainly be immediately familiar with the name Brently Heilbron. Whether from his twisted emo puppet band Fragile Rock, or the ongoing PBS series he hosts, Standup Empire, you’ve almost certainly run across Heilbron’s work. It’s always a pleasure when Valerie Lopez finds a kindred soul with a fascination for the art behind the art, and this interview is an a shining example.
Heilbron got a very early start in performing, trading schoolwork in 8th grade in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, for the arguably more valuable exposure and healing experience on the stage. It was a pattern that continued after he moved to Austin to study at the University of Texas and ultimately had to make a choice between his theatre studies and honing his craft. You can no doubt guess which path he chose.
With a career that includes fascinating and sometimes randomly crossed paths with big names like Woody Allen and Paul McCartney, Heilbron has accumulated knowledge, skills, and delights in a variety of comedic formats. From writing a musical about the ass of an iconic American actor, to the aggressive ditties he bangs out on his ukulele, there’s simply no denying the joy he gets from the limelight and – something he adores – providing a place in that light for others. While Standup Empire is Heilbron’s show, he makes it patently clear that it’s first and foremost a platform for others, and for the Austin comedy community.
There’s simply no way I can capture everything Lopez and Heilbron cover in this episode, so download and get listening.
Now that you’ve grabbed those tickets (seriously, not going to say it again), check out more of Heilbron at his website, and on Twitter. For music for all moods, but mostly the emo puppet kind, check out Fragile Rock on their website, Twitter and Facebook pages. He’s also starting a monthly column in the Austin American Statesmanin March about the Austin comedy scene, so keep your eyes peeled.
Our first comedian from the rural town of Santa Fe (Texas, not the other one), Roy Janik is a powerhouse on the Austin improv scene. Janik (“Yawn-ick,” not “Jan-ick.” Don’t tell his family he says it that way.) has an interesting comedic pedigree. While growing up, he was fed a diet of Mystery Science Theater 3000. He didn’t find his passion for performing all at once, but in a series of fortunate events later in high school and while doing college radio.
Janik holds a Masters Degree in Computer Science, which almost went another way. He hit a major turning point in his professional improv career with his initial performance in Maestro at The Hideout Theatre. This early success, plus a pressing need to guarantee the future of The Hideout Theatre, drove a rapid involvement, responsibility and ultimately co-ownership of the theater where he first got his start.
Not only did The Hideout troupe lead Janik into a new phase in life, it also turned out to be the setting where met his future wife, local multi-faceted improv/artist/actor Kaci Beeler(-Danger). Janik takes Valerie Lopez through the fairy tale of how it transpired, and how it ties into his very family-like ties to the improv group.
I am blown away by the breadth of Janik’s creativity and depth, as he and Valerie dig into some of his ongoing shows like Parallelogramophonograph (“PGraph”, for brevity’s sake, and timid spellers). Based loosely on concepts found in Haruki Murukami’s novels like The Wind Up Bird Chronicles, the format and flow of the performances are fascinating.
When not on stage, Janik, leads improv classes, some of which turn into gateways to festival appearances for the performers. This has taken the troupe across the world – from Canada to London and on to Spain, with more on the horizon.
I could go on for days about Janik’s work, but it’s in your best interests to get out and catch him and his troupe at The Hideout Theatre. In addition to PGraph, check out the many specials and ongoing shows like Squirrel Buddies, improv classes for kids, and more. Be sure to check out Roy Janik’s website as well.