Laughs, Freaks and Signs at the Oddball Comedy Festival
ATX Man gets a front-row look at the top dogs of comedy and some of Austin’s own up-and-comers at the second Oddball Comedy Festival.Story and photos by Sam Jackson You know it’s an interesting society we live in when we can pack 20,000 people into a venue and give them nothing but five straight hours of comedians, and they cheer for it. And that’s with no frills, no fireworks and no fancy lights in the Austin 360 Amphitheater, a place that’s more than used to such performance-based excesses. But comedy mega-site Funny or Die knew what they were doing when they brought their Oddball Comedy Fest back to Austin for the last performance of its sophomore run. After all, we were their first show of their first tour ever, with Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords as the marquee names, so we certainly deserved to see the swan song of their second, which improved leaps and bounds in just one year. Luminaries of comedy hit the stage, including Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Hannibal Buress, Doug Benson, Whitney Cummings, Marc Maron and many more, including a special pre-show given just outside the amphitheater by a few up-and-coming local comics like Ashley Barnhill, all of whom, small-time or headliner, did really well. Also, a freak show pitched in with their services, which included stilts and sword swallowing. Brody Stevens proved to be a capable host, providing riveting intros for both the pre-show and main stage, and getting up close and personal with the crowd with frequent walk-throughs. Topics like religion (Maron musing on Christ’s death) and drugs (Buress claiming that Lance Armstrong should have been allowed to keep cycling while on drugs since being on a bike is pretty boring) got laughter mixed with the occasional groan of conscience, but the surprise performance of the night turned out to be from a pair of sign-language translators there for the benefit of the deaf people in the crowd. Tonight was no different since almost everyone took a minute to mess with the translator, from Buress rapping gibberish lyrics at high speed then draping an arm around the translator as he did them again, slowly and a cappella, to Cummings’ giddy reaction to the sign-language equivalent of “squirting,” which ended up getting the loudest laughs of the night. When that got old, the comedians were ready with praise for this lovely city (Maron saying, “it’s a hipster Alamo in right-wing central,”) and hilarious insults at easy targets like Dallas and Houston. Silverman even pulled out a Family Feud-style board to make a joke about Rick Perry, which really hit the spot. It was a magical experience, and it’s shocking how fast the Oddball Festival has grown in only two years. We can only pray it doesn’t get out of control, but it looks to become another staple of this capital of festivals.
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