This weekend, the newly created Station Theater will present a first for Houston -- a full three days of comedy, sketch and improv. "The Trill Comedy Festival," which opened last night, is the brainchild of Station's Director Shyla Ray, who wanted to put together a comprehensive comedy festival that allowed for the ultimate expression of "whatever you want" type of comedy, and based on last night's offerings, I'd say she will be successful.
According to Ray, there are a ton of local and in the vicinity comedians out there who need a venue to do their thing. Ray asked friends from Houston, New Orleans and Austin to be a part of the inaugural festival, but also accepted submissions from troupes and comedians.
"We didn't turn anyone away that submitted," says Ray. For this first festival, they wanted to make sure that anyone who wanted to be a part would have the opportunity, which is one of the reasons the weekend lineup is so "jam-packed."
The lineup is certainly comprehensive, with a few names you may recognize if you hang around the Houston comedy scene. Last night's show featured the comedy stylings of Glaundor, an improv troupe that grew out of the University of Houston. I caught the end of Glaundor's set and was cracking up within two minutes. The seven guys played off each other perfectly and their jokes were whip-smart. Glaundor is composed mainly of UH theater majors and they recently took home the prize for "Best Damn College Improv Troupe in the Nation," actually "two nations," as I was told that Canada made an appearance as well.
Next up was a revolving showcase of various Rogue comedy teams. Rogue is Houston's homegrown improv team, and was awarded the Houston Press's 2011 Best Improv Troupe. At first I was worried that I would have to sit through two hours of long-form improv, which can be overwhelming. I was pleasantly surprised that the two-hour block consisted of small chunks of different groups with vastly different styles and some overlapping members. A highlight was "Be Kind to Strangers," a sketch group whose style went from bizarre to in-your-face, all of which was hilarious.
Another excellent group, Vaudeprov, used an old-timey style that made you feel like you were watching the rehearsal of a sideshow act gone terribly wrong; yes, there was even a cream pie to the face. My favorite, and I know that I am biased here, was Houston comedian Ty Mahany as a brash Irish-Catholic high school principal berating his students at the prom. The evening concluded with a lineup of some of Houston's best stand-up comics such as Jay Whitecotton, Bob Morrissey, Matthew Broussard and more.
The party literally just got started last night and will continue on through Saturday with more great Texas comedians such as Ramin Nazer: Austin's Funniest Person, fresh from SXSW Comedy, Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival, the Comedy Bang Bang Live show, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson; Stupid Time Machine: Nationally acclaimed sketch comedy greats from New Orleans; and Parallelogramophonograph: World-touring masters of improvised plays from Austin, among many others. Additionally, Trill is offering workshops throughout the weekend to any of you who want to try your hand at being funny, ha-ha.
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If you haven't been to Station Theater yet -- which is very possible because they opened their doors about a month ago -- it's a great spot on Houston Avenue in the old home of the Texas Art Asylum. For a new theater and a new festival of nothing but comedy, I have to say I was seriously impressed with the turnout.
Ray was pleased with the turnout as well and equates a lot of the good vibes to the strong comedy community in Houston.
"Our vision is to be supportive and loving to comedians; comedy gets too competitive and we don't want that," mentions Ray.
If you want to be a part of that supportive, and very funny, community, Trill has shows tonight and tomorrow night. Tickets are $10 each. For more information, visit trillcomedy.com