Jessica McKenna and Jon Gabrus May be the Future of Comedy

Scott Auckerman brought Comedy Bang! Bang! to SXSW for a record-breaking 11th year in a row. “Why would anyone do that!?” – Auckerman exclaimed to the packed crowd at Esther’s Follies on 6th street.

As usual, Scott brought along a great group of players that recorded two live shows at Esther’s. His quick wit steers the show and allows his guests to build on their characters that give us a gut full of laughs and showcases new and up coming talent mixed in with familiar fan favorites.

I was lucky enough to catch the first show that featured an all-star mix of characters and comedians. Jon Gabrus who is a Comedy Bang! Bang! regular reprized his role as “Gino the Intern” and graced the stage with his typical Long Island charm. Often times he plays loud and obnoxious, but his quick wit and ability to add to each bit is on display every time he graces the stage with microphone in hand. Jon has his own podcast on the Headgum Network called High and Mighty which you can often times find him eating and reviewing Taco Bell with his friends. Give it a listen and be sure to rate and review it on iTunes. If you give him a 5 star and a shitty review he may just read it on the podcast. On your way to becoming his #1Fuckboi. Now I know what you are thinking, a guy eating Taco Bell on a podcast is the next great thing in comedy? It sounds strange, but yes. I’m not a huge fan of his podcast but in just about every other improv show I have seen him preform at he knocks it out of the park.
Joining Gabrus was Bob Odenkirk and John Hodgman. Odenkirk could be seen all over the festival. He was at SXSW to promote season 3 of Better Call Saul on AMC but also had a keynote conversation, appeared on a live UCB Azzzcats show and made appearances at the Los Pollos Hermanos pop-up activation. Needless to say it was a busy week for Bob who plays a lawyer on Better Call Saul (Breaking Bad Spinoff.) Hodgman, who plays a judge named Sean Hoffman on his podcast Judge John Hodgman. It was a perfect paring with a fake lawyer named Saul.

After a bit of riffing between the fellas, Jessica McKenna (Upright Citizens Brigade – L.A.) made her way on stage through a series of “swosh” noises before she took her seat. Her character was Slovenian acrobat Dagmar the Small who had a bone marrow issue with brittle bones. One of her gags entailed holding her breath, and floating away. After every interaction her character had with others she replied “Thank You” because “as gymnast you never know if you will die during dangerous performance.” The character was a hit with fans.

Past Comedy Bang Bang live shows at SXSW feature certain performers that stood out from the pack. In years past it has been Lauren Lapkus and Drew Tarver. This year it was McKeena. She established a great character that is sure to be a fan favorite for years to come. Not only can you tell the time she has put in at UCB in LA has paid off, but she also has an innocence about her that feels like the girl next door. Except this girl next door is crazy talented and will surely blow up sooner rather than later. She was by far my favorite talent I saw on stage during the week or so of comedy podcasts that recorded at SXSW. I think this performance pushed her to new heights. Something I’m sure she does on a regular basis at UCB L.A. But for those of us that aren’t lucky enough to live in L.A. we’ll have to keep an eye out for her on other shows.

Until Seth Morris entered the stage during the 3rd act McKenna stole the show. Seth Morris definitely pulled the spotlight over to him when he played a city worker that was in charge of “keeping Austin weird” during SXSW. His bit on dating women that have lost one limb had the audience in stitches. His delivery was smooth and calculated.

All in all the show clocked in at about 90 minutes and I was left wanting more. That speaks volumes to the consistent quality that Auckerman and his guests continually produce. Every time I see a live show I feel lucky to be able to watch such great talent on display. Until next year, Hangonman.