Austin likes to Laugh


Jennifer Dorsey (far left) and Tyler Bryce (far right) announce the winner of The Monologue Jam on March 7. The winner, Amanda Smith (center) won a jar of Amish Jam. Photo by: Andie Rogers


How comedy clubs have taken off in the city that keeps things weird.

There is something naturally contagious about laughter, but what is it? It could be the product of a sly comment from a friend or a punchy joke by a comedian. Whether it’s inane, heartfelt or cheerful people simply love laughing and Austinites are no exception. There are more than a dozen comedy clubs and improv theaters in and around Austin. The thriving community of comedians and aspiring comedians are provoking roars of laughter all over.

Austin likes to laugh so much that at one point it even boasted its own comedy radio station 102.7 FM which broadcasted old and new comedians 24/7. Instead of songs, listeners would tune their dials to 102.7 for short sets of jokes. Despite the fact ratings were strong the comedy radio station made little revenue. In 2013 the owners, Emmis Austin Radio, turned the station into a Latino Pop channel.

Comedy and Its Forms

Comedy Central and YouTube have made accessing good comedy easier in recent years and now anyone can watch comedy from the comfort of their home. In Austin however, the comedic audience likes to go out to get their comedy fix. Going into a comedy club or improv theater can be intimidating at first but there are a few things to know before you go in to get the most out of your experience.

Austin has a wide selection of comedy venues which serve up everything from ridged stand-up to funny sketches and even zany improv. Stand up consists of one comedian standing on stage telling stories with jokes sprinkled throughout that can end up going in any direction based on the comedians response from the audience. Sketches are planned and rehearsed lines or skits by one or more comedian while improv is completly random comedy made by the comedian in the moment based on suggestions from the audience. While all comedy, these three are extremely different and may not appeal to everyone.

Unlike live music performances, comedy shows involve a little more engagement from the audience. Timid audience members may feel weary under the dim lights or even targeted by aggressive comedic tactics. For improv studios like the Institution Theater, brainstorm some suggestions beforehand so you are fumbling for funny places or fake band names to shout out to inspire the comedian. Stand up comedy is always rehearsed so going in blind is okay.

Comedy clubs or improv theaters are a place to engage in great bouts of laughter and comedians aren’t afraid to push the boundaries to get the laughs. Comedian Cynthia Oelkers regards the improv act as a bond between the comedian and the audience. “Everybody’s got different boundaries,” she says. You usually talk about them with your troupe.” The comedic boundaries may not always be clear to the audience but even comedians have limits on what the feel comfortable with.

A Look Inside the Institution Theater

Comedy Infographic

Test Your Comedic Abilities

Austin holds plenty of opportunities for those itching to get on stage. Almost all of the improve clubs offer courses for all skill levels. Aspiring stand-up comedians can participate in open mic nights almost every night of the week. “My advice would be to take classes. Everywhere has superb teachers,” said Cynthia Oelkers, an improviser with 14 years of experience. Oelkers credits the classes she took with introducing her to several new people and opening doors for auditions.

It all comes down to the laugh and if you are looking to have a good time, one of Austin’s many comedy clubs and improv theaters are just the right place to go. Hear crude or silly jokes, interact with quick-witted improv comedians or just go to laugh your a$$ off. Find out what is funny in the city that keeps things weird in this interactive quiz that will help you find out which type of comedy and Austin theater is right for you.

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