Oak Hill’s Studio E comedy captain Liz Reeder-Neubauer and Way Open Mic Jon Stringer captain get the action going at the Stompin’ Grounds for the Stand-up Comedy Smackdown.
By Mike Jasper
It was cold and drizzly as we drove to the Stompin’ Grounds on South Congress near Ben White to watch the Stand-Up Comedy Smackdown between Oak Hill’s Austin Comedy Workshop at Studio E and the Wide Open Mic boys and girls from The Cedar Door.
At the first competition held a few weeks earlier at The Cedar Door, Wide Open Mic narrowly defeated Studio E. Liz Reeder-Neubauer—team captain, occasional competitor and director of the workshop—suggested there was some hanky-pankyin’ with the judging.
“But if you tell anyone that, I’ll kill you,” she said.
I looked at her closely, keenly, carefully. I was pretty sure I could take her.
Here’s what happened at The Cedar Door. Apparently a couple of guys from the Wide Open Mic team decided to get Studio E member John Daws out of the bar, figuring if he was out of sight he’d be out of the judges’ minds.
They lured baby boomer Daws into the bathroom with promises of free Viagra, knowing that once you get a boomer into a bathroom it’ll be a good hour before you ever get him out again.
The plan worked. And yes, it’s an old joke. Literally.
So the Smackdown at the Stompin’ Grounds was something of a grudge match for Studio E. Game on.
Here are the rules:
Each round features a comedian from each team going head to head. The comedians are chosen by picking names out of a hat, because apparently having the captains produce a lineup card would require too much of an effort.
After the comedians are chosen, they play a game of rock, paper and scissors to determine who goes on first. Most winners prefer to go on stage second, but not all.
At the end of each round the judges pick the winner of the round, but their decisions aren’t revealed until the entire competition is over. Whichever team wins the most rounds is the winner of the smackdown.
Wins may not be determined by a field goal.
That night’s judges were Jason Lee, an agent with Acclaim Talent, Dana McConnell, owner of the Stompin’ Grounds, and Will Atkins, publisher and editor of the Oak Hill Gazette.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Studio E is an advertiser with the Gazette. I spoke to the other judge, Lee, briefly.
“So are you also biased?” I asked.
The first competitor of the night was Daniel Mayf from Studio E, who happens to be a lawyer and a lobbyist when he’s not doing comedy (although they need not be mutually exclusive).
Mayf had a low key delivery and ended the night with the line, “They say to end on a high note in a competition, but I say $*#*^ that, I’m gonna end right here.”
His competition turned out to be Wide Open Mic team captain Jon Stringer, who bought a new pair of what he called “serial killer glasses” for the competition.
He started off with some physical comedy—I think it was some kind of impression of a dinosaur or something, but he sold it well—and talked about shaving a lot. Wish I could tell you more, but this is a family newspaper.
Up for Studio E was Martina Ohlhauser, who manages an apartment complex during the day.
“See?” captain Reeder-Neubauer said. “They aren’t all waiters.”
Wide Open Mic’s Scotty Peterson competed against Ohlhauser and talked about his failed relationships.
“One girl told me, ‘You’ve changed from the guy I met five months ago.’ And then the last girl who dumped me told me, ‘You’ll never change.’”
Stephany Wood, a UT college student, took the stage for Studio E. She did a great bit on scat porn. It was mimed. Wish I could tell you more.
Her competition was Dre LaJames. He talked about his prowess at video games.
“If Call of Duty were a sport, I’d be in the Olympics. And not the winter Olympics, the real ones.”
Sal Garcia was next up for Studio E, and yes, Studio E kept losing at rock, paper and scissors. Like Mayf, Garcia is a lawyer. In fact, captain Reeder-Neubauer is also trained as a lawyer, which makes three lawyers on the Studio E team.
Garcia went up against Wide Open Mic’s Chris Tellez, who talked about how he goes to great lengths to ridicule bands he doesn’t like. Once he asked a band for a demo to give to his “boss,” an A&R rep for a major label.
A week later, he called the band on the phone.
“This is Chris Tellez. I showed my boss your demo and he fired me.”
Finally, a member of Wide Open Mic went first, Juan Lozano. Lozano said he could tell the holidays just by things he would say.
For example, “’Baby, of course I love you and the kids.’ That was April Fool’s Day.”
He faced the aforementioned John Daws, a jack-of-all-trades from
Wimberley. Daws talked about asking his wife for a little lovin’ after watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. His wife turned him down.
“’Is that your final answer?’ I asked. She says, ‘Yes.’ I say, ‘Okay. Can I phone a friend?’”
Patrick Sirois of Wide Open Mic led off the round and talked about kids making projects with Build A Bear.
“If they’re making bears, it’s magical. But if they’re making Nikes, everyone freaks out.”
Phil Redman, one of the few full-time comedians in the Studio E lineup, challenged Sirois. Redman also writes comedy and performs in an improv group.
Wish I could tell you more.
This was the toughest round of the night. Wide Open Mic’s Karla Duplantis fired off jokes so fast and furiously, I couldn’t write any one of them down in time. She had the three things people look for in a comedian—strong comedy writing, a strong comedic character and a great delivery.
But Studio E’s Sonny Castillo also had those three elements, albeit in a completely different style. His delivery was slow, deliberate and punctuated with meaningful stares.
This round was like watching Joan Rivers vs. Stephen Wright.
Because of his slow delivery, I was able to write down one of Castillo’s lines.
“I signed up for a date at convict.com. I’ve got a date in six to eight months. Depending on good behavior.”
Studio E’s Cynthia Pepitone, a photographer, went against Way Open Mic’s Jon Mendoza.
Pepitone talked about the communication problems her spouse has, who speaks English as a second language.
“Today I had a manage a trios. You know. When you feel you’ve been through this before?”
But my favorite joke of the night came from Mendoza’s observation of Greece’s bankruptcy.
“They should change the name of the country from Greece to Greece Two, because it sucks.”
The final round of the night pitted Danielle Gonzales from Studio E against Gene Getman of Wide Open Mic. Gonzales, of Lebanese descent, is an actress and singer as well as a comedian.
“I’m from New York and was raised Jewish, because that’s a good way to survive there.”
Gonzales also did a great impersonation of Christina Aguillera—she can definitely sing.
But Getman got the award from the judges for best joke of the night.
“Let’s clap it up for Whitney Houston — three weeks sober now.”
And the winner? Way Open Mic. But they should win; they’re the favorites, the team with the professional comedians who perform at open mics five or six times per week between actual paying gigs.
Of course the real winners were the audience members, who got to hear some high quality comedy without any cover charge whatsoever.
And it was real comedy, often over the top, always uncensored, and occasionally blue.
Wish I could tell you more.
How to make it as a comedian in Austin
“I think Austin is a hot bed of stand-up comedy,” says comedian Jon Stringer, host of Wide Open Mic every Wednesday night at the Cedar Door.
Stringer says there’s a comedy open mic nearly ever night, except for Fridays and Saturdays.
“Those are the money nights, when you can get paid gigs.”
Other comedy open mics include Monday nights at ColdTowne, Thursday nights at the Velveeta Room, Sundays at the Cap City Comedy Club, every third Tuesday at the Hole in the Wall, and another Wednesday night open mic at Kick Butt Coffee.
But if you’re not ready for prime time yet, you might consider signing up for the Austin Comedy Workshop at Studio E in Oak Hill every Wednesday night.
“You have to audition to get into the 8 p.m. workshop, but we do have a beginners’ class at 6 p.m.,” according to Liz Reeder-Neubauer of Studio E. Studio E also provides the comics for the Studio E Stompin’ Grounds comedy night on the last Thursday of every month.
For more information on open mics try jonstringer.com and for the comedy workshop point your browser to studioeaustin.com