Screens & Tech
Comedia A Go Go delivers interactive comedy with 'Public Axis'
Published: April 18, 2012
For those who like to stay abreast of current events through the burgeoning league of humor-based television variety shows, it's time to get local: A group of award-winning San Antonio comedians and filmmakers have launched an innovative live late-night podcast program, a forum for entertainment, news, and political debate that creators say will be brimming with community flavor. Comedia A Go Go's "Public Axis" will play the stage every third Thursday of the month beginning April 19 at the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club, and, if it is well-received, move to a weekly schedule.With free admission, guests from all walks of Alamo City life, and an irreverent, audience-interactive media approach, Public Axis will showcase the comical, the quirky, and the current, whether it be Fritos ice cream, a district politician's pet policy initiative, or funky film festivals.
CAGG, voted Best Comedy Act in the Current's 2011 annual best-of poll, did some bug-shooting during a March 22 pilot show at the LOL with four comedian guests: Cleto Rodríguez, Alex "Kool-Aid" Ansel, Jay Whitecotton, and Quinn Dahle. (The podcast for the show is available on their Facebook page.) The theme of the night was the Funniest Person in South Texas award (FIST), and for more than an hour the mirth mavens bantered about the contest, joke theft, and other comedy-related topics before roughly 30 guests. The format, at least for the pilot, featured co-hosts Larry Garza and Regan Arévalos seated stage left with the guest table to the right; no lording over a couch from behind a skirted oak desk, hosts and guests alike perched on folding chairs behind basic tables, knees underneath staring out at the crowd. At the outset, guests were given Twitter hash tags and the Public Axis Facebook page and urged to produce their smartphones — usually banned during their sketch comedy routines — in order to comment, question, and, of course, heckle in real time. A large projection screen draped the background, the interactive playground for CAGG member Jess Castro, sequestered in the multimedia booth in the back. Castro is the man behind the electronic curtain, but not really: He's windowed in on the screen via webcam throughout the show and chimes in on the dialogue over the sound system. From his audio-visual alcove, Castro deploys the power of the internet to support the stage act, beaming new guest tweets and posts onto the screen as they roll in. He also has his own segment in the act, in which he reviews edgy new material geek-mined from the electronic ether. It is entitled, "Yeah, Imma Look Into Dat!" — the usual response from his cohort when he effuses about a new video game or obscure foreign film he's learned about. The CAGG gag crew, with 10 years of sketch acts and various short film festivals under their belt, including placements and awards, clearly has a steep learning curve to climb before mastering the experimental Public Axis format. Hosting all comedians during the pre-debut event was intentional, a bid to control guest variables as the group fine tunes issues such as time management and interactivity. Seven comedians (including the three hosts) rendered the conversation amusing, but at times inaccessible. "This is all new for us, trying to put together a diverse panel and establish a reputation that will make it easier to attract guests," says Arévalos. "The coolest thing about our comedy is that we each bring our own style, so hopefully there is something for everyone in the audience. Jess has his film and video segment, Larry has 'Dad's Corner' about parenthood, and I'm personally the one that wants to introduce politics, social, and cultural issues."