Well it’s been several weeks since the taps have stopped flowing and the 2012
edition of sxsw has stumbled off into the sunset, which is good for the
throbbing in my kidney’s is finally starting to reside.
For the 2nd yr in a row Altercation Comedy & Records put together an amazing week of showcases in what I am beginning to believe is one the few last examples of independent expression in an increasingly commercially driven festival. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy SXSW just about every year and I absolutely adore free beer, just nice to take a break from the mega stages and bud light tents every so often.
This year, Altercation Comedy truly lived up to it’s name and for those who attended it’s kick off event at Coldtowne theatre you will know what I am speaking of (wink, wink) But aside from the “close to blows”excitement of the first night, the show itself and week-long additional showcases provided some of the most irreverent, talented, and down right hilarious comedy this town has seen in years.
For those who don’t know, Altercation has been hitting the local punk rock and Red River scene hard in recent years with some of the best up and coming artists in stand up and music. Altercation Records is the brainchild JT Habersaat and Travis Meyer. Headquartered in both Austin and NYC, they have been epitomizing the DIY culture since 2005.
I recently spoke with Mr. Habersaat in regards to their 2012 showcases and some post sx thoughts on Austin, festivals, Altercation, etc..
R&R: Hey JT! First off amazing shows this year. How long have you been
doing stand up in Austin under the Altercation banner?
JT: The Altercation brand started way back in 1999 in NY when my wife and I started Altercation Magazine. We moved to Austin in 2005 and initiated Altercation Records with a business partner who still resides in NY, and the Altercation Punk Comedy Tour began in 2008. I’ve never had the same touring lineup more than once, but the initial run consisted of myself, Chris Cubas, Ruby Collins, Duncan Wilder Johnson and Richie Stratton. Again, the lineup is in constant flux, but the current incarnation features Mack Lindsay, Joe Staats, Mike Wiebe and Billy Milano.
R&R: Why Austin as a second home instead of a larger, more obvious place, like LA for example?
JT: I had visited Austin a few times for SXSW prior to moving here. In 2005 I was actually on a complete break from performing standup – the NYC comedy scene was very cliquey and ambitious in a way that didn’t appeal to me, so I was concentrating more on promoting punk rock shows in upstate New York. (JT and family then moved to Austin in 05’due to professional and personal reasons, not comedy)
Comedy didn’t factor into our decision to move at all, and I actually didn’t perform standup in Austin for close to a year. I just needed a total social break from being a public figure of any sort and enjoyed not knowing a single person in a new city for a while. Around 2007 I booked a few shows and started writing a lot of new material, which led to the seeds of the Altercation Tour. The concept seemed to resonate with people fairly quickly, which led to opening slots for me with people like Doug Stanhope and Jeanine Garofalo, which turned into festival offers.
R&R: Speaking of festivals, you just wrapped up another sxsw. any thoughts or observations on the 2012 installment? Any new observations from past yrs ..in general and with Altercation?
JT: A lot of people in Austin tend to hate on SXSW due to all of the annoying tourists. I get it, but I still love SXSW and think it is a huge opportunity and a drunken blast. I’ve never had a bad time at SXSW. I do wish they would book more Austin comics onto official showcases, since it seems to be 99% LA every year. I was on some ‘we really want to have you but we are waiting to see if there’s room’ list last year that never turned into stage time, so this year I didn’t bother to apply and did ‘unofficial’ shows…what felt like a million…almost every night of the whole festival.
I felt like this year the focus on comedy was definitely heavy, especially with the emergence of podcasts and such. It feels like people are finally starting to view comedy as an art form and social commentary rather than just a fun night out.
In terms of Altercation, this year proved to be especially crazy. We had some really, really great, memorable, insane shows (like the coldtowne theater gig) and I was approached by a record label I admire about putting out the next Altercation album. I can’t really go into specifics until I sign the paperwork, but it’s looking like a done deal and as of right now we are planning to record that in Austin this summer. The label’s roster of comics is pretty awesome, and I like the owner, so I’m pretty stoked that it will be a great fit. So yeah, “SXSW worked for me!” haha.
Altercation is looking forward to another year of heavy growth and excitement
about what the future brings. All in all, my week spent enjoying all things
Altercation was one of the funnest and most memorable sxsw’s I have had in
years, and keep in mind upcoming Altercation events like Sat. May 12th @ the New
Movement Theater, headlining ‘road stories’ set with Ramin Nazer, Albert Im and
more, BYOB, And for those you globetrotters, DO NOT forget Fri. May 25th @ Punk
rock Bowling 2012 Las Vegas with tons of cutting edge comedy as well as Joe Sib
(and NOFX, Rancid etc.), 5-7pm at the golden nugget casino, FREE!
And as a personal note, even if your new to standup or havnt spent much time and effort into comedy, do yourself a favor and check out Austin’s own Altercation Punk Rock Comedy. You’ll be in a for one helluva ride and can all but guarantee you’ ll be coming back for more.
For more info on Altercation Comedy and Records please check out: www.jtstandup.com
Written by: Jordan Sewell, R&R contributing writer. (w/ special thanks to JT Habersaat, Mack Lindsey, John Tole, Joe Staats, and anyone else I may have forgotten ). All photos by Camille Dubose.