SXSW is well-known for its music and film portions, but over the last few years, its comedy lineup has also become a force to be reckoned with. This year, one of SXSW’s keynote speakers Fred Armisen led a raucous night off laughs bolstered by some of his closest friends in comedy, many of which are in the past and present SNL casts.
While some of the comedians opted for stand up routines and Tim Meadows surprise cameo for an introduction gained some of the night’s biggest cheers, my favorite bits were the evening’s skits. Skits are something SNL cast members are best at and this evening there was a particularly great one about audience plants, where one guy began with a math question and asked for audience help. But each member of the crowd was increasingly fishy and each claimed the previous audience member was the plant. Shirts were taken off, ridiculous accents ran rampant and the entire audience was in stitches.
Fred Armisen’s headlining stint was actually kind of mellow. I’m not sure if he just ran out of time to really plan, but rather than performing a routine, he treated his slot as more of a Q&A type of event. Of course, a conversation with Fred Armisen is still hilarious, so as he detailed how music impacted his life, answered questions and even explained how he got his comedy start at SXSW by trolling the panels, it was still a good time. My favorite portion of his set was when he let the audience challenge him to an “accent off.” People lined up to give him a country or region and he would say something with an accent from that place. At one point, he told this Texas crowds what to expect from the different accents you might hear in Houston, Austin and Dallas. The accent bit really showcased how quick Armisen is on his feet and just how skilled at improv he is, however, at the end he told the crowd the secret wasn’t even skills, but confidence. “I lied about some of those accents. I have no idea what the different x regions sound like, but I sure can fool people as long as I sound confident and quickly move to the next.”
SXSW is often described as a party, and with this comedy show, it really did feel like a party. All these guys were there just to have fun without the pressure of having to be discovered by a label or some big deal. They were there because they were having a big family comedy reunion and it made for one of the most relaxed, fun evenings of the week.