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Comedy duo creates bizarre world with new and familiar characters in offbeat show

Alumnus Austin Nasso and Ian Michaels will host The Ian and Austin “Show” Thursday at The Improv Space. The duo said the show plays with experimental forms of comedy. (Eli Countryman/Daily Bruin senior staff)

The Ian & Austin "Show"

Thursday, 8 p.m.

The Improv Space


By Eli Countryman

February 19, 2019 10:50 pm

Self-improvement advertisements occasionally will interrupt The Ian and Austin “Show.”

The series of preplanned interludes within the comedy show are meant to imitate short commercials from YouTube or television. Ian Michaels and alumnus Austin Nasso, the show’s namesakes, will host the variety show Thursday at The Improv Space, incorporating stand-up, character bits and impressions. Nasso said the show, which the duo aims to put on once per month, plays with experimental forms of comedy, such as the use of short sketches to transition between bits without straying from the typical content audiences can relate to.

“It’s not a traditional stand-up comedy show or a traditional improv show,” Nasso said. “We’re doing super experimental comedy things and sketches where the audience doesn’t know if it’s part of the show or not part of the show.”

The short sketches between other parts of the variety shows were inspired by YouTube ads from Tai Lopez, an entrepreneur known for showing off his riches – including a Lamborghini that led to multiple memes. As Nasso and Michaels perform comedy, one of them will suddenly switch tracks to act as if they were in an advertisement pop-up in the middle of a live stream, Michaels said, becoming characters such as “Chai Lopez,” a take on the entrepreneur. They also plan to show countdowns on The Improv Space’s screens during their “advertisements” to further parallel the comparison to streaming.

[Related: Bruin comedians to stand up against other schools at Laugh Bowl]

Other interruptions also make their way into the show. Michaels said sometimes he or Nasso plans to don a new character and engage with the one currently on stage, kicking him off and beginning a new bit in a way that blends them together. For instance, one character – a confident drunk – will randomly wander into the venue, interrupt the sketch being performed, and ask to perform stand-up for the crowd after getting lost after a party. The interruptions will also act as transitions into guest acts by alumna Avalon Penrose and comedy group Probably a Cult, he said.

Penrose is a musical guest for The Ian and Austin “Show” and will also be involved in improvised scenes. The avant-garde nature of the Thursday show also allows her to take on new personas, including “Kim the biohacker,” who is obsessed with gene-splicing her own DNA for health reasons and taking 80 vitamins on stage.

“Every time I play a character, I tend to fully immerse myself in what that character’s reality would be, and for me, comedy is just drama taken way too seriously,” she said. “I take (a character’s) mentality to the extreme and I do it to the point that it gets wacky.”

Acting isn’t the only extreme in her performance. Penrose said she also writes her music in an extremely personal, offbeat manner, basing the ideas off real scenarios. As opposed to radio-friendly songs about love or breakups, she said she experimented with the concept of a dysfunctional relationship she was in with a man in his 30s during her college years. The song, “Hank, The Corporate Lawyer,” complete with the lines, “part-time pussy destroyer, full-time destroyer of my heart,” is meant to be a blunt callout of her experiences with an abnormal age gap, she said.

“I consider myself a singing storyteller more than I consider myself a musical comedian,” Penrose said. “I’m just so truthful that it’s almost jarring and can be uncomfortable at points because people can see I don’t shy away from any subject.”

Though the stand-up usually will be performed by Nasso or Michaels while they’re embodying a persona, Nasso said the audience is meant to sometimes question whether or not they are in character. Doctor Magic, an unfunny stand-up comic played by Nasso, will teach a master class on low-quality comedy to Michaels, who will impersonate the list of comics attending the class – from Gilbert Gottfried to Sarah Silverman.

[Related: Lessons in Laughter: Improv Space instructor talks history, influences, weekly open-mic shows]

The many dimensions and aspects of the show, Michaels said, are the combination of the duo’s interests within comedy, such as “Seinfeld,” which will be the topic of one of the improvised sketches Thursday. The Ian and Austin “Show” will combine multiple comedic forms and experimental transitions to make the performances feel cohesive, he said.

“When we have a new character, we’ll try to slide it in like it is part of the show,” Michaels said. “I think we’re trying to put together something that seems complete unto itself – a world that’s consistent in itself, in its bizarreness.”

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Eli Countryman
Countryman is the 2018-2019 Music | Arts editor. He was previously an A&E reporter. He is a second-year communication student.
Countryman is the 2018-2019 Music | Arts editor. He was previously an A&E reporter. He is a second-year communication student.
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