TiT TALKS
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TiT TALKS

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
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"Review: The Institution Theater's 'TIT Talks: Ideas Worth Faking'"

By Cate Blouke
Special to the American-Statesman
With South by Southwest and its infinite array of pithy panel titles looming on the horizon, it seems particularly fitting that the Austin improv community has taken up the call to arms.
Running Fridays and Saturdays through March 22, The Institution Theater (TIT) presents “TIT Talks” – an improvised comedy riff on TED Talks and other precious efforts to motivate the masses. The catch, of course, is that the performers won’t know what they’re there to talk about until they take the stage.
Directors Adam Niederpruem and Justin Davidson provide each speaker with an appropriately random topic and a series of wacky visual aids to complement their talk. And it’s up to the performers to make sense of things.
Improvising speeches on topics ranging from Tupperware to fish farming for third world countries, the performers really have to stay on their toes – especially when confronted images of anything from James Brown to storm clouds.
Although perhaps out of place in the “somber” TIT Talk setting, the strongest character choices tend to get the biggest laughs, provided the improvisers fully commit – the more confident the Russian exile (Heidi Rogers) or ‘90s frat dude ghost (John Buseman), the funnier their pieces end up being.
Kristen Kurtis, our host for the evening sets the tone – oozing smarmy yet sophisticated enthusiasm and promising that the speakers will, without a doubt, “inspire the (expletive) out of you.”
To prevent lethargy in the somewhat repetitive format, however, the show offers interruptions of more rehearsed sketches. Even if these might feel a bit out of left field, they’re also great opportunities for more calculated hilarity.
On Saturday, Christina Parrish presented a bit about Nutella that devolved into a bizarre mixture of slam poetry and performance art that was priceless (and may never let me look at a jar of Nutella the same way again).
Since the show doesn’t require the energetic upkeep or teamwork of long-form improv, even the talks that flop don’t have to flop for very long.
It’s a pretty fun concept, and the best (and the worst) moments in the show come when the improvisers are presented with unlabeled charts and graphs they must contextualize for viewers.
Featuring improv all-stars from all over town, “TIT Talks” will offer new and exciting potential every performance. Check the website to see when your favorite improvisers will be showing up to offer you some inspiration.
'TIT Talks: Ideas Worth Faking' continues through March 22. www.theinstitutiontheater.com - Austin 360


"Moontower Coverage: TNM Talks"

The annual Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival, held last weekend, is a time for Austinites to put their problems aside and spend a night being entertained by some of the world’s most talented comedians. This festival does not only consist of touring and reuniting acts, but also a slew of talent from our own comedy community. This year was no different, and with the addition of The New Movement Talks, Austin improv was brought to center stage.

The New Movement Talks, created by comedy partners Justin Davidson and Adam Niederpruem, mimics the “Ted Talk” lectures. “We’re doing a tongue-in-cheek parody of the liberal hubris, highly generalized ideas,” Davidson said.

The show had five lecturers who introduced the audience to their character through a short, and sometimes very detailed, monologue. With a clicker in hand, the improviser began their presentation on a topic, making way for a passionate lecture. To break up the “intellectual” aspect of the lectures, the show features sketches, such as enthusiastic violin playing or slam poetry about Nutella.

TNMT: SquirrelsAs the show begins, the improviser has no knowledge of the topic they will receive, but they roll with the punches in seamless beauty as they connect their character to the topic. For the role of the lecturer, Davidson and Niederpruem comprised their cast from all five of the conservatories around town. Many are comedians who they admired and had not yet had the chance to work with. The TNM Talks on Wednesday night of the festival was hosted by Kristen Kurtis and included Heidi Rogers, Tom Niland, Matt Hannon, Katie Thornton, Drew Wesely, Rob Gagnon, John Buseman, Christina Parrish, and Niederpruem himself.

“At our first run at the Institution (in March), we had some people who had played at every theater in town and in big productions,” Niederpruem said. “Then a couple of the people I was in classes with that showed a spark, that they wanted to take a leap and drive. We wanted to give people a chance who were really enthusiastic about it.”

“People gave us chances when we were new to the scene, and with karma, you have to do the same for others,” Davidson added.

Since there is a mutual respect between Davidson, Niederpruem and the casted lecturer, it’s hard not to write topics, like lighthouses and the club, specifically for them. “We know these performers, so we want to give them something that we know they will kill it with,” Davidson said. Other than that, though, the topics are chosen at random. They are even constructed at random as well.

TNMT: Lighthouses“Some of them come from nowhere while others come from a little thing that we think is funny and then we revolve around it and make it academic in some slight way,” Niederpruem explained. “The presentation has to have a core, sometimes there is a random slide or two, but you don’t want to purposely screw the person on stage.”

“They have to have stakes in the topic, why are they talking about,” Davidson said. “There has to be something wild about it otherwise it would be kinda of boring.”

“That’s what the performers bring,” Niederpruem added. “They are great improvisers, but they know that is idea of the show, this is their life’s work and this is why it is so important to them.”

The key to a great show is that the topics remain general, allowing for the improviser to take what they want from the information and go in whatever direction they want.

“Putting a dirty word or phrase directs them too much, but you can see what they do with just images or charts (if it’s more brood), but if they wanted to be dirty they totally could,” Niederpruem said.

“We told them to do that character that they haven’t had the chance to do,” Davidson said. “Do whatever you want to do and be as wacky as you want to be, the audience really wants it too, and if you hold back it doesn’t help you as a performer.”

The freedom improv allows is what attracted Davidson and Niederpruem. It’s a place where you can drop your ego and just be silly, as Davidson found, and allows you to be apart of a team where creativity is bounced between everyone, as Niederpruem found. The New Movement Talks not only allow these two to do what they love to do, but also allows the opportunity for others to participate in this atmosphere and just have fun.

TNM: Rad

If you missed The New Movement Talks at this year’s Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival, you might have missed lightening in a bottle for the time being. The group had a run in March at the Institution, but at the moment don’t have any plans to perform the show around town in the near future. There are rumblings of a possibility of another festival run, at say Out of Bounds fest or perhaps Fun Fun Fun Fest, but nothing has been finalized just yet.

The great thing about a show like this is that it can play anywhere, and with the talent that has been participating in the shows so far, no matter where they perform it will be amazing.

Even though Moontower is once a year, Austin comedy is year round. Go and support our local comedy scene and show these funny guys some love. With a wide range of clubs and conservatories, anything your comedy heart desires is at your disposal.

Davidson and Niederpruem’s perform together in a musical comedy called Rock N Roll Purgatory at The Institution Theater. You can also see Niederpruem in the musical improv group WaterPark, and Davidson is a part of the sketch group Good Game Comedy and you can follow him on Twitter.

Written by Lisa Mejia (lisa@austinfusionmagazine.com)
Images by Clayton Hodges (clayton@austinfusionmagazine.com) - Austin Fusion Magazine


"B. Iden Payne Awards Nominations 2014"

Nominate for Best Production in "Improv" category - B. Iden Payne Awards Council


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Riding the wave of intellectual discourse that has taken the internet by storm comes TiT Talks: Ideas Worth Faking. Austin's best comedians, sketch writers and improvisers take to the stage to share their wisdom on...well, they won't know. TiT Talks is intellectual parody at its finest, complete with improvised lectures and sketch performances to rival any TED or SXSW experience. 

Directors Adam Niederpruem and Justin Davidson supply lecturers with presentation topics and accompanying slides they have never seen before. Complimenting lectures are musical, dance and "how-to" sketch performances that leave audiences breathless. Wild, dramatic, and always funny, TiT Talks is a celebration of Austin's talent.

Nominated for a B. Iden Payne award for Best Improv Production 2014, TiT Talks has been performed at Moontower Comedy Fest, FunFunFun Fest, The Institution Theater, and The New Movement Theater.

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