Funniest: The Life and Times of Austin Comedy

October 10, 2016


Valerie Lopez


David Thomas


I’ve known Dustin Svehlak (pro­nounced Sway-lock’) and Norm Wilk­er­son (pro­nounced Norm”) for some time. As I wrote in the Katie Pen­gra arti­cle, I met Svehlak sev­er­al years ago while he was record­ing mate­r­i­al at Cap City Com­e­dy Club, and in oth­er venues around town. I’ve seen Wilk­er­son at some inten­tion­al­ly blue com­e­dy shows like the Punch Com­e­dy Cringe­tac­u­lar and Wilkerson’s own, Com­e­dy Séance. He likes to occa­sion­al­ly cos­play as Jesus Christ’s Ivan Dra­go, Satan.

Wilk­er­son start­ed in the com­e­dy scene while liv­ing in the Wash­ing­ton D.C. area. He began his career at an age old­er than most of our inter­vie­wees. He quick­ly embraced the grit­ty, blue style of com­e­dy pop­u­lar in D.C at the time and brought it with him to Austin – where he’s endeared him­self to the local scene. Wilk­er­son­’s self-effac­ing, non­cha­lant style of com­e­dy makes you love the guy, and while his com­e­dy may make a few sen­si­tive types cringe, it will make you think.

We’ll be see­ing both of them again soon in a doc­u­men­tary called Fun­ni­est. Well, we’ll be see­ing Norm Wilk­er­son along with sev­er­al oth­er Austin come­di­ans. As for Dustin Svehlak, he was behind the cam­era and in the edit­ing room with Katie Pengra.

Com­e­dy Wham Presents: Funniest

Fun­ni­est fol­lows Wilk­er­son and his peers (rep­re­sent­ing a cross-sec­tion of Austin’s stand up scene) over sev­er­al weeks sur­round­ing the 2015 Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin Con­test that’s held annu­al­ly at Cap City Com­e­dy Club. I could write sev­er­al hun­dred more words about Fun­ni­est, but I want Valerie Lopez’s inter­view with Svehlak and Wilk­er­son to do the talk­ing (no pun intend­ed).

I will say this. Fun­ni­est isn’t only about stand-up com­e­dy. It’s about the peo­ple behind the scene, their lives, and the events that shape their per­sonas on the stage. Svehlak and Pen­gra fol­low Wilk­er­son and his fel­low come­di­ans as they ner­vous­ly have a smoke before per­form­ing their sets; deal with ill­ness; care for loved ones; choose the path less tak­en; and fight time, age and the dai­ly grind. It makes you want every­one to win the con­test. Unfor­tu­nate­ly like High­lander, there can only be one.


Ah, it looks like I wrote those extra words any­way. Here are some details: Fun­ni­est is pre­mier­ing at the Austin Film Fes­ti­val 8:30 pm on Octo­ber 16th in the Rollins The­ater at the Long Cen­ter. If you’re unable to make that date, there will be anoth­er show­ing at 9 pm on Wednes­day, Octo­ber 19th at the State­side The­ater. To keep up with the Fun­ni­est doc­u­men­tary, fol­low it on Face­book. Svehlak’s oth­er projects can be found at Volta­ic Video.

As for Norm Wilk­er­son, despite being grey head­ed and a new father of twins, he’ll be don­ning the dark lord of Hel­l’s garb once again on Octo­ber 29th for the annu­al Com­e­dy Séance at the Spi­der House Ball­room at 7:30 pm.

Norm Wilkerson