Audio by Valerie Lopez, Words by Richard Goodwin
If you’re a fan of the Austin comedy scene (and you certainly should be), you’ve almost certainly found yourself on occasion at the amazing ColdTowne Theater . This week, Valerie welcomes ColdTowne’s executive director, and amazing performer in his own right, Michael Jastroch (like “Astro”, not “ostrich”…or “jostrich” for that matter). Always busy, he’s also a co-producer of the Austin Comedy Sketch Festival, and has done video, commercials and voice-over work.
Jastroch is an Austinite, via Illinois, Connecticut, and plenty of other stops along the way. His early interests trended decidedly nerdy, with a love of physics and role-playing. While he continued on the path to becoming A Real Grown Up Scientist, he also discovered a love of making people laugh, inspired by comedic giants like Monty Python.
It was on one of those stops, in New York, that exposure to the Upright Citizen’s Brigade finally convinced the rapidly evolving young Jastroch that comedy and performing were going to play the main role in his future. After moving to New Orleans and finding limited success (although an ardent following of approximately 4 nautical professionals did form), the unfortunate arrival of Hurricane Katrina resulted in Jastroch and the ColdTowne team evacuating to their now permanent home in Austin. (Some of the team further went on to found the fabulous New Movement Theatre as well.)
We can also thank Jastroch for being one of the early driving forces behind Austin Sketch Fest. In today’s environment full of opportunities like Moontower and Out of Bounds Comedy, it’s hard to imagine a time when we didn’t have festivals aplenty. But that dark time did exist, and Sketch Fest was one of the first events to gain a big audience and roster, hosting greats like Comedy Death Ray (later becoming Comedy Bang Bang), and comedians like Paul F Tompkins.
One of Jastroch’s most interesting projects is the Victrola! podcast, a compendium of sketch comedy blended into wild weekly episodes. Jastroch and team recently released their first Victrola! album with local label Sure Thing Records: Virtual Aurality.
Jastroch is both a teacher and devoted student of improv (though he’ll admit that at one point he never believed that would happen). Valerie takes us on a journey through his awakening to improv, thoughts on writing for different mediums like stand-up, and even a possibly questionable pizza chain endorsement opportunity.
Whether you prefer being in the audience, or have ambitions to be on stage, make it a point to hit ColdTowne Theater for performances or classes. Be sure to also see the final performance from The Frank Mills improv troupe (including Michael Jastroch) at ColdTowne on December 14th. Grab the Virtual Aurality album, and subscribe to the Victrola! podcast.