Audio by Valerie Lopez, Words by Richard Goodwin
When talking about this week’s guest, Austin Smartt, you can’t help but address the elephants in the room. I’m referring of course to the scene with ice rink copulating elephants in the awful(ly good) movie Love Guru, that Smartt readily admits she loves (and I have a bit of a well-hidden soft spot for as well). She’s also a transgender woman, but we’ll get to that in a bit; it’s not the core of her story.
Born in tiny Bonham, Texas, Smartt’s early exposure to the comedy films of Mike Meyers like Austin Powers in Goldmember, portended her fate. The inane, yet lovingly crass, elements in films like Goldmember and Love Guru imprinted early on in her ethos that comedy isn’t always crass, but can be sinfully enjoyable when it is, all the same.
Smartt’s “formal” stage training started in UIL (University Interscholastic League) impromptu and persuasive speaking, before getting her chance in the school theater program. As her interests in performing and making people laugh evolved, she got deeper into stand-up greats like Dave Chapelle and George Carlin: comics unafraid to share their opinions freely, and bring the audience around to them along the way. It was an early lesson for Smartt that comedic writing can feel dark and extreme, but, when delivered with eloquence and purpose, will draw people into your world immediately.
While Smartt had questions and interest in finding her identity and sexuality, it was after the move to Austin (the city)–in her senior year–that she found the welcoming, expansive culture and community that enabled her to explore the person inside she knew was intended to be. Soon after, she found the irresistible draw to the open mic stage that we know often becomes the beginning of the journey for budding professional comedians.
Smartt had the almost traditional rough start the first time behind the mic, but her trajectory was set and she’s now a mainstay on Austin stages, where we hope she’ll continue for years to come. She’s already competed in Funniest Person in Austin, and Out of Bounds, and Moontower Comedy festivals. In the interview, it’s such a joy to hear her excitement at the opportunities, past and future, that abound in her relatively newfound profession and home.
Her most recent project is the Gender Fluids podcast with Arielle Norman. Exploring the boundaries of sexual identity (and indeed of humanity in general), Gender Fluids is a delightful mix and balance of serious introspection and extreme hilarity, hosted by two people still figuring out who they are, and how to survive and thrive at life. (Aren’t we all?)