George Anthony: Enjoying Being Wrong

November 24, 2019

Photo Credit

George Anthony

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

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It’s a tricky line to walk when putting your family into a story as the butt of a joke, but this week’s guest, George Anthony, handles it with ease. Whether it’s the tale he spins of an altercation in a movie theater, or of a good friend’s passing, his rapid fire spikes and asides take the audience from quick intakes of breath to laughter before they have time to even notice the misdirection.

While Anthony built his chops in his native San Antonio scene, he’s now been with us in Austin for over a year, and having worked in both gives him the benefit of experiencing the two very different kinds of audiences the cities host. Born into a military family, he also spent time in his youth in Germany, Paris, and other European climes, following the pattern of settling and uprooting that comes with that lifestyle.

It’s almost a perfect training ground for comedy, as any class clown will tell you; if you can get a laugh, it helps reset an unfamiliar or threatening scenario, and, for a kid hopping from school to school, it’s an invaluable skill. That kind of life also tends to heighten the family dynamic, and Anthony recalls that his parents also trended to hilarity, in what wonders might have been a similar coping mechanism. He jokes that they trended “mean” in their humor, but that “I think being mean is funny sometimes, to say the thing that no one’s supposed to say.”

I think being mean is funny sometimes, to say the thing that no one’s supposed to say.
George Anthony

Anthony also slyly jabs that his parents “weren’t right”, but that being wrong isn’t as dangerous as he feels people make it out to be. The co-host of the Willful Ignorance podcast feels that people are scared to look, well, ignorant, instead of recognizing that everyone has the opportunity to be corrected and educated. He came to stand-up after a divorce, and--having grown up watching icons like Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock, and attending live comedy shows in San Antonio--saw the mic as a way to “just breathe,” and get out of the reality of the situation.

To this day, Anthony describes the experience of stepping on the stage as a “Zen-like depression”, a disconnection from his current reality, the exact kind of disconnection he was seeking. The isolation of the stage is also a good metaphor for his view on progressing in comedy, saying that certainly there is power in networking and favors, but that ultimately, progress and success come from a relentless pursuit of refining your material and delivery. The familial movie theater story I mentioned earlier is a great example: Anthony describes to Valerie Lopez the process of refining it over the years from 30 minutes down to the tight 6 minutes required for his multiple Funniest Person in Austin appearances (where he made it to the Semifinals in 2019). He also eschews the traditional tool of many comics, the notebook, saying instead he “writes on stage”, feeling that otherwise he’d be attempting to create in a vacuum. “I’m like a kamikaze pilot, just waiting to see which ship I’ll blow up,” he jokes about his process, at the same time constantly thinking “How can I better communicate [this topic]”.

I’m like a kamikaze pilot, just waiting to see which ship I’ll blow up.
George Anthony

Finding the right medium can also be key to framing a topic, jokes or otherwise, and Anthony hasn’t hesitated to try out his share. With friend Josh Cabaza, he started working on video sketches, which ultimately turned into the recurring competition Battle of the Sketches. The event takes entries from across the world, and pits them against each other in a live “Battle Royale” tour in multiple cities, with judges and audiences picking the winners. With competitors worldwide entering, it’s become an event with ever-growing renown.

Willful Ignorance is another perfect example of that exploration, with Anthony and Cabaza hosting comedians like former CW guest Raul Sanchez, and, recently, the always unpredictable Bobby Lee. With a reputation for spontaneously getting naked, and testing the boundaries of his audiences and hosts, Lee always poses a unique challenge. Lee didn’t disappoint in his interactions with Anthony and the episode, flashing photos of his recently deceased father after innocently offering to show “pictures of his family”. True to form, Anthony adapted and took it in stride.

The dedication that Anthony has put into his pursuits continue to pay off, with opportunities like headlining at The Velv and PUNCH (Cap City Comedy, Tuesdays). The storytelling show OnsLaught he helped create landed him appearances on PBS’s Comedians on Comedians, and he even has a cartoon project. Called Blair and the Bear, and definitely not for kids, Anthony and Cabaza submitted it for Comedy Central and Adult Swim lineups. You can see Blair, episodes of Willful Ignorance, and Battle of the Sketches at the pair’s YouTube Channel, FMCW Studios.

Anthony is definitely on a run, well-deserved, and is looking forward to a bright future. With the aforementioned projects, and upcoming events like his PUNCH appearance on Nov 26th, and Doug Benson’s New Years Show, it’s clear that audiences have made up their mind about him: being wrong is sometimes the absolute best way to get things right.

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