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SXSW Comedy Recap: Day 5

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Here's a Day Five disclaimer: I'm in love with The Chris Gethard Show. Live every week online and on Manhattan public access, and proudly touting the tagline "the most bizarre and often saddest talk show in New York City," TCGS is run by call-ins and audience members as much as by its panel of improvisers and eponymous host. I could list a million reasons why the show's required viewing for any comedy fan, but we'll keep it SXSW-related and dive into Day Five, which featured not one but two shows from Gethard and his crew, including the Human Fish, presidential candidate Connor Ratliff, and mythical beast The Wengy.

They opened the day's SXSW Comedy lineup with an afternoon show on the Next Stage, which one Tweeter called the "Best comedy show at a Trade Convention ever." TCGS' house band, The LLC, drew a sizeable crowd to the stage before the cast launched into "The Carnival of Human Exploitation," a game show where audience members competed in sideshow-inspired, slightly humiliating exercises: deciphering The Wengy's riddles (which were mostly trivia about '80s movies or people he knew in middle school), shooting cast members with silly string, attempting to dislodge Gethard from a perilous perch with the help of a big red bouncy ball. The victor won a place in the main event, a kiddie pool wrestling match with a greased-up Human Fish, who went down in the first round but bounced back to lead a horde of fans on a parade around the trade show floor, chanting "The Human Fish Loves Cock" to kazoo accompaniment. There was also an appearance from the show's official presidential candidate, Connor Ratliff, who got in on the wrestling and debuted his official line of Ratliff-branded underwear. If this is all incomprehensible, rest assured the live show was equally mind-boggling, and check out the Gethard Show's online archives for some background (I suggest starting with Episode 35, dedicated to making 16-year-old comedy nerd Alyssa's dreams come true with an all-star cast of surprise guests.)

Speaking of surprise guests, Aparna Nancherla stopped by the first show at Esther's Follies, presented by Brown Paper Tickets and hosted by Nick Turner, with Todd Barry, Brendon Walsh, Kristine Levine, and DC Pierson. As the audience shifts from the Interactive crowd to Music festival-goers, the house has been slightly slower to build but just as energetic as earlier in the week. Up next, for example, Gethard stopped in between his two talk shows to do a stand-up showcase along with Joe Wengert, Kurt Braunohler, and Pete Holmes, who stretched out a strategic pause in his "First Meeting of the KKK" bit so long there were three distinct waves of laughter, the audience completely in his palm as he pantomimed silently for at least two full minutes. The last official comedy show of the night was The Laugh Button Live, presented by Gotham Comedy, hosted by Dan Soder and featuring Doug Benson, Gary Gulman, and Robert Kelly.

I missed most of the late show to catch the second installment of TCGS, a reprise of the "Carnival" with a twist: a few nights before, Gethard met a random girl at 7th Street bar Mugshots who happened to mention her birthday was Wednesday. So, in true TCGS fashion, the cast decided to make her the guest of honor, asking audience members to bring birthday presents (which they did: lube, sunglasses, a vintage parenting book -- "For your hipster bookshelf," quipped Gethard -- a yo-yo, and more) for a chance to compete in the games. With the show at local theater The New Movement instead of inside a cavernous convention center, they had a little more room to get wild, adding more potential for violence, prizes for participants, and a piñata filled with beef jerky. It was pretty magical, and a fitting way to cap off my first Wednesday without the show's live stream (which was a pre-taped Q+A this week).