“Born and raised,” Enzo Priesnitz said Wednesday. The 25-year old comic has only been Funniest since May 15, when he was crowned at Cap City Comedy Club. (The previous winner was the much-missed Lashonda Lester, who died in April.)
Calling from his day job as a fabricator for a company that makes props for movies and exhibits for museums (“I’m mostly a welder for them”), Priesnitz says he’s been doing stand-up for about three years.
“I used to watch Comedy Central late at night after my parents were asleep,” he says, citing Greg Geraldo, Louis CK and Dave Attell as inspirations, citing Attell’s “Skanks for the Memories” as “one of the greatest comedy albums of all time”).
Priesnitz says he always enjoyed telling stories to friends and just started hitting local open mics. I mention that he seems to have no Internet video presence, which is unusual for 21st century comedians.
“That is on purpose,” he says, “I’ve been told by folks that you shouldn’t be seen until you are ready to be seen and there is a lot of material in those first few years I really wouldn’t stand by. When you start, you are just grasping at straws trying not to bomb.”
These days, Priesnitz tries to go up about four times a week “which is not very much,” he says “I really should do more.”
He’s also quick to shout out his favorite Austin comics. “I love Jared McCorkle. Christina Parrish is amazing, she put me in a movie recently (her film “Call Me Brother”). Danny Goodwin’s great. These are people who have way more going on than I do right now. Go and see them.”
Check out Priesnitz June 2 at the New Movement and June 5 at Spider House.
“Since We Fell” by Dennis Lehane (Ecco) After she loses it on air, former journalist Rachel Childs has barely left the house. And then an encounter causes her life, marriage and possibly sanity to fall apart. Look, it’s the new Lehane; of course you’re curious. (May 9)
Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery (Netflix) The newest special from the great Norm Macdonald. (May 9)
Zac Brown Band, “Welcome Home” (Southern Ground/Atlantic). The very embodiment of frat-country releases their seventh studio album, just in time for the end of college finals and the start of summer vacation. (May 12)
Harry Styles, “Harry Styles” (C(olumbia). Styles, former singer with One Direction and possessed of some of the greatest hair in popular music, makes his solo debut. Columbia is praying it has another Justin Timberlake on its hands. (May 12)
“Anne” (Netflix). This is an eight-episode adaptation of the foundational 1908 all ages/children’s book “Anne of Green Gables,” about a complicated Canadian orphan girl and her adventures with friends and (adopted, more or less) family. You may make your own “bosom friends” joke here. (May 12)
Various artists, “The Bob’s Burgers Music Album” (Sub Pop). A double album with 112 songs from the first 107 episodes of one of the best animated shows of its era. (May 12)
“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” Look, I love a King Arthur movie. Even bad ones (2004’s “King Arthur,” we’ll never forget you). But let’s be real: Does anyone remember the last time a King Arthur movie made any money domestically? Or any movie set in the Middle or Dark Ages? Was it in the 21st century? They tend to do OK overseas, but not so much in the States. Anyway, this one stars Charlie Hunnam as Arthur and Jude Law as Vortigern. Yes, I will see it, but I will be astonished if anyone else does. (May 12)
“Snatched.” Amy Schumer is the daughter, Goldie Hawn is the mother. They go on vacation. Hijinks ensue. (May 12)
HBO is airing the season premier of “Silicon Valley” on Sunday (April 23).
Wednesday evening, series co-creator Mike Judge joined actors Martin Starr (the terminally acid Gilfoyle) and Zach Woods (the doe-eyed Jared Dunn) for a brief red carpet at the Alamo Drafthouse South. This was followed by a screening of the first two episodes and a 30-minute Q and A session.
Judge is notoriously press shy and always looks very business as usual at press events, somewhere between a kind of Zen offensive coordinator and maybe a guy giving you bad legal news. He also talks very softly.
So it was genuinely awesome to see him laugh long and hard at his actors cracking wise during the Q and A afterwards. It was similarly cool to see Starr — best known for his career-making performance as Bill in “Freaks and Geeks” (17 years ago!) and for Gilfoyle’s brutal, dead-eyed sarcasm — bust out a wide smile (not pictured) when talking to reporters. Woods, on the other hand, seems very much like Jared, with maybe more penis jokes.
Women are rumored for later in the year, but not on these episodes
HBO and the Alamo Drafthouse screened two episodes. The first one sets the table: Everyone is still in the house owned by Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller), the company has pivoted a bit into a video chat app largely invented by Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), which is driving Richard (Thomas Middleditch) nuts. He hates being the CEO of a video chat company, especially one essentially co-owned by Big Head’s father.
So he quits. Plot ensues.
The second episode (mild spoilers) develops the video chat plot kind of ingeniously and features some of the most (intentionally) obnoxious hair Kumail Nanjiani has ever worn, anywhere.
This was about 60 minutes of filmed entertainment, much of it sharp and funny and canny. There was a woman on-screen for less than five of those minutes, a conversation between Richard and Monica Hall (Amanda Crew). Unless I am misremembering something, and I don’t think I am, that was IT.
Woods is the most like his character, though all of them are apparently sweet people
“When it’s a lot of young comedy guys, it can kind of be a sort of feral environment,” Woods said during the Q and A. “But everyone’s really kind to each other, it’s not competitive. People pitch each other jokes. It’s nice to be with other people that are equally delicate flowers.”
That said, when Woods was discussing the first time he met Miller, he (Woods) was sitting “on a yoga mat reading a journal of reassuring quotes with a bunch of scented candles lit” while Indigo Girls was on in the background.
Which seems awfully Jared.
A time in the Dinesh/Gilfoyle relationship that stands out for Starr
“The jacket episode,” Starr says. “I had a lot of fun berating him in front of strangers at that Starbucks. I don’t know why, but I really enjoyed it. It went a little off the rails sometimes.”
There isn’t a lot of improvisation on set that makes it into the final product. However….
The line “Sizzler buffet for the sexually deranged” (nope, not giving you the context) was all Woods.
The show is famous enough that hip-hop acts will debut tracks as end credits music
Look for Nas and DJ Shadow’s “Systematic” to close out the first episode.
What makes Mike Judge lose it
The “creepy extra” in the back of the room at the very end of episode two. You’ll know it when you see it (on April 30). “The way it works is you get a bunch of extras and they line ’em up, and I picked that guy,” Judge said. “And I said, ‘Put him in a sweater,’ and when he came out in that sweater and sat him down, I couldn’t stop laughing. Luckily there was no dialogue in the scene. It was good to see (the audience) laughing at it because me and Tim Suhrstedt, the DP, could not stop laughing.”
The Detroit-born comedian appeared on the NBC show “Last Comic Standing” in 2015 and appeared in Katie Pengra and Dustin Svehlak’s 2016 film “Funniest,” a documentary about the Funniest Person in Austin competition. She recently opened a high profile show for Marc Maron.
She was a beloved fixture of Austin’s stand-up scene, garnering near-universal respect from her peers in a field where that is extremely hard to come by.
“She was the queen,” said Cap City Comedy Club co-owner and general manager Margie Coyle. “I don’t mean that in a superficial way. There’s a reason Austin comedians are torn up today. She was a dominating talent on the verge of becoming a national name.”
Austin comic Matt Bearden was a friend of Lester’s.
“Lashonda was a great Austinite,” Bearden said Thursday. “She had that Wild West attitude of Texas loudmouth proud, strong women. She fit in with them, but she never let you forget she was from Detroit. If our scene was a car, she would be the hood ornament.”
He recalled seeing Lester many years ago at a Funniest Person in Austin competition.
“When you are in the business a long time and you watch comics every single night, it takes a lot for someone to stick out to you,” Bearden said. “The first time I saw Lashonda, she was very, very, very green, but I was sitting next to (FPA host) Margie Coyle and I said to her, ‘Is she going to be a star?’ You just knew. She kept developing and getting better and better.
“The thing that is killing (fellow comics) in town right now is that we work really, really hard at something that, in Austin, isn’t hailed as much as film or music,” Bearden continued. “And Lashonda was about to break out. Getting on the small late night shows is great, but getting a Comedy Central Special is a home run. (Because she didn’t get to make the special,) it feels like she got cheated.”
Fellow comic Brian Gaar noted that her life experience was a crucial part of her comedy “I think she came to stand-up later in life than many comics,” Gaar said, “and she had done all these things that were reflected in her comedy. She was also someone who didn’t come to Austin, get a little famous and leave. She became a part of the scene and gave back to it and invested in it.”
Lietza Brass is a producer of the Moontower Comedy Festival and booked Lester into Moontower’s “The Next” showcase last year, a showcase specifically for industry to view the best of the best in Austin comedy. She witnessed Lester win the Funniest Person competition.
“Her material and her energy that night stood out and apart from everyone,” Brass said. “She was just so ready at that moment to win. She didn’t have to put a character on. She could just walk out and be herself and sometimes being yourself on stage is the most dangerous and scariest thing you can do because the audience is sometimes taken aback. Not with her.”
Many people said that younger comics looked up to Lester. “If something like this had happened to someone else,” Bearden said, “other comedians would have gone to her for advice on how to deal with it.”
“She was a real person,” Gaar said, “and that is my favorite kind of comedian.”