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Sometimes I forget to realize that not everyone knows about SXSW. Maybe some people think it’s a vacation resort that hands out oval decals? Maybe they think it’s a sport? Possibly an airport? Before you get SXSW confused with OBX or LAX, let me be kind enough to explain (and fear not my friends, no question is a stupid question. I promise not to roll my eyes at you like the kid in tight jeans working the CD section at Best Buy):

SXSW, stands for South by Southwest, and believe me, the abbreviation is a lifesaver. Could you imagine having to type out South By Southwest a couple thousand times (talk about carpal tunnel)? SXSW (see how easy that is) is a music and media conference held yearly in Austin, TX. It begins with a film festival, followed by four intense days of music (Wednesday-Saturday). Originally, afternoons were used for attending music conferences and panel discussions, while the evening hours were reserved for taking in live performances from various up-and-coming bands. In the last few years though, it seems like acts –of all different stature and genres–are playing morning, noon, and night.

SXSW doesn’t have one main stage, instead, there are various venues in which artists perform. Upon your first visit to the festival, you’ll be asking yourself, “How does Austin squeeze so many live music venues into such little space?” It’s probably the only time in your life you can walk a total of five blocks and see three of your favorite bands in one night.

If you are attending your first SXSW this year, or planning a trip to the festival sometime in the future, here are some helpful tips:


Gotta start your day off right. A lot of the hotels in town have a good breakfast, but my favorite is still Las Manitas–an authentic Mexican diner that serves up huevos rancheros and freshly squeezed orange juice. It’s a bit pricey (for well-made cheap Mexican food), but every morning you’re guaranteed a tasty meal and the chance of seeing a handful of bands. It closes in the afternoon, so get there early.


The Pocket Guide
After checking into SXSW, you’ll be given a large canvass bag packed to the brim with sampler CD’s, magazines, flyers, and odd trinkets. Make sure there’s a “pocket guide” in there. This handy publication fits nicely into your back pocket, and includes a layout map of downtown and a complete music schedule. If you lose your pocket guide, you’ll be forced to refer to the official guide–which will not fit nicely into your back pocket.

Lots of good BBQ in Austin–take your pick. I’m a fan of Iron Works, not only because you get served cafeteria style (plastic tray and all), but they also serve the biggest ribs I’ve ever seen.

Surprise Show
During the past few years, the “surprise show” has become all the rage at SXSW. This poses one big problem for the concertgoer–it’s a surprise–so you don’t know when or where the surprise band is playing. A couple years ago the Beastie Boys were rumored to be playing a surprise gig at SXSW. I talked to all my contacts, kept my ear to the street, and was still misinformed. Early in the evening I got a frantic call from one of my friends, “Beasties are playing at Stubb’s in fifteen minutes.” I managed to catch the show, but the fifteen-minute sprint across town was a tad stressful. Unfortunately (for the uninformed), the surprise matinee show is starting to become more popular at SXSW. Nothing I can tell you here–you just gotta get the right information from the right people.

The La Zona Rosa Dilema
Most of the venues in Austin are very close to each other, but La Zona Rosa is one of the few that’s a bit isolated. If you want to catch a 9PM set at La Zona Rosa, just know that you’ll probably miss a good portion of the 10PM show at any other SXSW venue. Is it worth it? That’s the La Zona Rosa Dilema.


Not Too Loud With The Name Drops
Last year I made the mistake of seeing former-120 Minutes pal Matt Pinfield at a restaurant and excitedly yelled across the dining room, “Hey Matt! What’s going on?” I didn’t realize that 30 people would turn in unison and proceed to grill the music master (shouting out Pinfield’s name at SXSW is like dropping “Chris Berman” at a sports broadcaster’s convention). If I see Matt this year, I’ll be more covert when saying hello. Otherwise he may not get to eat.

The Line at Stubb’s
Stubb’s hosts more of the bigger-profile shows at SXSW. In order to beat the long lines, you usually have to get there an hour early. This Wednesday, if you really want to see R.E.M. at midnight, you’ll have to miss all of the 11PM performances (the La Zona Rosa Dilema in reverse). Are you willing to make that sacrifice?

Have Fun!
Hopefully this is implied.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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