ASF Hot Seat: Wink Planet

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The return of the Austin Sketch Fest means the return of the ASF Hot Seat, where we launch the softest softball questions every softed at ASF performers. First up is Wink Planet (get tickets to their show here), the newest and cutest sketch group from ColdTowne Theater. Seriously, even with cake on their faces, I still want to buy them more cake. We asked them Winks some questions.

How did your group come together?

Jared Robertson: All of us but Ashley took Sketch Level 1 & 2 at ColdTowne together in early 2013. We’ve gone through a few lineup changes since then.

Ashley Siebels: Yeah, I begged Daniel Erving to let me join the group. He relented after I made a video sketch about walking around under overpasses.

Taylor Stewart: I was excited when Ashley joined because I didn’t want to get stuck with all the girl parts, but as it turns out, Ashley is at her best when she’s playing young boys and old men.

Sanjay Rao: Yeah, Ashley’s been a fantastic addition to the Wink Planet family. We also get a lot of help from Eric Rutherford who taught our original sketch classes and still directs our shows.

Are there any themes that you find yourselves coming back to?

Jared: I always end up writing sketches about made-up professions. There was the Mom and Pop homemade battery store. There was the professional backscratcher. There was the former exterminator that will dress up all of the mice in your house in costumes so that they’re cute instead of scary. For some reason, fake jobs + bad fake accents = comedy.

Matt Vaught: I usually write scenes about overweight southern redneck guys who drink a lot and play with rodents. Either that, or I’m the president.

Ashley: I’m always interested in putting vulnerability up against superficiality. Sometimes this happens between multiple characters, but often it’s a rift in just one complicated loud character.

Sanjay: My scenes tend to be pretty basic in structure. I establish a game early on and heighten from there usually centering around a big character with a wacky voice.

Taylor: My sketches usually live in super-absurd-bizarro land. When I was seven years old I wrote a short story about a bunch of anthropomorphic pasta that lived under a couch. Not much has changed in my artistic point of view since then.

What is your writing process?

Jared: I have a huge list of nonsense scene ideas that I keep in my phone. Most of them are really awful. One of them just says “smork.” I don’t even remember what it was supposed to be. I don’t delete anything though. One day smork might just save my life. Occasionally we’ll have a meeting just to brainstorm scene ideas. We write most of our first drafts individually, though. The majority of our progress is made through group discussion and rewrites.

Matt: We meet up a lot, hang out, eat cheese cubes, laugh at each other, write solo, collaborate, prepare ahead of time or cram last second. So far it’s all worked pretty well for us.

Taylor: I keep a few ideas in my phone, but I never really know where I’m going to take them until I sit down to write in the throes of a low-grade panic attack. Then I word vomit onto the page and 80% of the time something decent comes out.

Ashley: I think I’m definitely the slowest writer in the group. I’ll brainstorm on a concept for a few days before I write a draft. Then I keep coming back to it adding a joke or two each time. It’s always a tremendous help when the group takes interest and offers feedback. I definitely believe everything I write is better once it’s been filtered through the group. Especially, Eric Rutherford! Eric is a brilliant coach and director. He polishes every piece of garbage we throw out until it’s shiny, shiny garbage.

Sanjay: I also keep a list of weird, quirky things that I think could be a good premise for a sketch. Also, I get inspiration from improv scenes where a detail or a character gives me a starting point to expand on.

What can we expect from your ASF show?

Jared: We’ve been big into comedy hats recently. So comedy hats.

Matt: We don’t even know which scenes we’re doing yet but we know a show will definitely happen!

Ashley: You guys, that makes us sound like a bunch of unemployed steel workers. We really have too many ideas, we have to put them through some sort of Wink Planet gauntlet to see what will make it to the glitz and glamour of the ASF stage.

Taylor: Delight.

Sanjay: When is this show again?

What are you looking forward to about Austin Sketch Fest?

Jared: Other than performing, I’m really looking forward to seeing My Mans. Tim Robinson is the best. I watched the two pilots they’ve made online and they were so original. I’m a huge fan of their confident nonsense.

Taylor: Definitely My Mans! I’m excited to see anything new and interesting. Sketch in Austin can feel a little isolated sometimes and it’s going to be great to get a breath of fresh comedy air.

Matt: That we’re in it! Plus watching all the other shows and meeting other cool like-minded folks who love comedy. It’s a win-win!

Sanjay: I’m really excited because this will be the first comedy festival that I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve seen most of the sketch groups in Austin and am looking forward to seeing groups from other cities.

Ashley: I want to see Girls with Brown Hair…because I HAVE BROWN HAIR! Also meeting people from San Francisco because I’m moving there and I need new friends. FAST.

Jared: Wait…you’re moving? Fuck.

Anything you think you’ll miss about Austin?

Ashley: Of course, I’ll miss everyone at ColdTowne and all the people I met playing in troupes there. There will always be a special place in my heart for Wink Planet. In particular, I’ll miss Taylor’s impression of a British orphan boy, Jared’s nasally northern Pennsylvanian accent, the way Matt can pull off wearing a silk robe in every sketch, and Sanjay’s impersonation of an elderly Chinese man in a wheel chair.

Wink Planet will kick off the 2014 ASF, Tuesday May 20th, 8:30pm at ColdTowne Theater along with Bad Example and Magician vs. Clown. Get advance tickets here.