Catering to Comedy Fans
The Ultimate Party Down Marathon takes over the Alamo
After ten hours and twenty episodes, the Ultimate Party Down Marathon at the Alamo Drafthouse wrapped up with Q&A, a birthday song and some kind words from series co-creator—and Austinite—Rob Thomas.
“It was so great for me to host my friends from the show; [they’re] crowds I want to meet, my LA people and my Austin film town,” Thomas says.
The Marathon, which screened both seasons of the Starz original series, doubled as a benefit for the HAAM and the Austin School of Film, was also like a short trip to summer camp for the close-knit cast who, as Thomas explains, “all actually like each other.”
The two-day event featured actors and producers from the cancelled workplace comedy (Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally, Martin Starr, Ryan Hansen, Dan Etheridge, John Enbom and Thomas). It was one of many interactive, immersive Alamo events: Guests were treated to a kickoff party at The Highball, a marathon screening of the complete series and an after-party at the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel—a whirlwind, uniquely Austin event that leveraged local flavor to attract out-of-town talent.
It’s not like it takes much convincing. The Alamo, one of Austin’s most recognizable attractions, has always gotten attention from national media, but this summer’s “Angry Voicemail” meme came full circle when Party Down alumni Ryan Hansen (better known as flaxen-haired actor-slash-caterer Kyle Bradway) excitedly quoted the now infamous cry of “USA, Magnited States of America!” on the way to shoot a new “Don’t Talk” video.
“Truthfully, one of the great things about living in Austin is, people want to come here,” says Thomas. “In this particular case we’ve got a cast and producers who all actually like each other, so no one had to twist anyone’s arm really hard.”
Henri Mazza, Alamo Drafthouse Creative Director, doesn’t just pitch show ideas. “We use Austin as part of our sales tool for making an event happen,” he explains. “And then people like that have a great time, go back to LA and talk about the theater and the city as a whole and the entire weekend.”
The Party Down crew is historically close to The Alamo. In addition to the Freaks and Geeks reunion, the Drafthouse also hosted a Veronica Mars blowout during the show’s second season. Co-creator Thomas, who was living in Austin back then, too, was excited to give a sneak preview of an upcoming episode for a theater full of devoted fans.
“Even though those people were still hanging out and making the show, you could see that Kristin [Bell] and everybody was having fun being here, interacting with fans in a different way. “ Mazza notes. “A more chill way, because we’re not like a convention that people are coming to, spending $30 to get an autograph and showing up just to get it. Kind of like sneaking into a rock show.”
So: Cool city, cool theater, cool audiences? All weekend, cast members like Adam Scott (who’s skyrocketed to comedy nerd fame thanks to his role on NBC’s Parks and Recreation) were incredibly accessible.
On Saturday night, before the marathon, the group was joined by Mullally’s husband (and Parks and Rec regular) Nick Offerman for a Diamond Smugglers show at The Highball; you’d think that a group of Hollywood actors crammed into a vinyl booth, singing along to “Sweet Caroline”, might attract a swell of screaming, rioting fans.
Not the case.
As Mazza explains, it all comes down to: “There’s not a lot of seats. What’s cool about that is it helps us create that summer camp atmosphere. Then, because of that, we’re able to go after stuff that has more of a niche audience. That, to me, makes it feel like you’re hanging with your friends, because then everyone there is into that thing. We become…a community around that show.”
The Alamo’s made a name for themselves identifying and catering to highly specific niche groups who tend to obsess over film and TV, from docu-dramedies to supernatural soap operas. The result is that a show like Party Down—generally believed to be cancelled before its time and quick to amass a cult following on Netflix—can live on at events like this.
And there’s no better crowd to share stories, secrets and movie adaptation rumors with.