Comedy Festival

Austin's longest-running comedy festival breaks boundaries in 2017

Austin's longest-running comedy festival breaks boundaries in 2017

New York Neo-Futurists improv theater group smiley face 2015
Out of Bounds Comedy Festival runs August 29 through September 4. Courtesy of Out of Bounds Comedy Festival

Beginning in 2002, a small festival to showcase Austin’s burgeoning comedy scene has now exploded into a seven-day festival with over 500 performers from all across the globe with 130 shows and 10 venues. Out of Bounds is Austin’s longest-running comedy festival and the largest multi-disciplinary comedy festival in the South.

CultureMap chatted with executive producer Ruby Willmann and senior producer Dave Buckman for a sneak peek of this year’s festival and why Sen. Wendy Davis might be Out of Bounds' 2017 breakout star.

CultureMap: I love a good origin story, how/when did you start working for Out of Bounds?

Ruby Willmann: I started taking improv classes a few weeks before the 2010 Out of Bounds Festival. Our classes were cancelled that week and I was highly annoyed. I didn’t attend the festival, but then at my next improv class, one of my classmates announced she saw 13 shows. Everyone was talking about the fest and I had the ultimate FOMO.

Dave Buckman: I was simply a performer for Out of Bounds from 2005-2009, and I was asked to help be a producer in 2010. Since then, I've booked headliners, screened submissions, planned parties, done airport rides, hosted shows, ran staff meetings, expanded the workshops program … and eventually hired and recruited friends to take on all those facets of the festival.

CM: How has the festival changed under your stewardship?

DB: We've gone from primarily improv-focused to comedy-focused. Finding the right balance between the expectations that improvisers have about a festival and the expectation that sketch troupes have about a festival and what stand-ups expect from a festival has been the big recent growing pain. We are just now starting to learn how the city of Austin and the state of Texas and the entertainment industry and corporate sponsors expect from us as an entertainment festival. Tackling those things to maximize our footprint is our next big hurdle.

RW: We are a magnifying glass created to highlight the prospering community that exists before, during, and after us. Diversity is a core value of Out of Bounds. Creating space for different perspectives is a very important aspect to me. As a result, we go out of our way to proactively seek out diverse performers and content to make sure our festival is making space for as many different perspectives as possible. This year, we’ve pushed the envelope even further, and I’m extremely excited.

CM: Speaking as a fan, any acts you’re particularly looking forward to this year?

DB: Marcella Arguello is a stand-up that I have become a huge fan of from her work on @midnight, may it rest in peace, winning six out of seven matches. Her stand-up is tight and fierce. We also just booked Sen. Wendy Davis to be our storyteller [for the storytelling/improv show MegaPigeon]. I’ve been trying to book her for this show for the last three years and she has always politely declined. This year it’s finally happening and I can’t calm down about it. Also looking forward to seeing my dear old friends Katie Rich (Saturday Night Live) and Holly Laurent (The Reckoning). Katie got such a bullshit raw deal this past January from Twitter and NBC. Very happy she’s back at SNL for the summer, as she should be.

RW: Dave did such an amazing job curating headliners this year. I’m unbelievably excited about the Defiant Thomas Brothers, who are a sketch troupe from Chicago. They are critically acclaimed and will be bringing brand-new material to our stage. I’m also very excited for Chickspeare (Los Angeles), which is an all-female group who improvise full-length Shakespearean plays. It’s a ton of fun and super hilarious.

CM: What does success look like for Out of Bounds in 2017?

RW: Amazing shows. I’m really excited to see the powerhouse lineup flaunt its muscles — it will be a truly amazing seven days of talent.

DB: Fuller houses, buzzier shows, bigger footprint. Can’t lose.


The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival runs August 29 September 4. For schedules and badge info, head here.