SXSW Interactive Day 2: Swag for the Homeless, and the best and worst of SXSW all at once

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Shawn Spaulding, Andrew Tan

Andrew: Despite drinking what probably amounts to a gallon of alcohol at this point, we continue on our SXSW travels. Yesterday we focused mainly on the SXSW Comedy where we saw the first recording of Comedy Bang! Bang! with Scott Aukerman, Upright Citizen’s Brigade Presents ASSSSCAT and Comedy Gives Back.
My lowlight of the day was Yahoo’s Brazos Hall. I enjoyed the performances of ASSSSCAT and Comedy Gives Back but the venue was littered with all the problems you hear about SXSW. The people who went cared little about what they were actually seeing (it’s more about bragging about getting into an event with a long line) and the result was an audience that didn’t seem to even notice what they were waiting for.
When we lined up, we were lucky enough to be in the VIP line since we were press, but many badgeholders and I would assume everyone in standby were left out in the cold. As people waited in an ever growing line of badge holders, many people who didn’t even seem to have an idea of who the UCB is got to get in and spend the entire time staring at screens as Matt Besser, Adam Pally, Chris Gethard, Tim Meadows, Shannon O’Neill, Nicole Byer, Joe Wengert, and Jon Gabrus performed long form improv with Jeffrey Tambor performing the monologue.
The performers were surrounded in a fairly terrible venue that couldn’t be bothered to turn off the 8 screens in the room, four of which were placed adjacent to the stage and were playing standup on mute. In addition some Yahoo staff were sitting near the front of the stage with laptops open and switching between staring at their lap top and phone.
This came to a head at the Comedy Gives Back event where large portions crowd had completely ignored the wonderful performance they were in the room for. Adam Pally, who hosted did a great job of addressing the issue, but sadly the Yahoo! spent no time in making sure the venue respected the performers so there was little reason for the crowd to think what they were worth seeing was even worth turning off the TVs, much less bragging about the events they saw of the day.
Shaun:  I agree that it wasn’t really a great venue to do a comedy show, and the audience of Comedy Gives Back was way more excited about the open bar than the comics.
My highlight was meeting people who actually seem like they’re concerned about the world at SXSW. It’s easy to pigeonhole the startup community as being money-focused and narcissistic, but then one of the nicest dudes that I met all week was at the Yahoo event who was a frat guy who changed his life and now is creating a platform for people to make actionable changes in their communities.
I think that the Yahoo Brazos experience highlighted the best and worst parts of SXSW. SXSW bring great people: the comedians and entreprenuers like that who want to dedicate their lives to good work. But it also brings everybody else: people who are disrespectful at comedy shows and egotistical people dedicated to the pursuit of money. I don’t think you can really have one without the other.
Andrew: My highlight was Comedy Bang! Bang! over at Esther’s Follies. Scott Aukerman hosted another great episode of the podcast with James Adomian appearing as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Amazingly, the episode is already up on Earwolf so go check it out.
Shaun: It seems like I’m being a bit of a bleeding heart right now, but another highlight that I’d recommend people get involved with are the “Donate Your Swag to the Homeless” people who are outside of the convention center. It seems like a shame for all these companies to give away great stuff that people will only end up throwing away 5 minutes later. Well, now these people are collecting it and giving it away to people who actually need it. 

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