saxophonist

Radio-television-film sophomores, from left to right, Andrew Clarkston and Andrew Dismukes host a weekly comedy event at Taos Co-op. The event features a variety of comedians from around Austin.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Five local comics gather in the weight room of the Taos Co-op basement. On the other side of the door, a saxophonist in a black turtleneck croons atop a rickety stage.

The lights are dim, and the crowd is eager as radio-television-film sophomores Andrew Clarkston and Andrew Dismukes and a group of Austin comedians walk onto the stage, kicking off their weekly comedy show, Chortle Portal.

“The vibe has sort of a house-party feel,” Dismukes said. “It’s like going to hang out with your friends, but one of them has a microphone.”

Founders Clarkston and Dismukes host Chortle Portal every Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Taos Co-op basement. Each show features five eight-minute performances from local stand-up comedians. 

The show’s lineup changes week to week and features a range of amateur comedians whom Clarkston and Dismukes have met through their time in the Austin stand-
up scene. 

“It’s a pretty curated show,” Clarkston said. “We bring in people that we think are funny. We’re not just bringing in people willy-nilly.”

After each show, Clarkston and Dismukes record, edit and upload each performer’s set to the Chortle Portal YouTube account. Dismukes said comics are attracted to Chortle Portal because they can submit these recordings to festivals.

“There’s a lot of great comics in Austin and not a lot of recognition, so we thought if we record it and put it up on YouTube, maybe we can get some recognition for these people who are really good,” Dismukes said.

The duo has been a part of Austin’s stand-up scene for more than a year, performing at open mics several times a week. Clarkston and Dismukes met while writing for Texas Student Television, chasing their dreams of becoming staff writers on a TV show.

“We were both named Andrew, so that was an immediate connection,” Dismukes said. “We have sort of complementary looks. He is short and blonde; I’m tall and dark. I’m a Cancer; he’s a Scorpio.”

After TSTV and a year of open mics, Dismukes said they began to think of ways they could contribute to the Austin stand-up scene by creating a show of their own. They gathered a crew of several other radio-television-film students to help make it happen.

Clarkston and Dismukes said they are only five shows in and already have to ask audience members to stand in the back because all the seats are full.

“When you pack [an event] full of raw talent and sexual charisma, it’s pretty easy to get it off the ground,” Dismukes said.

Clarkston said Chortle Portal will continue into May. Starting in late summer and going through the fall, Clarkston and Dismukes will launch TOURtle Portal — a series of comedy shows across Texas cities that will feature Austin comics and comics from the given towns. They said they plan to make a documentary of the
entire process.

Kent Juliff, local comic and radio-television-film junior, said he met Clarkston and Dismukes on the night of his first open mic show about a year ago. He performed at Chortle Portal’s first show on March 28.

“It feels like everybody is friends; everybody likes each other and is happy to be there,” Juliff said. “The vibe [of the show] really just comes out of the fact that these dudes are so passionate about getting this done.”

Saxophonist Ornette Coleman made his name in the late 1950s by defying traditional jazz forms and embracing collective improvisation as part of the “free jazz” movement. He didn’t fail to surprise audience members at the Bass Concert Hall last night during the only Texas stop of his current tour. Coleman plays with a quartet, and in the first song — a nearly 10-minute surge of sound — he alternately took up a saxophone, a trumpet and finally, a violin, the last of which he played with quick, frenzied strokes. The quartet — Coleman’s son Denardo on drums, Tony Falanga on acoustic bass and Al McDowell on electric bass — then played a rendition of a musical standard, Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Other band members pushed the limit themselves with McDowell playing the bass at times like a classical guitar. The set challenged the audience much like Coleman has done throughout a career that’s spanned five decades. “The Shape of Jazz to Come,” released in 1959, received criticism even from fellow jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Max Roach. But many of his innovations are considered tame today, said Austin-based saxophonist Elias Haslanger. “The concept that Ornette brought to the floor was that there’s no need for a formal structure as far as a song form,” Haslanger said. Bebop pioneers like Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk pushed jazz further, but the genre still mostly stuck to a form based on the blues and the standard meter. “What Ornette did was say we don’t need that,” Haslanger said. “We’re just going to use melody. It’s kind of a basic concept now, but it basically defined a monumental change in direction at the time.” Haslanger said Coleman has influenced him not just as a fellow saxophone player but as an innovator. “Ornette kind of became one of the signature guys that did it his way and had a vision and a sound, so of course that’s going to influence me,” he said. “That’s what we all strive to be.”