For the past decade, UT alumnus Brian Gaar has been a news reporter by day and a “Twitter-famous” stand-up comedian by night.
Gaar now hosts “ATX Uncensored(ish),” a new, late night satire talk show that includes green screen monologues, skits and animations. The show was televised for the first time in September and airs Monday–Friday on the CW and on KXAN during the weekends. UT alumna and executive producer Larissa Cartwright said the show focuses on local Austin news.
“We’re reaching out to a younger demographic that is maybe not normally watching the news,” Cartwright said. “That’s the boring part. The fun answer is that we wanted to put on a really awesome show that was something we would watch.”
“ATX Uncensored(ish)” has new material every day, ranging from “Guess Your Major” — a segment in which correspondents try to guess the majors of UT students on campus — to a musical reenactment of Shia LaBeouf’s recent arrest in Austin. Correspondent Kath Barbadoro joked that the stressful schedule and the breakneck speed they work are just a couple of their favorite parts of the job. Barbadoro said she thinks the show is rapidly progressing because they continually produce fresh content.
“As a group, we’re carving out what the show is and what it’s gong to be, and that’s been really rewarding,” Barbadoro said. “We have a much smaller staff and a much smaller budget than any other late night show, but we get to cover things they’re not covering because we do it on a local level.”
Cartwright, who hired Gaar, said Gaar’s vision and voice have been essential in shaping the show. Gaar previously worked at the Austin American-Statesman in Waco, but, after seven years of reporting, decided to try his hand at stand-up comedy in Austin. Since then, he has gained more than 89,000 followers on Twitter and produced a comedy special, “Jokes I Wrote at Work,” which can be viewed on Hulu.
“I had this wonderful, stable job in print journalism that I didn’t want,” Gaar said. “I don’t think I was ever completely content doing [journalism]. Comedy was the only thing I’ve ever felt I was good at, and [I thought] I might as well try and do something I really want to do — which is weird at 39.”
Cartwright said she hopes Gaar can institutionalize the show and begin a legacy of quality late night TV in Austin. She said her overarching goal for the show is for it to become a staple, much like “ACL Live.”
“I want to make sure this is a reflection of Austin as much as it is a reflection of our comedy,” Cartwright said. “We would like to be more integrated into the community [and ask] more local comics to come on our set.”
Cartwright said the show scouts open-mic nights around Austin at venues such as Spider House or The Velveeta Room. So far, each show has showcased a local comedian’s stand-up. “ATX Uncensored(ish)” has also hosted special guests such as comedian David Koechner, director Robert Rodriguez and Tim League, founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
For one episode, Koechner did a taco taste test, while on another League and Gaar faced each other in a “slap shot,” each taking a slap to the face after a shot of liquor.
“We want to do something entertaining,” Gaar said. “I don’t want to just do an interview because I think those are boring. It’s relaxed and fun because it wouldn’t be good comedy if it weren’t.”
Economics sophomore Charlie Baker said he usually watches “ATX Uncensored(ish)” after SNL on Saturday nights. Baker said the show does well as a late night program because it combines the format of a show such as TMZ with correspondents similar to those of “The Daily Show.”
“It has a really good ‘public access’ vibe,” Baker said. “Not in a low-budget, bad way, but in a fun way. [Gaar] is definitely one of the best personalities Austin has.”