After Hours with George Quartz, Live!
July 39, 2011
Better than: watching that Kings of Leon guy throw the world's least exciting hissy fit and quit the band onstage. If KoL had beat the crap out of each other Brian Jonestown style, it might have been worth it. We think George Quartz was far more exciting and fun than watching some overpaid asshat walk offstage to pout.
Disclaimer: This is going to be an unusual review, because, for the first time in my budding journalism career, I was invited to participate in a show that I was sent to review. The show in question was a live taping of After Hours with George Quartz, a fake cable-access interview program hosted by former Faux Fox frontman George Quartz, in which Quartz conducts interviews with mock "celebrities." I had a feeling that the interview subjects were picked at random from his audience, and my suspicions were confirmed when I was approached by one of Quartz's associates while hanging out in the Texas Theatre bar prior to the show, and asked if I wanted to be in the show.
Although I wasn't sure if it would compromise my journalistic impartiality, I agreed. It sounded like fun.
The show's producers selected me and another guy -- by chance, a friend of mine -- to be on the show. They didn't let us know what we would be doing.
I had a feeling that part of what made Quartz's show so funny was the unsuspecting reactions from strangers thrown into the interview without any prep, so I didn't let on that I knew what was going on, and was familiar with Quartz's format. Was this cheating? Perhaps.
I did let them know that I was an Observer reviewer. They were fine with that, so I got sent to get my makeup done while the friends I brought with me were seated in the auditorium. Ryan, the other celebrity interview, was not familiar with Quartz's show. I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling him what he would be doing.
As I was kept backstage for much of the show, I instructed my friends in the auditorium to tell me their opinions from an audience member's perspective. The show is taped in a studio upstairs, and broadcast live onto a big screen in the theater. My friends seemed a bit puzzled by this; from their reactions -- and the impression I got from the five minutes I spent in the theater after my interview -- After Hours might have worked better had Quartz conducted his interviews onstage. The magic of a live show taping was kind of lost with the big screen format.
Being a part of the show, however, was an absolute blast. My unsuspecting friend Ryan went on first. He was introduced as Clint Eastwood. He looked a bit puzzled at first, which added to the intentional awkwardness of Quartz's interview. A few minutes in, though, he perked up and started having fun. My character was Yoko Ono. Because I knew what I was in for, I figured that I'd do pretty well. I was stunned, though, at how difficult improv comedy really is.
Quartz had a few prepared questions written down, but other than that, he does all this on the fly, feeding off the awkward reactions from his subjects. He doesn't break character at all, and his unwavering gaze can be a bit unnerving for the unsuspecting interviewee.
Which is, of course, Quartz's intent.
Quartz has an impressive team working backstage to make the magic happen. A film crew, a full band, some live video and film editors, and several production assistants were all running around making sure everything was in place.
Faux Fox bassist Ted Setina, working as a production assistant, graciously showed me around and allowed me to take some pictures backstage. It's highly doubtful that anyone was getting paid to do this, and, as such, the laid-back yet professional backstage atmosphere was impressive. It didn't seem like the amateur production that it is.
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After the taping, local indie punks Sir Name and the Janes played a well-received set in the lobby. Although the band isn't breaking any new ground with their exuberant four-chord punk rock, they looked like they were having fun. And they look good doing it: All three members were cute as a button. The post-taping audience ate it up, too, dancing happily til' the theater closed down at around midnight.
I'm not sure when my episode will air on Quartz's Vimeo channel, but we'll keep you updated if you're curious to see my improv comedy fail. I get the feeling that I'll have to keep my day
Personal Bias: I'm a huge fan of cheesy cable access shows, so I was super excited to see this taping. All other personal biases are detailed above. There are many, as my experience was pretty unique.
Random Note: People-watching in the lobby was like a hipster primer. Girls with bangs, guys with unusual facial hair, lots of skinny jeans. It looked like a Nylon photo shoot. Good people-watching definitely makes a show that much more fun.