Nice Astronaut is a Chicago-style longform improv troupe in Austin, TX that specializes in creating formats. Their monthly Improvioke show is on the second Saturdays at 11pm at ColdTowne Theater.
Nice Astronaut was the first permanent, self-formed troupe from ColdTowne Theater and was formed from several students in a level 1 class together at ColdTowne Theater. They debuted under the temporary name "H.J. Compromise" in a ColdTowne Theater Cagematch on October 11, 2008. They were originally coached by Tom Booker (2008-2009) and were later coached by Dave Buckman (2009-2011).
As H.J. Compromise, they went on to win the December 2008 ColdTowne Theater Cagematch championships after defeating "Honky Knife Fight" (Josh Krilov and Stephanie Russo) and "Four Square On The Moon" (one of the many permutations of the ColdTowne Student Troupe Northshore Local).
The original 6 members of Nice Astronaut were classmates in a level 1 ColdTowne Theater class together, but did not include all of the 9 students in the class. Because of this exclusion, the ColdTowne Faculty did not consider Nice Astronaut a ColdTowne student troupe, and did not extend them the benefits of free coaching, a free rehearsal space, and a guaranteed, heavily-promoted debut on their schedule. Instead, a ColdTowne Faculty member recommended new Austin transplant Tom Booker as their initial coach. Over the next six to nine months, the troupe played Cagematch shows at ColdTowne, but no other shows there. Then, after the ColdTowne Faculty watched a troupe rehearsal, ColdTowne invited the troupe to play in The Proctor, one of their few performance slots available to outside troupes.
After narrowing down the potential troupe name from a list of over 200, the troupe wanted to be called "Bad Astronaut" (a pun on "Bad-Ass"), but the name was already taken by a punk band. After exploring several alternatives (including "Fat Astronaut"), they settled on "Nice Astronaut"- which is a pun on "Nice-Ass" and "Nice Ass... (scoff) NOT!" (a la Wayne's World). This part of the troupe name original is now considered stupid and they don't like to talk about it.
Over the years, the following people have been or are currently still members of Nice Astronaut (in order of joining):
- Becca Peterson (2008 - 2013)
- Allison Alvarez (2008 - 2011)
- Patrick Daniel (2008 - 2009)
- Clay Crenshaw (2008 - 2010)
- Carla Goodman (2008)
- Tim Honker (2008 - present)
- Nicole McCracken (2009 - present)
- Josh Gill (2009 - 2012)
- Lisa Jackson (2010 - 2012)
- Drew Wesely (2011 - present)
- Jared Stepp (2011 - 2012)
- Milo Smith (2012)
- Nathan Sowell (2012 - present)
- Chrissy Shackelford (2012 - 2013)
- Calan Lambert (2012 - present)
- Jessica Marpe (2012 - present)
- Chaz Formichella (2012 - present)
- Joseph Dailey (2013 - present)
Nice Astronaut has specialized in creating and preforming custom formats, but has also performed montages, living rooms, Armandos, and Deconstructions for extended periods of time.
The Small Universe format is the combination of a Close Quarters and a Harold. The show begins with scene painting one or more nearby locations in which the show will take place. A set of scenes are performed in these, or closely inspired locations, and eventually they all intertwine. Nice Astronaut started performing this format in the summer of 2012.
Similar to an Armando, the Improvioke replaces the monologues and monologist with an improvised song based off an audience member to a well known song's karaoke backing track. Nice Astronaut created this form in early 2010 and often performs it on their second Saturday shows.
28 Minutes Later
28 Minutes Later (named after the approximate length of the show) is a mono-scene show that follows the third act of a zombie survival movie. Nice Astronaut takes a suggestion of a non-geographic location where "humanity may make its last stand" against the zombies, then each improviser enters a dark stage with a flashlight and delivers a character monologue until the last character locates the lights in the location and the show starts.
It's A Tolerable Existence
Performed as a run at ColdTowne Theater in December 2011, this narrative format improvises an alternate version of "It's A Wonderful Life" based off the real life and childhood dreams of an audience member. The show was presented as if it was a hosted Christmas movie from the 1940's showing similar to Masterpiece Theater. This run of shows would also end with some a Christmas themed Improvioke set.
White Elephant was a format performed as a December 2012 run at ColdTowne Theater. Audience members were instructed to write down previous good and bad gifts they had given and received in the past onto pieces of paper. Nice Astronaut, dressed in festive attire, then randomly drew these piece of paper and used them as suggestions to inspire real life monologues which inspired a run of scenes.
Save These Dates
A semi-narrative improv format that follows the potential dates and long term lives and what-if's of a game show contestant and their 3 suitors. Nice Astronaut performed this format in February and March 2012.
After Midnight was Nice Astronaut's monthly improv/sketchprov show during 2009-2010. Each show as themed and often had sketches "re-improvised" in the same style of Second City revues. The show titles included:
- You are NOT the father
- Improvised Bosom Buddies
- Air'ee body gettin' married up in hurr
- The Roast of Santa Claus
Nice Astronaut has performed at the following festivals
- Chicago Improv Festival 2013
- Del Close Marathon - 2009, 2012, 2013
- Out of Bounds - 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Nice Astronaut also hosted the short lived "Nomad Comedy Nights" on Wednesdays at Nomad Bar during the summer of 2009.