In previous years, the SXSW Film and Comedy festivals operated fairly independent of one another, save the natural overlap of Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies podcast recordings. But this year, several events and offerings have more intentionally blended the assets of each area. Such was the case yesterday as film critic Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie took the stage at Esther’s Follies alongside Jim Gaffigan; later, the two worlds collided again as the cast of the forthcoming film Most Likely to Murder took the stage for songs and storytelling.
Gaffigan and the Maltins teamed up for a recording of the latter’s weekly podcast Maltin on Movies, the festival’s second edition after a recording with Bill Hader earlier in the week. Gaffigan is in Austin to promote the Miranda Bailey-helmed You Can Choose Your Family, which premiered at SXSW earlier in the day. In the recording, the Maltins encouraged Gaffigan to go into depth about his early inspirations, his philosophies on acting and standup comedy and how each informs the other, and the types of movie projects that appeal to him. Time was also spent discussing the development, experience, and legacy of Gaffigan’s semi-autobiographical TVLand show. The actor was equal parts forthcoming and self-effacing as he shared how he developed his stage persona – “I used to smoke on stage?!” – and likening that process to how he chooses onscreen roles. He shared genuine pride in his work on You Can Choose Your Family, one of his first outings as a film’s lead, and hopes it’ll prevent further CNN chyrons like “Jim ‘Hot Pockets’ Gaffigan,” a real chyron that once appeared on the network.
Later that night, film and comedy collided again on Most Likely to Murder Live! Hosted by actor and improviser Adam Pally and featuring actors and writers from the festival film of the same name, the show offered a comedic preview at the film’s premise. Most Likely to Murder stars Pally and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom, telling the story of a former high school hotshot who returns to his hometown and ends up framing his romantic rival as a murderer. Because bullying plays a central role in the film’s premise, participant stories centered around bullying they’d undergone in their youth. Bloom and film co-writer (and Bloom’s husband) Dan Gregor shared stories of being picked on by more aggressive kids in their younger years, while other co-writer Doug Mand and film co-star John Reynolds opted to instead share stories of adults who had bullied them. Mand’s story in particular, of ruining a private flight he shared with former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig by pooping in the jump seat, got the biggest reaction of the night. And because any show featuring Bloom would feel incomplete without songs, the show featured three musical numbers- including the film’s 80’s synth-tinged end theme. It built a good foundation of anticipation for the film, which will be released on digital this May.
SXSW Comedy continues through March 16th.