Live Animated Stand Up Show Draws Comedy’s Finest

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It’s been four years since Sam Varela and Brandie Posey launched Picture This! and now the show runs regularly in four cities, tours some of the best festivals in the country, with unbelievable lineups.

The concept of the show is to bring up some of the best stand up performers in each city to deliver their sets, while a cartoonist, animator or other artist draws along with the comic’s material live on a big screen in front of a studio audience. It’s a great concept in theory, and the live experience is even better. The comedy sets are fun, the drawings are fun, but it’s really the interactions between the talkers and the drawers that make the show special. There’s a playful vibe with the artists trying to make the comics laugh as much as they’re trying to entertain the audience, and sometimes they just draw what they hear, sometimes they get a little snarky or flirty and the comedians’ reactions to what shows up on the screen behind them are often priceless. The audiences get really into the show, howling with laughter whether the drawings get nutty, and the comics get a chance to laugh as much as the audience.

The show has really grown in the last four years, running regularly in LA, New York, Portland and San Francisco, and on tour they’ve visited Melbourne, Denver, New Orleans, Indiana, Iowa, Toronto, and more. This week Picture This! is making its High Plains Comedy Festival debut in Denver, Colorado. High Plains has a reputation for having their finger on the pulse of what’s the next big thing in comedy, and Picture This! is an excellent addition to their lineup. Varela and Posey have outdone themselves with the line up for this edition of the show. Including series regulars Kate Willett and Nick Vatterott, Denver legend Sam Tallent, and making his Picture This! debut, the great Bobcat Goldthwait.

Picture This! is undoubtably a “had to be there” kind of experience, but we wanted to show them off a little bit, so here are 9 great moments in the Picture This! history along with commentary from creator Sam Varela about each image.

Thomas Middleditch

Thomas Middleditch was a great performer because he brought a good mix of improv and stand up experience. He came with jokes he’s been running around town, but was fully invested in what the animator was creating and adding to it. In the image above, are drawings from two different jokes– one about a rap lyric sucking the sheets up through somebody dick, and another about the general insurance commercials. Because there are two types of people in the world- the ones who’d have general and those who don’t.

Nicole Byer

Nicole Byer is a personal favorite.  She had this joke about this really humiliating moment of eating a burger and crying and pooping and singing in a public bathroom, and realizing there were people were outside who could hear it.  Every time she would turn around, she was amazed at what she would see on the screen, and the animator was one upping someone who was already over the top. This picture really speaks for itself.  

Ilana Glazer

Ilana Glazer is a true Picture This! angel. She’s super nice, we met in New York City.  She headlined when we did the New York City Comedy Festival and help us get a sold out show. She was really nice and had a lot of fun with our head animator Mike Hollinsgworth who flew in for the show. Mike took the reigns and she followed him, riffing and it was so great to see her and Mike interact.  

Chris Gethard

Chris is great. He’s obviously got the improv/stand up mix that fits the show. I like Chris because Chris is that uncomfortable kind of guy and with our show …one theme is to make comics slightly uncomfortable. That’s when they’re funniest when they don’t know what’s going on.  It was so funny to see him bring his nervous energy that worked perfectly.  The animator kept drawing the most embarrassing parts of the story that night.

Maria Bamford

Maria Bamford

This was from our first few months of doing the show. Maria was one of the first headliners we had.  She was animated by Pendalton Ward who created  the show Adventure Time, and is our head animator. It was so cute because they were both learning this show in a small theater. The thing that took them through the experience  was their friendship, and how they understood each other.  The drawing in the photo is a compilation of a few different jokes and inspired a new tag. She was talking about her family aunt, and also about the Pope.

Paul F. Tompkins

Paul F Tompkins

This photo was from when we did the Bojack Horseman themed show for season two of Bojack Horseman. Paul doesn’t really do these kinds of shows-  he does so much on his own all the time.  But  he really loves animator Mike Hollingsworth and he’s a documented Jaws fan. I wasn’t at this show, and will  forever be sad that I missed it.

Rory Scovel

This picture was from the first year of us doing the show.  I remember he was talking about how the daytime is much better than the nighttime and somehow it evolved.  I can’t remember why the moon is a cowboy but it is… and the sun is pushing it out of the way.  Rory was trying to almost…challenge the animator. He was trying to find a new way to take the story.  That moon changed expression, and became a cowboy.  He was really into seeing out he could grow the story, and would wait for the animator. He was as interested in watching the art happen as he was performing.

Todd Glass

When we first started the show, after the Little Modern closed and we started getting more serious, we did it at Nerdmelt five or six times.  This is Todd’s infamous infomercial joke.  It wasn’t necessarily one of our best animations, but to see his legendary closing joke animated… to have it described at a heightened state and see it in reality…it just brings it all together.  Todd is ADD and it was super cool to watch this.  I think this photo was taken after he directed it the animation, saying things like. I want that baby to be happier. It was cool to see a comic say this is what is important about this joke.

Magaret Cho

Margaret cho is the best.  This was during our first show in San Francisco before we started the monthly show there. I think we did this as part of a festival.  Margaret was still in San Francisco- right before she was doing the shows for the homeless.  She was like, I’d love to do the show just don’t promote my name. So her appearance was a total surprise at an already completely sold out show.  She eventually took off most of her clothing because she wanted the animator to draw her tattoos. But in this image she had talked about having babies and this was how she wants to have a baby but maybe not her own.  Soon after she said,  I really want you to draw my body.  She’s very heart on her sleeve and vulnerable so was cool to see her honesty in a show like this.


You can get tickets to see Picture This! at the High Plains Comedy Festival in Denver this Friday, August 26th!  Here’s a link!  And get more info on the shows at picturethisshow.com.

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