Stand Up, Austin! A Civic Comedy Show

Laughing Our Way to a Better Community: The Potential of Comedy to Change the Culture of Civic Engagement in Austin

We launched Stand Up, Austin! with a live event, A Civic Comedy Show, on Wednesday, April 11. The event was a minimum viable product (MVP), meaning that it contained just enough features to satisfy paying customers and for us to obtain feedback for future iterations and development.

Key considerations to test included market interest, ability to make a civic event fun and enjoyable, the viability of a live comedy format, and the effect of adding civic-minded organizations to the event.

Features

The MVP included the following features: live event held at an adult-entertainment venue with a bar, a stand-up comedy showcase format featuring five diverse comics and a civic engagement expert, and four civic-minded organizations offering various opportunities to get involved with the community. We designed thoughtful touch points and interactions to enhance the civic-nature of the event, such as Conversation Cards and Community Jenga.

The MVP was held at Spider House Ballroom, a well-known Austin institution for live events.
The MVP was held at Spider House Ballroom, a well-known Austin institution for live events.
Attendees registered to vote and learned about upcoming elections from League of Women Voters.
Attendees registered to vote and learned about upcoming elections from League of Women Voters.
Before and after the comedic showcase attendees had an opportunity to enjoy community (and a cocktail or beer).
Before and after the comedic showcase attendees had an opportunity to enjoy community (and a cocktail or beer).
The showcase featured five comics, including Ky Krebs. “If Austin is so bike friendly then why am I always mad when they're in front of me?”
The showcase featured five comics, including Ky Krebs. “If Austin is so bike friendly then why am I always mad when they’re in front of me?”
An unexpected addition to a comedic showcase included Jay Jennings, postdoctoral research fellow for the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas Austin. "It’s not great that Texas ranks 50th in talking about politics, but it is solvable.”
An unexpected addition to a comedic showcase included Jay Jennings, postdoctoral research fellow for the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas Austin. “It’s not great that Texas ranks 50th in talking about politics, but it is solvable.”
The laughs came easily and quickly for the audience.
The laughs came easily and quickly for the audience thanks to our gifted comic partners.
Vickie O'Dell with Open Austin talked with attendees about volunteer opportunities related to open data, open government, and civic apps in Austin.
Vickie O’Dell with Open Austin talked with attendees about volunteer opportunities related to open data, open government, and civic apps in Austin.
AC4D student Adam Chasen performed qualitative research throughout the shadowing a couple and then interviewing them about their experience.
AC4D student Adam Chasen performed qualitative research throughout the MVP shadowing a couple and then interviewing them about their experience.

Results

MVP key learnings:

  • People will take decisive civic action when given the opportunity (for example, nine people registered to vote);
  • there is a market for local civic comedy (over 100 people bought tickets for $5-7 after 10-days of promotion which consisted primarily of social media and free event calendars);
  • a civic comedy show can be funny and informative (more than 90% of surveyed attendees rated the show as such);
  • and comics want to be part of a show that intersects with civic engagement (almost half of the comedic portion of the show was on topic with civic engagement even though we did not have creative control of the content).
Attendees had various civic opportunities presented by Pulse of Austin, League of Women Voters, Functional Democracy, and Open Austin. The MPV netted 45 individual tangible steps toward an improved civic life.
Attendees had various civic opportunities presented by Pulse of Austin, League of Women Voters, Functional Democracy, and Open Austin. The MPV netted 45 individual tangible steps toward an improved civic life.
The showcase is illustrated graphically as a sparkline. This helps to see the contrast in content by visualizing its contour. The line moves up and down between comedy and civic comedy. Engagement level was tracked by audience applause and laughter.

What’s Next

We are iterating our concept and preparing for AC4D’s Community Showcase and Party on Thursday, April 26. Please join us to learn more about Stand Up, Austin!