The strongest testament to SXSW’s emergence as a nationally recognized pop culture event is the fact that not one but two latenight talkshows will travel to Austin for a week of shows from the festival.
ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” will join Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” in the heart of the SXSW fest next week. Kimmel will set up shop at Austin’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts for five shows starting Monday. Andy Cohen’s “WWHL” moves into Ballet Austin Academy for five telecasts starting Sunday.
“WWHL” was the pioneer last year in bringing the show to the fest, a move that generated some of the most-watched segs in its history. Cohen is taking a more-the-merrier view of Kimmel’s trek to the Lone Star state — so much so that Kimmel is set as the primary guest on Sunday’s edition of “WWHL.”
The Austin shows will be Kimmel’s first outside of his regular Hollywood stage since he moved up to the 11:35 p.m. time slot in January 2013. His last road trip took him to Brooklyn for a week in November 2012.
The interactive focus of SXSW and the hipster crowd at SXSW make the setting a hand-in-glove fit with the “WWHL” demo, Cohen said.
“We’re the only live show in latenight that is fully interactive — where our audience determines the questions we ask and our polls determine what we do on air,” Cohen told Variety. “Our vibe is very similar to (SXSW) and Austin. The city’s motto is ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ The one thing you know for sure about ‘Watch What Happens’ is that it’s weird.”
Because the fest attracts a mix of celebs, digirati and cognizati, the guest potential is plentiful and eclectic. Among those set for the rest of “WWHL’s” run are of Gabriel Mann, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Brandi Glanville, Sonja Morgan, Josh Lucas and Shaquille O’Neal. And they will be sure to reflect the local color.
“We will be highlighting local businesses that might not make it on other shows,” Cohen said. “We’ll be talking to local people about crazy things like ‘Who are the best strippers in town.’ ”
The size of the audience that can watch the telecast at Ballet Austin is much larger than the “WWHL” clubhouse in Gotham: 200 seats vs. 22. And the fest affords “WWHL” the chance to have a house band — this time around it will be the buzz-bin group Betty Who. “It’s so energizing for us,” Cohen gushed.