Gonzo Fame took the journey down to Austin, Texas for the 2nd annual Moontower Comedy Festival. A four-day comedy extravaganza right in the heart of the city. About 100 comedy shows spread across 12 venues all around downtown. It’s like the World Cup of comedy! Right in the Texas country capital.
“Here’s how you know Texas isn’t like the rest of America… If you look at the Texas flag, you will see one red stripe, one white stripe, and one star. So it’s like the American flag…minus the rest of America.”
-Michael Ian Black, Moontower Comedy Festival
Since there is no way to catch every single show. You have to pick ‘n choose ‘n hope. Not hoping you picked a great show, but hoping the great show you picked is better than the other great show you sacrificed. Sacrifices were made, especially on opening night. This is a recount of the adventure.
Opening night’s big show lineup goes like this: Bill Hader and his crew of comedians headline the early show at The Paramount Theatre. Anthony Jeselnik and Michael Che perform there for the late show. At the same time, Todd Barry and Chris Cubas perform next door at The Stateside Theatre. Marc Maron and Mike MacRae go on immediately after.
The other ten venues: the Parish and the Parish Underground, the Velveeta Room, Cap City, Scottish Rite, The Hideout, The New Movement, NY NY, St. David’s Bethell Hall, and Swan Dive
Other comedians tonight: Kyle Kinane, Ari Shaffir, Billy D. Washington, JR Brow, James Adomian, Helen Hong, Mo Mandel, James Adomian, Christian Finnegan, Dustin Ybarra, Bil Dwyer, Maria Bamford, Dom Irrera—among many others
Overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of comedic combinations, I decide to join the masses, flocking first to Bill Hader. As it begins, the loudspeaker reports a slight problem: “Bill Hader from Saturday Night Live is stuck in New York and will not be here tonight. But, have no worries,Vinny Vedecci is here to take his place.” While the audience erupts with laughter, my first thoughts are, “Vinny who? Fuck this guy, and fuck these blind bastards for applauding him! I’m out!” As I reach the exit, the audience’s applause matures into loud screams and wild whistles. Hader walks on stage—asVinnie Vedecci—who happens to be one of his SNL characters. Damnit!
No time to mourn the loss, Todd Barry begins in 10 minutes… Being the soft spoken cynic that he is, the Barry show is calm and collective—a perfect place to reflect on the Hader incident. Barry throws in a comment about the Bill Hader show saying, “The Hader show may be full…but there’s still plenty of room for Todd Barry!” Although a quieter environment, Todd Barry still kills—a ‘silent but deadly’ comic.
It is now 9:30PM. The big late show decision is this: Anthony Jeselnik at The Paramount or Marc Maron at The Stateside? Let’s compare the stats:
Jeselnik has a TV show on Comedy Central—The Jeselnik Offensive. Jeslnik’s style is deliberately dark and disrespectful. He sparks the fuse on topics that other comics refuse to touch, and he lights it up like the 4th of July. For instance, the Boston Marathon Bombing—can it be funny? Jeselnik would later explain why he thinks, yes. The line to see Jeselnik stretches down the block and wraps around the building for about another block.
Maron hosts the outrageously successful, WTF Podcast, which has earned him an incredible cult following. His episodes include conversations with anybody who’s anybody in comedy and showbiz—and sometimes those who aren’t anybody, or who used to be somebody at some point. Check out the Gallagher episode. On nobody’s side but his own, Maron keeps his performances natural and truthful. He does not have a ‘schtick’ or an ‘act’. He’s simply himself. He bears a nerdy soul with a rock star spirit. The line to see Maron stretches down the opposite end of the block and it does not wrap around the building.
So how do you get your line to wrap around the building? Get a TV show on Comedy Central.
Maron performs again tomorrow night, so I step into the Jeselnik line. But wait, something smells delicious… It’s coming from a food truck named…Kebabalicious! Makes me think of Bubblicious bubble gum. Is that stuff still around? Must investigate the food phenomenon.
Kebabalicious carries an item known as the ‘Spoiled Brat’. It’s description says, “Behold the trifecta! Beef/lamb, chicken, falafel, hummus of choice—of choice? We’ll get back to that—feisty fetta, lettuce, local tomatoes, red onions, tzatziki & spicy red sauce”. I’m sold. But I ask, “What hummuses can I choose?” To which the man replies, “Regular, Garlic, Jalapeño.” Jalapeño hummus? You’re just gonna throw that in there all nonchalant with ‘Regular’ and ‘Garlic’?? Of course I want Jalapeno Hummus. That’s genius!
The Jeselnik line is jam packed by this point. I stand all the way at the end, nothing but me and my Kebabalicious jalapeno hummus. It is not long before a Moontower Staff person walks over to the end of the line section and makes the heartbreaking announcement, “Sorry guys, no more seats!” Well, I don’t get to see Anthony Jeselnik, BUT I did discover jalapeno hummus. So, technically I’m still winning.
I go back to The Stateside to see Maron, who began the show with his own WTF moment by saying, “Are you fucking kidding me??” commenting on the fact that more people chose Jeselnik over Maron. But Maron’s fans are die hard and loyal. Very Doug Stanhope-like. So no matter what, the show is great. Mike Lawrence and Mike MacRace sets ’em up and Maron knocks ’em all down.
Two great shows, but all great things come in three’s. Where to end the night? The choice is ‘The Closer with Godfrey over at the Scottish Rite. Why Godfrey? Simple math. My parents saw Godfrey at The Improv a little while back, and they had an awesome time. “Awesome!” were their exact words. And if you can make my parents say the word ‘Awesome’—then you’ve won my attention. As expected, Godfrey delivers. He’s energetic, he’s animated, and most importantly, he’s awesome!
Night 1: ✓
Yet, nothing compared to night 2. Stay tuned…
Written by: David Gavri