This guest blog post is by Kelly Love.
The Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival – yes, another festival in Austin! – premiered last year at main stage presenter Paramount Theatre. In its second year, the festival brought over 100 talented funny people here from April 24-27 2013.
This year’s fest saw a rise in attendance and badge sales, along with the introduction of midnight headliner performances at the Paramount. As with most festivals, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once. But since Bill Hader of SNL fame was one of this year’s headliners, I’ll give you a summary as Hader’s popular NYC club-hopping character Stefon (who made an appearance during his show) would put it (it helps to read the following in Stefon’s voice):
“Austin’s hottest new festival has everything…angry clowns, giant megaphones, hipsters on longboards, angry women with tattoos who will yell at you in exchange for cash, game shows that dare you not to laugh, geese riots…”
OK, so no actual geese. But I did attend one show where the most hilarious bit was in the audience, a person who had the best honking laugh. It didn’t even matter what was happening on stage, people laughed because the honking person laughed. This is why I love comedy.
Moontower 2013 Headliners
Besides Hader, this year’s festival featured names like Jim Gaffigan, Dana Carvey, Michael Ian Black and Janeane Garafalo, playing to sold-out audiences at the Paramount. Chris Hardwick of The Talking Dead and Nerdist podcast, Godfrey (who brought it, seriously funny), Maria Bamford, Derek Phelps, Todd Barry, and Marc Maron all appeared at Stateside.
I’d love to give you a rundown on Bamford’s new material, exactly what Godfrey said about pit bulls, and whether or not Jim Gaffigan did his Hot Pockets bit (he did), but I was too busy laughing to take notes.
I’m not a critic, I just love comedy. And I love comedians, which is why I thought the all-access festival badges are so great. Not only could I flit from show to show on a whim, but badge holders were also invited to attend nightly “Laugh Your Ass Off” happy hour parties at the Esquire Lounge/Stephen F. Austin Bar & Terrace, complete with DJs spinning and funny people milling about.
Let me clarify that I’m not a comedy groupie. I’d put myself more in the voyeur category. I like hanging out with funny people. I’ve attended more improv class “showcases” than I can count, as most of my friends have taken improv classes. I have not done so myself, being averse to any situation that involves people pointing at me and demanding, “be funny.” But I love to watch.
What I like about mingling with comedians and comedy audiences (who are mostly funny people as well) is that people who choose to stand on a stage and do 30 minutes of funny for a living usually don’t make that decision because they had sunny childhoods or a lack of psychological problems. I get it. I’m the daughter of a psychotherapist. Shrink’s children are not necessarily poster children for mental wellness either, but I don’t think many of us could top the deep, abiding neurosis of a comedian.
I’m not going to name names, but you could literally tell a comedian the most traumatic, messed up thing that happened to you and they will not blink. Then they will top it and you will never be able to forget. Tell your worst to a “normal” person and they gasp. Tell the same story to a comedian and they’ll tell you about the time their stepfather smoked too much meth and sat up all night on the end of their Scooby Doo comforter with a loaded shotgun in his lap. Comedian: one. Me: zero.
Psychological issues aside, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love to laugh. Four straight days of showcases and headliners, laughter guaranteed? We’re so there. I’m happy to tell you that you can LYAO next year, as the Paramount just announced that the third annual Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival will be held April 23-26, 2014.
Stay Updated on Local Comedy
If your funny bone can’t wait until next year, Austin has some great local talent and venues like The Velveeta Room, Cap City Comedy Club, The Hideout Theatre and The New Movement Theater that play host to locals and out-of-town headliners alike (the latter two even offer improv classes). Get out there and get your laugh on!
Kelly Love Johnson is a writer and editor who moved to Austin from Charleston, SC, for a year…a little over three years ago. She’s been semi-regularly blogging semi-funny things on her site, Microfamous, since 2003-ish.
Festival photos courtesy of Nick Simonite.