Austin — City of Austin, I have a new slogan for you: “Austin: It’s worth the drive down I-35” Always escalator-crowded, now large swaths of the interstate are rough and slow from being under construction for, I guess, forever.
Jangled nerves soothe with our entry into Zilker Retreat: a duplex with a cottage in the backyard where William lives. William’s been proudly keeping Austin weird for decades. We discuss peace, love and hemp while his flock of chickens pluck the bugs off his vegetable garden. We are given two eggs from “the happiest chickens in the world” for tomorrow’s breakfast.
Then off to the Paramount Theater, ground zero of the Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival on Congress near Sixth St., to get our passes. The festival has taken over the second floor bar of the nearby swanky Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel. A top-tier comedy festival like this is as close to a conference as anarchy-loving comedians will get. A lot of networking between comics is going on, and television and club talent executive are talking animatedly.
While grooving to the sounds of DJ Mel, I strike up a conversation with a fellow who turns out to be Jim Millan, the director of the current Kids in the Hall show. A cool impromptu interview ensures. My hubbie Scooter takes some pics. An inside look at how the Kids show is created will post in the next day or two. (The Kids also hit Dallas on Sunday night, at the Majestic Theatre.)
Small crowd for The Pajama Men show at the Stateside. What is wrong with these people? Pajama Men spin truly transcendent stuff, but these are character comics, not jokesters. It’s two-man theater fused with inventive physical humor and surprisingly realistic vocal sound effects, laced with a lot of sharp one-liners. But if you stay actively engaged with a Pajama Men show and commit to the universe they create, you are well rewarded. Review on Thursday.
Headliners like Demetri Martin, tonight at the big Paramount Theater next door, anchor Moontower, as do national names like The Pajama Men and Colin Quinn in Stateside, but the buzz is in the clubs. A half-dozen comedy clubs, appropriated music bars and even a deli, host multi-act comedy lineups. Some of these club comics are very unusual, truly pushing the stand-up form, folks who would never be seen in our local stand-up clubs. This festival provides a terrific way to break out onto a national scene.
Sixth St. is an amusement park of inebriation and blaring bar music. We get to the Velveeta Room too late to get into the Comedy Jackpot show. Sure wanted to see Lucas Molandes and Laura Kightlinger; rather bummed about that. Missed seeing Dallas-based Paul Varghese, too, but did get to chat outside. He’s appearing at Just For Laughs in Montreal this summer. How cool is that?!
So we end up in the Parrish, a spacious upstairs comedy club, where profane Bobby Slayton is emceeing a show. That should have been the first tip. Caught the last bit of Kurt Metzger’s set; he seems like a bitter reprobate and says “f*ck” a lot. Bridget Everett, a gigantic floozy of a woman, comes out in a toga-like outfit cut down to her navel. She belts out X-rated songs in a fantastic voice while lap-dancing male audience members and showing a lot of breast. She’s a force, a very funny force.
Even after that, as Brad Williams, says, “When a midget like me walks on the stage you have to say ‘OK, now things are getting interesting’.” He riffed on his shortness and then got down to 10 solid minutes of material on sex. Some of it was rather, er, instructional. About that time it dawns on me why it’s called the Blue Moon show. But it finishes out with Godfrey presenting a sharp, aggressive, well-honed act, with just a smattering of sex, and Jen Kober on the frustrations—and the fun!— of being a lesbian in the South.
To think that this is just a Wednesday! Moontower CEO Jim Ritts has been quoted as saying “Our goal over time is to be the second largest in North America, behind only Just For Laughs.” I can totally see that happening.
» Our chief comedy critic Amy Martin is at Moontower Comedy Festival this week. Keep watching TheaterJones for interviews, reports, reviews and more.