MOONTOWER COMEDY & ODDITY FESTIVAL is this week running from April 19th through the 23 and it’s promising to be another great year. Moontower has been one of the best festivals of the year since it began in 2012, and this year, they’re celebrating a half-decade of making Austin laugh with a brilliantly cultivated line up of top comedy headliners, young comics about to break, and established performers who will probably be new to the average American stand up fan.
They call it comedy summer camp, with a focus on fans, not industry, where affordable badges and geographically close venues truly allow Moontower-goers to immerse themselves in the comedy experience. Moontower is one of the best festivals for comedy vacationers, because of the fantastic weather (at a time of year when the weather elsewhere in the country is a mixed bag), the great bars, live music, and of course the BBQ provides additional draws. There’s a real community vibe in Austin with nightly parties, a Ping-Pong tournament, and easy access to everything.
But it’s the comedy that’s the real draw, and at Moontower, you will have an opportunity to see tomorrow’s headliners in intimate venues today. Comedians who are seconds away from being stars themselves are opening for other headliners and appearing on showcases throughout the city, and the headliners pop up on smaller shows in addition to helming the big theaters. Hannibal Buress, Michael Che, John Mulaney, Amy Schumer, and Michelle Wolf are all examples of that phenomenon at Moontower, where in past years, you could see them at venues with 40, 100, 150 or 200 people and then in almost a snap of the fingers, they were performing before ten times that number.
There is so much to choose from on the Moontower slate, with over 75 events and shows, so you are going to need some help deciding which shows to check out. And we want you to have the most varied, unique Moontower experience possible, so for those who have trouble making up their mind, we’re here to help you choose what shows to attend this year with the 10 Shows You Absolutely Can’t Miss.
Now, before we even start the list, let’s get one thing out of the way. Come see Comedy 101. It’s our show, and we’re biased as hell about it, so we’re not even going to include it in our top 10, but it’s still a show you 100% will not want to miss. We have gathered 6 local open mic comics from Austin, and invited them to perform at Moontower with us in front of a comedy fest crowd at our favorite club in Austin- Antone’s. Not convinced yet? Well they’ll be performing for a panel of “mentors” who each have a bell they can use to interrupt the comics at any moment to chime in with “helpful advice” which will neither be helpful, nor advice. It’s an “Open Mic meets a Roast” and things will get cringy fast. Hosted by Ron Bennington and Gail Bennington. Expect our mentors to be brutal. Come to Antone’s Thursday night 4/20! Doors at 8:30pm. Show starts at 9pm! 5th and San Jacinto! 305 East 5th Street
We’re heading over to the Sideshow Podcast tonight with Dudley and Bob and Matt, but they’re already sold out so if you’re not already planning to go, we’re too late to tip you off!
On to the other shows!
If you follow our festival coverage than you know we never recommend headliners. Why? You know them. You know who you love. You don’t need our advice. But Ali Wong put out her first hour special last year, and blew us away with her incredible writing and impressive physicality while very pregnant! It was hands down the best debut hour we’ve seen since our site’s inception, and one of the best specials of the last five years overall. What’s her follow-up to her “shot-out-of-a-cannon” debut? This is your chance to find out. Multiple shows throughout the weekend. Find one that doesn’t conflict with the other shows you want to see, and get in line.
Thursday April 20, 2017 at 7:00 pm, Friday April 21, 2017 at 9:30 at the Paramount on Congress at 7th
Okay, does this break our no headliner shows rule again? Well, Colin Quinn’s hour shows are different, even though he likes to think of them as stand up. Unconstitutional, Long Story Short, and The New York Story are classics now and only a very few select audiences have seen Quinn’s sixth one man show, Bully. He premiered the show at JFL Northwest in February and described it as being about the toxic asshole in every situation, and how others deal with those people. To get to see a Colin Quinn show early on is a genuine treat.
Friday night, April 21, 2017 at 9:30. Make sure you are sitting Stateside at the Paramount on Congress at 7th.
Ron Bennington has been hosting compelling hour-long interviews in front of a live studio audience with the most interesting and accomplished comedy writers, filmmakers, musicians, actors and stand up comedians in the biz since 2008. He is the best interviewer in the country today, and his Unmasked series is a veritable archive of the greatest comedy of our time. It’s his first time bringing the series to Austin, and he’ll be sitting down with two guests this week. Impractical Jokers star Sal Vulcano will sit down with Ron at the Velveeta Room on Friday at 6pm (doors at 5:30), and on Saturday he’ll be talking with Eddie Pepitone. It’s a rare chance to be in a historic small room with comedy genius outside of the series’ home base in New York City.
Friday and Saturday, April 21 and April 22 at 6 pm, Meet us at The Velveeta Room on 6th. The Velv, 521 East 6th Street
We’ve called Josh Adam Meyers a mad scientist for bringing rock and roll and stand up comedy together with electric results. Comedy Central loves this show so much they picked up the show as a special in 2016, and its currently airing as a series now, but don’t wait to watch on TV because as much as we love the television version of the show, it cannot compare or prepare you for how much fun it is to be in the room. Don’t come expecting to be a passive observer here, everyone is expected to get on their feet and get the energy going- and you will be thrilled to do it. This show is the most fun you’ll have all week. Three chances to check it out- Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 11. Go to any, go to all, but we’re heading to Antone’s on Thursday night to see the Sklar Brothers, Big Jay Oakerson, Dan Soder, and SNL‘s Melissa Villaseñor rock out. Friday night at Antone’s and Saturday at the Parish.
If there’s one thing Moontower does better than anyone else putting festivals together, it’s bring amazing women to perform comedy. Last year, we wrote that it was the women who delivered the best performances at Moontower, and we expect plenty more great performances in 2017. The best way to see as many of them as possible is to go to SheBang, the annual all female stand up showcase. Performing this year are Melissa Villaseñor, Morgan Murphy, Aparna Nancherla, Michelle Wolf, Sarah Tiana, Martha Kelly, Michelle Collins, Wendy Liebman, Erica Rhodes, and Alice Wetterlund. Friday night, 10pm, 800 Congress. Will headliners Ali Wong and Margaret Cho surprise the crowd? Last year, Maria Bamford popped in causing a mad rush of badge holders to race to the venue. Get in early.
If you read our coverage of RIOT LA Comedy Festival this year, then you know our pick for the standout show of the fest was AKPS. “Andy’s animated energy was so fun and I had a giant smile on my face the whole time,” Sarah Jacobs wrote. “Even though he’s been in the game for a long time, he is my new favorite.” Kindler is a Moontower favorite and he has been a part of the festival every year since its inception. He has a killer lineup that includes Guy Branum, Aparna Nancherla, Eddie Pepitone, Dana Gould, Barry Crimmins, Caitlin Gill, and Drew Michael ensuring you see many of the best of the fest in one show. The show is Friday night at 8:30 at Stashbox. If you can’t make that show, make sure you clear your schedule for The Forum on Saturday night at 10:15 at the Velv, featuring many of the same comics including Barry, Andy, Eddie, Aparna Nancherla, and Guy, but adding the amazing Morgan Murphy, Dave Smith and Austin favorite, Chris Cubas.
Saturday night, April 22 at 10:15 at the Velv
Two of our favorite comics bring their new touring show to Moontower this year. After getting into some trouble and making headlines last year over some Facebook posts, Kurt Metzger teams up with Barry Crimmins, (who was voted by our readers to have the #1 hour special of 2016!), for “You’re Making It Worse”and this show is unlike anything you’ve seen before (unless of course, you’ve seen it before.” The title alludes to Metzger’s penchant for getting himself into trouble, and needing Barry Crimmins’ advice.
Friday, April 21st at Antone’s at 9:30pm
Ian Abramson is one of the oddest guys in comedy and we mean that as a compliment. We love Ian and we love his show, Seven Minutes in Purgatory. We knew Ian was going to have giant things ahead of him the first time we saw his show and now it’s been touring the country, it’s on Comedy Central digital, and he’s doing big big things out in Los Angeles. Get your dose of weird at Seven Minutes in Purgatory where comedians perform via video from a nearby room where they cannot see or hear the audience. Watch them panic, watch them sweat, and still be hilarious. It’s a phenomenal show running Friday night at 10:15 in a MUCH BIGGER VENUE this year due to lines pouring around the block to get in to see it last year at the Hideout. Ian Abramson hosts and performing this year will be Josh Adam Meyers, Ian Karmel, Dan St. Germain, DJ Douggpound, Brian Posehn, and Caitlin Gill.
Friday night, April 21 at 10:15 at Google Fibre
Come take on or cheer on some of your favorite Moontower comedians at the annual Ping Pong Slapdown as the “The Slapdown” pits Moontower comedians against fans in a hilarious yet highly official tournament hosted by our favorite sports color commentators, the Sklar Brothers. As a bonus, Phil’s Icehouse and Amy’s Ice Creams will be serving burgers, fries and ice cream. It’s always a blast and what else are you going to do…sleep all day?
The last show of the festival and one of the best every year! New York’s Finest showcases some of the best comedians from New York City at the Stateside Theatre! Go out with a bang watching Kyle Ayers, Luis J. Gomez, Daniel Koren, Melissa Villaseñor, Josh Johnson, Dan Soder, Kurt Metzger, Drew Michael, Krystyna Hutchinson, Corinne Fisher, Sal Vulcano and more! This will be one of the most memorable shows of the week!
Saturday Night, 11:30pm at Stateside at the Paramount! If you don’t know where this is by now…then you don’t deserve to go.
Podcasts in comedy are bigger than ever, and there are so many to choose from at Moontower this year. You already know which shows you are a fan of, and will undoubtably head to the ones you check out regularly, but if you’re looking to branch out, here are our five top pics: LEGION OF SKANKS with Big Jay Oakerson, Luis J. Gomez, and Dave Smith. Legion of Skanks is the only podcast to have spawned its own festival and it is not for the weak. But if you’re up for anything and looking to see the podcast that pushes all the boundaries, this is your new home. Saturday, April 21, 2017 at 10:30pm at The Velv. THE BONFIRE with Big Jay Oakerson and Dan Soder. Calling all campers, back for its second year at Moontower, The Bonfire a blast. Not really a podcast, the show broadcasts on SiriusXM’s Comedy Central Channel, but if you don’t already know these guys, do yourselves a favor and save Friday at 7pm to head to Antone’s and get up to speed. Dan and Jay are two of our favorite people in comedy and you will love them too. GUYS WE FUCKED is the anti-slut shaming podcast that has gotten so big, they’re taking over Stateside at the Paramount. Check out our interview with Krystyna Hutchinson and Corinne Fisher out tomorrow morning! Friday, April 21 at 11:15. ABOUT LAST NIGHT. Brad Williams & Adam Ray share stories from their lives on the road. A dwarf and a Jew. What else do you need to know? Thursday, 6pm at Speakeasy. MY FAVORITE MURDER, the only podcast audacious enough to fill the Paramount Theater..not once, but twice. Its fans are rabid and you want to check this out just see what the hype is all about! Not that they need you. There’s a 7:00pm Podcast: all Moontower Comedy Festival badge holders have line access* to the 7:00pm kick-off show. Limited single tickets will be available to this performance. 9:30pm Podcast: Diehard MFM fans will have single ticket access to this podcast. This added performance is not a badge event.