MOONTOWER COMEDY & ODDITY FESTIVAL is coming up this month, kicking off on April 22 through April 25 and once again its shaping up to be one of the best festivals of the year. Moontower, more than any other festival has the feeling of comedy summer camp. The venues are all close enough to walk to, the weather is pretty stunning, and there’s great food all around you– including some of the best bbq in the country. Plus there are parties every night, a giant Ping Pong tournament and walk in access to dozens of events, all with the company of somewhere around 100 of the country’s funniest comedians.
One of the trademark qualities of Moontower is their eye for talent just about to break. Year after year they’ve showcased great comedians in small rooms only to have them break big within that same year. The first year of the festival patrons saw Hannibal Buress in a 150 seat room doing 15 minute sets. Two years ago Michael Che opened for Anthony Jeselnik and the next night you could have seen him in Moontower’s smallest venue of only 45 people. Also two years ago John Mulaney was doing small club sets and he’s headlining this year.
With over 70 events and shows to choose from, you need our help, so we talked to the festival directors Jim Ritts and Lietza Brass and went through the schedules ourselves to come up with our 10 can’t miss shows happening at Moontower this year.
#1. TIM MINCHIN. Moontower’s executive director Jim Ritts is so excited all of the great headliners coming to Moontower this year, and he’s possibly most excited to have festival goers get to know the comedy of Tim Minchin. Tim is Australian, lives in London and plays all over the world to houses of five to ten thousand seats. But he’s not as well known here in the states. “We actually had him down here four years ago in a smaller show as not part of the festival. And since that time He’s been nominated for a Tony– he wrote the music for Matilda– he’s a brilliant musician and one of the most intellectually gifted people we’ve ever seen,” Jim told us.”He will leave no topic untouched and he is burtally wickedly satirical.” This is your chance to see how extraordinary Tim is, and you might not have a lot of other opportunities to see him perform, making Tim our #1 choices. Thursday at 7pm at The Paramount with host Mac Black.
#2. DR. KATZ LIVE. One of the great animated shows of all time, Emmy award winning Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist debuted 20 years ago, and introduced many of us to scores of comedians we weren’t already familiar with. The show is now a cult classic and lives on through a touring live show, helmed of course by Jonathan Katz along with amazing comics joining him on his couch. This year at Moontower, helping Dr. Katz celebrate his 20th year anniversary, are some amazing lineups. Two giant shows! On Thursday at 7:30pm at Stateside, Dom Irrera, Maria Bamford, Andy Kindler, Dana Gould, and Emo Philips all hop onto Dr. Katz’s couch. On Friday, also at 7:30 at Stateside you can watch Dom Irrera, Todd Barry, Emo philips, Eddie Pepitone, and Marc Maron unload their every problem for Dr. K.
#3. #4. and #5. MIDNIGHT WITH T.J. MILLER AND PETE HOLMES. We don’t know exactly what is going to happen during the T.J. Miller and Pete Holmes Show or what the formatics will be, but you couldn’t ask for a bigger night. We don’t know who is headlining or whether they’ll be on stage together. But with two of the funniest people in comedy on one stage it is guaranteed to be one of the events of the festival? Make that three. We’ve been told that Irish comedian David O’Dougherty is opening the show, and we’ve been assured by Festival director Lietza Brass that he is an “absolute riot” and a “terrific talent.” Midnight with T.J. Miller and Pete Holmes goes down on Friday April 24th at the Paramount. Go see their solo gigs as well. Saturday at 6:30 Cash Levy will be interviewing T.J. Miller at the Cactus Cafe, and at 7:00 you can catch a taping of “You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes” at the Google Fibre Stage.
#6. MARIA BAMFORD. Maria Bamford is one of the most critically beloved touring comics in America and she is just inches away from being too big for you to get to see in a reasonable sized theater. Maria is appearing in residence for three nights at State Side, and each show will be a little bit different. One night she’ll be doing stand up, another night she will be asking some of her friends to join her for a show, and the third night will be something completely different. If you know anything about Maria, you know that completely different really means “completely” different. Anything is possible and we wouldn’t dare guess but definitely make it a point to get over to Stateside Theater at 9:30 on Thursday, Friday or Saturday and watch Maria be amazing.
#7. BRIDGET EVERETT Every year at Moontower there’s a comedian who comes in slightly under the radar and leaves as a giant beloved festival favorite. Last year, one of those breakouts was Bridget Everett. Festival Director Jim Ritts calls her a “woman of immense comedic and musical talent, and an unbelievable force of nature.” Last year at the New York New York show, Bridget shared a stage with Rory Albanese, Dan Naturman, Kurt Metzger, Brooks Wheelan and Mike Lawrence in front of a packed house. The show was so strong, that they went an hour late. Ritts said when Bridget hit the stage– she completely floored the room. You can see Everett at the Blue Moon on Thursday, Come to Papa Live on Friday, and at the Bridget Everett Show on Saturday.
#8. SHE BANG! There are a lot of great shows featuring lists of amazing comedians but the one that ops our list is She Bang! featuring all women comedians except for the Y chromosome hosting the show– Phil Hanley. The lineup on this show is incredible with some very established talents and up and comers. Saturday Night Live featured player Sasheer Zamata, along with Liza Treyger, Kate Berlant, Ophira Eisenberg, Jena Friedman, Michelle Wolf, and Michelle Buteau. Major talent here, for this can’t miss show. Thursday at 8pm at Speakeasy.
#9. SUPER SHOW. Unfortunately our #8 and #9 recommendations are right up against each other so you’ll have to choose. This one is more male-dominated but the lineup is ridiculous. With Liza Treyger, Nate Bargatze, Monroe Martin, Guy Branum, Ted Alexandro, Robert Kelly, Kurt Metzger, Hari Kondabalu and more, there isn’t a weak link in this entire lineup. Thursday at 8:30 at Google Fibre Stage.
#10. RACHEL FEINSTEIN You have six chances to see Rachel Feinstein at Moontower, and don’t take this the wrong way but you’d be an idiot to miss out. Rachel just filed her second Comedy Central Presents special this March and is currently working on a pilot show, “Rachel Profiling.” She also co hosted Tru TV’s “Upload with Shaquille Oneal” and she’s all over the place. Find her at Cap City every night at 8, and then Friday and saturday nights at 10:30.
ALSO DON”T MISS the ANNUAL PING PONG SMACKDOWN. Saturday afternoon, hang out in a 300 seat theater watching your favorite comedians drink a lot of beer and battle each other for the championship. The Sklar Brothers will be back doing play by play, and shit gets crazy. There will be vanquished, there will be winners, there may be comedians who wind up screaming at the audience in their underwear. It’s Spinal Tap for Ping Pong and its getting bigger every year. Last year Ari Shaffir dominated the event. This year odds are favoring World Champion Judah Friedlander to take over. FREE food will be provided by Amy’s Ice Cream and Phil’s Ice House, and drinks will be provided by Thirsty Planet and Crystal Creek Moonshine. Thats Saturday from 2-5pm at the Paramount Theater.
And if there’s time left over, and there will be, make time to go see some of our favorite performers who we love as much as everyone above but couldn’t fit onto the list, Hasan Minhaj, Ron White, Andy Kindler, Hari Kondabalu, Keith Robinson, and Tom Papa wherever they are playing throughout the festival. Every badgeholder is guaranteed admission to Ron White and Friends, so don’t miss it!
We will of course be providing plenty of coverage from Moontower including interviews, updates and photos so if you can’t get there, be here.