MOONTOWER COMEDY FESTIVAL returns this week for their EIGHT ANNUAL and they have absolutely outdone themselves this year and right up until we hit the send button we’re still arguing over which shows to recommend. If you haven’t already made your plans to be at Moontower in Austin, Texas next weekend, CHANGE YOUR PLANS this is going to be an insane week.
Moontower is THE festival for hardcore stand up comedy fans. If you are a fan of stand up and you love comedians, there is not better festival to check out. The focus in Austin is fans first- this is not a festival for industry. Once you have a badge you have everything you need. Wander from place to place, pop in mid show, and if you keep an eye on social media hashtags, you can quickly find out that you’re missing out on something amazing and run down the street to check out a show that is blowing up. There’s a real community vibe in Austin with nightly parties, a Ping-Pong tournament, hangouts every night, and you’ll just be wandering down the street at any given time and pass comedy headliners trying to figure out where to get coffee. And there’s Austin! Holy shit what a great city to visit. All day you can sleep and eat, and nap and eat and then get ready to stay up all night before you start all over again. Need to know where to go to overeat? We’ve got that covered too. Check out our recommends here.
Oh and grab the Moontower app. It’s free and a great way to figure it all out.
If you don’t live anywhere near New York and you are always jealous of hearing about the great comedy in the big apple, you can save yourself a shlep and just go to Moontower this year. So many of our comedy friends from the city are going to be in Austin- Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane, Ron Bennington and his team, Big Jay Oakerson, Dan Soder, Mike Vecchione, Tim Dillon, Andrew Schulz, Carmen Lynch, Emma Willman, Marina Franklin, Jessica Kirson, Jo Firestone, Nathan Macintosh, Sal Vulcano, Sean Donnelly, Sean Patton- these are all KILLERS and just some of the New York comics coming to Moontower. Canada is in the house too showing off- Nathan Macintosh is a New York comic now, but he hails from the great north, and so does Bonnie McFarlane. You can also catch as DeAnne Smith, K Trevor Wilson, Kevin McDonald, and the Schitts Creek crew– all gifts that Canada has given to comedy. Of course LA is well represented with some phenomenal comics- Kurt Metzger is back, Adam Ray, Brad Williams, Eddie Pepitone, Josh Adam Meyers, Avery Pearson and Jeremiah Watkins will be there, Joe DeRosa, Andy Kindler, Dana Gould, the Sklars, Joel Kim Booster is coming, and so many more. And every other corner of comedy- including South Africa- via our new friend Loyiso Gola. Speaking of Gola, if you are coming to Moontower to discover someone amazing who you don’t already know? Put Gola on the top of your list.
In fact, here’s our short list of people you might not know yet but should definitely check out list for this year- Loyiso Gola, Vanessa Gonzalez, Joel Kim Booster, K Trevor Wilson, DeAnne Smith- all killers whose name you will know after this festival. And some New Yorkers we assume you know, but if you don’t for gods sake, if you don’t already know Marina Franklin and Jessica Kirson, just mark them into your favorites so you can go see them.
There are also killer headliners, Jenny Slate and David Spade, Nate Bargatze, Nick Offerman, Sal Vulcano, Anthony Atamanuik, Ronny Chieng, Amanda Seales, Hari Kondabolu- these are amazing names, but we’ll let you decide what headliners you want to see. You know them all, you know what you like.
Moontower has always stood out for is is their ability to find and book some of the biggest soon-to-be-the-next-big-thing comedians, and also for bringing in the best women comedians in the country. Lietza Brass and Collen McGarr have comedy wired. Favorite traditions like She-Bang, Ping Pong, and Andy Kindler will all be returning, the Comedy Jam is back to rock the fest every night, Roast Battle is coming to Austin for the first time. The Aloft Hotel on Seventh and Congress will be the festival hub that keeps the party going after the shows end.
With all of that as the background, on the table, it’s time to get to our impossible job of giving you are Top 11 Picks in date order. In keeping with local “Keep Austin Weird” philosophy, we’ve picked shows that are likely to get weird. In between these shows, check out as many of the stand up shows as you can- most of them have 10 great comics on the lineup and they’re all amazing.
8pm The Sideshow: Dudley and Bob With Matt. Austin is fast becoming a year round comedy city so you will definitely want to check out Austin locals while you’re in town as well, and speaking of locals, we will be kicking off our week with a pre-festival show at Cap City by Austin’s own Dudley and Bob Show with Matt. This is always a highlight and we’re not including it in our Top 12 because its ALREADY SOLD OUT so you can’t go if you don’t already have tickets. Ron Bennington returns for his third year as honored guest, and this year Joe DeRosa joins the crew. These are names you’ll see popping up over and over again in this list, because it seems everyone wants to have Bennington and DeRosa (and Oakerson too) on their shows. We don’t blame them. Dudley and Bob’s annual night before Moontower show is always so much fun, and this year should top them all. Next year pay attention earlier so you don’t get shut out!
6PM TIM DILLON IS GOING TO HELL. Speakeasy is the place, and Tim Dillon is the hot hand right now. We love Tim Dillon. He’s one of the funniest young comedians coming up in the business. Everyone knew Dillon would be a star over three years ago when we watched him auditioning for Just for Laughs New Faces. He was as onfire as any young comic we’ve seen. He delivered up in Montreal and has taken off like a rocket ever since. A recent Joe Rogan appearance introduced him to a much wider audience and now his podcast, Tim Dillon is Going to Hell, goes viral regularly. Not only is Tim quick and funny, he’s also fearless. Gay, conservative politically, no friend of the cruise ship, and a man who knows what to eat. He’s the next king of the rant, and he loves to review restaurants and broadway shows. He defies all attempts to categorize him, but the only box you need to check is funny. Tim’s guest is Ron Bennington and this is a can’t miss show.
If you get shut out at Speakeasy, this show is up against another podcast on fire that we love. The 500 With Josh Adam Meyers is taking place right around the corner, with special guests Big Jay Oakerson and the Sklar Brothers. This is a Sophies Choice so if you have acquired the skill to be in two places at once, now is the time to use it.
9:30 RON BENNINGTON PRESENTS CROWD SOURCE AT ANTONES. There are so many headlining shows at Moontower and they’re all great. But there’s one that isn’t touring the U.S. (yet) and most people haven’t had the chance to see. Ron Bennington returned to stand up comedy just two years ago after a several-decade-long break and he’s been killing at The Cellar, The Stand, and at a few rare clubs and theaters in the Northeast. He’s only performed an hour at a few clubs, and he’s positively electric on stage. He’s calling his show Crowd Source, a twist on crowd work that gets the audience involved in a new way. He’s performing at Antones- a legendary music club and its a perfect fit for Bennington. He was a legend when he started comedy- left it to pursue a giant career in radio, and now he’s back on stage. This is a rare opportunity to see him for an hour. Before Ron takes the stage, get the chance to see two killers from the Austin scene- Matt Bearden who is the third leg of the Dudley and Bob with Matt Show, and Vanessa Gonzalez who is blowing up- not only has she won Austin’s funniest, she’s also about to make her HBO debut in a new special.
11:30 SHEBANG. Moontower continues to bring the best women in the country to the stage and SheBang is always one of the most talked about shows of the festival. Sean Patton is hosting a murderers row lineup that includes DeAnne Smith, Jessica Kirson, Marina Franklin, Taylor Tomlinson, Carmen Lynch, Nicole Byer, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jo Firestone, Vanessa Gonzalez and Martha Kelly. See the badass women of Moontower. If you think women aren’t funny, go anyway and let Moontower change your mind. Get in early, SheBang always packs out.
Another impossible conflict is in play here, we adore the Goddamn Comedy Jam, and they’re playing at the same time at Antones. We gave the slight edge to SHEBANG cause the JAM makes our picks for Friday and Saturday night. But really everyone we know always shows up at the Jam every night because no two shows are the same. Mary Lynn Rajskub The Sklar Brothers Jon Rudnitsky Big Jay Oakerson perform Thursday night.
5:00 and 7:30 BRAD WILLIAMS. Brad Williams is one of the funniest people on the planet. He’s headlining Austin’s killer comedy club, Cap City, at 7:30 but before that he’ll be at the PALM DOOR ON SIXTH sitting down and talking about his career for an hour with Ron Bennington. Go see either show, go see both shows. Williams is a beast and brings his own unique perspective on the world and his experiences about how the world sees him on and off stage. Unmasked is the critically acclaimed SiriusXM series that takes a close up look at the best people in the comedy business. This is going to be a favorite.
6:00 MY WIFE HATES ME Go check out one of our absolute favorite podcasts in the world, Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane’s “My Wife Hates Me” at the Velveeta Lounge just a block away from our 5pm pick. Bonnie and Rich are both killers- some of the fastest minds in all of comedy and when they are taking shots at each other, its pure magic. You will have a second chance to see Rich and Bonnie as they are also bringing Would You Bang Him? to Moontower. The dirtiest game show in America will be at Speakeasy on Saturday Night at 8pm and will ask a panel of women “would you bang him”?
7:00 THE BONFIRE. Antones. Big Jay Oakerson and Dan Soder bring The Bonfire back to Austin for the fourth year in a row, and they are a festival favorite and obviously favorites of ours. They’re taping their SiriusXM Show from Antone’s and their live shows are always fucked up and hilarious. We’ve gotten a sneak peek at what they have planned for this year, and this is a show nobody should miss.
These three shows back to back are going to slaughter. Make sure you pee before and pack a sandwich because this is a broadcast marathon you shouldn’t miss.
11:30 NEW YORK’S FINEST at the STATESIDE THEATER. If you do not live in New York City, this should be the most important show you put on your list- and will be the funniest show of the entire festival. New York’s finest, along with SheBang has become so popular that the festival had to move the show to the Stateside Theater. For our money, this is the best stand up lineup of the week. KILLERS ALL! There is no stronger lineup anywhere, we love every single person on this list. With Rich Vos, Mike Vecchione, Jessica Kirson, Andrew Schulz, Chris Redd, Marina Franklin, Sean Donnelly, Bonnie McFarlane, Tim Dillon and Dan Soder in a theater? It’s like an entire festival on one show.
11:55 THE GODDAMN COMEDY JAM. The GDCJ has become a Moontower tradition and the perfect way to end every night in Austin where live music still matters. If you have never been to a Comedy Jam event, this is mandatory. If you’ve seen the Jam play, you’ll probably be planning to end every night of the fest with Josh Adam Meyers and the band. Come rock Friday night with Joe DeRosa, Jon Dore, Bonnie McFarlane, Rich Vos and Brad Williams. This lineup is ridiculous. We’ve seen Brad tear it up before, and we’re dying to see Vos, Bonnie, DeRosa and Dore. And Antones is the place to see it.
2:00 PING PONG. Moontower’s annual Ping Pong slapdown tournament is always really fun. Ping Pong takes over the Stateside Theater, and there’s usually some free fabulous local Austin food served- last year thee were burgers, fries, and ice cream from a few of Austin’s famous digs on hand. The Sklar Brothers provide the greatest color commentary from the crows nest, and you get the chance to challenge some of your favorite comedians for a round if you’re so inclined, or just be a spectator.
5:00 THATS OFFENSIVE. Immediately after the Ping Pong ends, grab a smoke break on your way across the street for an extremely candid conversation about the state of offensive comedy with a group of star headliners who have a lot to say. Dana Gould, DeAnne Smith, Eddie Pepitone and Brad Williams will talk about changes in comedy audiences in 2019 with SiriusXM host Ron Bennington moderating.
7:00 SCHITT’S CREEK UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL. If we were ranking shows (we really couldn’t) but if we were, this probably would be number one on our list. We’re not even sure what the hell this show is going to be, and it sill is the most exciting show coming to the festival. Schitt’s Creek stars and creators Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and Chris Elliott, Daniel Levy, Annie Murphy, and Emily Hampshire are all taking the stage for an ” interactive evening that promises to be fun and insightful while giving fans an insider’s look into the making of the series. Using clips, behind-the-scenes footage, stories from cast members, and some special surprises, fans will have a chance to engage with the actors and creators of the series Variety calls one of “the best TV shows of the year.” Two shows at the Paramount Theater, 7pm and 9:30pm!
8:00 WYFD AT THE PARISH. It’s a festival favorite all over the continent! Big Jay Oakerson’s Crowd Work Creation, What’s Your Fucking Deal at the Parish Theater. All crowd work, from comedians who may or may not be crowd work types. Dan Soder, Joe DeRosa, Rich Vos, and Bonnie McFarlane are the guests. It’s a one of a kind show, with content you haven’t ever heard anywhere else.
10:00 ROAST BATTLE AT THE NORTH DOOR. When you want to see shit get weird, you definitely want to go to a roast battle and this year, Moontower is featuring a great one. We don’t know who is hosting, we don’t know who is battling, but we do know that our radio friends Dudley & Bob and Matt will be judging. Also listed on the line up are Sean Donnelly, K. Trevor Wilson, Chris Cubas and Carina Magyar. Two comedians serving up the most brutal jokes imaginable in a head to head match, with multiple matches planned.
UPDATE: Willie Hunter wrote in on Twitter that this is no B team- this is a full Roast Battle as-seen-on-tv crew coming to Moontower. He tells us that Roast Battle co-creator and Comedy Central host Brian Moses will be hosting in Austin, Coach Tea will be on music, and the full wave will be in full effect- Willie Hunter, Jamar Neighbors and Jeremiah Watkins.
11:30pm THE GODDAMN COMEDY JAM (AGAIN). It’s now an annual tradition to close out the festival with the Goddamn Comedy Jam late Saturday night at the Parish. This year, Big Jay, the Sklars, Adam Ray and Joe DeRosa will be ending Moontower weekend in song with Josh Adam Meyers, Avery Pearson, and Sandy Danto. Top of your night with an early breakfast at Voodoo Donuts on Sixth before you head to the airport for a flight that is most likely way too early.
Go to AustinTheater.org for all ticket information, scheduling and to buy badges- its not too late!