Valerie's Recap of Moontower Comedy Festival

May 1, 2016

sklar-brothersWhoa. That’s pret­ty much how I feel about my inau­gur­al expe­ri­ence with Moon­tow­er, which cel­e­brat­ed its 5th year. Maybe the orga­niz­ers felt they had to work extra hard to make it spe­cial for the 5th anniver­sary, but a few lit­tle birdies told me that this 5th year is just a sign that every year, Moon­tow­er gets bet­ter and bet­ter. Con­firm­ing what I already knew after watch­ing a cou­ple of shows this week­end: I absolute­ly want to come back for 2017.

I devi­at­ed from my orig­i­nal rec­om­men­da­tions and it allowed me to have one of the most mem­o­rable com­e­dy expe­ri­ences of my life. My only regret as a big fan of The Bone Zone, I was­n’t able to get to the live tap­ing. What I saw on Thurs­day, when I switched up my game plan, more than made up for that regret.

I saw a show called Stars in Bars which fol­lowed a tra­di­tion­al stand up for­mat with comics from across the coun­try. I saw stand up sets by Bren­don Walsh and Randy Liedtke, so I felt a lit­tle less bummed about miss­ing their pod­cast tap­ing the fol­low­ing day. There were great acts on this line­up: Martha Kel­ly, The Sklar Broth­ers, Dana Gould, Greg Behrendt, Arden Myrin, and Jon Rud­nit­sky of SNL fame. Rud­nit­sky wowed me with his char­ac­ter work and high-ener­gy set. A cou­ple of bonus­es to that show were that Col­in Jost, also of SNL fame, dropped in to do a set while Matt Bear­den host­ed the entire show­case of excel­lent comics.

And now, the pièce de résis­tance, the God­damn Com­e­dy Jam, host­ed by the amaz­ing Josh Adam Mey­ers. Mey­ers had a back­ground in music before set­ting his sights on com­e­dy. The God­damn Com­e­dy Jam is a blend of musi­cal per­for­mance (by legit back­ing band, Ele­menope) and stand up. The idea is Mey­ers kicks off with a musi­cal per­for­mance which is engag­ing and involves the audi­ence (I felt sor­ry for the guy stand­ing next to me who got pulled in to do awk­ward things with Mey­ers’ mic, but he was a team player).

Mey­ers then intro­duces comics who do their tra­di­tion­al sets fol­lowed by singing a song for the audi­ence. The comics also engage the audi­ence and if you’re not on your feet, then you may just be dead. The night’s comics were Joe DeRosa, The Sklar Broth­ers, Adam Ray and Big Jay Oak­er­son. They each per­formed stel­lar sets and select­ed mem­o­rable musi­cal pieces. From Huey Lewis to David Bowie to 4 Non Blondes to Pan­tera, the night was rocked. Ray’s per­for­mance of 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Up was so rous­ing, I heard it dis­cussed well into Sat­ur­day. Since Prince died ear­li­er that day, Mey­ers lead the entire line­up in a rous­ing ren­di­tion of Pur­ple Rain that near­ly had me in tears.


The Ron Funch­es late show on Fri­day night was my escape from down­town and I got to see Daniel Webb and Rob Khos­ravi sklar-brotherssup­port Funch­es that night. Funch­es is as adorable as he is wicked­ly fun­ny. He pulls in the audi­ence with his sweet demeanor. Don’t let that fool you, he made some wicked social com­men­tary and let us know that he is no pushover. He was extreme­ly gra­cious after the show and took pic­tures and chat­ted with those inter­est­ed in see­ing that bright smile up close.


Sat­ur­day brought a last-minute addi­tion of the day­time Ping Pong Slap­down mod­er­at­ed by The Sklar Broth­ers. If you’re keep­ing count, that’s the 3rd time I got to see them over the course of the fes­ti­val and each time I was more and more enam­ored of their style of com­e­dy. The crew of Com­e­dy Wham were present as was my 9 year old son. Not only was it a blast lis­ten­ing to The Sklar Broth­ers give a play-by-play com­men­tary on the ping pong table action (which pit­ted a com­ic with an audi­ence mem­ber), but they inter­viewed the losers of each round, and most amus­ing­ly, when they noticed my 9 year old in the front row, they incor­po­rat­ed him into their com­men­tary, refer­ring to the 9 year old in the audi­ence” to remind every­one any time the com­e­dy turned blue (don’t wor­ry, it stayed blue in all the right places). My son was beam­ing at the attention.

Leslie Jones

Sat­ur­day night, I stuck to my selec­tions and enjoyed Leslie Loves Col­in, fea­tur­ing SNL cast mem­bers, Leslie Jones, Col­in Jost and open­er Jon Rud­nit­sky. Rud­nit­sky did a dif­fer­ent set than the one he per­formed on Thurs­day, so I got to see his Dirty Danc­ing Live per­for­mance which you can catch on the Feb­ru­ary 6 episode of Sat­ur­day Night Live. Col­in’s per­for­mance was a treat, but the fire­crack­er Leslie Jones came out with a bang and nev­er let up the heat.

Her ener­gy remind­ed me of Kevin Hart, but Leslie is unique and even when she’s yelling at you for wear­ing a den­im shirt on a date with a hot girl (yes, she did that), you can’t help but love her. The final por­tion of the per­for­mance was Leslie and Col­in togeth­er answer­ing audi­ence” ques­tions (some were plants by each oth­er) where you got to wit­ness in action the exu­ber­ance of Leslie’s staged attrac­tion to the awk­ward­ly timid Col­in. I loved see­ing an all-SNL show­case since SNL is so near and dear to my heart.

Matt Bearden

The final show for Moon­tow­er brought togeth­er the Com­e­dy Wham crew for Matt Bear­den’s Piran­ha, which you can read about in Lara’s arti­cle from last month. The comedic Shark Tank rip-off” was staged in a small room in the back of the Townsend club that gave an inti­mate feel to the experience.

Jesse Joyce, Arden Myrin and Mike Macrae assist­ed Bear­den with the judg­ing while comics Mar­tin Urbano, Raul Sanchez, Avery Moore, Abby Rosen­quist and Devon Walk­er per­formed sets in hopes of get­ting their jokes bought by the judges. While the oth­er comics suc­cess­ful­ly sold indi­vid­ual jokes, Walk­er achieved a rare feat in get­ting paid to NOT sell his jokes and focus on mak­ing minor tweaks for added comedic effect. Walk­er was described by Bear­den as a shin­ing new star on the Austin com­e­dy scene. His ado­ra­tion of the comics on the show was evi­dent through­out the evening. Bear­den takes his role as ambas­sador of the Austin com­e­dy scene seri­ous­ly and it was clear to me why so many of the young comics in Austin look up to him.

Watch­ing a home-grown show was a per­fect night­cap to the Moon­tow­er expe­ri­ence which allowed me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see great comics from across the coun­try. It’s always nice know­ing that the Austin com­e­dy scene rewards you hand­some­ly with its tal­ent even in the midst of a nation­al show­case event.