‘Funniest’ Documentary in Austin Film Festival

The ‘Funniest Person in Austin’ contest turned 30 last year and Funniest, a new documentary featuring several Moontower favorites, world premieres at the Austin Film Festival this weekend. I reached out to directors Dustin Svehlak and Katie Pengra who spoke with me about the film’s genesis, the challenges associated with documenting a comedy contest with over 200 contestants and how a betting pool helped them pick the subjects.

How did this documentary come to be?

Dustin: I’d been the main videographer for the contest for about three years by the time I had the idea. I already had so much b-roll footage of the contest and I watched [the contest] play out in this perfectly constructed narrative. At the time I thought it would be really easy to make a documentary of it. Then about that same time, Katie was in graduate school and made a short film following two comics, Terrence McDavid and Maggie Maye. It got her and I talking about about doing a full length doc and following people throughout the entire contest. That was the impetus. Both those events came together real nicely for us and that was it.

Katie: I was getting my graduate degree in a digital media program at Texas State, San Marcos and I had to make a thesis project and so I decided to do a short documentary. I was super interested in following some comics in the contest, just kind of what our full length documentary ended up being, but it was just me so I had to do it on a super small scale. I just chose two comics, followed them each for one night and then put together a little ten minute attempt at my first ever documentary. It’s not exactly Oscar winning, but it made me even more interested in exploring the concept further. Like Dustin said, we both kind of started talking about it from that point and slowly started making a movie. Continue reading

Tweets of the Week from Moontower Alumni: Debate Edition

Last night’s presidential debate was made infinitely more bearable thanks to comedians on Twitter. Here are a few of the best tweets from festival alumni who took lemons and made tweets. Enjoy!

Continue reading

Austin Exit Interview: Danny Palumbo

Moontower alum Danny Palumbo moved to Austin in 2011 to pursue stand-up comedy. A few short weeks ago, he said goodbye. A comedian’s comedian, Palumbo made his mark on the scene, hosting innumerable shows in town, bringing us the satirical restaurant sites Lil’ Buco and Abbrev’s and winning the Funniest Person in Austin contest in 2015. After gaining traction on the festival circuit, the comic decided it was time to move on. I caught up with Danny days after he appeared at the prestigious New Faces showcase at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal.

What comedians or comedies did you watch growing up?

Robin Hood: Men In Tights and The Naked Gun were the two movies that were on all the time when I was 10. We had one of those illegal cable boxes, so all the slap-stick comedies of the 90’s were on. Leslie Nielsen really resonated with me as a kid. I still very much enjoy Dracula: Dead and Loving It. I didn’t really start watching stand-up until I was about 15, but Todd Barry’s first half hour really stood out to me. My junior year of high school I was washing dishes five nights a week, so I would get off work and be home right when Conan started at 12:30. All of those things had an impact for sure. Continue reading

Former ‘Funniest Person’ Winner Eric Krug Will Record Live Comedy Album at Austin Sketch Fest

Eric KrugFormer ‘Funniest Person in Austin’ winner Eric Krug is set to close out Austin Sketch Fest with a live album recording for Sure Thing Records on May 29th. A limited number of tickets are still available. Krug won the Funniest Person in Austin contest in 2008 and has since appeared on Comedy Central’s Live at GothamWTF with Marc Maron and was selected as one of the New Faces of Comedy for Just for Laughs in Montreal. I spoke with Krug about his time in the military, depression as a motivator and US presidents.

Talk to me a little bit about your beginnings in comedy.

I was in the Air Force in 2005-2006. I was going to be getting out and I didn’t really have anything better to do but I didn’t want to stay. I didn’t want to serve my country anymore. I had enough of that. I had enough of the country and the service.

Basically I was a real big pussy for a long time and I would go all the way down to Austin from San Antonio to watch comedy. I really liked the comedy scene, but I was still too scared to get up on stage. Then my ex broke up with me. We were still seeing each other casually even though we were broken up and then I went over to her place once and she was on her way out on a date with another guy and that’s when she decided to break up with me. Continue reading

The Paramount’s Stand-Up Comedy Intensive Returns This July

Comedian Ralphie Hardesty is back this year to teach another one-week stand-up comedy intensive for kids in grades 6-12. The accomplished comic will introduce students to the process of writing and performing a stand-up comedy routine from writing jokes to working a crowd. The class runs July 25th – July 29th. Ralphie is a gifted performer and a wonderful teacher who performs regularly around town. I spoke with him about his background, influences, and what students can expect from the class.

Camp2016Landing_Comedy

When did you first develop an interest in comedy? Tell me a bit about your background and early experiences in standup.

I’ve been interested in comedy my entire life! I used to watch old reruns of I Love Lucy and the Mary Tyler Moore show over and over until I memorized them, and I would recite them at the dinner table. Standup is one of my first loves, but I didn’t start doing it until I was older. I went to my first open mic when I was 28, and that was because I was unemployed and needed things to occupy my time. I didn’t know that it would end up taking SO MUCH of my time, or I might not have ever started. I’m happy I did?

If you could tell your younger self one thing you learned about standup since you started, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self to start earlier than I did. I started a full 10 years later than I wish I had, since the only thing that a young comedian needs is experience, as much as they can get. That’s why I think this class is such a great idea, because it gives very young adults experience in a safe space. It’s a terrifying idea, to try to make strangers laugh, but anyone can do it. Continue reading

Cap City Comedy Club Names Balthazar Lounge In Honor of Late Comedian Andy Ritchie

AndysLast night at an intimate ceremony for Andy Ritchie’s family and friends, the folks at Cap City Comedy Club named the small lounge after the late comic. “Andy Ritchie’s Balthazar Lounge” references a favorite bit where Andy described encountering a “lost falcon” poster.

The tables at the club featured candy-filled cell phones atop bowls of candy with small signs that read, “Hell yeah, I want some candy,” another reference to a popular bit. The comic’s King Ding-a-Ling CDs and t-shirts featuring an original drawing of the comic from Kerry Awn were also distributed.

In attendance were Andy’s mom, brother and Ruby Collins, the comic’s fiancée, plus a multitude of comics including Mike MacRae, Martha Kelly, Chris Cubas, Bryan Gutmann and Trey Galyon. The event was organized by Cap City’s general manager and co-owner Margie Coyle and director of operations Chandy Popp Kurweil who worked with the comedian for many years. Continue reading

Recordings Run Friday at Moontower

bonfireSiriusXM podcasts framed Friday evening at the fifth annual Moontower Comedy Festival. Beginning at 4 p.m., Jay Oakerson and Dan Soder’s The Bonfire welcomed Joe DeRosa and Andy Kindler to 800 Congress, while nearly eight hours later the Velv Comedy Lounge concluded the Foxxhole taping of live sets from Jak Knight, Lashonda Lester, Raul Sanchez and Tony Rock. Between, podcast fans could also catch the Sklar Brothers’ Sklarboro Country and Austin comedy alum Brendon Walsh and Randy Liedtke’s The Bone Zone with guests Johnny Pemberton and hometown Baskets breakout Martha Kelly.

IMG_2200Throughout, headliner David Cross recorded both early and late Paramount Theatre sets of what will ultimately become his new Make America Great Again special. Next door at the Stateside, the U.K.’s Jimmy Carr continued his first U.S. tour, Funny Business, in Austin. At midnight writer-director Kevin Smith noted that is was his thirtieth visit to the city, one he always viewed as a “film mecca” thanks to his fascination with Richard Linklater.

IMG_2189Continuing the theme of flipping the stand-up format, Jeremiah Watkins hosted the no-prep Stand-Up on the Spot with Sean Donnelly, Ari Shaffir, Jenny Zigrino, Chris Cubas and more at the Velv Comedy Lounge. A huge, rowdy crowd at Josh Adam Meyers’s Goddamn Comedy Jam revealed the inner rockstars of Matteo Lane (who unleashed a Whitney Houston medley), DeRosa (both At the Drive-In and Queen), Garofalo (The Monkees) and Brad Williams (Kid Rock). Meyers, the live backing band and all performers joined as a Supergroup for the finale, a venue-wide singalong of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”

Short, Garofalo and Bamford Fill Thursday’s Moontower Theaters

glick

IMG_2087Martin Short and Janeane Garofalo respectively headlined the Paramount and Stateside Theatres Thursday at the fifth annual Moontower Comedy Festival, kicking off an evening highlighting Ron Funches at Cap City, James Adomian at the packed Townsend and Ari Shaffir’s This Is Not Happening storytelling show at the Parish.

IMG_2132Maria Bamford, a Moontower veteran several times over, took the late shift at the Paramount with guests Jackie Kashian and Erin Foley, breaking out a significant amount of new material and teasing the plot of upcoming Netflix series Lady Dynamite with tales of her past institutionalization and career/interpersonal comebacks.

Stashbox followed Shaffir at the Parish with THC-centric material from Allen Strickland Williams, Jak Knight, Chris Cubas and Jenny Zigrino, while a block down at Antone’s, Josh Adam Meyers let Jay Oakerson, Fahim Anwar and the Sklar Brothers unleash their inner rockstars at the Goddamn Comedy Jam.

IMG_2125And though Ian Abramson’s high-concept 7 Minutes in Purgatory — comics performing via video feed in a separate room from the audience — suffered a technical-difficulty delay up top, the capacity Townsend welcomed solitary late-night sets from Phoebe Robinson, Langston Kerman, Jon Rudnitsky and triumphant closer Andy Kindler…for whom an audience is often a self-proclaimed (and tongue-in-cheek) nuisance anyway.

 

Ari, Kurt, Anthony and Anjelah Kick Off Moontower 2016

ThIMG_2084e Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival began its fifth incarnation Wednesday evening, beating the predicted rain and ushering in a weekend welcoming headliners including Martin Short, Maria Bamford, Kevin Smith, Janeane Garofalo and Saturday Night Live‘s Leslie Jones and Colin Jost.

Cap City, recently cited as one of the 15 Best Comedy Clubs in America, celebrated the “holidays” with Ari and Kurt Do 4/20, New York scene staples Ari Shaffir and Kurt Metzger’s cannabis-centric stand-up and storytelling showcase welcoming Austin-bred talent Raul Sanchez, Abby Rosenquist, Chris Cubas and Nick Mullen.

IMG_2085Back at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin host hotel, construction across the street didn’t deter Badgeholders from enjoying Happy Hour socializing on the second-floor patio bar before heading around the corner to Anthony Atamanuik’s Dump Trump at the Stateside Theater and Anjelah Johnson’s sold-out Bon Qui Qui’s Gold Plated Dreams Tour stop at the 1200-capacity Paramount.

Along with Short, Bamford and Garofalo, tonight’s lineup includes Ron Funches, James Adomian, Shaffir’s This Is Not Happening, Ian Abramson’s 7 Minutes in Purgatory and Josh Adam Meyers’s Goddamn Comedy Jam.

She’s All That: Master Pancake’s Kath Barbadoro

KathWhether she’s mocking movies with the hugely popular Master Pancake, reporting from the streets of Austin for ATX Uncensored(ish), or dropping in for a killer stand-up set, Kath Barbadoro is one of the hardest workers in the scene. I spoke with Kath in advance of her Moontower shows and we chatted about her favorite films to ridicule, the creative challenges of writing in someone else’s voice, and seeing Maria Bamford in high school by any means necessary.

Tell me about how you got the job at ATX Uncensored(ish).

They saw a bunch of people for the host job that Brian Gaar eventually got. I initially came in and auditioned for that. They were looking to fill these two correspondent roles. They tell me this isn’t why, but I feel like the reason they brought me back in is because I ran into Brian at a bar and he was like, “Yeah, we’re trying to fill these roles,” and I was like, “Well I’d like to do that.” They brought me in and I didn’t realize it was a job interview until the very end of it when I’d already been there for like 2 hours. Then I felt really stupid.

Continue reading