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!

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.

When did you first step on stage?

Sometime in June, 2009, at the Smiling Moose in Pittsburgh. I was almost 24. I remember thinking that was a little late to get started in comedy, so, I just dove in and committed to it almost instantly.

What’s the best comedy advice you’ve received?

I got some great advice at JFL from Ahmed Bharoocha, who was saying he wished he enjoyed his festival more when he was a New Face. He was saying, basically, “I thought I did terrible. I wouldn’t talk to anybody. I was in my head the whole time. I wish I enjoyed it more, because everything is fine now.” He’s been doing great since then, and was invited back to perform at the fest four years later and is just the nicest, funniest dude. I think the best advice usually falls along the lines of, “None of this actually matters.” It really doesn’t. Just enjoy yourself as much as possible.

What’s the best thing about the comedy scene in Austin and/or what will you miss most about being here?

Oh, man. Probably just hanging out. Yeah, I’m going to miss hanging out. The people in Austin rule. I miss the rapport with all of my friends, for sure. My last year in Austin, I felt like a senior in high school. There was a lot of freedom. I knew everybody super well, I had stature in the scene, getting booked like crazy. I was doing things like changing the sign at Cap City to read, “Brian Gaarbage” and nobody cared. I was drunk in gym shorts a lot. There was a comfortability there towards the end that was a little deceiving. Like, I enjoyed being a senior, but I had to graduate eventually.

How did you find out you were accepted into JFL Montreal’s New Faces?

I was just taking a walk outside when I got a conference call from the JFL people. I found out two days before I left Austin which was nice. Buzzer beater.

What were some highlights from the festival?

I watched Andy Kindler‘s Alternative Show twice. It’s the longest running show at JFL, I think. Actually, I know so because he said up top, “This is the longest running show at JFL…timewise. Timewise.” Martha Kelly just killed it at his show. That was so fun to watch. I found out she was in the new Spiderman movie and was like, of course we’ve been hanging out for the last two days you didn’t mention that. Also, just hanging out with the other New Faces is a blast. There’s so much pressure to talk to industry and get signed, and yeah, that’s a goal while you’re there, but it’s fun just to meet other comics and mess around.

What’s something you haven’t achieved/haven’t gotten the opportunity to do in comedy that you’d like to do?

I want to win America’s Got Talent, and by win, I mean bring the show and everybody involved to their knees. I do comedy primarily for revenge now, which is enjoyable. I’ve got all of these maps and article clippings hung up in my parents’ game room. There’s a master plan in place to make everybody pay, but, the project is in it’s infancy. After that, I want to work towards a late night set, a Comedy Central half hour, all the stuff comics want.

What’s next for you?

Road doggin’ it! I’ll be in Philly, New York, DC over the coming weeks. I cringe at calling anything a tour, but Mac Blake and Aaron Brooks and I are going on a southern comedy road trip in September. We’re going to finish up in Austin, the three of us headlining a few shows in town, so that’ll be fun. Then in the Fall I’ll be in either New York or Los Angeles.

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.

Classic comedy beginning. Always starts with a little bit of heartbreak, some depression.

It really does. It’s a good motivator, I think cause it really is I think the thing that motivates people more. You either do it to get back at a girl, or to try to get a girl. It really doesn’t do either of those things, but at least it gets you going.

When you came down from San Antonio to watch, did you talk to anyone? Did you meet any Austin comics at that time?

No, I liked to sit in the back and just stare at people. That was kind of my thing, that’s what I did. The first show I saw, cause it was the year John Ramsey won at FPIA and it was the first time I went up.

I was at an open mic before the semifinals started. I didn’t know about the contest. It just so happened to be an open mic where a lot of the really good comics were there. Dan Jackson, Doug Mellard, Bryan Gutmnan, Jeremy Neal, and Lucas Molandes were all there working on their semi sets. That show was honestly one of the best comedy shows I’ve ever seen and it was an open mic. That’s immediately what got me going. I thought, “Oh this place is great.” They mentioned the contest, so I thought, “Oh, I should check that out.” I came up and watched the semifinals and the finals that year. I loved everybody I saw.

Sometimes the best shows are unexpected ones where something’s in the air. It feels a little bit magical. At the very least it feels like something you’re never going to see again.

Yeah, even though they were working on the semi sets, it was very loose. Everybody went off script a lot. I think that was the show where Doug was so excitable when he came up on stage that he hit his mouth on the microphone and he was bleeding through his set.

Classic Mellard.

I think I remember him jumping on Daniel’s back during part of his set too.

I do remember getting the bug to try stand up comedy back in 2001 when I lived in New York for a hot minute. I went to open mic in New York, but it was just awful. It was like I was going down into a drug dealer’s basement.

Tell me a little bit about that.

I was in a very lost period in my life where I didn’t really know what I was going to do with myself. I went to New York on a whim. It didn’t last very long. I moved there for five or six months before 9/11. I got to be there right when 9/11 happened-

I’m going to stop you right there. You say, “Got to be there for 9/11.”

I always say that. I always betray my feelings when I’m like, “Hey I got to see the big show.” I went and tried and failed at being in New York but at least it was a time when there was something historic going on.

Right and you are a huge fan of history which we’ll get into in a minute.

I thought you were about to say, “You’re a huge fan of 9/11.” I was going to say, “Yeah, I am.”

You’re an American history buff!

I mean I actually wrote a movie script when I was there with my friend who was a film school student. That was back when I was still really into film. I just kind of did that in my free time. I think I just wanted to try to do something creative, but I really didn’t have any direction, or anything.

What attracted me to stand up back then is what attracted me to it again in 2005, which is that it was autonomous. The thing about film was I wrote that script and it was a fun creative process but I don’t know any producers. I don’t know any actors.

“Now I need 5 million dollars.”

Yeah, so with comedy it was, “Oh well I can write something. I have a finished set and can present a finished product.” That was what attracted me to that art form.

All right, so flash forward and tell me about going up in Austin.

It was November when I had that bad break up. I think there’s sort of that thing when you’re in a position that you’re just like, “Oh well, there’s nothing to lose. I might as well embarrass myself.”

It puts you in the right mindset. So I just wrote a bit the break up and did it. It went fine. I think I did good for a new person. Although, my voice was shaking. I’ve always had a real problem with public speaking. My mom has always talked about how I would get zeros in speech class because I would rather have an F then go in front of the class. I hated it that much.

I remember my first set. I’d never been on a stage before so the first thing was the bright light really annoyed me, so I walked all the way to the side of the stage. I was just in the dark on the corner of the stage because I didn’t like having the light in my face. Then when I finished my set I couldn’t figure out how you put the microphone back in the stand. I was fiddling with it and then I was nervous because I wanted to leave because it was just quiet. I just sat the microphone gently on the stool and walked away.

I remember John Ramsey was hosting and he just went up and picked up the mic and said, “Well, okay I guess that’s where that goes now.” I felt fine. I felt like I had at least gotten myself up there. I went in the corner and sucked down and entire gin and tonic in one gulp.

Then two years later you won The Funniest Person in Austin contest.

That was late 2005 so a little over two years.

That’s pretty good.

It was good, it was good. I moved because I was told that you can’t do the contest unless you live in the Austin area. I probably could have just lied. I’m sure they wouldn’t have cared but I didn’t really think of that. If somebody tells me there’s a rule I think I have to follow it.

One of the things that’s been driving me nuts lately when I go to watch comedy is when people run the light. It drives me absolutely crazy. When I started it was like “You do not run the light. That is disrespecting the club and you are in trouble and you are out.” Even at open mics, nobody runs the light and if they do they get the light shined directly in their face. Now everybody runs the light and I’m like “These kids have no respect!”

Well, you are a military man.

Yeah I guess maybe that has something to do with it.

When did you start thinking about going into the Air Force?

I told you about New York. Honestly I wasn’t doing anything there except wasting money so I just moved back. But then I was in a situation where I was going to move back into my parents basement and I’ll be that guy for the rest of my life. So that didn’t sound appealing.

The only jobs that I really had around that time were temp jobs. So I went back and I got another temp job. They sent me to this place where I was doing data entry. I pull the case folder out, there’s a little number on the side of the folder, I type that number in, hit enter, then pull the next folder out and do it again. And I did that for a solid eight hours. This was the first day and I stood up and ask the supervisor “Hey can I bring some headphones in tomorrow? Because it’s very quiet and killing me in here.” And he was like “Oh no they don’t allow music. They say it distracts us.” I literally just stared at him for ten seconds and then I said “I gotta go to the bathroom.” And I just walked out the door, got in my car and drove away.

At that point I didn’t know what to do and my friend Tom was going into the Air Force and he said, “You should come with me, let’s both sign up!” I was like “Tom, you’ve known me long enough you know you could never see me in the military.” But it was literally like “What else am I going to do? If I don’t do this I’m just going to be living in my parent’s basement.” So I said, “All right. I guess I do this then.”

I signed up in 2002 so Afghanistan was obviously going on but not Iraq. When you’re in the early part of your military career, when you’re going through basic training and you’re going through tech school, you’re busy with other shit, you’re busy with military shit. I wasn’t watching the news as much. You would think that I would be watching it more since I’m in the military but it was, “Oh I’m busy learning, training for this job.”


I’ve always been more of an interventionist. Whenever one of these things happen in Rwanda or Sudan, we talk a lot but we don’t do anything. So when I heard all that rhetoric, I was like “Yeah they’re gonna talk shit about Saddam but they’re not going to do anything like they always do.” Because everybody always talked about “Oh somebody’s got to do something about Saddam.” But then they just let him do whatever he wants.

When we first went in, I remember when we preemptively struck and the invasion started. I was actually kind of giddy and excited. I was like “Oh shit somebody actually did it! He actually meant what he said!” So my initial response was elation that we were actually finally going to get rid of the bad guy. I had high hopes.


But you know how that went.


So when I got sent to Iraq I was very excited that I was going to at least experience some part of it.

Talk to me about the process of putting an album together.

Well, it’s constantly stressing and thinking I’ve picked the wrong jokes all the way up until the moment just before I step on stage.

How do you have it planned out? Do you have an outline?

I literally have the script in front of me. Especially right now in these final weeks I’m going over it everyday. But I’m still constantly thinking, “Maybe this will work better at the beginning.” The other thing that’s a problem with me is that I like to write a lot. That was my schtick when I first started and I probably did that on purpose too. When I would come up from San Antonio, I came up for every Velveeta mic and every Cap City mic and I would always make sure I had completely different set for each open mic. I did that on purpose because I knew that you were really playing to the other comedians and also the guys that run the rooms and I wanted them to say, “Oh this guy can write. He’s not gonna do the same set of jokes over and over.”

I always like being a prolific writer but that’s kind of been a problem on this album. Every time I read through the script, I come up with a new line. And I’m like “Stop adding shit to this! Leave it alone. You’re doing the album in two weeks you can’t just keep writing new jokes in the middle of your shit.”

I’m in LA doing chunks of the album at each different show. It’s weird too because I’m very much a long form comic and so it’s sometimes harder to pull one chunk out of the album by itself. If you hear jokes about presidents in the middle of my album set that’s fine because it’s one hour long. But if you go to a show and you just do one whole set that’s nothing but presidents everybody’s like “That guy doesn’t do anything but talk about fucking presidents.”

Check out Eric Krug’s live album recording at Austin Sketch Fest this Sunday, May 29th. Fellow Funniest Person in Austin winner Danny Palumbo opens. 

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.


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.

You have made a few appearances during the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival? Do you have any favorite Moontower experiences?

Every Moontower brings at least one major gift that I was not expecting before. This year, it was unexpectedly getting handed a last-minute ticket to the David Cross show. Last year, it was opening for Maria Bamford who is the sweetest and of course funniest person on the planet. The Moontower festival has turned into Comedy Christmas for Austin comedians, so it always brings magical surprises!

What makes Austin a great city for standup comedy?

Lots of things. First and foremost, Capital City Comedy Club is one of the best clubs in the entire country, and they are very generous to local comics who are willing to work hard and hone their craft (yuck, that phrase!). One perfect example is Moontower, which has been an absolutely incredible experience every year. Besides that, there are LOTS of festivals like FFF and Out of Bounds.

You’re also a teacher. Does that world inform your comedy?

Sort of! I don’t really talk about teaching onstage too much, although I do have some material about my job (not my students). What it has helped with is performing to hostile audiences. If I have a room full of people who are listening and having a good time, but there’s just one jerk who wants to make the show about himself, I have some good crowd control techniques I learned from my 2nd graders. 🙂

Tell me a little bit about the stand-up comedy class. What can students expect?

I think the class is a fun way to generate ideas for stand up comedy performances and workshop original jokes. We’ll also be watching excellent examples of (completely clean) comedy, which is universally entertaining. So, in short, students can expect a really fun time watching and performing comedy!

You taught the class last year. What did you enjoy about it?

The students last year absolutely blew me away!! They were hungry for examples of (clean) comedy. The more they consumed, and the more they practiced writing from their own point of view, the more material they were able to write. A couple of them wrote 10 minutes of material in 2 weeks. It sometimes takes professional comedians a lot longer than that to produce the same product, so they really showed me what you can accomplish when you don’t censor yourself and you work as hard as you can. The show we had at the end of camp was side-splitting and I had a blast!

For more information about the class and to register visit

Ralphie Hardesty is a celebrated local comedian, returning to lead the Stand Up Comedy Intensive for the second year in a row. He has appeared on the Paramount stages during Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival and has been featured at several major comedy festivals including Fun Fun Fun Fest, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, the Ladies are Funny Festival (though he is male, he is no less a lady) and the Stan Francisco Comedy & Burrito Festival, which was delicious. Ralphie appears at the Alamo Drafthouse with Master Pancake throughout May, mocking the 90s teen gem, She’s All That. Moms love him.

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.

Club owner Rich Miller opened the ceremony with a few words about his long relationship with the comic. He spoke of the early days when Andy was one of his assistants (other comics who had the job over the years included comedians John Evans and Isaac Witty) and he remembered Andy excitedly telling him of his weekend plans to watch the new Steven Segal movie over beers with friends. He said the comic had the enthusiasm of a kid at a candy store. He also fondly remembered the lunches that Andy and his mom would take and spoke about what a kind and good-natured person the comedian was.

Next, comedian and friend Chuck Watkins performed some of Andy’s jokes that never made it onto a CD to wild applause. Afterwards, he played a clip package featuring some of Andy’s bits, sketches, and short films culminating with his “Live at Gotham” performance. Finally, the club passed out champagne to the attendees before unveiling the hand-crafted sign announcing the new lounge name. Afterwards, guests hung around and remembered the late Funniest Person in Austin winner and some partook of The Balthazar Combo, a drink special named for the comic that features a shot of Jägermeister (the comic’s favorite) and a Fire Eagle IPA, chosen for it’s relation to the falcon.

Below here are some photos from the event from Instagram.

Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present, 'Andy Ritchie's Balthazar Lounge'. We will love you and miss you always.

A photo posted by Cap City Comedy Club (@capcitycomedy) on

Andy Ritchie's Balthazar Lounge at @capcitycomedy

A photo posted by @donswaynos on

Tonight was really special.

A photo posted by Bryan Gutmann (@bryangutmann) on

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


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.

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Seven Minutes with Ian Abramson

ianabramson copyMost comedians live for laughter. They fine-tune their timing and expertly tweak their material according to an audience’s reaction. So what happens when you take away everything that sustains them? What if there was no audience?

Comedian Ian Abramson wondered the same thing, and thus Seven Minutes in Purgatory was born. The comedian’s hugely popular show was recently picked up by Comedy Central, and the stage show comes to Moontower next week featuring comics from the fest. I spoke to Ian recently about the show, writing for The Onion, and why improv and stand-up don’t always get along.

Tell me a little bit about the origins of Seven Minutes in Purgatory.

Certainly: Seven Minutes in Purgatory is a show where the comedians perform to a camera in one room, and the audience watches in a separate room. When I was in Chicago I was thinking, “There’s this relationship between the audience and the performer,” and I thought it would be interesting if you got to see what a comedian did when they didn’t have anything to respond to.

Were you the guinea pig for this, or how did you first get it together?

I produced it with a man named Matt Burn in Chicago. We sat down and talked through it, and we built a whole show’s worth of comedians doing seven minute sets to try this out. The way that that played out is I hosted and then I brought up comedians. So I was the first person to do it, but by the end of the night, eight people had.

Did you come to any scientific conclusions about who would succeed at such a thing?

Right off the bat what was interesting to me — something we didn’t anticipate — was just that people get a kick out of it. The people that are showing up for the show know what the show is, hopefully, and if not, hopefully it becomes clear what they’re doing. That means that anyone that’s sitting down to watch the show gets a comedian saying, “Man, this feels so weird!” and that gets a big laugh. Because the audience is living that moment-to-moment with them, if anything it makes the audience more aware of the fact that they are part of the show. They’re keenly aware of the fact that they’re sitting there watching the show, and their response to it is part of that experience. That was an interesting thing that we wouldn’t have thought would happen, but that was one of my favorite parts of the show.

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