Lots of folks are curious about how the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival came to be so named.
In an NBC affiliate KXAN-TV interview with Jim Ritts, Executive Director for the Austin Theatre Alliance, the parent company for the Paramount and Stateside at the Paramount Theatres, Ritts talked about the festival’s name. Ritts said:
“Moontowers are an iconic representation of Austin. One of the things we loved about it was when the original 31 moontowers were brought to Austin in 1894, it wreaked havoc with the citizenry. They were afraid that crops would grow 24 hours a day, that roosters wouldn’t know when to crow or not to crow, that chickens would lay eggs throughout the entire 24 hours. And we thought, hmmm, there’s something interesting about the iconic and wreaking havoc nature of a comedy festival consistent with who Austin is.”
And while Austinites at the time may have worried about how artificial lights shining at night would affect plants and animals, the moontowers were erected to provide a protective illumination for citizens.
The Austin moontowers were built —at least according to city legend— in response to the brutal murders of several servant girls by Austin’s first serial killer, dubbed by the writer O. Henry as “The Servant Girl Annihilator.”
Though I’ve walked below the moontowers in Austin all my life, I first heard about the alleged reason they were built several years ago from Brian McGreevy and Lee Shipman, a couple of aspiring screenwriters I befriended when they were studying at the Michener Center for Writers. The two joined forces to pen a script about the Servant Girl Annihilator murders, which took place in the mid-1880s as the city’s capitol building was being erected. Since the murders began a decade before Austin acquired its moon light tower system, some have questioned the degree of causality.
And though that script hasn’t been made into a film, it propelled McGreevy and Shipman to Hollywood hotshot status. (McGreevy’s novel Hemlock Grove will be published by FSG on March 27, and McGreevy and Shipman are writing the Netflix television series of the same name). But even though their tale of the Servant Girl Annihilator never hit the silver screen, one of Austin’s moontowers made it into the iconic party scene in Richard Linklater’s 1993 film Dazed and Confused.
The moontower scene opens with Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) and Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) chatting.
Why is it called the Moon Tower anyway?
Oh I guess they just decided to put it up out here whenever they were building the power plant. Actually it’s a good idea. I mean you’ve got a full moon out here every day of the year, you know?
And okay, so the stoner high school students in Dazed and Confused had never heard the legend of the Servant Girl Annihilator. They still understood inherently that moontower lighting makes for great high school beer bust ambience.
Dazed and Confused helped launch several acting careers (think Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck), and perhaps less noteworthy, but cooler to me at the time, gave everyone at my high school who was interested at least a role as an extra in the film. (Watch for me as an innocent observer during the freshman-hazing scene—I’m on the screen for not quite two seconds). But you can see plenty of other Austin High kids turned actors such as Wiley Wiggins, Christina Hinajosa, and Catherine Morris making real acting debuts.
All this to say that I believe the Austin moontowers aren’t important only because they are the only moontower system in the world that’s still operating, but also because they—and their story—have a history of engendering creativity in Austin. And the moontowers call us outside to take part in the night. The Zilker Park Holiday Tree is a moontower festooned with spiraling streamers of colored lights and every year it beckons us to congregate with good cheer.
And now they’re the symbol for this phenomenal festival in Austin to shine a light directly on comedians. As accustomed as some Austinites have become to hailing musicians and filmmakers before comedians, the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival just might change the natural order of things in the city. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if during the festival we have plants growing at night, chickens laying eggs willy-nilly, and roosters crowing long before the dawn.
Mary Pauline Lowry is a native Austinite. She has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, Barton Springs lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. She’s a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. Her debut novel The Earthquake Machine is now available.
KXAN’s Story on 3 Austin Moontowers Coming Down
As posted on Mitchhedberg.net on Feb. 28, 2012, by Mitch’s widow, Lynn Shawcroft.
It’s with a broken heart that I am writing this update.
Mary Hedberg, Mitch’s Mom, passed away this weekend. She was diagnosed with cancer last summer and fought so very hard, but sadly passed away on Saturday February 25th.
She was surrounded by her family – the most important thing to Mary was her family. She was a beautiful wife, an incredible mother, a loving sister and the most amazing grandmother.
Mary excelled at love. It was in her genes, her voice, her smile – everything about her was love and family. She was special; she just naturally understood how to give and receive love in a harmonious way.
She had strength and grace. Mary dealt with life’s great moments and life’s inevitable challenges in a beautiful unique way that I will forever admire…
Mary was devastated and in such pain when Mitch died yet, with a broken heart, she chose to celebrate his work and share whatever she could with his fans. Amazing.
If any of you were fortunate enough to meet or correspond with Mary you will understand how big a loss this is to her family and friends.
Love Lynn (and The Hedberg Family)
The Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival and the entire staff of the Austin Theatre Alliance extends its sincere condolences to the Hedberg family and friends.
Chris Hardwick, stand-up comedian and self-proclaimed nerd (well “others-proclaimed,” too), is perhaps our nation’s premier proponent and purveyor of geek & nerd lifestyle with his copious endeavors for Nerdist Industries and beyond. His website Nerdist.com is a trove of all manner of nerd culture and his tip-top-ranked comedy podcast (also available for free on iTunes) is a consistently interesting listen. Chris recently authored the humorous self-help book The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) for his fellow “creative obsessives” to harness their particular attributes for the imminent Nerd uprising. Think this is a laughing matter? Well it is, but with 1.6 million Twitter followers, do not be surprised by Hardwick’s attainment of his hopes that “…will one day bring destruction and ruin to the mouth-breathing, jock masses… paving the way for a world where video games are free, Cheetos are currency and robot concubines vigorously endeavor to sate our sexual thirsts.”
Chris just taped a new Comedy Central Special (airdate TBD), and he is a writer for Wired magazine, can be seen on G4’S “Attack of the Show” and BBC America’s “The Nerdist” TV specials. Along with Mike Phirman, Chris is one-half of the musical comedy duo “Hard ‘n Phirm” (and Chris is producing an animated pilot, “Hard ‘n Phirm’s Musical Timehole” for IFC). He is regularly featured on “Chelsea Lately,” “The Soup”, and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Chris is also the voice of Otis the Cow on Nickelodeon’s “Back at the Barnyard.”
Expect an entertaining night of laughs, brainiac debate, enthusiastic discussions, and pure podcastic nerd love.
Purchase Tickets Online or (512) 474-1221 to purchase tickets by phone. Shows at 7pm & 10pm.
MITCH HEDBERG w/ Chuck Savage on Bass at Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis. Filmed by Matt Ehling
Today, Mitch Hedberg would have turned forty-four years old. Here at Moontower, we are celebrating this birthday with joie de vivre and wholehearted gratitude for the great enduring gift of laughter that he bestowed upon us. We invite you to join this communal wingding and then to spend some time reveling with Mitch’s eminently quotable, fantastically inventive, and hysterically funny stand-up comedy. Gather your coworkers for an impromptu office party. Sitting in a coffeehouse with a laptop? Round up some patrons! Fun fact: ‘Twas a time when engaging strangers was, dig this, customary and… “fun.” I shit thee nay. And hey got a smartphone? Hook someone up with a clip! Hedberg harnessed his shyness into a signature style, so I say, please, “Partake.”
In this spirit, I also wanted to share a long dormant telephone Q&A I did with Mitch on October 23, 2001. Save one edit, it is reprinted here as it appeared in INsite magazine in advance of his November dates at the Cap City Comedy Club. INsite last published a print edition in October 2010 but way back in the day they had an office in the heart of South Congress Avenue, where I was gladdened to take this call. INsite owner Sean Claes carries on with an abridged online music endeavor but I still smile when I see an old INsite rack housing the Tarrytown Healthier Than Thou and the like. To Sean’s credit, the racks’ continued existence is deliberate recycling (plus advertising).
This “interview” was really a conversation, and a lovely one at that. Mitch generously chatted for over forty-five minutes— well past the point for me to hit my allotted word count and above and beyond any measure for him to have fulfilled a PR obligation. Much of what we talked about was wonderfully digressive from being potential magazine copy fodder but he was just an uncommonly affable, upbeat, tuned in, earnest, inquisitive, polite, and thoughtful person. We spoke about our native Twin Cities, the independently produced, Minneapolis-based TV show “Let’s Bowl,” which Comedy Central had recently picked up, and also the fact that at that time language was still bleeped late at night – he lamented that policy’s “crippling effect” on comedians. He eloquently chronicled TV’s overly dominant role in a comedian’s career and the importance of touring, citing Doug Stanhope as an example and whom he reverentially deemed “vulgar in a brilliant way.” We discussed some of the slimier aspects of the entertainment industry like predatory modeling “schools,” and pondered the iffy benefit of stand-up classes. Mitch was firmly in the funny “can’t be taught” camp but he withheld from dismissing classes outright. He then expressed some hope by recalling that his comic friend, Austinite Tom Hester, “an original act,” had a workshop here. Laughing, Mitch cheerily opined, “I doubt that Tom’s first lesson is `Go to Hollywood.’” Carrot Top’s evolving “look” was considered and during our entire exchange, Mitch Hedberg presented nary a whiff of cattiness or egotism.
I hadn’t looked at this piece in a long, long time. I am so fortunate to have caught some of his local performances and to have briefly visited with Mitch and his beloved wife Lynn here on two occasions but let me make no impression that I personally “knew” the man. However, we all recognize his immensely special talent. That Mitch Hedberg continues to influence, entertain, and perpetuate such a grand cascade of laughs and goodwill for so many is truly cause for a day, this day, of jubilation.
We are in now in an era, a time that Mitch envisioned and, frankly, teed up, where stand-up and comedy in general have reached a new level of appreciation (and not just another generic boom or glut but a place with actual openness and greater public discernment). Since we are in fact looking forward to Steven Wright coming to town and since the comparison was always there, I wanted to include one of my favorite Mitch Hedberg quotes and unfurl its perfect quintessence. Replying to Shecky magazine on this matter, Mitch Hedberg remarked, “I love Steven Wright but as far as him being an influence, I can’t measure that. Let me say this… if I made potato chips, and I decided to pack them in a skinny can, people would say I was like Pringles. But what if I packed them in a bag?” Exactly!
* * *
Mitch Hedberg the Comedian
by Steve Birmingham / October 23, 2001
With his dry observational smart-bomb non sequiturs, comparisons with Steven Wright are unavoidable for this ubiquitous “Late Show with David Letterman” favorite. However, Mitch Hedberg is one of stand-up’s most original and pant-wettingly hilarious voices. Speaking by phone from his mountainside home in Big Bear, it becomes clear that his onstage persona and über-beatnik style of delivery are not quite the construct one might imagine. This is a cat that makes the Dude Lebowski seem a li’l high strung and who possesses a wonderful penchant for using the word “man” that gives Ray Manzarek and Austin Powers a run for their money. However, his laid-back and old school hipster demeanor belie a thoughtful earnestness towards his material and profession. For example, he preserved the purity of the live comedy experience on his Strategic Grill Locations CD by not editing his performance— an unheard of practice for comedy albums. INsite was tickled to get serious about the funny.
Steve Birmingham: Austin loves you, baby, but you’re Elvis-like in Houston. What’s the story?
Mitch Hedberg: Over the years, Houston’s just panned out for me. Mark Babbitt who runs the club [The Laff Stop] supported me from early on and brought me in back when I was just doing thirty minutes. He always gave me the freedom to get good, y’know. He gave me the chance to develop and get better and in the process people just kept coming out to see me. It was the truest form of building up a following the old fashion way— just constantly appearing at the club over and over again. By the time things started rolling for me, I had already developed a decent following there and it’s just a great place to go now. One of my favorite clubs for sure.
SB: I won’t burn the punchline but you have a bit that starts out saying “I got in to comedy to do comedy… but when you’re in Hollywood and you’re a comedian, everybody wants you to do other things beside comedy. `All right you’re a stand-up comedian, can you act? Can you write?’ They want me to do things related to comedy but not comedy.” I think you tackle a lot about the post-comedy boom paradigm with that set up. As if being an outstanding headliner still somehow needs this “Other” for validation.
MH: Right. Right, right. If I had my way I could just do stand-up comedy and then the small things that go with that like being funny on talk shows, but still being yourself basically. Y’know, `Mitch Hedberg, the comedian, we got him on the show today but he’s still just Mitch Hedberg the comedian’, that would be great. But it’s so much now that comedy has become the stepping-stone. It just used to be that people that did comedy in L.A. or New York were there to use comedy as a stepping-stone but now basically the whole business itself is looked at as a stepping-stone. Once you’re viewed as a good headliner they say, `All right he has to do something else now. We have to put him in a movie. We got to put him on TV.’ You’re forced to rely on talents that you haven’t really been developing over the past twelve years. You’ve been developing the one talent, stand-up comedy, and now they want you to act and write. Part of the reason I wrote that joke is because my skills aren’t in acting and writing and too often I’m forced to try to do those things.
SB: I think stand-up is as legitimate of an art form as theatre and painting but it’s often thought of as just entertainment. It’s taboo to heckle symphony orchestras or a play but it’s tolerated with stand-up. What’s your take?
MH: Stand-up is an art but since it’s humor and it’s funny— a lot of guys that don’t think it’s art are probably coming from the angle that they don’t want to take it so seriously. I was working in Canada once with this kid who said that we’re nothing but salted peanuts, insinuating that we’re something to go with the drinks, y’know, of the people at the bar. I thought that was complete bullshit. I was always in this thing to express what I thought, whether it’s good or bad but I thought of it as an outlet, which more or less is an art form. I’ve always looked at it as an art but I don’t look at it as a pretentious art. I understand it has to be taken lightly because it is just comedy in the end, but the good stand-up comics are someone with something to say. Anyone I like, to me, is practicing an art form.
SB: We had a jewel of a club called the Bad Dog Comedy Theater close here in Austin. Now proprietary factors aside, the fact remains that the crowds only came out en masse for the established names. Then there would be these brilliant acts often playing to just a few kids on dates and the comedy geek patrol regulars (like myself). I mean I can’t fault anyone but people do buy season tickets for theatre and go even when they’ve never heard of the playwright. Do you feel stand-up’s resurgence hinges more on the public’s thirst for live comedy or having a bumper crop of comics with some name recognition?
MH: I think it is kind of resurging but what you brought up as far people buying season tickets for theatre is a good point. I don’t think stand-up is being appreciated as much as it could be and I don’t think it has for a long time. There’s some great stand-up comics who come to a town and if they’re not a name, they don’t attract a crowd but in reality there are brilliant people out there. I was at the Chicago Comedy Festival the first year it came and there were at least fifteen amazing comics on the bill. It was a brand new festival and no one turned out. There were shows with comics, top of the line but not famous, and they were playing to crowds of ten people, literally. It’s the sad part of comedy, it just doesn’t achieve that level of people just want to see it just to see it, and they love the risk taking and shit. Someone could go see an amazing comic not have a good show but in reality what the guy is saying on stage is funny, it’s that it’s not crowd-pleasing or something. And a lot of people can’t see through that. They have to see comedy always getting big laughs in order to understand that something is funny… I think people need to latch on to some of these comics out there that are essentially no names but are just great, and go out there and support them.
SB: What were you in to in high school?
MH: To be honest man, I got in to the freedom of not going to school. I started missing out on school and I enjoyed that… Of course I liked to make people laugh when I was in school, that was always a thing for me but I didn’t really like going to class anymore. I wasn’t college material; I learned that in high school. I also learned that I liked acting and that I had to be an entertainer of some sort. When I went to class, I used to go to acting class— things like that. I tried choir but I was a terrible singer but you got to stand by your friends in choir.
SB: You have a unique observational style and delivery and you don’t work blue or get political. Had you always started out working this way?
MH: I do occasionally have some blue material in my older jokes but it’s very rare. I think early on that I knew that sex material was so widely covered by the other comedians that I’d have to really have a fresh take on it to have something original. I knew early on I wanted to be original and I think it’s pretty obvious that in any art form originality is going to help you rise to the top. So I knew that if I had sex material, unless it was crazy original fresh, that was not going to help me stand out. So I kind of avoided it consciously. And politically, I certainly never had a grasp on politics. I’m always amazed if I can understand anything Meet the Press is talking about. I avoided politics simply out of confusion as to what they were about. I didn’t want to sound like I didn’t know what I was talking about, which I’m sure would have happened.
SB: Can you explain why you rarely look at the audience?
MH: Yeah man, I can explain that. I have found when I look at an audience that the expressions on the peoples’ faces aren’t always up to par with the sounds that they’re making. A crowd can sound like they’re having a good time when your eyes are closed but if you open your eyes, the looks on some of those faces don’t equal the sound. That’s always disappointed me, to see a guy in the crowd who doesn’t look like he’s having fun but in general if you just listen to the crowd it sounds like they’re having fun. So I don’t want to focus on the one guy who’s not having fun. An by closing my eyes and just listening, I can’t hear that he’s not laughing but I can see that he’s not laughing. Much, more comfortable.
SB: What’s the best advice another comic’s ever given you?
MH: “Stay on the road, man! Just stay on the road. Just get on stage as much as you can” as simple as that. It’s not going to happen over night. When you start out in comedy, or probably in a lot of things, you want it to happen fast, man. You don’t want to see yourself having to do this for seven years before you start to get some feedback. But that’s truly what it takes, so I guess the person who told me just to keep doing it over and over was the person… I always hated advice, man, because it was some strange shit I would get as advice. I swear to God this one lady told me to wear more jewelry on stage. Her reason being that I would look flashy and the crowd would look at me more.
SB: Any comics you’d recommend our readers try to catch?
MH: Yeah, I’d have to say Arj Barker. Todd Barry is great. Bradley Lewis. I’m gonna have to say my favorite comic from Cincinnati, Josh Sneed. He’s amazing if you could print his name. He’s amazing. If he ever comes to Austin and you’re a fan of comedy, catch Josh Sneed for sure.
LOOKING FOR HUMOR TOUR
Sunday, February 26th
Doors @ 6:00pm | Show @ 7:00pm
The Paramount Theatre
Purchase Tickets Online or (512) 474-1221 to purchase tickets by phone.
Reaching her 6’2” stature at age thirteen was bound to give Jeanne Robertson a unique perspective and her path to becoming such a popular humorist is certainly atypical. As Miss North Carolina 1963, Jeanne found herself speaking to the public on a near-daily basis and (in a blow to beauty contestant stereotypes) it became evident that Jeanne could really “work a room” with her warm sense of humor. Hence, she was named Miss Congeniality when she competed in the Miss America Pageant. Over the years, Jeanne has been the recipient of umpteen prestigious awards, authored three books (Humor: The Magic of Genie, Mayberry Humor Across the USA, and Don’t Let the Funny Stuff Get Away), produced seven DVD/CD titles, and she can be heard regularly on Sirius XM’s “Laugh USA” comedy channel. Her “Looking for Humor” Tour presents a clean, family-friendly evening of laughs from her down-home, life experience-based yarns. As Jeanne puts it, she speaks “two languages fluently: English… and Southern.”
Stateside at the Paramount presents
THE SECOND CITY’S
LAUGH OUT LOUD TOUR
Friday, March 2nd
Shows @ 7:00pm & 9:30pm
Stateside at the Paramount
Purchase Tickets Online or (512) 474-1221 to purchase tickets by phone.
The Second City is such a revered American institution and brand that it’s my understanding Good Housekeeping refers to itself as having “The Second City Seal.” Sure, GH is a smidge snooty but they’re not that narcissistic as to pull an eponym. And with all due love for other comedy troupes like The Groundlings, there’s just no topping the Second City’s storied, over half-century history of sketch comedy and improv. This is the company that put Alan Arkin, John Belushi, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Jane Lynch, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Amy Sedaris, David Steinberg and so many more into orbit. These two “Laugh Out Loud” performances by the newest generation of cast members are primed to produce epic live comedy and to be the very definition of “You should’ve been there!”
Comedian and tireless Austin stand-up advocate Ramin Nazer made his network television debut last night on CBS’ “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” to a receptive audience and he also garnered a plug for his Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival appearance in April. Nazer, who performed at Just for Laughs in Montreal last year, runs the Live at Coldtowne Friday Shows and who can be seen around town performing his inventive one-liners and offbeat vignettes on almost any given night. For more information visit his web site or check out this Austin Chronicle Profile.
UPDATE: Here is Ramin’s “Late Late Show” set:
Previously: Ramin’s introduction begins at the 31:50 mark (there isn’t a stand alone clip posted yet)
The Paramount Theatre is announcing today single show tickets for the first annual Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival go on sale Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, at 10 a.m. Central Standard Time. Additional on sales and comics to be announced for the festival April 25-28, 2012 in Austin, TX.
The Festival is also proud to announce the addition of hilarious comedian Chelsea Peretti to the lineup, whose writing credits include NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and “The Sarah Silverman Program.” She was also named one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch in 2010, and has made appearances on shows like Louis CK’s “Louie” among others.
Tickets to individual performances from several of the stellar already announced Moontower comics including Aziz Ansari, Seth Meyers, Steven Wright, The Amazing Jonathan, Maria Bamford, W. Kamau Bell, Hannibal Buress, The Divorce Show, John Mulaney, and Chelsea Peretti will be available Thursday, Feb. 23. Additional performances will be added leading up to the festival. So, check back at www.moontowercomedyfestival.com for updates.
April 26th: 10:30pm / April 27 & 28th: 8:00pm – Tickets starting at $18
April 25 & 26th: 8:00pm – Tickets starting at $18
April 27th: 10:00pm / April 28th: 7:30pm – $12
April 25th: 7:45pm – $15
April 25 & 26th: 6:00pm – $12 (Happy Hour at 5:00pm)
April 26th: 7:30pm – $40
April 27 & 28th: 7:45pm – $15
April 26th: 7:45pm – $15
April 28th: 7:30pm – $41
Again, please stay tuned for more comedians to be announced in the full lineup coming soon. The festival is slated to bring over 60 of the world’s best comedians (both established favorites and up-and-comers) to Austin, a city with an insatiable appetite for comedy and festivals alike. Spread out over 10+ venues around the city including the Paramount Theatre and Cap City Comedy Club, the festival will showcase stand-up, improv, sketch, musical comedy, and all of the odd and hilarious stuff in between.
*A note to current and prospective badge holders. Single tickets will be available for each performance. The VIP badge grants you access to all performances, with no need to purchase an additional ticket. The “You Betcha I’m Somebody Pass” gives you access to each performance, except those at the Paramount. For Paramount shows, “You Betcha” badge holders will have pre-sale access allowing them to get a jump on the crowd for the big shows. The “You Betcha” badge, while giving you the most bang for your buck as a great overall value badge, gets you access to the shows after VIP badge and single ticket holders and does not guarantee admission. However, the Festival will hold a limited number of seats set aside for these badges at each show for those first in line, so early arrival is suggested. It is suggested that “You Betcha” badge holders also take advantage of the special benefit of exclusive pre-sale access to purchase single tickets to “must see” performances and ensure your entry.
To purchase tickets for individual performances as well as festival badges ($129) and VIP badges ($799), go to www.moontowercomedyfestival.com. You can also get them at the Paramount Theatre box office or by calling 512-474-1221. The box office is open Monday – Saturday 12pm – 5:30pm and is closed on Sundays. The Paramount call center is open Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm and Saturday 12pm – 5:30pm, but it’s closed on Sundays.
On Thursday, this link will also be live for your one stop single performance tickets shop:
Follow us on facebook and twitter @moontowercomedy. Also check out all things comedy right here at the festival’s blog site www.comedymoontower.com.
ABOUT MOONTOWER COMEDY AND ODDITY FESTIVAL
Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival was established in 2011 by the Paramount Theatre and will hold the first annual festival April 25-28, 2012 in Austin, TX. Moontower is dedicated to bringing world-class comedy to the city through a variety of performances in stand-up, sketch, improv and musical comedy by well know performers and up-and-comers alike.
Team Moontower has gone from Cloud Nine…. to Eleven with the lineup addition of Los Angeles-based Chelsea Peretti, one of the most exciting comedic talents around and a de facto superstar. Onstage, Peretti’s unique viewpoint is a bracingly sardonic blend of brassiness and self-deprecation. She is a writer on NBC’s Emmy-nominated “Parks and Recreation,” and wrote for and appeared on “The Sarah Silverman Program.” In addition to her many TV credits, Chelsea has also written for Details, Playgirl, and the Village Voice. Her festival appearances include the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, Just for Laughs Chicago, the HBO Aspen Comedy Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Bonnaroo, SXSW, and Bumbershoot. Her numerous online doings include the The New York City Rejection Line (co-created with her brother Jonah) and the web series “Making Friends” and “All My Exes.” She is also a member of the comedy collective Variety SHAC (the “C” stands for “Chelsea). And as if you needed any more bona fides, but when Chelsea was here last year for Hell Yes Fest, a dozen-plus urban gentlemen were compelled to proclaim (unsolicited, mind you) to her that, “You smell good, girl.” So, add “fragrant” to this hilarious multi-hyphenate.
“ALL MY EXES” Episode #1 NSFW
Moontower badges are available now at www.moontowercomedyfestival.com. Single tickets on sale Thursday, February 23rd. Please check back for additional lineup and schedule info.
Austin-based comedian Scott Hardy is a something of an anomaly. He’s a distinguished ‘80s stand-up veteran but also a performer whose material and demeanor still exudes a playful freshness. Whether performing in Las Vegas and Atlantic City or around town, Hardy engenders copious laughter with his keen observational eye and conversational-like delivery. And he is clearly still having a ton of fun. For example, Hardy will take a stage or go on local TV with unwinking commitment as the likable goober JD Moore. Fans and the uninitiated are well advised to catch him at the Festival. Comedy Moontower recently had the chance to check-in with Mr. Hardy.
Steve Birmingham: First off, can you address the persistent scuttlebutt that The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s elderly call-in regular, Gladys, is perhaps you and/or a Scott Hardy relative?
Scott Hardy: Gladys is my Nana. In many ways she is everyone’s grandmother, granny, or bubbie. She is a loving spirit who says what she feels and manages to never be mean-spirited about it. It’s great that some people speculate that we may be the same person. Ellen DeGeneres asked her directly that some fans want to know if she is real and Gladys answered, “I believe that love and laughter are real.” Nana G. is just so dang sweet and her mission is really simple: She wants to bring joy with her special brand of humor and awareness for Meals On Wheels & More of Austin and The Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary.
SB: My understanding is that you started stand-up in the mid ’80s in Florida. Was it a boom scenario where you were not for want for stage time?
SH: I got a lucky shot. I had 10 minutes on my first open mic. The owners of The Comic Strip Comedy Club in Ft. Lauderdale just happened to see me and asked me to perform on a weekend. As I developed they made me the house feature host. This club was open 365 days a year. I had 45 minutes a night on a great stage and I did that for two years. I worked with groundbreaking stand-up comics such as Rodney Dangerfield, Adam Sandler, Richard Belzer, Sam Kinison, and Alan King. When I appeared regularly at The Comedy Corner in West Palm Beach, I shared the stage with comics such as Bill Hicks, Emo Phillips, Judy Tenuta, David Brenner, Carol Leifer, Jeff Garlan, Damon Wayans, Rich Jeni and so many more.
SB: What was “Uncle Mullet’s” Cereal Bar?
SH: Ha! Uncle Mullet was a nickname given to me because I can honestly say I had a mullet. Interestingly, after I had my mullet removed, I could still feel it. I had Phantom Mullet. They say when you lose a sense that another becomes more acute. And when I lost my mullet, my sense of fashion became sharper. I still occasionally open the cereal bar. My wife Christine and I ran it at Cap City Comedy Club’s open mic for almost a year every Sunday. We bring free cereal, milk, and fruit to the comics and they gather in the main room at Cap City. They nosh and exchange ideas and wait to perform in the small room. Really Uncle Mullets’ Cereal Bar is my 401K. Perhaps these fledglings will remember me when they hit big and will send a nice holiday fruit basket to my retirement home.
SB: I thought the foray of comics like David Cross, Patton Oswalt and the “Comedians of Comedy” appearing at rock clubs was a vital moment for stand-up. But, I’ve always been enamored with the tradition of comedians like you opening for blockbuster singers/bands in huge venues. Who have you opened for and what was it like performing in that milieu?
SH: Dude, and yes I just said “Dude.” Not sure why. Maybe because the laughter from 10,000 people comes to the stage in what feels like a wave! I learned quickly to change my cadence and how it was possible to make a huge venue feel intimate for the audience and me. The crowd of ten thousand was Dolly Parton. Sweet lady. Fantasma Productions in West Palm Beach managed me and other promoters like Cellar Door tossed me some big bones as well. I opened for Mel Tormé. He, by the way, was called, “The Velvet Fog.” My mind heard “The Velvet Frog.” I mean he was kinda frog-like if ya think about it but he was terribly kind to me even those I was misinformed. Other concert openings are Jimmy Buffet, Whitney Houston, may sheet rest in peace. Arlo Guthtrie, Chicago, Hall & Oats, Gladys Knight, Suzanne Vega, Jim Carey, and Steven Wright.
SB: Aside from having super solid material, your command of crowd work is rather striking. I know you’ve opened for Paula Poundstone and I’m not likening your style to her same degree of interaction but you do bear to mind that level of comfort with improv and kibitizing. Can you elaborate on this distinctive attribute?
SH: We did a benefit together in Ft. Lauderdale and I had seen her a lot at The Comedy Corner. I instantly loved Paula because she was applying the same principles that I do on stage with regards to crowd work. Listen, as a comic you can arm yourself with anti-heckle lines. Most comics keep these in their arsenal and will unload on anyone that speaks up in the room. A “heckler” or someone that wants to get involved with the show is a great opportunity. The analogy I use is the peal. The room is the oyster. The heckler is the impurity, but with the right amount of pressure and time you can transform it into a precious pearl! I know there’s a time when some people just have to be kicked out because they have bigger issues than just heckling. I love a heckler. I learned from watching Paula. She listens and responds. I feel enormously comfortable on stage and I love letting the audience be who they want to be as well. So many elements are needed for a successful show besides the material and delivery. Sound and light are key. A cool room is better for comedy. Letterman knows that. He keeps his theater under sixty degrees! He says it keeps the comedy fresh but the reality is that people will also laugh to stay warm, and resist laughter in heat. An unfortunate audience cough on a punchline will kill a great joke. Comics that are in a rhythm of punchline, audience laugh, and comic sips drink, [they] cannot sip that drink if it does not get a laugh. The audience perceives it as a fearful or undeserved celebratory sip. These are things I have noticed. There is a math/science to comedy. It’s a learned craft with some degree of having more natural talent than others. Then there is the voodoo: Charisma. Where does that come from? I’m not sure but when any artist works from a true center it radiates a type of…truth.
SB: Please talk about the Austin scene. It’s renown for being super supportive and upping everyone’s game but what is your take? Also, you’re a mentoring figure and I wonder what you share with emerging comics?
SH: Austin Texas, and specifically the Cap City Comedy Club, have a tradition of goodwill surrounding the craft of stand-up. I was honored to be the General Manager of Cap City for a few years and it’s been such a mutual mentoring experience! These new kids on the block are so tolerant of me. You may have noticed that I’m a chronic namedropper. Robin Williams once told me to stop doing that. But it is truly an honor to help a performer find their voice. It’s like a birth…I just realized that I may be more of a doula than a mentor.
SB: I love that you went head-to-head at the Velveeta Room with your yokel alter ego JD Moore. I don’t mean this to sound so FUBAR, but does Scott Hardy get a little jealous of JD?
SH: JD refers to himself as my altered ego. Clever. We have had it out a few times. JD is funny and his improv skills are pretty stellar. I underestimated JD at first. He is not dim but I would not call him excessively bright either. He did respectfully beat me by one Dana Ding in this last competition [The Velveeta. Room’s manager/bartender, comedian Dana Smith, kept track of laughs with a tap bell]. We will do battle again on June 2nd, 2012, at the Velveeta Room.
Moontower badges are available now at www.moontowercomedyfestival.com. Single tickets on sale Thursday, February 23rd. Please check back with site for schedule and additional lineup announcements.