Author Archives: John Merriman

Comedy Central Announces Comedians Getting ‘Stand-Up Presents’ Half Hour Specials

Earlier today, Comedy Central announced the list of comedians who will get their own half-hour specials this year as part of their newly titled Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents series. The shows will tape in April in New Orleans and is set to premiere this fall. The lineup features 2017 Moontower performers Lashonda Lester, Shane Torres and Josh Johnson as well as several Moontower alums including Jo Firestone and Jenny Zigrino. The complete list of talent is as follows.

Adam Cayton-Holland
Anthony Devito
Jo Firestone
Solomon Georgio
Casey James Salengo
Sam Jay
Josh Johnson
Joel Kim Booster
Lashonda Lester
Chris Redd
Yamaneika Saunders
Julio Torres
Shane Torres
Jenny Zigrino

Catch Lashonda Lester, Shane Torres and Josh Johnson at the 2017 Moontower Comedy Festival this April. To purchase tickets and badges, click here.

With Talk Show The Game Show, Guy Branum Reinvents the Celebrity Interview

From his scene-stealing appearances on programs like Chelsea Lately and @midnight, to his writing on shows including Billy on the Street and The Mindy Project, comedian Guy Branum has left a mark on television. But with truTV’s Talk Show the Game Show, a high-concept hybrid of the two genres based on his popular live showcase, Branum at last gets a starring role.

In a new interview for Moontower, Guy talks about his early comedy influences, his jittery first time on stage and how a conversation on a van ride to a quiz bowl turned into his latest project.

What made you laugh growing up? Were there funny movies or television shows that you liked as a kid?

Growing up I was obsessed with Tracey Ullman, Monty Python and Eddie Murphy’s comedy specials. I also really loved any of those all ladies stand-up comedy anthology shows like Women of the Night.

Do you remember the first bit you wrote?

The first time I got on stage, I had a bit about how we didn’t have enough work for older actresses, so we should make them do professional wrestling and the whole time I was doing it, my knee couldn’t stop shaking because I was so nervous.
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Tweets of the Week from the Moontower Class of 2017

The Moontower Comedy Festival presents another edition of Tweets of the Week featuring performers scheduled to appear at the 2017 festival. For more information about the festival and to purchase badges, click here. Additionally, single tickets are available for select shows.


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Jim Gaffigan Brings Noble Ape Tour To Moontower

Moontower Comedy Festival and ACL Live at The Moody Theater have announced that comedian Jim Gaffigan’s Noble Ape Tour will stop at ACL Live at The Moody Theater on April 22, 2017 at 7:00 p.m – the final night of the Moontower Comedy Festival. Moontower badge holders receive a special opportunity for presale access for this Moontower Extra Event.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Moontower alum Jim Gaffigan back to Austin and the festival,” said Lietza Brass, Moontower Comedy Festival Director. “Jim was a major part of our inaugural Moontower and we greatly appreciate this opportunity to co-present him with ACL Live. Presenting Jim Gaffigan in a venue of this size represents significant expansion of the Moontower Comedy Festival.”

Comedian and Moontower veteran Jim Gaffigan has received numerous accolades and successes including becoming a New York Times best-selling author and a top touring performer, as well as receiving GRAMMY nominations for his comedy specials, Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed and Mr. Universe. Additionally, Gaffigan released his fifth Netflix special, Jim Gaffigan: Cinco earlier this year.

Moontower badge holders will receive a follow up email with presale date and time. Click here to purchase badges.

Single tickets will go on sale at ACL Live on February 24 at 10:00 AM CST. Click here to purchase tickets.

Moontower Adds W. Kamau Bell, Tommy Johnagin and More to Lineup; Individual Tickets Go On Sale Today

The Austin Theatre Alliance has begun the sale of individual tickets for select shows at the 2017 Moontower Comedy Festival. Advance tickets are available for Paramount headliners Patton Oswalt, Ali Wong, Jay Pharoah, Chris Hardwick and W. Kamau Bell and Stateside at the Paramount headliners Colin Quinn, Michelle Wolf, Matt Bellassai and Puddles Pity Party. Additionally, single tickets are available for the My Favorite Murder podcast tapings and the Midnight Mayhem late show hosted by Ralphie May. To purchase single tickets, click here.

Recent additions to the Moontower lineup include W. Kamau Bell (Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell), Tommy Johnagin (Last Comic Standing), Puddles Pity Party (Edinburgh Festival Fringe), Ron Bennington (Bennington Show), Orny Adams (Teen Wolf), and Shane Torres (IFC’s Comedy Bang Bang). Click here to view the full lineup and purchase badges.

Brian Posehn, Morgan Murphy, Jay Pharoah and More Join Moontower Lineup


The Austin Theatre Alliance has announced a second wave of notable additions to the 2017 Moontower Comedy Festival lineup.

Jay Pharoah (Saturday Night Live), Brian Posehn (Mr. ShowThe Sarah Silverman Program), Morgan Murphy (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, 2 Broke Girls) and Matt Bellassai (2016 People’s Choice winner for Favorite Social Media Star) are set to join the April 19-22 event.
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A Brief Oral History of Matt Bearden’s Punch

When Punch debuted seven years ago, the comedy scene in Austin was a vastly different landscape. Aside from a handful of open mics and the occasional week at Cap City, no legitimate showcase existed for developing local talent. Matt Bearden’s weekly changed all that. The heavily curated show shone a spotlight on Austin comedians in a way that was often imitated but never duplicated.

Photo by Erin Holsonback, An Indoor Lady

Photo by Erin Holsonback, An Indoor Lady

Punch ended in 2014, Bearden citing a combination of booking problems and no-shows. But he may have just needed a break. “The original Punch was supposed to last for six weeks,” he says. “Then we got five years out of it.” What follows is a brief oral history of Punch on the occasion of its return.

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Patton Oswalt, Ali Wong Among Early Lineup for Sixth Annual Moontower

It’s that time of year again! The 2017 Moontower Comedy Festival is just around the corner, and the Austin Theatre Alliance is thrilled to announce the first round of comedians, podcasts and special programming at the sixth annual event.

Comic heavyweights including Patton Oswalt and Ali Wong, podcast chart-toppers like My Favorite Murder and Guys We F***cked, and popular live shows including 7 Minutes in Purgatory and Boast Rattle are among the initial lineup’s highlights.

pattonoswaltEach year Moontower features many of the best up-and-coming comics in the country, and this year is no exception. Twitter phenom Aparna Nancherla, Just for Laughs standout Chris Garcia, Tim & Eric mainstay DJ Douggpound and new Saturday Night Live cast member Melissa Villaseñor are among the talent scheduled for the 2017 festival. Moontower veterans Colin Quinn, Dana Gould and Andy Kindler are also returning this year.

aliwongMoontower’s podcast lineup expands significantly this year. In addition to My Favorite Murder and Guys We F***cked, popular podcasts Bitch Sesh, Kill Tony and Fighter and The Kid make their Austin debuts this spring. Veteran favorites Jason and Randy Sklar return with their popular podcast Sklarbro Country and will provide color commentary for the fan favorite Moontower Ping Pong Slapdown.

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‘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!

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