Author Archives: John Merriman

Ali Siddiq Debuts Comedy Central Special Recorded Inside Bell County Jail

Ali Siddiq‘s first performances were in prison. While serving six years of a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking in a Texas state penitentiary, he started what he calls ‘joking’. Two decades and hundreds of sets later, he returned to prison to tape his comedy special. Ali Siddiq: It’s Bigger Than These Bars premieres tonight on Comedy Central.

Ali talked to Moontower about his decision to stay in Houston, his love of Richard Pryor, and why it’s harder to get inside a maximum security prison voluntarily.

On influences

The Richard Pryor album, Blacksmith. That was the album. That was the album that changed everything. I told my dad, “Man, I think I want to do that.” His ability to tell stories, man, it was just so captivating. I’m a really deep student of stand-up. Carol Burnett was a big influence, and then you had Don Rickles. I don’t know why I loved Don Rickles as a kid. Then, you had Rodney Dangerfield. Those were the cats.

There were people that may not have even been comedians that I just thought were funny. I loved everybody on The Beverly Hillbillies. Benny Hill is a big influence. Then, Hee Haw. Man, Hee Haw was hysterical to me. It was the timing.  I didn’t know they were even comics. I didn’t know what they were doing. I just knew these were entertaining people to me. Richard Pryor was just captivating because he was visibly painting a picture to me on a record.
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Moontower Performer Jeff Dye Is Living the Dream

Jeff Dye is a nationally touring comedian, actor and host who has performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, finished 3rd on Last Comic Standing and has had his own Comedy Central Presents special. He stars in NBC’s new comedy adventure series Better Late Than Never featuring Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman.

Jeff talked to Moontower about bombing at open mics during “The Dane Wave”, having tea at Henry Winkler’s house, and how a chance encounter at a bookstore changed everything.

Tell me a little bit about how you got started in comedy.

I feel very blessed that I always knew I wanted to be a comedian. There was never a distraction period or a time of me thinking I needed to go pursue anything. I’ve always known I was going to be a comic. When I got out of high school, I didn’t bother with college. I went to Giggles Comedy Club in Seattle, Washington and I just kept going to open mics and bombing and doing horrible, and eventually I got good enough that I got on Last Comic Standing. Continue reading

Tig Notaro, David Cross, Jo Koy, Ali Siddiq, Nikki Glaser, Shmanners Podcast Join Moontower Lineup

The Austin Theatre Alliance announced a new wave of Moontower headliners Wednesday with Tig Notaro, David Cross, Jo Koy, Ali Siddiq, Nikki Glaser and more added to the lineup. The headlining acts join previously announced performers including Tiffany Haddish, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Mike Birbiglia, Janeane Garofalo, and Colin Quinn at the Moontower Comedy Festival on April 18th-21st.

David Cross appears as part of An Evening for The Comedy Resistance, a one-time-only event full of comedians, special guests and activists. Additionally, the popular Shmanners podcast with Travis & Teresa McElroy will kick off the programming at the Stateside at the Paramount. You can find the complete Paramount and Stateside schedules below. Tickets for all Moontower 2018 headliner performances will go on sale Thursday, 2/8, at 10am CST. There are a slew of other venues around town with dozens more performers and badges start at just $99. More information on ticketing and the complete lineup available here. Continue reading

Moontower’s Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Squeeze Boxes and Black Unicorns

Moontower Holiday Gift Guide 2017The holidays are here and we’ve got you covered. From an accordion full of records to a tell-all from one of this year’s most exciting performers, this treasure trove of gifts inspired by the 2018 festival lineup has something for everyone on your list and each one pairs nicely with a Moontower badge.

Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of “Weird Al” Yankovic: Get ready for Al’s Moontower appearance with this career spanning box set. The vinyl collection features all 14 of Weird’s studio albums, plus a 15th album of odds and ends called Medium Rarities. It comes with a 100-page booklet of rare photos, and it’s enclosed in an replica of Al’s accordion.

The Last Black Unicorn By Tiffany Haddish: This brand new collection of hilarious and fearless personal essays from the Girls Trip star has been getting rave reviews. The book details Haddish’s life growing up in foster care, her struggles with her mother’s schizophrenia and her abusive marriage. Buy the hardback or listen to the unabridged audio book read by Haddish herself.

Sleepwalk With Me autographed by Mike Birbiglia: Bring home an autographed copy of the critical smash hit based on Birbiglia’s own experiences sleepwalking. The Sundance favorite presents one of the most realistic depictions of the life of a comedian. Continue reading

Tweets of the Week from the Moontower Class of 2018

Ryan Hamilton. Janeane Garofalo. Preacher Lawson. Colin Quinn. Yesterday, these headliners and dozens of other comedians were added to the seventh annual Moontower Comedy Festival lineup joining previously announced performers “Weird Al” Yankovic, Tiffany Haddish and Mike Birbiglia.  Get to know the comics scheduled for the 2018 fest with a brand new installment of Tweets of the Week highlighting some of the best posts from the Moontower Class of 2018 from the last seven days. Continue reading

Moontower’s Getting Weird in 2018: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Tiffany Haddish, Mike Birbiglia Set for 7th Annual Fest

The Austin Theatre Alliance today made an early talent announcement for the 7th annual Moontower Comedy Festival. Comedy heavyweights “Weird Al” Yankovic, Tiffany Haddish and Mike Birbiglia were announced as the first headliners of the 2018 festival and badges for the event are now on sale.

The biggest-selling comedy recording artist of all time, “Weird Al” returns to the Paramount Theatre as part of The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour. The show is a stripped down, no-frills production featuring rarities and b-sides from Yankovic’s extensive back catalogue. According to Yankovic, no two shows along the tour will be the same. “After 35 years of big productions, I just wanted to take it down a few notches and have a little musical palate cleanser. This show will be loose, unpredictable, and maybe a bit sloppy – we’ll be making it up as we go along!” The performer’s longtime friend and fellow UHF cast member Emo Phillips will open the show.

On the heels of her scene-stealing performance in the hit comedy Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish is bringing her signature brand of stand up to the Moontower stage. A series regular on NBC’s The Carmichael Show and co-star of the Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele vehicle, Keanu, she recently made waves with her debut Showtime comedy special Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood. VanityFair.com called Haddish “the funniest woman alive.”

Finally, comedian and storyteller Mike Birbiglia returns to Moontower with his brand new show The New One. His most recent shows, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend and Thank God for Jokes, were both filmed for Netflix. Birbiglia has released four albums for Comedy Central Records, including My Secret Public Journal Live, which was named one of the “Best Comedy Albums of the Decade” by The Onion AV Club.

Badges for the 2018 Moontower Comedy Festival go on sale today and early bird pricing is available for select badge levels while supplies last. The all new Star badge includes reserved floor seating at Paramount and Stateside shows, drink tickets and exclusive concierge service. See you at the festival!

 

 

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Year in Review: Go Behind the Scenes of the 2017 Moontower Comedy Festival with Inside Joke

(Clockwise from top left: Morgan Murphy, Patton Oswalt, Martha Kelly, Jay Pharoah, Aparna Nancherla and Shane Torres).

As the Austin Theatre Alliance readies the 2018 Moontower Comedy Festival slate, take a look back at interviews with many of the comedians from the 2017 festival including all new interviews with Shane Torres, Martha Kelly, Ralphie May, Morgan Murphy and Wendy Liebman. Check out the 2017 playlist embedded below.

Inside Joke, the official interview series for the Moontower festival, has been talking to comics at the festival since it’s inception. Visit the YouTube show library for content from all six years of the event including interviews with headliners like Aziz Ansari, Maria Bamford, John MulaneyHannibal Buress, Chelsea Peretti, Leslie Jones and Colin Jost and many more. Continue reading

Rojo Perez Is a Comedian First

Rojo Perez came in with an early goal to never rely on being Spanish. “I never wanted anybody to see me and say, ‘oh, that dude is a Spanish comedian.’ The feeling was always, ‘oh, that’s a comedian. And he’s Spanish.'”

Originally from Puerto Rico, Rojo moved to Florida for college where he began his career doing stand-up comedy in clubs and cafés. Since moving to New York City, he’s become a regular in the comedy scene, performing at places such as Caroline’s, UCB East, UCB Chelsea, the Creek and the Cave and the Knitting Factory, among others. He spoke to Moontower about his early influences, his first time on stage and his writing process.

On comedy influences: I remember John Leguizamo‘s one-man shows really resonating with me. I don’t remember how I came across Killin’ Them Softly but I remember I’d watch it on a loop. George Lopez had an early one that was family specific where he was so open about his family and coming up in the struggle. I also remember an Ellen DeGeneres special I saw when I was really young where she ends with a great callback on how God is a woman. Continue reading

Live From Austin, It’s Saturday Night! Six Years of Saturday Night Live Cast Members at Moontower

Moontower has a long tradition of showcasing some of the best and brightest from Saturday Night Live and this year is no different. Newly minted cast member and spot-on Owen Wilson imitator Melissa Villaseñor, actor/comedian/impressionist/all-around-hilarious-person Jay Pharoah, and former Weekend Update anchor and legendary comic Colin Quinn are all slated to perform at the festival later this week.

In the six years since the fest began, Moontower has hosted a slew of SNL talent including Colin Jost, Leslie Jones, Seth Meyers, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and many, many more. Check out this playlist of Moontower interviews with cast members past and present and stay tuned to the Inside Joke YouTube channel for brand new interviews throughout the fest. To purchase badges and tickets click here.

Matt Ingebretson Comes Home

Texas native Matt Ingebretson returns to his home state next week for a series of shows at the Moontower Comedy Festival. The University of Texas grad co-wrote, co-created & stars in the upcoming Comedy Central show Corporate and hosts a hugely popular LA showcase called Good Heroin.

Matt talked to fellow Austin ex-pat and Moontower performer M.K. Paulsen about his early days in Houston, writing for the Texas Travesty at UT, and the inspiration for his dark corporate satire set in the “dystopian present”.

 

You have Texas roots, right? Tell us about your background.

I grew up about an hour south of Houston. I spent most of my childhood roller-blading around my neighborhood and drinking two liter bottles of Dr. Pepper by myself. And wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt I bought from Pac Sun. That was the Texas I knew. Very few cowboy hats and boots, an ocean of flip flops and pre-distressed jeans.

You wrote for the Texas Travesty while an undergrad at the University of Texas. Tell us about that experience and how it helped you in your comedy career?

Texas Travesty was a good place to start in comedy. It was a university publication, so you could feel free to learn and make mistakes and not really know what you’re doing, but there was also a healthy dose of “you should feel ashamed of yourself if you’re not funny” coming from my peers. My senior year I took over as editor-in-chief. I had a real sense that if the work in each issue wasn’t good it was entirely my fault. It ingrained in me a feeling of constant dissatisfaction with everything I do, which is a great motivator in my life that makes me feel terrible constantly. Continue reading

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