Author Archives: John Merriman

Bill Burr Brings His Stand-Up to Bass Concert Hall Next Month

Bill Burr

HOT OFF THE PRESSES! Moontower favorite Bill Burr will perform at Bass Concert Hall on September 21st. Tickets go on sale at 11am today, August 7th. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Easily one of our favorite interviews at Moontower, Burr is quick, funny, and unapologetic. Even if you don’t know his stand-up, you may be familiar with his work as an actor on Breaking Bad, Chappelle’s Show, and The Heat. Below find some excerpts from our talk backstage at the Paramount during Moontower 2013.  See you at the show!


Inside Joke – Bill Burr on Touring

Inside Joke – Bill Burr reveals the ending of “Breaking Bad”

Tweets of the Week from the Moontower Alumni Association

Tweets of the Week

Hello my baby / Hello my honey / Hello my ragtime gal / Send me a TWEET by wire / Baby my SOCIAL MEDIA’s on fire.

Guys, I am truly sorry for what I just did. Can I make it up to you with some tweets of the week? Good idea. Thanks! Have a great weekend! You too! My car’s over here. Oh, haha, me too. We should really hang out sometime. Yeah, I’d like that, I’ve just been really busy lately. Yeah, I know how that goes! Haha, yeah me too! Okay bye for real this time!

Moontower Favorite Ralph Hardesty Teaches Stand Up Comedy Intensive for Students


And now for something completely different! This summer, The Paramount Academy for the Arts presents a Stand Up Comedy Intensive class as part of its Performing Arts Camp. The classes run from 1pm-4pm on July 20th – July 31st and are open to students in grades 6-12. Festival favorite Ralph Hardesty (Moontower, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Bridgetown Comedy Festival) will introduce students to the process of writing and performing stand-up comedy and cover topics ranging from writing jokes to working a crowd.

“With the Paramount having such a big identity as a home for comedy we wanted to connect to that work,” explained Associate Director of Education & Outreach Brian C. Fahey. “Ralphie has been a featured comic in Moontower for the past few years and he’s a middle school teacher so he’s a great fit to teach the class.”

I spoke with Ralphie about his own beginnings in comedy, what he wished he knew when he started, and what to 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.

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

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


For more information about the classes and to register online, click here.

More on instructor Ralph Hardesty:

Ralph Hardesty is a die-hard Midwesterner who, after a series of indelible life mistakes, eventually wound up writing comedy in Austin. Hardesty has performed at a ton of festivals including Fun Fun Fun Fest, Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, the Ladies Are Funny Festival (though he is male, he is no less a lady) and the San Francisco Comedy & Burrito Festival, which was delicious. Moms love him.

Laugh Like Maggie Maye This Weekend


Maggie Maye has one of the all time great laughs. It’s loud, joyful, and easy to pick out of a crowd. I once heard it echo off the walls at a Sarah Silverman show at the Paramount Theatre, turned to my date and said, “Maggie’s here!” It’s spontaneous and unaffected and it speaks to her love of comedy. Want to laugh like that? You’re in luck! Because on top of being a great laugher, Maggie’s a fantastic performer and she’s bringing her comedy to the Velveeta Room! I spoke with her about her career beginnings, the evolving comedy scene in Austin, and what to expect this weekend.

Tell me about your career beginnings. When did you know you wanted to be a comic and when did you realize it was something you were going to try and pursue full time?

I love making people laugh. I always wanted to be a comic and hoped it would become a career. After I started doing it I just wanted to do it all the time, no matter what.

Tell me about your history in Austin. How has the scene has evolved?

I’ve lived in Austin for 10 years and started comedy here, at the Velv. The scene was fairly large when I started and it has just gotten bigger. I’ve noticed a lot more people moving to Austin specifically to do comedy, which is awesome, since Austin is a great place to cut your teeth.

How has the growth of the scene helped (or hindered) your growth as a performer?

The crowds are smart and reward creativity, which encourages me to keep my standards high. The comics here are also smart, really funny and hardworking, which is inspiring.

What’s the best thing about living in Austin?

It’s got a lot of fun stuff going on. It’s changed a lot, but it’s still a cool city. I mean, we’ve all changed.

What’s the worst thing about living here?

Not enough people just handing out money and snacks.

Who are some of your comedy influences, large and small?

Dave Chappelle, Wanda Sykes, Chris Rock, Bill Burr, amongst many others. I’m also influenced by my background, as it created the lens through which I see everything.

What’s the first joke you wrote?

I can’t remember what was the first joke I wrote for stand up, but I can assure you it was probably stupid. I think it was about drinking?

What can people expect to see at the weekend’s shows?

They can expect anything they want, it’s a free country and I’m not the boss of them. But they’re expecting a great show they won’t be disappointed. Kerri and Aaron are hilarious and always make me laugh really hard, so it’ll be fun times.

Maggie Maye headlines the Velveeta Room Friday (6/26) at 9pm and Saturday (6/27) at 9pm and 11pm. She is joined by Aaron Brooks and Kerri Lendo. Tickets are available here

The Best Tweets of the Week from the Moontower Class of 2015

Here’s what your favorite Moontower comics were tweeting about this week! For more tweets from your favorite Moontower comics, subscribe to our list on Twitter.

Inside Joke at the 2015 Moontower Comedy Festival

 How is it already June?! I’m still catching my breath from this year’s fest! And it’s not just because I’m out of shape! If you were at the festival this year, chances are you were out watching shows and may have missed some of our interviews with the incredible talent at this year’s Moontower. Kerri Lendo and I were thrilled to be able to talk to so many headliners and up-and-coming comics this past April and we even set a new record for interviews logged. There are so many highlights that I can’t even begin to name my favorite bits. It was an absolute honor meeting heroes like Jonathan Katz and Patton Oswalt for the first time and old favorites Andy Kindler, Maria Bamford, and Brendon Walsh were reliably hilarious. Take a look back and let me know what your favorites are!

Bryan Gutmann’s Pain is Our Gain

Bryan-GutmannI love watching Bryan Gutmann get frustrated. The former Funniest Person in Austin winner is such a nice guy that when he gets worked up about something, it’s a thing of beauty. Whether he’s directing his wit at people who “didn’t know he could cook” or lashing out against “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” (“I think when you get to the point of spraying the stuff on your mashed potatoes, it’s time to believe”), he never fails to entertain. The Austin based writer and performer is taping his first album this Sunday during Austin Sketch Fest for Sure Thing Records. I spoke with Bryan about his writing process, the evolving comedy scene in Austin, and getting Eric Krug out of Mexican prison.

How do you write a joke? Can you give us some insight into your process?

It’s definitely changed over the years. When I started writing jokes, I would literally write them out, word for word. I still enjoy writing, but I don’t force myself to do it for every joke. I guess eventually you have gone through the whole process enough that if you get the general idea for a bit your brain can just sort of go “I’ve got this” and that’s enough to hit the stage. The best combination of all those techniques, for me, was this whole chunk on the concept of the past being called “The Good Old Days”. I went on stage with some general ideas, and after just going on stage and talking it out for about a month I sat down and wrote it out. Sort of as a way to assess what I was working with up until that point. Then I was able to add to it, edit, all of that stuff. Writing out a joke is almost like injecting a truth serum into you bit. You see it on a piece of paper and go “Is this really what I’m saying out loud to people?”

How has the comedy scene in Austin changed since you started? Have any locally based comics influenced your approach to material?

It’s interesting, on the one hand it doesn’t feel like the scene has changed so much as it has simply grown. The scene has grown so much. The reason why I say it hasn’t changed is because the one constant since I started is Austin has always seemed to have the reputation that it has. One of my favorite parts about starting comedy in Austin was you could go to Cap City and see these incredible comedians come through. Mitch Hedberg, Maria Bamford, Marc Maron, Dave Attell – they were all coming to Austin back then. But the scene has certainly grown. Not to be the “this all used to be fields” old man about it, but it really has. When I started there were two open mics – the end. Now you can get on stage every night of the week, and not just open mics. Jazz Cigarette, Buzzkill, Sure Things – all of these fantastic shows that have their own following. It’s really great. And I think it will be very interesting with things now like Sure Thing Records and Voltaic Video to see how that will help the scene here grow even more.


Locally based comics have absolutely influenced my approach, or at the very least have most definitely inspired me. I feel really lucky for the comics that all started around me. There was a real enthusiasm for writing and trying things out, and really a lot of very different styles. Comics like Doug Mellard, Kerri Lendo, Lucas Molandes, Eric Krug, John Ramsey, Jeremy Neal, David Huntsberger. Just deciding to start doing comedy was already an exciting thing to do, but then to be surrounded by those people you couldn’t really ask for more. Doug really inspired me to write as much as possible. If anyone knows Doug they probably know that he can tell roughly 30 jokes in 5 minutes. We would work together a lot, everything from jokes to sketches to entire feature-length scripts. He’s the best at lighting that fire under you. I also have very fond memories of meeting up with John Ramsey to bounce ideas around. We would go to this little burger joint near UT campus and just talk stuff out. We’ll still occasionally e-mail each other with different things we’re working on to get any sort of thumbs-up or thumbs-down on things. And of course Eric Krug and I have also been long time contributors to each other’s stuff, but I think he’s in a Mexican prison now or something.

What are your favorite comedy specials/albums?

The unedited half hour special that Mitch Hedberg did for Comedy Central is amazing. They actually included that on the DVD and it is so fascinating to watch. Zach Galifianakis’ “Live at the Purple Onion” is something that definitely still holds up for me. There was silliness and subtlety and I just really enjoyed the stand-up/road trip/documentary art mash up that it was. That’d be a fun thing to do some day. I think the first comedy album I owned was Jerry Seinfeld’s first and only album. It’s interesting – I listened to it not too long ago and I was surprised to hear how much silence is on that album. Not “silence” as in lack of laughter, I mean there are a lot of quiet moments. Jerry lets all of these long pauses happen, and even delivers a lot of the material in this reserved, quiet sort of way that I had forgotten about. It’s a style I don’t think he would go for now. There’s also a lot of stuff on Bill Burr’s newest special that really excited me. He’s becoming this dude who can really paint an entire cinematic scene on stage.

Tell me a little bit about your taping on Sunday? What can people expect? Are tickets still available?

It’s all happening at Spiderhouse Ballroom, which I’m very excited about. I really, really like that venue, and Spiderhouse as a whole. I knew pretty early on that I wanted to record there, because it’s one of these spaces where, when things are going good, they’re going REALLY good. It just has a fun energy. As far as what I’m doing, it’s going to be all of my favorite material from the past ten years or so. I’m really happy with how it all fits together. And I’m going to see if the Mexican government will release Eric Krug so he can open the show. There’s still some tickets left, so people should scoop them up at ATXSKETCHFEST.COM


Bryan Gutmann will be taping his first ever stand-up comedy album on May 24th at the Spiderhouse Ballroom. The show starts at 7pm. Tickets are available here.

Quick Questions: Randy Liedtke and Brendon Walsh

Bone Zone
Randy Liedtke and Brendon Walsh love a good prank. Whether they’re baking iPhone shaped cookies or tricking an entire neighborhood into thinking a Whole Foods was moving in, the comics never fail to surprise and entertain. Liedtke and Walsh came together a few years ago and hatched The Bone Zone, a manic, free-wheeling podcast that runs the gamut from stories of their adventures to prank phone calls. The two will record a live version of their podcast at Moontower on Friday night and they were kind enough to answer a few questions.

How did you guys meet and what made you decide to do a podcast?

I met Brendon at a bar next to a comedy theater in LA, he was at the bar waiting in line to order a drink and I was across the room. We made eye contact, and then he started licking the back of the shirt of the person in front of him in line. He kept eye contact with me and kept licking the guys shirt, I kept motioning for him to stop, but he didn’t, and the guy never noticed his shirt was getting licked. We realized we had similar senses of humor and become friends.

During the big podcasting boom of 2012 we decided to give it a shot, and we struck gold. Ever since we’ve been wealthy from it.

How would you describe your podcast to the uninitiated?

The Bone Zone is super silly. Its like when you were 8 years old and you would record yourself on a tape recorder, except now that we are adults we know more about boobs and know more swear words. Often times the podcast focuses on blatant lies, confusion, good ideas, prank phone calls, sound effects, being annoying, and poop songs. But sometimes we just chat and tell true stories, and have a good laugh.

What can we expect to see at the Bone Zone taping?

The last live podcast we did, was on mothers day and we called my mom, and Brendon asked her if my dad ate her out on mothers day. It was really rude, but I don’t think she heard what he said. It was a ton of fun, and this one will be no different. We have a couple of great guests, and we might even invite some audience members to step into the Rant Corner (we play heavy metal guitar music while someone talks about what’s chapping their ass).

Individual tickets for The Bone Zone live are onside now! Badges get in free.

Brendon and Randy

Quick Questions: Jonathan Katz


Jonathan Katz is a hero. A phenomenal writer with a deadpan delivery, Katz found mass appeal with his beloved Comedy Central show Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist which will forever have a place in the comedy geek canon. He was kind enough to answer three quick questions.

What’s one thing that nobody knows about the early days of Dr. Katz?

I took my role too seriously. I didn’t know I too could make jokes.

You’re one of the great joke writers of all time. What makes a good joke?

Efficiency. Giving the audience just enough information to make the joke work.

Who inspired you when you were first starting out?

Dom Irrera, Ronnie Shakes, Johnny Carson and Sandy Koufax and many others. Rita Rudner, Bill Maher, Fred Stoller, Bill Braudis, Lenny Bruce Burns and Schreiber but mostly, David Mamet.

Tickets for Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist Live are onsale now. Guest patients include Dom Irrera, Maria Bamford, Andy KIndler, Dana Gould, Emo Philips, and more!

Dr Katz

Quick Questions: Emo Philips

EmoEmo Philips is frequently listed among the greatest comedians of all time – Jay Leno called him “the best joke writer in America” – and his material has been passed around the internet since the first modem was plugged in. His wandering, child-like delivery belies a razor sharp wit and an uncanny knack for timing. He was kind enough to answer our three quick questions ahead of his Moontower performances. 


What’s your favorite snack?


How has the comedy landscape changed since you started?

Not as many gigs at discos.

What’s the first joke you remember writing?

I went to the bathroom and there was a dead postman in the tub. I thought, “That’s strange. It’s Sunday.”


Emo is performing at multiple shows at this year’s Moontower Comedy Festival including two sessions with Dr. Katz. More information here.