Author Archives: John Merriman

Cody Hustak is the Funniest Person in Austin!

Cody HustakThis past Monday night, after seemingly endless weeks of competition, Cody Hustak bested over 200 entrants to become 2014’s Funniest Person in Austin. His roommate and fellow Nebraska transplant Ryan Cownie took second place while Lashonda Lester placed third.

For the uninitiated, Cody is one of the most unique voices in the Austin scene, a comic who relishes awkward pauses and defies audience expectations. His onstage persona is frequently antisocial and a bit alien: a sense of danger and unease can build as he approaches his punchlines with a deliberate pacing. Inevitably the conclusion is so delightfully absurd and unexpected that it overshadows whatever dark premise had us worried in the first place.

It was Cody’s fifth year in the contest and it was a hard fought and deeply deserved win. He had the audience doubled over throughout much of his set which was especially strong this year. When he took the stage to receive his prize he was humble and gracious. This is the real Cody Hustak. He’s pretty cool too.

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Check out Hustak’s 2013 FPIA set below and listen to him on the most recent episode of Mac Blake and David Jara’s The Mascot Wedding Show. Cody performs frequently around town. For dates and more information visit codyhustak.com.

The Comedy Roast of Kat Ramzinski

Tonight, Saturday May 17th, almost a month after local comic Kat Ramzinski was brutally attacked, join a stellar group of Austin comedians as they come together to celebrate the strength and resolve of the hilarious Kat Ramzinski with a roast!

Kat Roast: A Beneficial Beatdown of Kat Ramzinski features the divine Maggie Maye as roast master duties and boasts an absolutely killer lineup of Austin comics including Katie Pengra, Amber Bixby, Mike MacRae, Ramin Nazer, Brian Gaar, Cody Hustak, Lisa Friedrich, Michael Priest, Kath Barbadoro, Adam Hrabik, and Ralphie Hardesty. Norm Wilkerson organized the so-called ‘beneficial beatdown’ to help ease the pain Ramzinski suffered at the hands of a group of muggers with the healing power of laughter (oh, and donations).

This promises to be a hilarious, one-of-a-kind event filled with laughter and love. Here’s more from the event’s page on Facebook:

On April 20th our friend, esteemed colleague, and local comedian, Kat Ramzinski, was brutally attacked by 3 males and one female assailants with gruesome intent. Like the strong, fearless woman we know her to be, Kat fought back and survived the attack with very serious injuries.

On Saturday, May 17, Spider House Ballroom celebrates this very special lady with an All-Star Austin comic line-up, in the traditional Roast style.

Please come early for the pre-show cocktail hour with DJ DoA spinning tight jams and dope beats.

Immediately following the show we encourage all to stay and pay tribute to Kat through song! DIAMOND KARAOKE will be providing the songs in which you wish to butcher into the night.

Spider House Ballroom
18 and up
$10 Suggested Donation

Check out Kat’s triumphant return to the stage at this year’s Moontower Comedy Festival, mere days after the attack and I’ll see you at the Spiderhouse Ballroom!

We went backstage with the 2014 Moontower headliners!

For the past three years, I’ve been lucky enough to film interviews with many of the comedians at Moontower. Along with Kerri Lendo and my good friends at Picturebox, I have had the pleasure of chatting with some of my comedy heroes and making a complete idiot out of myself. Here now are the best interview bits featuring the 2014 Moontower headliners!

Is there anyone better than Maria Bamford? In this completely silly interview, I talked to her about staying up all night and eating M&Ms for dinner.

Kerri sat down with Fred Armisen and asked him about his go-to karaoke song, his favorite punk bands (surprise – one of them is in Austin!), and how to freak out the sound guy.

As someone who grew up watching the Kids in the Hall, I was especially nervous to speak to them AND IT DEFINITELY SHOWS! I began interviewing Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald when a special guest dropped by. This was a highlight.

The inimitable Hannibal Buress talked with Kerri about playing at the historic Paramount Theatre, his weekly New York Show, and holding on to those one-of-a-kind show moments.

In another surreal interview, I spoke with Dennis Miller and his brother (and Moontower festival producer) Rich about their years of sleeping on floors and watching puppet pornography.

For more interviews, check out the Inside Joke YouTube page and explore interviews from the past three years!

We Went Backstage with Aziz Ansari!

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This weekend, we caught up with Moontower alum Aziz Ansari after his record breaking sold out shows at the Bass Concert Hall! The Parks and Recreation star talked to our own Kerri Lendo about eating out in Austin, the Unsolved Mysteries theme, and his preferred method of watching television shows (hint: it involves something called “chunking”).

And in case you missed it, here’s our interview with Aziz backstage at Moontower from 2012.

Moontower starts in just two days! Who are you looking forward to seeing?

Moontower Comics on Letterman and on Letterman

Letterman

David Letterman announced yesterday that he will be stepping down sometime next year. The voice of a generation, Letterman inspired scores of comics everywhere and reinvented the talk show. It’s hard to imagine the talk show landscape without him. Here now are some Moontower comics alternately appearing on Letterman and talking about his influence.

COMICS ON LETTERMAN:

Andy Kindler on “replacing Letterman.”

Ian Karmel’s a fan.

Mike Birbiglia gets real.

 

COMICS ON LETTERMAN:

Hannibal Buress makes his Letterman debut.

Marc Maron talks interviewing Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner.

Mike MacRae performs during ‘Impressionist Week’

Let’s raise a glass to Letterman this weekend. He was our Johnny and then some. Thanks for the laughs.

The Best Tweets This Week from the Moontower Class of 2014

tweetsthisweekMoontower is so close I can almost taste it. Nevermind, that was a piece of popcorn stuck in my teeth. Where was I? Oh yes, with the festival just around the corner, I thought I’d check in with the Moontower class of 2014 on Twitter. Here now are some of the funniest tweets this week by comics slated to perform at the fest this year!

For more, check out the Moontower Comedy 2014 list on Twitter and grab tickets to the fest here!

Andy Kindler Should Be in a Mansion Yelling at a Contractor

Andy KindlerAt the first Moontower, when Maria Bamford finished an interview and learned that Andy Kindler was performing next door, she tore off to the theater to catch the end of his set. She literally ran. Ms. Bamford stood in the back of the showroom and erupted with laughter as Andy deconstructed his performance with self-effacing bravado. He has a reputation as the comic’s comic for a reason.

We’re lucky to have Andy Kindler in this world.  He keeps us honest. Every year at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, Kindler takes the stage and takes comedians to task at his annual State of the Industry address. Whether he’s good-naturedly ribbing Louis CK or lamenting Jay Leno’s surrender to the dark side, he is completely unafraid. No one is safe, not even Kindler himself. That being said, he’s also one of the nicest people in show business. It’s not that he hates the Lenos of the world, it’s that he legitimately loves comedy and thinks we deserve better.

Kindler returns to Moontower this April. I got the chance to speak with him about his evolving act, working with David Letterman, and his upcoming State of the Industry address.

Kindler and Bamford

When did you first perform in Austin? What are your early memories from your first shows here?

It was the early 90’s. It was a special time. The comedy boom was ending, and you could see the desperation in my eyes. I was excited about going. I had heard so many great things about Austin, and it was all true.  I met Howard Kremer, Laura House, Chip Pope, and a whole bunch of great comedians.  I do remember being a little frightened at the Velveeta Room because of how vicious the comics went after each other when they performed. I knew it was part of the bonding experience, but I had never seen something like that before. To join in the fun I heckled myself on stage.

I played Cap City, and I often struggled in the room with the people who paid, but I do remember comics in the back of the room enjoying it. To be honest, I always carried a laugh track on cassette with me on the road along with a boom box. I would put it in the back of the club and have a friend operate it That’s how I started the rumor that I was a comic’s comic.

 

How has your act has changed over the years? Do you approach your material the same way today that you did when you first started?

Early on I approached with trepidation because my material was bad. When I started I actually believed the audience knew what was funny. This was before I developed my “contempt for the masses” style. I just saw someone on Twitter seriously use “the masses” in a tweet.

Back to my compelling story. I always commented on the joke not working, which at the beginning, didn’t help. Over the years I “refined” and “honed” it. I can’t stop it with the quotes around everything. I started talking more about the entertainment industry and other comedians around 7 years in. The comedians and TV networks sometimes didn’t enjoy being made fun of, which probably affected my “bottom line.” That’s why I have time to do this q & a. I should be in my mansion yelling at a contractor.

 

You’ve had some amazing Letterman segments over the years, both your stand-up and the remotes. What was it like meeting him for the first time? Can you describe your collaboration with him on the prerecorded pieces?

It’s hard to talk about this without sounding sappy, but what has happened on the Late Show has been a dream come true for me. Dave is my comedy hero, so all the stuff that’s happened with me being able to do standup and the field pieces has been the greatest. And it all happened because of him. It was his decision to bring me on to do the remotes. I have never met him outside the show, but he couldn’t be nicer and more gracious and supportive when I’m there. Sometimes we talk a little when the remote is played back in the studio, and it’s always a thrill, but I do get very nervous because he’s the king!

I work on the prerecorded pieces with the writers, who come up with a bunch of jokes and scenarios, and then during the event, we use those jokes and anything else that comes up in the moment. My improv abilities are ON the hook. I have become great friends with Jeremy Weiner, who is a brilliant writer on the show and hilarious as a person. He’s my point man, whatever that means, and goes on the shoots with me He feeds me lines while I’m interviewing people. We fake yell at each other all day until the crew wants to strangle us, WITH LOVE.

 

Who’s going to get it at this year’s State of the Industry address?

It’s going to be all about Jimmy Fallon. I’m going to try and see if I can go a half hour longer so I can break down everything that disturbs me about the Fallon phenomenon. He’s a song and dance man! He’s quite a hoofer. Plus he’s so upbeat, and happy, and enthusiastic, and energetic, and phony. The American Dream!

For more information on this year’s Moontower Comedy Festival and a complete lineup of performers visit www.moontowercomedyfestival.com

 

Individual Tickets Go On Sale Today at 10am!

Moontower Individual Ticket

Single and ready to mingle! That’s right, single tickets for shows at the Paramount Theatre, including headliners Kids in the Hall, Fred Armisen (with special guest Ian Rubbish), Mike Birbiglia, Marc Maron, Demetri Martin, Hannibal Buress, Maria Bamford, Dennis Millerand J.B. Smoove GO ON SALE AT 10AM TODAY! To purchase tickets and view all shows available, go to moontowercomedyfestival.com. And forget I said that single and ready to mingle thing, that was dumb.

If you are planning on catching several shows, I really recommend thinking about a badge. Many of today’s headliners were playing smaller shows in intimate venues in previous years of the fest so it’s a real value for comedy nerds. That being said, these Paramount shows are going to be absolutely amazing so no matter what your situation, think about getting a ticket before they’re ALL GONE!

Was that too sale-sy? I really believe it though!

And now, as if you needed another reason to see Kids in the Hall, here’s Buddy Cole reporting from the Sochi Olympics on The Colbert Show.

Comics, They’re Just Like Us: Aziz Ansari

Comics - They're Just Like UsAziz Ansari may be a world class headliner, but in many ways, he’s exactly like us! Welcome to the first edition of…

COMICS: THEY’RE JUST LIKE US!

They go to Franklin’s!

They play Seinfeld Monopoly!

They make Friday Night Lights jokes that get posted in the Huffington Post!

They don’t get recognized by scalpers!

They star in Sesame Street segments!

They have copies of HITCH waiting for them in their hotel rooms!

They hang out with costar Rashida Jones at the Golden Globes!

And finally, they add a third show in Austin when the first two sell out!

That’s right, due to popular demand, Moontower Comedy has added a third Aziz show! Badgeholders get priority seat access so if you haven’t bought your badge yet, here’s a good reason to take care of it.

More info and badges at www.moontowercomedyfestival.com.

First Wave of Names Announced for 2014!

Moontower 2014

At last! The day has come! Time to let the cat out of the bag! The cat is mad that it was in the bag! Without any further ado (let’s be honest, we’ve all had enough ado), here is the first wave of performers for the 2014 Moontower Comedy & Oddity Fest!

Let’s start with the headliners!

KIDS IN THE HALL – Kids in the F#%king Hall! Dave Foley. Bruce McCulloch. Kevin McDonald. Mark McKinney. Scott Thompson. Two shows. Paramount Theatre. I. Cannot. Wait.

MIKE BIRBIGLIA – He wowed audiences with his live show and indie film SLEEPWALK WITH ME based on his real life issues with sleepwalking. A great all around storyteller and, more importantly, he’s incredibly funny.

DENNIS MILLER – Yes, that Dennis Miller! Yes, I’m curious too! Yes, I’m hoping that someone will put him and Andy Kindler in a room. Yes, you should go to this show. Yes, I’ll be at the head of the line.

DEMETRI MARTIN – I caught a very short set of his last year and I was surprised by how good it was to see him again. I used to watch his show every now and then and thought he was clever but this time out, he just destroyed. I’m really excited to see him do a longer set.

MARIA BAMFORD – Is there anyone better? Just typing her name makes me happy. I’ve seen Maria many times and I never, ever have been disappointed. I’m excited to see her at the Paramount this year! What can I say, she is a delight!

HANNIBAL BURESS – The first time I saw Hannibal was at Cap City when he was first headlining. It was Thursday and he was in the small room. I was hooked immediately. I called my friends and was back Friday watching him in the big room. His career has been on the upswing ever since. Truly one of my all time favorites.

JB SMOOVE – His portrayal of Leon on Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of the best comic performances of the past few years. His standup is just as exciting and off the wall. He’s incredibly energetic on stage and brings a physicality to his comedy that is unmatched. A true original.

But that’s not all! The lineup also includes COLIN QUINN, ANDY KINDLER, JAMES ADOMIAN, RON FUNCHES, RORY SCOVEL, MIKE LAWRENCE, SEAN PATTON, CAMERON ESPOSITO, BRENT MORIN, DOM IRRERA, and many more. The full lineup including additional headliners will be announced soon.

This year Moontower will be presenting some additional shows in the lead up to the festival! AZIZ ANSARI will play the Bass Concert Hall on Friday, April 18.  Three hundred of the best seats will be available to badge holders as part of a special package deal. Very cool. Supplies are limited so jump on this while you can. Web phenom MIRANDA SINGS will also play Stateside at the Paramount Sunday, April 27.

Moontower 2014 First Wave

STAY TUNED! In the coming weeks, I’ll be bringing you festival news, updates to the lineup, interviews with performers, and more! For more information on badges and individual tickets, check out moontowercomedyfest.com! It’s going to be a great year!