Ian Abramson’s 7 Tips for 7 Minutes in Purgatory

Named Chicago Magazine‘s 2014 Best Experimental Comedian and L.A. Weekly‘s Best Up-and-Coming Comedian of 2015, conceptual absurdist Ian Abramson has worked with The Onion, Funny or Die, Seeso, Hulu, The History Channel and ABC.

His Comedy Central web series 7 Minutes in Purgatory asks comics to perform alone in one room as audiences react to video feed in another location. Before 7 Minutes returns to Moontower this April, Abramson offers comedians — and audience members — advice on getting the most out of the experience.

Go in with a plan. “You can be high-concept, character-based or do whatever elaborate thing you’d like. The plan can also be to go in and riff. The plan I would not suggest is only sticking with your material. Do jokes, but don’t just do your jokes. You’ll probably start to feel like you’re bombing.  As a comedian, if you’re bombing sometimes the instinct is to power through, keep doing the jokes, and don’t let them break you. You want to resist that, because your face is blown up and they’re literally seeing you sweat. I would suggest going the other way.” Continue reading

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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Austin Exit Interview: Danny Palumbo

Moontower alum Danny Palumbo moved to Austin in 2011 to pursue stand-up comedy. A few short weeks ago, he said goodbye. A comedian’s comedian, Palumbo made his mark on the scene, hosting innumerable shows in town, bringing us the satirical restaurant sites Lil’ Buco and Abbrev’s and winning the Funniest Person in Austin contest in 2015. After gaining traction on the festival circuit, the comic decided it was time to move on. I caught up with Danny days after he appeared at the prestigious New Faces showcase at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal.

What comedians or comedies did you watch growing up?

Robin Hood: Men In Tights and The Naked Gun were the two movies that were on all the time when I was 10. We had one of those illegal cable boxes, so all the slap-stick comedies of the 90’s were on. Leslie Nielsen really resonated with me as a kid. I still very much enjoy Dracula: Dead and Loving It. I didn’t really start watching stand-up until I was about 15, but Todd Barry’s first half hour really stood out to me. My junior year of high school I was washing dishes five nights a week, so I would get off work and be home right when Conan started at 12:30. All of those things had an impact for sure. Continue reading

Former ‘Funniest Person’ Winner Eric Krug Will Record Live Comedy Album at Austin Sketch Fest

Eric KrugFormer ‘Funniest Person in Austin’ winner Eric Krug is set to close out Austin Sketch Fest with a live album recording for Sure Thing Records on May 29th. A limited number of tickets are still available. Krug won the Funniest Person in Austin contest in 2008 and has since appeared on Comedy Central’s Live at GothamWTF with Marc Maron and was selected as one of the New Faces of Comedy for Just for Laughs in Montreal. I spoke with Krug about his time in the military, depression as a motivator and US presidents.

Talk to me a little bit about your beginnings in comedy.

I was in the Air Force in 2005-2006. I was going to be getting out and I didn’t really have anything better to do but I didn’t want to stay. I didn’t want to serve my country anymore. I had enough of that. I had enough of the country and the service.

Basically I was a real big pussy for a long time and I would go all the way down to Austin from San Antonio to watch comedy. I really liked the comedy scene, but I was still too scared to get up on stage. Then my ex broke up with me. We were still seeing each other casually even though we were broken up and then I went over to her place once and she was on her way out on a date with another guy and that’s when she decided to break up with me. Continue reading

The Paramount’s Stand-Up Comedy Intensive Returns This July

Comedian Ralphie Hardesty is back this year to teach another one-week stand-up comedy intensive for kids in grades 6-12. The accomplished comic will introduce students to the process of writing and performing a stand-up comedy routine from writing jokes to working a crowd. The class runs July 25th – July 29th. Ralphie is a gifted performer and a wonderful teacher who performs regularly around town. I spoke with him about his background, influences, and what students can 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. Continue reading

Cap City Comedy Club Names Balthazar Lounge In Honor of Late Comedian Andy Ritchie

AndysLast night at an intimate ceremony for Andy Ritchie’s family and friends, the folks at Cap City Comedy Club named the small lounge after the late comic. “Andy Ritchie’s Balthazar Lounge” references a favorite bit where Andy described encountering a “lost falcon” poster.

The tables at the club featured candy-filled cell phones atop bowls of candy with small signs that read, “Hell yeah, I want some candy,” another reference to a popular bit. The comic’s King Ding-a-Ling CDs and t-shirts featuring an original drawing of the comic from Kerry Awn were also distributed.

In attendance were Andy’s mom, brother and Ruby Collins, the comic’s fiancée, plus a multitude of comics including Mike MacRae, Martha Kelly, Chris Cubas, Bryan Gutmann and Trey Galyon. The event was organized by Cap City’s general manager and co-owner Margie Coyle and director of operations Chandy Popp Kurweil who worked with the comedian for many years. Continue reading