Category Archives: Interview

Moontower 2018 Interview: Janelle James Didn’t Plan On Comedy

Janelle James didn’t dream of doing stand-up as a kid. She didn’t hone her craft in college. “I had no inclination to become a comedian,” she explains. The Caribbean-born comic was 30 and working in fashion when a friend goaded her onto stage at an open mic. A few short years later, she has one of the best reviewed comedy albums of 2017, an upcoming Netflix special, and just finished a huge tour opening for Chris Rock. Ms. James talked to Moontower about her early days in comedy, why she doesn’t worry about offending people, and why she’s juicing before heading to Austin. Continue reading

Moontower 2018 Interview: Tim Dillon Finds Comedy In Unexpected Places

Tim Dillon is tired of people trying to win arguments on stage. It’s boring. He’s much more interested in discovering comedy. While many profiles of Mr. Dillon tend to focus on the fact that he has conservative leanings, Dillon himself sounds less convinced. “You believe in free speech, you’re conservative. I don’t know. I try to be funny.” He’s definitely succeeding there.

Mr. Dillon was recently named one of Rolling Stone‘s 10 Comedians You Need to Know and has Netflix and Comedy Central specials slated to premiere later this year. He has a celebrated podcast, Tim Dillon is Going to Hell, where he defends “CEOs, dictators, con artists, thieves, tax cheats, & crime families” and leads a double decker bus tour of New York where he examines on the murky dealings of the mega rich. They’re both very funny. He talked to Moontower about acting on Sesame Street, serving on a murder trial, and how focusing on winning arguments can sink comedy. Continue reading

Moontower 2018 Interview: Jessimae Peluso, From the Sock Room to the Stage


Jessimae Peluso has plans after this interview. “I’m having drinks with Urkel.” When pressed, the former Girl Code cast member explains. “I can’t call him Urkel because that’s just disrespectful. His name is Jaleel, and he’s a friend of mine. We’re catching up today.”

It becomes clear during the interview that Ms. Peluso likes to stay busy. When she’s not doing an interview or catching drinks with an old friend, the comedian is juggling her multiple podcasts, livestream Q&As, television appearances and standup tours. She talked to Moontower about her many projects, doing physical comedy for her mom, and her quest for the best mac and cheese in town. Continue reading

Moontower 2018 Interview: 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. Continue reading

Moontower 2018 Interview: 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. 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

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

Aparna Nancherla Is Just Putting It Out There

Named one of Variety’s “Top Ten Comics to Watch 2016,” Aparna Nancherla has been a writer/performer for Late Night with Seth Meyers and Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. She’s also made memorable appearances on Conan, Inside Amy Schumer, and Judd Apatow’s Love to name a few.

Her debut comedy album Just Putting It Out There was the first release from Tig Notaro’s Bentzen Ball Records label. Ahead of her appearance at Moontower in April, Aparna shares some insight into her comedy influences, her joke writing process and her love of migas tacos.

On Comedic Inspiration: I discovered comedy a little later than most (roughly ’78, according to amateur historians), so when I was really little, my carefully cultivated humor preferences ranged from Sesame Street to Weekend at Bernie’s 2. When I was in high school, I discovered SNL and Late Night with Conan O’Brian, and really gravitated toward the sillier stuff. I didn’t know much about stand-up besides seeing Ellen once on TV and then maybe Seinfeld another time, also on TV. I definitely didn’t think stand-up was something anyone could do. I thought it was like the circus and you had to be born into the trade.

The first stand-up I really remember getting into was Mitch Hedberg. My friend gave me two of his CDs. Then after that I think came Jim Gaffigan, Paul F. Tompkins, Jen Kirkman, and Maria Bamford. Now I am constantly inspired by my peers and up-and-coming comics, just off the top of my head–Nick Vatterott, Joel Kim Booster, John Early, Naomi Ekperigin, Emily Heller, Kyle Mizono, Julio Torres, and Ana Fabrega. I love people who play with the form. There are so many amazing minds, it changes any given week who I’m dazzled by.
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Finding Enlightenment with Eddie Pepitone, The Bitter Buddha

Comedian Eddie Pepitone is a study in contrasts. One minute he’s railing against society at the top of his lungs and the next he’s cheerfully recommending his favorite vegan restaurant.  A comic’s comic, Pepitone is famous for playing unhinged characters on shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the Judd Apatow produced Love on Netflix. “The Bitter Buddha” shared some wisdom with Moontower about channeling anger for a role, what he does to relax and what he likes to do in Austin.

On playing angry characters: Well, fortunately or unfortunately, my rage — inspired by my Sicilian father — is always close to the surface, so it’s pretty accessible to me.

On relaxing: I love watching my NY sports teams and Agatha Christie PBS shows, reading one of my thousand books I have lying around, and hanging with my wife and two dogs in the park.

On the current political situation: I have found that I’ve had to take a day or two or three away from news and social media because it’s just enraging. The good ole USA is headed straight toward fascism and so many people are hurting it’s unbearable sometimes. The most enraging thing is the split in the left and the abhorrent right wing. Disgusting. So it’s very tough to deal with. Meditation and nature help. Continue reading

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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