‘You Made It Weird,’ Vulcan Gas Co. show part of Saturday Moontower highlights

(Left to right) T.J. Miller,
(Left to right) T.J. Miller,Kate Berlant, Emily Hill and David O’Doherty are guests on the Pete Holmes podcast, “You Made It Weird,” taped at the Google Fiber stage as part of Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival Saturday night. Credit: Omar L. Gallaga/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival has gotten large enough that missing a headliner show can often be a blessing in disguise.

I was determined to see Maria Bamford Saturday evening at Stateside at the Paramount, but the show had already filled up by the time arrived and my festival badge wasn’t going to get me in. It was heartbreaking; going into the festival, she was my biggest highlight next to John Mulaney, but I tried to be Zen about it. I saw her last year, I got to interview her on the phone and she was delightful, and I got to see her at the Thursday night “Dr. Katz” performance. Yes, it stung a bit, but I would live.

So on the advice of a very helpful Moontower staffer outside of Stateside, I made my way down to the Google Fiber space at around 7 p.m. to catch the Pete Holmes “You Made It Weird” podcast recording.

I’m not a regular listener to the podcast, but the episodes I’ve heard have been funny, fresh and thoroughly honest (though they often top out at 2 hours or longer). The recording at the Google Fiber space was no different. The guests included Emily Heller, Kate Berlant and, at the very tail end, headliner co-host T.J. Miller, a longtime friend of Holmes.

There were great, rambling stories about IUDs, psychics, shoplifting and Dubai, but for me the highlight was David O’Doherty, a ridiculously talented Irish keyboardist, now bearded, who says he’s often confused for Chris O’Dowd. O’Doherty performed a song about having short legs that was one of my favorite moments of the entire festival. (The version he performed had a few differences from the video below.)

The episode should be up on Nerdist sometime soon.

I headed over to Vulcan Gas Company for a little while before I needed to head to Paramount Theatre for the late John Mulaney show.

Ophira Eisenberg performs at Vulcan Gas Company Saturday night as part of Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. Credit: Omar L. Gallaga / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Ophira Eisenberg performs at Vulcan Gas Company Saturday night as part of Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. Credit: Omar L. Gallaga / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Comedian Eddie Pepitone performs at Vulcan Gas Company as part of Moontower Comedy and Oddity festival Saturday night. Credit: Omar L. Gallaga / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Comedian Eddie Pepitone performs at Vulcan Gas Company as part of Moontower Comedy and Oddity festival Saturday night. Credit: Omar L. Gallaga / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

They were short sets, but I was lucky enough to catch host Matt Bearden, and comics Ophira Eisenberg (from NPR’s “Ask Me Another”) who told the nerdiest triangle joke I’ve ever heard (I still laughed) and the great Eddie Pepitone, who railed angrily against social media and Spotify and ended up stopping his set short when a huge audience applause break provided the perfect exit.

Great stuff and a perfect lead-in to the excellent John Mulaney late show where I also became a fan of openers Simon Amstell, a brilliant British comedian to watch and Austin’s John Ramsey.

Moontower Friday: Patton Oswalt and Jonathan Katz

Patton Oswalt headlines at the 2015 Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. MANDY EARNSHAW / BIRDSONG IMAGING
Patton Oswalt headlines at the 2015 Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. MANDY EARNSHAW / BIRDSONG IMAGING

I didn’t have to go see Friday’s “Dr. Katz Live” at the Stateside Theatre, part of the 2015 Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. My colleague Omar Gallaga went on Thursday and did a great job in his write-up of the event which, except for a few different comics (I got to see Eddie Pepitone, Todd Barry and Marc Maron instead of Dana Gould, Maria Bamford and Andy Kindler) seemed pretty much the same.

But, like Omar, I could not resist the chance to see a memorable part of my past played out live onstage. For those not in the know, comic Jonathan Katz plays a psychiatrist named Jonathan Katz whose patients are all stand-up comics.

As in Thursday night’s outing, Emo Philips (he played both shows along with Dom Irrera) best embodied the spirit of the original squiggle-vision cartoon, and not just because of his spastic movements. He drew great laughs from the crowd throughout his visit, mostly with cleverly placed lines from his stand-up act, while Katz sat by and watched.

Phillips is not a Scientologist, he insisted, explaining that he’s “not a fan of stupidity even when it’s not evil.”

Jonathan Katz in "Dr. Katz Live" at the 2015 Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. MANDY EARNSHAW / BIRDSONG IMAGING
Jonathan Katz in “Dr. Katz Live” at the 2015 Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. MANDY EARNSHAW / BIRDSONG IMAGING

The neurotic Maron, as you might imagine also fared extremely well on the bogus therapist’s couch (well, chair). At one point, he told Katz he was uncomfortable talking about his problems in front of a theater full of people, asking, “Are we still in the bit?”

After a brief stop at the Moontower Lounge on the second floor of the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel, I headed next door to the Paramount Theatre to see Patton Oswalt (“King of Queens,” “Ratatouille”), the festival’s hottest ticket.

The Moontower organizers did a stellar job of arranging the openers for Oswalt. Mike MacRae ably warmed up the crowd for Brian Gaar, who absolutely nailed his set with stories and jokes about parenting, video games and the city of Waco, where he grew up. Gaar explained Waco with a single sentence: “They built a new road … and they named it New Road.” Later, he told the audience he was awakened by a police officer at 3 a.m. because the cop wanted his help in stealing the New Road sign. A joke about a Master’s Degree in English was a masterclass in comic timing.

Gaar was followed by “Mr. Show” actor Karen Kilgariff who, with beatboxer Drennon Davis, entertained the crowd with original musical numbers, the funniest of which was a song about horrible tattoos. “I think we struck a nerve,” Kilgariff cracked in the middle of the number, which really couldn’t have been more tailor-made for the Austin crowd.

Oswalt, naturally, delivered in spades.

He began with a 10-15 minute bit about waiting on the Congress Avenue bridge for the bats to appear, a visit he had just made prior to the show. The brand new routine was, remarkably, as polished as his standard tour material. It contained detailed descriptions of crowd members and ended with a killer line about a man who had been waiting in front of him for an hour, only to finally turn around and ask the other crowd members what they were all waiting for.

Other material touched on religion, his worst gig ever, his parents, clowns, and the song “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Oswalt was also in hilarious form during his crowd work. He nearly whiffed with the first two audience members he singled out — a woman who did marketing for start-ups, and a Family and Sports Medicine doctor. But he struck comic gold with his third victim, an author who wrote modern feminist fiction under a pen name. When pressed about why she used a pseudonym, Oswalt got the woman to admit it was because some people would consider the work to be erotica. Oswalt then guessed that her pen name must be “Vulva Fantastic.”

I’m sure that wasn’t the woman’s actual nom de plume, but “fantastic” is actually a pretty accurate way to describe Friday at Moontower.

Pete Holmes and T.J. Miller tag team a gala of goofiness at Moontower

Weird things happen after midnight, man. Just some real bananas stuff. Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival attendees who packed the Paramount Theater after the witching hour know this firsthand, thanks to the insomniac lunacy of Pete Holmes and T.J. Miller, who closed Friday out in fraternal, tag-team style.

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The pair co-headlined the time slot, which got off to a slightly late start thanks to a late-running Patton Oswalt set. Holmes, current host of the “You Made It Weird” podcast and former host of an eponymous cable talk show, and Miller, star of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and a “Big Hero 6” voice actor, made frequent reference to their long-running friendship throughout the show, including their roots in the Chicago comedy scene.

Pete Holmes. (Birdsong Imaging/Mandy Earnshaw)
Pete Holmes. (Birdsong Imaging/Mandy Earnshaw)


The rubber-faced, unfailingly amiable Holmes took the audience on a sleep-deprived mission to find joy in the little moments. Among his best bits along the way: his memories of attending an Enrique Iglesias concert alone; his encounter with a flute-playing cab driver and ruminations on the trustworthiness of different instruments (saxophones are honest, trumpets are hiding something); and the power of the phrase “What you know green eggs and haaaaaam?” (Guaranteed to lift your spirits in both TSA and holiday shopping situations.)

Miller took the goofiness baton from Holmes and made a dead sprint into surrealism. The comedian, wearing an ill-fitting suit that he might have gotten from Steve Harvey’s swap-meet, told what he guaranteed would be the only textile loom joke the audience would ever hear (at Eli Whitney’s expense, obviously); speculated on George Washington Carver’s sex life (with his wife Martha, which may or may not have been the name of his wife); and laid out his ultimate nightmare prank scenario (build an exact replica of a person’s bed so that it’s facing theirs, jolt up and scream just as they do, turn on an array of floodlights).

T.J. Miller (Birdsong Imaging/Mandy Earnshaw)
T.J. Miller (Birdsong Imaging/Mandy Earnshaw)

The duo closed the night/early morning out with a little team hijinx, sharing the stage to reminisce and, in one of the best parts of the evening, do their impressions of each other’s early-career jokes. Miller’s recreation of Holmes’ early material — piñatas teach children that if you hit animals, candy will fall out — was amusing, but Holmes’ brought it home with a re-enactment of Miller’s bit about a family sharing a tandem bicycle. By Miller’s estimation, his pal did the joke even funnier than he did.

At Moontower, Wanda Sykes re-enacts colonoscopy, reflects on racial injustice in America

Mixed-race families. The trials of getting older. Genetically modified organisms. Wanda Sykes swam deep into the complexities of life Friday night at the Paramount Theater during her blisteringly funny and effortlessly relatable Moontower Comedy Festival headlining set.

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Sykes is a pop culture fixture, familiar to fans of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and a respectable bundle of animated films. She’s quick with a barb, at ease with exasperation and an auteur of raucous, withering observations. The comedian served up all of that from the stage of the historic Austin theater, but it was her sane, sympathetic humanity that shined through the set.

Wanda Sykes (Birdsong Imaging, Mandy Earnshaw)
Wanda Sykes (Birdsong Imaging, Mandy Earnshaw)

After opening with a hilarious bit about her fear of black women with baby powder on their chest — she can explain it better — Sykes waxed upon what it means to be a woman getting older. The 51-year-old comedian, who had a double mastectomy in 2011 after being diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, spun gold from the contrast between her old breasts (which, she said, could be mistaken for the opening sound effect from “Law and Order” when she removed her bra) and her new breasts (which she is sure are scheming and plotting something, as they are far too alert in the morning). Also, her poise in recreating her colonoscopy, balancing on a stool, was more impressive than any Cirque du Soleil feat.

Another complication, though a welcome one, in Sykes’ life: Married to a white French woman, Sykes now finds herself the mother to two blond white children who speak French and terrify her nightly when they recreate scenes from “Children of the Corn” at the foot of her bed. Which, she said, is an unexpected turn of events for a woman who attended a historically black college. And Sykes’ jokes about race relations — which doesn’t sound funny when you type it like that, but that’s why Wanda Sykes in a standup comedian and this is a blog post on a news website — rang with righteousness and funny-bone vibrations. Watching news reports about the shooting of unarmed black men alongside a Caucasian wife from a different culture, refusing to watch “12 Years a Slave” out of knowledge of her patience limitations, imagining throwing down with Mitch McConnell’s wife were she in Michelle Obama’s shoes: Sykes tackled all with razor wit.

At another point in the night, the state of food in America (including the aggressive sales tactics behind McNuggets despite their questionable composition) served as a perfect punching bag for a gleeful Sykes. The line of the night, or at least in the top ten: “I don’t (expletive) with tilapia.”

In ending with the heights of insanity that her love for her wife inspires, the comedian tied a bow around a performance that exuded contentment through the travails of society. Earlier in the set, Sykes said she is now the happiest she has ever been, and even if her relationship leads her to snowboarding misadventures and romantic getaways that feel like hostage situations, the audience is lucky that she finds the laughs. That’s what a Wanda Sykes show is all about at every turn, saying in one way or another or another:

This is crazy, right? We both know, so let’s just say it aloud.

Moontower Thursday: Tim Minchin and Emo Philips

Emo Phillips and Tim Minchin at the Moontower Comedy Festival. DALE ROE / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Emo Philips and Tim Minchin at the Moontower Comedy Festival. DALE ROE / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The last time I was this close to comedian Emo Philips was 30 years ago. He was performing in front of a few dozen people in the basement of a Jake’s Pizza Parlor in Lisle, a western suburb of Chicago, Ill. (Philips is a native of another nearby suburb, Downer’s Grove).

I wasn’t sure what to expect these days from the extremely weird stand-up, but his hilarious (and far too-short) set at the Speakeasy Thursday during the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival capped off a terrific night that began at the Paramount Theatre with the musical comedy of Tim Minchin, who I mainly wanted to see so that I could stop hearing people tell me “You’ve got to go see Tim Minchin!”

These folks, mainly organizers from the Paramount, played the atheist and skeptic Minchin’s performance up to ironically biblical proportions.

And Minchin over-delivered.

The eccentric-appearing singer, pianist and composer walked onstage wearing heavy eye make-up (the better to see his hilarious expressions); a stylish, fitted suit; and neither shoes nor socks.

Tim Minchin performs musical comedy during the 2015 Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival.
Tim Minchin performs musical comedy during the 2015 Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival.

You know that expression that somebody was “played like a fiddle”? That’s the best way I can explain how Minchin manhandled and caressed the grand piano at which he sat for the better part of an hour and a half. Perhaps those dark eyes hypnotized his audience, because I can clearly remember him ripping the keys from the instrument, mashing them together, remixing them — bending and shaping them to his will.

It would have been a great show had he simply played — and played anything — on the piano. But the songs he sang were similarly twisted, full of witty jabs at politics, war, religion and family life. Like a magician, Minchin repeatedly led the crowd down a path and then took sharp turns, veering in directions we never expected to go.

I should qualify that “we,” because so many members of the audience were thoroughly familiar with Minchin’s songs; if you can sing along with the intricate and silly, Tom Lehrer-style rhymes Minchin composes, then you’re a fan.

Minchin claimed that he’s not a comedian, but his occasional non-musical interludes between numbers proved otherwise. I was especially impressed by his crowd work.

He ended his performance with a touching rendition of “Seeing You,” a number he wrote for the stage musical version of “Groundhog Day” he is putting together with Danny Rubin, who penned the script for the Bill Murray movie and is writing the book for the musical.

It was a sweet, but oddly conventional ending to the unconventional show — another surprise twist.

Emo Philips put the odd in the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival.
Emo Philips put the odd in the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival.

Speaking of odd, let’s get back to Philips.

Still sporting his familiar page boy haircut and a wide-sleeved, prison gray tunic, the comic appeared in a curated set hosted by the Sklar Brothers (who were great, but repeated some of the same material they presented at last year’s Moontower).

He’s got the same slow, affected, falsetto delivery you remember, but his non-sequitur barbs (think Steven Wright or Mitch Helberg, who must have been inspired by Philips) seemed edgier than I had recalled.

Even old gems such as, “A Mormon told me that they don’t drink coffee. I said, ‘A cup of coffee every day gives you wonderful benefits.’ He said, ‘Like what?’ I said, ‘Well, it keeps you from being Mormon …'” sounded fresh and drew belly-laughs from the crowd.

“I prefer smart audiences because smart people don’t heckle,” one of his newer jokes began. “If a smart person doesn’t like a comedian, he just blames himself for not having more assiduously researched his entertainment options. Stupid people shout, ‘You suck.’ Smart people think, ‘I suck, for not Googling him.'”

Philips appears again at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Stateside’s “Dr. Katz Live”; at 8:15 Friday at the Parish for “Stars in Bars”; and at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in “Stars in Bars” at the Vulcan Gas Company.

 

Marc Maron’s river of rage: surprisingly crowd-pleasing at Moontower Fest!

Marc Maron performs at the Paramount Theatre on Thursday, April 23, as part of Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. Credit: Birdsong Imaging, Mandy Earnshaw, contributed by Moontwoer
Marc Maron performs at the Paramount Theatre on Thursday, April 23, as part of Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. Credit: Birdsong Imaging, Mandy Earnshaw, contributed by Moontwoer

Long-time listeners of Marc Maron’s popular interview podcast, “WTF With Marc Maron” and even viewers of his IFC TV show, “Maron” know that an angry, perplexed Marc Maron is a great Maron (at least for the audience). Maron spews invective and holds grudges with the best of them and seeing, or hearing, his barely concealed ire let loose is a beautiful thing.

It’s even better when beneath it all it seems like he’s in a genuinely good mood as he was Thursday night for a 9:30 p.m. show at the Paramount Theatre as a Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival headliner. Clad in a blue plaid shirt, boots and his hipster-adjacent mustache and glasses, Maron was more playful than you might expect from a comedian who makes frequent hay of emotional damage, failed relationships and the struggles of being a 51-year-old man who lives alone and talks to cats.

Though it sounds from his act that his relationships are a mess (unlike most comedians, when Maron talks about his dating life, you get the sense he’s being completely honest), Maron was in fine form Thursday night, delivering both forceful assaults from his self-described “River of rage,” but also interacting with the audience for their various uses of “Wooo!” delivering a bit of improvised physical comedy involving moving a stool, microphone stand and mic cable, and at one point allowing a rolling water bottle to upstage him.

Even when he was berating an audience member for staring at him oddly (“What do you need, man!?”), Maron never seemed as misanthropic or damaged as his past comedic work has suggested. In fact, no matter how far he went into material about sex (bodily fluids figured largely into the act’s final minutes), into the pleasures of yelling at others or even biting the hand that feeds him at the fest (“Whose dumb idea were these hanging things?” he asked about the set decorations), he came across as more lovable than pathetic, a guy who’s found himself by embracing his angry side.

Maybe it’s that this fan of BBQ loves Austin and has found the only place with more hipsters than his gentrified neighborhood in Los Angeles. In fact, he warned Austinites, “If you want to keep Austin weird, stop building so many (expletive) hotels,” Maron said. “This is the hipster Alamo, you must defend it.”

If there was a running thread in his hour-long set about zombie Jesus, childhood traumas and ice cream overindulgence, it was his “Inner blogger voice,” an ongoing third-person critique of the show with dispatches about each joke’s reception, each ending with, “More later.” It’s becoming a regular bit of business for a lot of comedians to comment on the show as the show is happening (Maria Bamford and Jim Gaffigan are among comics who employ it), and in someone less comfortable on stage and, let’s face it, less self-lacerating, it would have become tiresome.

But Maron has somehow come out of his years of struggle, self-defeat and frustration as that rarest thing: a polished, stressed gem who also happens to deliver consistent, deep laughter. Maron is definitely his own thing, thank goodness for us.

Marc Maron will be on hand at 6 p.m. Friday for a screening of the first episode of the third season of “Maron” at the Paramount. At 7:30 p.m., he’s scheduled to be part of “Dr. Katz Live” at Stateside at the Paramount.

The old magic returns in fits and starts at Moontower’s ‘Dr. Katz Live’

Jonathan Katz (left) and Dana Gould (right) do a therapy session at Stateside at the Paramount on Thursday, April 23, as part of Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. Credit: Birdsong Imaging, Mandy Earnshaw, contributed by Moontower
Jonathan Katz (left) and Dana Gould (right) do a therapy session at Stateside at the Paramount on Thursday, April 23, as part of Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. Credit: Birdsong Imaging, Mandy Earnshaw, contributed by Moontower

“Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” started as a low-budget, low-key animated show on Comedy Central show just a few years before “South Park” would become the animated show the network would become known for. It featured stand-up comics doing some of their material playing against the bone-dry wit of comedian Jonathan Katz, who played a put-upon therapist with a passive-aggressive secretary (Laura Silverman) and a dopey, lovable, layabout son (the brilliant H. Jon Benjamin, who’s become a voiceover star with “Bob’s Burgers” and “Archer”).

Despite rosters of impressive comedic talent and a cleverly home-brewed animated style that became easy to love the more you watched it, the show was never a gigantic hit. At a live performance Thursday night as part of the Moontower Comedy Festival, I heard more people before the show explaining what the show was to others than recollections of bits from the show. “Dr. What?” one older gentleman asked his companion, who was about 25 years younger. The show was explained.

Another guy, sitting behind me at the show, explained to his friends, “I used to watch it, but I was too young to understand it when it was on in the early ’90s. I was 14.”

On stage, the energy was a little different, sometimes flailing, other times absolutely matching perfectly in tone what those of us who remember the show fondly came to see. Jonathan Katz, who moves slowly with a cane due to multiple sclerosis, did a few minutes of stand-up comedy at a microphone before the main set and it began with a rape joke. As horrible as date rape is, Katz suggested, even worse would be “Double-date rape.”

Improbably, the joke earned laughs, as did the rest of Katz’s short set, which mostly consisted of well-crafted wordplay and, memorably, short musical performances of Beatles, Rolling Stones and Eagles songs performed Bar Mitzvah-style. Who knew Dr. Katz (not a real therapist) could sing?

But the meat of the show was mock-therapy sessions featuring comedians Dana Gould, Andy Kindler, Maria Bamford, Dom Irrera and Emo Philps, all of whom had appeared on the original show except Bamford. On the stage, two chairs and a fern were set up, though Irrera complained multiple times that he missed the couch and was hoping for some cuddling.

Gould went topic with material about Bruce Jenner, joking that he’s confused about respecting Jenner’s privacy now as a transgender individual given the distinct complete opposite of privacy we’ve come to expect from the Kardashian clan.

Bamford turned out to fit right in and got some of the biggest laughs with material about her new marriage and a ridiculous song about her couples’ therapist.

Andy Kindler appeared with a non-working wireless microphone and, as Kindler does, turned the awkwardness into its own hilarious bit. “This is the story of my life, Dr. Katz,” he whined, as the microphone was swapped out. Kindler went trademark-meta, asking if he’s using humor as a defense mechanism (“No,” Katz said definitively, to huge laughs) and exclaiming, “even my psychiatrist has better material!”

As on the original show, Irrera got weird and overly affectionate quickly, having left a voice mail for Katz and asking for some snuggle time.

But it was Emo Philips who perhaps captured the original spirit of the show best with his quirky timing. While much of the show had the awkward pauses (completely appropriate for “Dr. Katz) that came with mixing improv with prepared bits, Philips’s felt most like the the animated series, with Katz serving as more of a straight man than a fellow comic breaking the fourth wall.

Apart from the Kindler microphone gaffe, there were other timing issues. It took a while for the show to begin after an introductory Moontower Fest video was shown and sometimes the lengthy pauses and fits-and-starts pacing of the therapy sessions felt less than intentional. But it was a delight to hear Laura Silverman’s familiar, grumpy voice played as an intro to each comic. And the play-off music meant to signal the end of a therapy session turned out to be its own comedic highlight as it always seemed to happen just as a comic was making a point or on the edge of a revelation. It was all about timing and the joy of getting a large dose of Katz’s absurdist, punchline-driven humor, which still kills.

On the matter of an aunt’s death, Katz revealed to Kindler that she was cremated. “We think that’s what did it,” he said.

The show happens again 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Stateside at the Paramount.

Never caught the original show? Here’s some classic bits:

Moontower Comedy Festival salutes women with She Bang showcase

At Moontower Comedy Festival‘s all-women showcase, “Late Night with Seth Meyers” writer Michelle Wolf cut right to the point: Anticipating smooth sailing for presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is an interesting thing to hold out for in a country where some dark, basement-dwelling corners riot over the very idea of an all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot.

The She Bang showcase at Speakeasy on Thursday night charted a nine-stop tour of all the different voices comedy has to offer, with the added bonus of being a (mostly unspoken) comedypolitik statement on women in comedy. Host Phil Hartley, the only Y chromosome to set foot on the stage, made the sarcastic wasn’t-she-hilarious-dramatic-pause-for-a-girl joke only once, which seemed inevitable and unnecessary (and yes, tongue in cheek). Any combination of the evening’s comics would make the the Stay-Puft marshmallow man explode in laughter (and ectoplasmic fluff), and everyone in attendance knew it.

The show was a survey of every way you can do standup. Local comic Avery Moore served up underdog eccentricity and her crowd-pleasing, country-pop-skewering “Dirt Road” bit, which everyone in Austin should see at least once. “The Daily Show” producer Jena Friedman went abrasive with a 9/11 joke and other barbs that we don’t feel comfortable writing in this blog, and cringe-comic Erica Rhodes repped for small-voiced discomfort. On opposite ends of the performance spectrum, Ophira Eisenberg (of NPR’s “Ask Me Another”) exuded seasoned confidence, and limber experimental comic Kate Berlant took the audience on a riotous trip to art school.

The standouts of She Bang set the audience on fire with chain-reaction chuckles: Liza Treyger, who’s appeared on”Chelsea Lately,” cruised with the sharp confidence of a woman who takes a stretch Hummer limo to a Miley Cyrus concert. (On couples who don’t hold hands and squandered opportunities: “That’s like thin people who don’t dress well.”) The aforementioned Wolf, crackling, elicited righteous laugh-tears at the audience’s expense on a Malaysian Airlines bit. Michelle Buteau, a VH1 host who’s appeared on “Key & Peele,” claimed the most riotous performance of the night, drawing all in with her bawdy confidence — especially an older woman in the audience named Nancy, whom Buteau roped in as her sidekick whether she was willing or not.

Much to this reporter’s chagrin, audience members started trickling out before the end of the showcase, which closed with a thoughtful set by “Saturday Night Live” featured player Sasheer Zamata. Have you seen Pixar’s “Big Hero 6”? Zamata has — stoned — and she demonstrated how the cartoon brought out her inner Angela Davis. The “SNL” performer is a sharp social observer if not a noted impressionist; hopefully the NBC sketch show gives her a little more room to speak her mind in the future. (Not to hint too blatantly, but it’s not like anyone else is really using the Weekend Update desk for the common good these days.)

Catch another She Bang showcase at the Parish on Friday at 10:15 p.m. Zamata, Treyger, Rhodes, Buteau and Eisenberg will be joined by Maggie Maye, Lashonda Lester, Emily Heller and host Guy Branum.

Moontower Comedy Festival keeps the laughs rolling this week

Maria Bamford performs on April 24, 2014, at the Paramount Theatre as part of last year's Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. She'll perform three solo shows at the 2015 festival, April 22-24. Credit: Mandy Earnshaw, contributed by Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival
Maria Bamford will perform three solo shows at the 2015 Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival, April 22-24. Credit: Mandy Earnshaw, contributed by Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival

“Confessions of a Prairie Bitch.” Alison Arngrim, who formerly played Nellie Oleson on “Little House on the Prairie,” gives a sardonic perspective of her thoughts on life. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. May 1; 3 and 8 p.m. May 2; 3 p.m. May 3. $27.50. Long Center, Rollins Studio Theatre, 701 W. Riverside Drive. 512-457-5100. thelongcenter.org.

Austin Java Parkway. “Sure Thing,” a weekly comedy show. 8 p.m. Saturday. Free. 1206 Parkway. 512-476-1829, facebook.com/SureThingATX.

Cap City Comedy Club. Rachel Feinstein, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $15-$21. Cameron Esposito, 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, $10-$16. 8120 Research Blvd., No. 100. 512-467-2333, capcitycomedy.com.

Esther’s Follies. Spring hits Sixth Street as the Esther’s crew grows clever songs and sketches from today’s headlines. Michelle Obama’s Garden celebrates legalized marijuana, while the Supremes (I’m talkin’ ’bout the judges, yo) get down with Notorious RBG — as in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Esther’s Follies Theater, 525 E. Sixth St. $25-$35. 512-320-0553, http://www.esthersfollies.com.

The Institution Theater. Improv and off-beat theater. “The Secret Lives of Soccer Moms,” 8 p.m. Friday. “Late Night Time Machine,” 10 p.m. Friday. “Tarantula,” 10 p.m. Saturday. “Impromp-Two,” 7 p.m. Sunday. “Booker and a Buddy,” 10 p.m. Saturday. “Virgin Territory,” 8 p.m. Thursday. Free-$10. 3708 Woodbury Drive. 512-895-9580, theinstitutiontheater.com.

Moontower Comedy Festival. The big daddy of Austin comedy festivals continues with the who’s who of local stand-ups at a number of downtown venues through Saturday. Individual tickets are available. moontowercomedy.com.

The New Movement. “Pass the Mic,” 8 p.m. Sunday. Plus more improv and stand-up shows throughout the week. $5-$10. The New Movement, 616 Lavaca St. 512-696-2590, newmovementtheater.com.

Moontower Comedy Festival hits Austin this week

Patton Oswalt headlines the Moontwoer Comedy Festival.
Patton Oswalt headlines the Moontwoer Comedy Festival.

Austin Java Parkway. “Sure Thing,” a weekly comedy show. 8 p.m. Saturday. Free. 1206 Parkway. 512-476-1829, facebook.com/SureThingATX.

Cap City Comedy Club. Leanne Morgan, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $15- $21. Rachel Feinstein, 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, $10-$16. 8120 Research Blvd., No. 100, 512-467-2333, capcitycomedy.com.

Esther’s Follies. Spring hits Sixth Street as the Esther’s crew grows clever songs and sketches from today’s headlines. Michelle Obama’s Garden celebrates legalized marijuana, while the Supremes (I’m talkin’ ’bout the judges, yo) get down with Notorious RBG — as in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Esther’s Follies Theater, 525 E. Sixth St. $25-$35. 512-320-0553, http://www.esthersfollies.com.

Funniest Person in Austin. Watch your favorite Austin stand-ups fight to the death, comedically (and, OK, metaphorically) on the Cap City stage in the 30th annual hilar-a-thon. This year’s 30th anniversary prize is a whopping $3,000, plus all the potential fame and fortune you can eat. Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research Blvd. Preliminary rounds, $6. (Sunday-Tuesday, April 26-28, May 3-5); semifinals, $8 (May 10-12); final night, $15 (May 18). 512-467-2333, capcitycomedy.com.

The Institution Theater. Improv and off-beat theater. “Soccer Mom,” 8 p.m. Friday. “Late Night Time Machine,” 10 p.m. Friday. “Tarantula,” 10 p.m. Saturday. “Impromp-Two,” 7 p.m. Sunday. “The Rubber Room,” 8 p.m. Sunday. Free-$10. 3708 Woodbury Drive. 512-895-9580, theinstitutiontheater.com.

Moontower Comedy Festival. The big daddy of Austin comedy festivals features headliners including Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford, Mark Maron, Wanda Sykes, Pete Holmes and John Mulaney as well as a who’s who of local stand-ups at a number of downtown venues and the Cap City Comedy Club for four exhausting but hilarious nights. Wednesday-April 25. Individual tickets are on sale for headliners, but why not just buy a badge and get information (including the complete list of venues and acts) at http://www.moontowercomedy.com.

The New Movement. “Pass the Mic,” 8 p.m. Sunday. Plus more improv and stand-up shows throughout the week. $5-$10. The New Movement, 616 Lavaca St. 512-696-2590, newmovementtheater.com.

Nick Offerman with Megan Mullally. The news release touting this performance from the “Parks and Recreation” and “Will and Grace” stars claims that the entertainment power couple is “yanking the britches right off of their marriage, exposing the salacious details of their fiery union for all the world to enjoy, featuring songs, funny talking, heavy ribaldry” and other stuff you just can’t put in a family newspaper. So, you know what you’re getting into, right? 7 p.m. Friday. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. $39.50. 512-474-1221, http://www.austintheatre.org.

The Velveeta Room. Stand-up comedy hosted by Avery Moore, $5, 11 p.m. Friday. Katie Pengra with Cody Greenlee, $10, 9 p.m. Friday and 9 and 11 p.m. Saturday. Speed Mic, $5, 9 p.m. Thursday. 521 E. Sixth St. 512-469-9116, thevelveetaroom.com.