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.

Author: Eric Webb

Eric Webb is a web producer for the Austin American-Statesman and Austin360. He blogs about Austin culture, pop culture and anything that lives on the Internet.

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