A few years back, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Fun Fun Fun Fest, the event’s final go round with its original producers before Graham Williams and much of his crew broke off and started Sound on Sound Fest. To mark the occasion we complied a comprehensive oral history of the fest.
Folded into the tales of battles with the city, rock star divas and French onion soup, was this little gem about from 2008. At the time, FFF Fest was a rag tag event produced on a shoestring budget in Waterloo Park. Producer Graham Williams felt bad about his event displacing the homeless people who made the park their year round residence, so he hired some of them to work as his grounds crew.
It was the first year the festival included comedy and they were excited to welcome the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job. And then this happened.
Max Gregor: (Tim and Eric) were awesome but also kind of a disaster. There was a box of their merch that was delivered to festival grounds and somehow it was dropped off literally in the middle of the park. Just a box sitting on the ground … while we were building. It was kind of like 60 feet away from the stairs that led up to the merch area so I think people that saw it were like, “Oh that’s somebody who’s setting up merch.” For a couple days it sat there.
So finally we opened up the doors for the festival and people came through and a few hours later Tim and Eric show up and they’re like, “Hey, it’s kind of crazy but there’s just tons of people wearing our merch everywhere. Have you been selling a lot?” And we were like, “Your merch?” Rosa Madriz:All the homeless folks. They left it out … and everyone who was helping clean the park was wearing all their merch around the park. Max Gregor: Tim Heidecker was standing there as I was having this conversation with his manager being like, “Yeah it all must have gotten stolen and it was our fault,” and the manager trying to be super cool about it … with the artist just standing there silently. Just staring at me. Like what a (expletive) idiot. Later Adi Anand, who then worked at now-defunt website the Austinist, interviewed Tim and Eric in a swank little lounge area set up by Prototype Vintage. Adi Anand (Director of client services): (They) got super fired up in their characters and one of the Prototype chairs was flipped over into the creek behind the (lounge). I had to go down and like bargain with some of the folks who lived in the park who claimed that to be their new furniture.
Dave Chappelle has not only been slaying comedian fans of late, he’s been throwing some damn good parties, as well. His Juke Joint parties have been hits in his home state of Ohio and outside of New Orleans over NBA All-Star Weekend. The comedian announced he will be throwing one tonight at 9 p.m. in Luck, Texas. Expect live music (including Frédéric Yonnet), laughs and a goood time. Also: NO PHONES OR CAMERAS. Seriously. Tickets are $85 and a limited number are on sale to the general public. The party pops off after Chappelle’s final show at ACL Live, with buses to Spicewood available for Juke Joint ticket holders.
Nevermind what you feared, Dave Chappelle is back and on top of his game.
When his two Netflix specials dropped recently, some worried Chappelle might not be keeping up with the times. There were tone-deaf jokes about the transgender community and rape. Those subjects aren’t off-limits in stand-up comedy, but Chappelle’s jokes weren’t worthy of the triggering. They didn’t enlighten or enliven the societal conversation. Referencing a line Chappelle told Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” recently, they didn’t highlight an “irreconcilable moment of paradox.”
With those imperfect advertisements, some may have been skeptical about Chappelle’s form. But those sets were almost two years old (the Austin shows edited into episode two were from April 2015). Chappelle proved at his Wednesday night late show, amidst a sold-out weeklong run at ACL Live, that he’s as sharp as ever.
He didn’t walk close to the fire from his Netflix specials, instead rallying the crowd from the moment he took the stage. Chappelle proved he is a uniter, not a divider. And nothing brings us together quite like comedy.
Maybe it was simply a nod to the West, but Chappelle seemed aware of the ripples created by his recent specials and the bullseye-on-your-back role of comedian in world of social media and instant reaction, taking the stage in a black cowboy hat to Bon Jovi’s “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” following a fire set from opener Donnell Rawlings. (We sadly missed former Austinite Ashley Barnhill.)
His jokes weren’t uncomfortable but he didn’t play it safe, as the self-proclaimed feminist proved with a self-aware bit about how the feminist movement needed a man in charge, a joke that required a deft touch and a strong sense of absurdist vulnerability
Chappelle made news earlier this year with his great “Saturday Night Live” monologue, which aggravated and moved people with his call to give Donald Trump a chance. But, Chappellehas pumped his breaks on that one. The living legend said he had made a mistake with that plea. Trump has fallen apart and can’t do anything right, Chappelle said to raucous and relieved consensus.
The comedian suffered a train-wreck of fan interference when he visited the Paramount in 2012, when he was just starting to take swings on big stages again, but he rolled with the few interruptions and created a few of his own Wednesday night, embracing fans, not alienating or shaming them. He delivered watermelon juice to one audience member for her cocktail and sent another couple tequila shots. The relationship between performer and audience was made tighter by the lack of cell phones. On entering, attendees had to put their phones in sealed pouches that were unlocked on exiting, an awesome touch that meant no glowing phones, no selfies, no shots of Chappelle, and, the main reason, no recording. It was a touch that gave the night a retro feel, tripping back to when community was less disrupted and more organic. I would love to see the policy at every concert, movie and performing arts show.
Phones or no, Chappelle would have had the audience rapt all night, however, as he moved from easy but hilarious jokes about Bill Cosby’s “shenanigans” to more poignant societal statements about the late Emmett Till, the latter proving that not only is Chappelle back on top, he is exactly the comedian America needs in these uneasy times.
Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. June 28 for comedian Amy Schumer, she of “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Trainwreck” fame, at the Frank Erwin Center Nov. 18. The popular and sometimes controversial comedian is heading out on a 54-date world tour which will take here across Europe and the United States.
There is an artist presale 10 a.m. June 24 through 10 p.m. June 27 local time (Artist code: “amylive”). Further information and tickets at http://www.amyschumer.com/tour. She’s also playing San Antonio and Houston. (Take that, Dallas!)
Schumer last headlined in Austin 2014 at Bass. Here is her 2015 SXSW interview:
“Inside Amy Schumer” has won Emmy, Peabody and U.S. Writers Guild awards. Gallery Books will publish Schumer’s “The Girl with The Lower Back Tattoo” Aug. 16.
The fifth annual Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival has come and gone. The laughs have died down and, with a day’s separation to mull over the experience, here are some random thoughts.
Though the great James Adomian delivered a killer Bernie Sanders impression, Donald Trump’s footprint was all over this year’s festival. The best Trump joke I heard has to go to British comedian Jimmy Carr. “I love America,” Carr cracked Saturday night at the fest’s new 800 Congress venue. “I’m excited to see how it ends.”
Best Trump vocal impression honors go to “Saturday Night Live” featured player Jon Rudnitsky. By the way, Rudnitsky is extremely funny and woefully underused by “SNL.” His talents go way beyond the vocal. During his set at the “G— D— Comedy Jam” on Saturday at the Parish, the comic showed off impressive physical skills, especially during his bizarre and hilarious impression of the unconfident son of a world-famous break dancer.
Another fine bit of physical comedy came, unexpectedly, from former “The Simpsons” writer and Moontower stalwart Dana Gould, who did a bit Saturday at the Townsend in which he fantasized about hijacking a time machine and traveling back to attack baby Hitler with baby Manson. During the flailing pantomime, Gould shouted, “I know this looks wrong, but trust me … these are bad babies!”
By the way, that show featured killer sets by Gould, Arden Myrin, Andy Kindler, Jackie Kashian, Erin Foley and the Lampshades, but the undisputed highlight was former Funniest Person in Austin winner Brendon Walsh. The unkempt comic had the crowd in stitches and must have been a hard act to follow.
The Townsend was a new venue for the festival this year, and some growing pains are to be expected. Even so, the performance room was really small, with audience members packed in. It’s debatable whether it was more comfortable to stand for the whole show or sit in one of the super uncomfortable chairs.
At least there were no hecklers at that show, unlike during Piff the Magic Dragon’s Thursday headlining gig at the Stateside. We’ve been through this before, notoriously during a performance by Dave Chappelle several years ago, and you’d think we’d have learned our lesson. Yet here was one idiot – drunk, high or just obnoxious – trying to turn the crowd’s attention to himself and spoiling the show for hundreds in the process.
The comic magician deftly dispatched the heckler early on, but he piped up again toward the end of the show, causing security guards to stand at the end of his aisle and stare him down. It wasn’t the best atmosphere for a smart show that required the audience’s undivided attention.
The best Austin joke I heard came from little-person comedian Brad Williams during Saturday’s Stars in Bars. He talked about our city’s “toxic” Lady Bird Lake, in which we’re not allowed to swim. To mess with people, Williams said, he waded out into the water then waited until somebody came by. “Then I walked out, looked down at my body and screamed, ‘Aagh! What the hell happened to me?’ ”
It was great to see Janeane Garofalo back in form after a meandering and unfocused headlining performance a few years ago. Her tight, short set featured hilariously dry observations on St. Louis (“Have you been there? You needn’t bother”); the “Twilight” movies and television. “Who out there is under 26?” she asked the crowd as hands darted upward. “I have something to tell you,” Garofalo went on in serious tone, giving the set-up an air of gravitas.
“There was a time, before you were born, when ‘Law and Order’ was not on.”
More from our Moontower crew
Thursday night at the Paramount, Martin Short reminded fans that he is a master of showbiz smarm, able to wring belly laughs out of material that in a less comic’s would have the audience cringing. He even subjected Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson to his Jiminy Glick character, the latter one of the nastiest parodies of celebrity journalism ever devised. It was hilarious. — Joe Gross
Ron Funches, an exceptionally strong midlevel comic, headlined three nights at Cap City Comedy Club, delivering confident sets (he recently dropped about 100 pounds and was feeling good about it) without sacrificing any of his laconic charm. His sets included a brilliant description of walking around sans pants that involved a beloved childhood literary figure and an unspooling bit about getting into a fight in a Canadian weed dispensary. — J. G.
“Princess,” a full Prince cover band led by comics and longtime friends Maya Rudolph and vocalist Gretchen Lieberum, had been on the lineup since February. It seemed like a fun musical curiosity, something along the lines of Fred Armisen’s Ian Rubbish show from two years ago. With the death of Prince, the show became so much more. What was already going to be a tribute to Prince’s music and persona became a necessary, cathartic tribute. At times it was funny; Rudolph’s Prince-like sexy declarations and her on-point dance moves and shoulder hiccups made it impossible not to giggle. But it was also incredibly sad, especially as the night concluded, when a tearful Rudolph clearly didn’t want the performance to end. After throwing batches of flowers to the audience, she thanked the Austin audience and said the performance was therapeutic. Read the full recap.— Omar Gallaga
SheBang lineup delivers:On the “Statesman Shots” podcast last week, one of the featured stand-up comics on the annual “SheBang” show, Maggie Maye, called the show a collection of the funniest people around… who also happen to be women. She was right and then some when Friday night at the new and spacious 800 Congress venue she and many more stand-up comics took turns blowing minds and winning hearts with one great set after another. I wasn’t able to stick around for some the lineup’s biggest names including Janeane Garofalo and Erin Foley, but 90 minutes in as it was time to run to the David Cross taping across the street, I’d become a new fan of Jo Firestone, Debra DiGiovanni and host Greg Behrendt, sole male of the night, who kept the show moving at a brisk clip after a stellar bit about his 11-year-old daughter’s cartwheels and drinking habits. — O.G.
Leslie Jones is fierce: It’s becoming increasingly clear that Leslie Jones might be getting too big for “Saturday Night Live.” And that’s a great problem to have. The comedic powerhouse couldn’t even be contained by the massive Paramount Theatre stage on Saturday night at Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. In a 7 p.m. show called “Leslie Loves Colin” with fellow “SNL” Weekend Update star and head writer Colin Jost, Jones erupted with a fiery stand-up set that saw her coming down from the stage to address audience members right to their face. It was a crazy, brilliant, absolutely electrifying set that didn’t return to normalcy until Jost (who is a fine comedian, but was completely outmatched here) returned to the stage to do a filthy Q&A bit with her. — O.G.
I’m not sure if Mr. Piffles is an old dog, but Thursday at Stateside, he pulled off a few new tricks. The nearly-catatonic Chihuahua performs as the sidekick of Piff the Magic Dragon, a laconic hybrid of magician and comedian.
Are you looking for the oddity part of the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival? The duo (runners-up on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”) qualifies. Both man and beast are dressed in cartoon-green, cloth dragon outfits festooned with patches and pockets (27 of the latter, according to Piff’s recent count).
The Las Vegas headliner’s act ably straddles the comedy/magic line, drawing laughs from the audience (many of them at the Chihuahua’s expense) while mixing a few silly tricks with some genuinely baffling minor miracles. One memorable bit was a mind-reading trick performed by the headliner’s guest, “Chris Angelfish” – a forgetful, self-promoting goldfish swimming at first in a glass and later, distressingly, in a blender.
Piff’s impatient onstage behavior resulted in a lot of laughs during his crowd work with several audience members who assisted him onstage, and his well-timed inclusions of Mr. Piffles never failed to elicit a chorus of “awws” or “ews” from the crowd, depending on how the performer was handling (or mishandling) him. Occasional, cringe-inducing sound effects aside, no animals were harmed during this show.
Unfortunately, Thursday’s show was marred by the behavior of a particularly rude heckler (I thought we were over this, Austin). Piff deftly silenced the troublemaker in the first half of the show, but was less effective later when the same pest again drew attention away from the stage and toward himself. Security guards eventually made their presence known and the rabble-rouser behaved for the show’s remaining few minutes.
I know I wasn’t the only one wishing Piff could have made him disappear.
Very few people can do what Martin Short does and not have the audience look away in embarrassment.
He is the master of the show biz smarm, opening his one-man show with clips from some of his most famous bits (men’s synchronized swimming team, we will never forget you), striding onto the stage with a piano player, singing “all I ask is that you love me,” changing costumes, dropping Steve Martin’s name a lot (his sometimes does this one man show with Martin) reprising his character from “Father of the Bride” and generally doing the sort of showbizzy variety show that absolutely should not work in 2016.
There are two reasons that it did Thursday night at the Paramount Theatre as part of the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. 1) Short is very old school showbiz himself, more of a song-and-dance man than a stand-up comedian, as much an actor as an improviser. His “show biz” self is a character as much Ed Grimley.
2) Speaking of Ed Grimly, Short remains a really weird guy. The weirdness cuts the smarm, in a way. He has been a comedic force for most of his life yet stil retains an outsider streak by dint of being a very odd dude.
There was some political stuff (mocking various Presidential candidates as wedding planner Franck Enggelhoffer, he of the deeply weird accent), he invited three folks from the audience to come up for a tribute to the “Three Amigos” (and wow, those three guys could not do the dance AT ALL.)
The strongest material came at the end, when Short assumed his Jiminy Glick persona (complete with costume) to give an unctuous, hilariously insulting and generally hilarious interview with Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson. Short was perfectly clueless and mean, Benson took it brilliantly and it capped off an evening that should not have worked nearly as well as it did.
The Fun Fun Fun Fest crowds were kept waiting Saturday while organizers walked the venue with Austin’s Parks Department, making sure that the grounds were dry enough, according to Jennifer Sinski from Giant Noise, the festival promoter.
While people waited in line, their badges were scanned so that they could enter immediately once the gates opened. In addition, they were offered snacks and water while in line.
The doors opened around 1:10, which affected the comedy schedule; acts were slated to begin performing at 12:20 p.m.
As a result, all acts prior to Sandbox with Rob Gagnon at 1:35 have been cancelled. That show will go on as planned and the rest of the Yellow Tent schedule should remain the same, barring unforeseen circumstances.
Promoters recommend that fest-goers download the Fun Fun Fun Fest app for the most current information.
Cap City Comedy Club. Mary Lynn Rajskub, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $17. “Dudley and Bob + Matt: Live Sideshow,” 8 p.m. Thursday, $15. 8120 Research Blvd., No. 100. 512-467-2333, capcitycomedy.com.
Esther’s Follies. The election season keeps getting more and more ridiculous and you can bet the Esther’s ensemble members are licking their chops. This month’s top target is Donald Trump (complete with piñata). The crew also takes on Texas textbooks, schooling us on Jesus and the dinosaurs. As if that wasn’t enough, magician Ray Anderson debuts a new levitation illusion, “Torched.” 8 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Esther’s Follies Theater, 525 E. Sixth St. $25-$35. 512-320-0553, esthersfollies.com.
The Institution Theater. Improv and off-beat theater. “(expletive), it’s Hot,” 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. ‘The Source,” 10 p.m. Fridays. “Impromp-Two,” 7 p.m. Sundays. “The Rubber Room,” 8 p.m. Sundays. Free-$10. 3708 Woodbury Drive. 512-895-9580, theinstitutiontheater.com.
Joe Rogan. The stand-up comic, conspiracy theorist and former “Fear Factor” host lands in Austin at the end of the month. Or does he? Maybe he’s just a hologram — or a robot! Perhaps he was killed in a bizarre gardening accident and replaced with a duplicate. 8 p.m. Saturday. ACL Live, 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. $38. 877-435-9849, acl-live.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.
Out of Bounds Comedy Festival. Every Labor Day weekend for the past dozen years has found comics from Texas and beyond gathering in Austin to entertain us locals (and each other). What started as a smallish improv gathering with a dash of sketch comedy at the Hideout has become, in its 13th year, a weeklong celebration of improv, sketch and stand-up at a host of venues throughout the city. That’s a lotta laughter, people. Hey — where else are you going to find a 10-year-old female stand-up from Mesquite, a comedy troupe called “Daaang Judi Dench,” MadTV’s Stephnie Weir, and the 15th anniversary reunion of Austin improv legends Fatbuckle? Tuesday-Sept. 7. Festival passes, $119-$129; individual show tickets available;outofboundscomedy.com.
The Velveeta Room. Sad Trombone with Avery Moore, $5, 11 p.m. Friday. Eric Krug with Yusef Roach, $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.