AUSTIN — The opening night of Austin’s second annual Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival — a four-day event spanning 12 venues and featuring 98 shows! — brought audiences in close quarters with such comedy heavyweights as Marc Maron, Anthony Jeselnik, Maria Bamford and Bill Hader. Though we would have liked to be everywhere, journalists are sadly mortal, and had to settle for just being one place.
Not that there was really much settling involved. Our festival experience kicked off with Saturday Night Live‘s indomitable Bill Hader’s comedy showcase, featuring over an hour of solid stand-up from late night circuit comedians like Dan St. Germain, Myq Kaplan and Austin-based John Ramsey who, for his part, is doing his best to introduce out-of-towners to the principle of keeping Austin weird through a persistent belief in unicorns.
While Hader himself played MC in the guise of various outlandish characters, everybody breathed a sigh of relief when Stefon finally emerged to close out the show, but not without recounting some imagined shenanigans on the equally imaginary “Six and a Half” street in downtown Austin.
Next up, we moseyed on over to the Anthony Jeselnik show, where we were appropriately indoctrinated with enough dark humor to outfit several gasp-inducing Boston Marathon references (Yes, there was at least one of those.)– not to mention and excellent opening set from quickly-rising Michael Che (pictured). While “all the pussies” were at the Maron show – Jesilnek’s words, not ours – we excitedly watched the most fiendishly offensive performer in modern comedy tear everyone a new one of everything. As to be expected, no topic was left out of bounds, and Jeselnik happily engaged several hecklers throughout the show, even enticing one to bring him a double vodka as penance for interrupting the set. Fitting, given that the star of The Jesilnek Offensive dubbed Austin “the opposite of rehab.”
In all, opening night proved a killer start to what promises to be a killer comedy festival tradition. Given the strength of Moontower’s inaugural performances, anticipation is running high for the remainder of the fest. Stay tuned for more hilarity and oddity from the city in charge of keeping things weird!
photos by Jennifer Udan