Moontower 2014, Day 4: She Bang
Last night Dana Gould hosted the final installment of She Bang, an (otherwise) all-lady showcase at Moontower. Fun fact: Gould also performed Thursday night with Four Eyes, a showcase of all glasses-wearing comics. Guess it’s probably safe to say, he’s funny… for a girl… or for a guy who wears glasses.
In introducing Saturday night’s She Bang, the Emmy-award winning writer for The Simpsons and stand-up comedian introduced a few of Texas’ finest rising comedians, including Austinite Maggie Maye, new SNL regular Noël Wells, and Cristela Alonzo, who’s appeared on Conan, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and Last Comic Standing. Beth Stelling, who’s been on Chris Hardwick’s show, @midnight and Conan, and Laurie Kilmartin, currently a writer for Conan, also performed. It was a solid lineup, and all the performances rang with a refreshing sense of honesty that didn’t seem bent on shock for the sake of shock value alone. Kilmartin, perhaps one of the bluntest of the group, touched on why she felt so willing to open up: “I’m 48, and I’m comfortable saying that. I’m comfortable saying that because this is a women’s show, so there’s no one from the industry here.”
While the showcase featured women comics, “womanhood” didn’t dominate the sets. Gould indulged longtime fans with an impression of Don Knotts attempting to make dirty phone calls at 3am, and he performed an actually funny rape joke – yes, at the women’s show. “Have you ever wanted to rape a clown, so you follow him to his car, and then you have to rape 40 clowns?” said Gould. A brave move, but it delivered. The other comics touched on a handful of reasons that society might judge you, besides for being a woman. The svelte Maye pointed out that skinny people aren’t necessarily happy, despite what heavier people might think. “You should not wish you were skinny,” said Maye. “You should wish you were attractive, because if you’re skinny and unattractive, you’re a crackhead. If you got curves but you’re attractive, you could be on Basketball Wives.” Maye’s animated performance instantly captured everyone’s attention, and every joke landed. Evidently that’s a common response, from all kinds of different people. “Flamboyant gay men love me,” said Maye. “I’m a sassy black woman. I’m like their spirit animal.”
Alonzo talked about the challenges facing Latinos, and, more specifically, her challenges with her new white boyfriend. They live in L.A. Her boyfriend had suggested they go upstate on a date to pick apples. He said it would be romantic. She had to correct him. “Two white people picking apples is romantic,” said Alonzo. “Look at me. I’m a migrant farmworker. I’d be worried that at the end of the day he’d be allowed to go home, but I’d have to stay and make my quota.” Alonzo’s family and her childhood in the border town of San Juan surfaced throughout her set, both thematically and through energetic impressions. By the time a joke led to her singing a portion of Sarah McLachlan’s song "Angel" (just go with it), Alonzo’s set took on a surprisingly theatrical quality. But at no time did it feel convoluted. The tone remained grounded and down-to-earth. What you’d expect from a self-proclaimed tomboy.
During her set, Wells recalled her financially-less-secure years as a student here in Austin, attempting to make a few bucks selling clothes to Buffalo Exchange. They didn’t take much from her, primarily because they “try not to buy clothes that people don’t want to wear.” Wells closed her set with some impressions, including her Lena Dunham impression. But it was her impressions of Holly Hunter shopping at a garage sale and Reba MacEntire instructing would-be sitcoms actors on performing for daytime TV that really killed.
Stelling, who hails from the Midwest, joked that one of her biggest challenges is coming from the Midwest. “I’m originally from Ohio,” she said. “A lot of people from Ohio don’t realize that you can take everything you own and put it in a bag and leave.” Her factual, deadpan delivery of that joke drove home the punch line. She lit up a bit later as she joked about her mother trying to switch phone carriers, pulling off an endearingly funny story without seeming overly sweet. Overall, she transitioned quickly and seamlessly from jokes about her hometown to anecdotes about her family to everything from Fleshlights to her lack of commitment in a relationship. It produced a cohesive set that simultaneously displayed the breadth of her comedic talents.
So there you go. Last night was funny and educational. Turns out regardless of who you are, there are plenty of reasons society might make you feel down. But don’t buy into that old adage that “there’s no happiness anywhere.” Plenty of smiles left last night’s show and walked right out to brave Dirty Sixth on a Saturday night.