A Guide to Austin Stand-Up: Annual Events
Festivals aren’t just for music and film
Funniest Person in Austin Contest
For more than 30 years, locals have been competing for the title of Funniest Person in Austin, and in that time the contest – sponsored by Cap City Comedy Club – has grown into such a big deal that now upwards of 200 people vie for the honor and sweet career boost it provides. The 2017 battle begins the night after April Fools' Day, appropriately enough, and will take six weeks to reach the finals round, which is judged and viewed by talent hunters from Hollywood, New York, and beyond. That makes FPIA not just impressive here, but nationally. Who will accept the crown from last year's big-laughs champion, Lashonda Lester? It could be a friend or a neighbor – hell, it could even be you.
Preliminary rounds for the annual joke-slinging competition begin Sun., April 2, 8pm, and continue Sun.-Tue., 8pm, through May 2. The semifinal rounds will be held the following week, Sun.-Tue., May 7-9. The final round will be held Mon., May 15. Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research. 512/467-2333. – W.A.B.
Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival
When the Austin Theatre Alliance, which runs the Paramount and Stateside theatres, debuted the Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival in 2012, Executive Director Jim Ritts said he anticipated it becoming one of the two most important comedy festivals in North America in just three years. However ambitious it sounded then, Moontower has made good on that promise and, each April, packs four nights with more than 100 comedians, from living legends (Martin Short, Kids in the Hall, Steven Wright), current stars (Wanda Sykes, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman), and SNL alums (Seth Meyers, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader) to a host of comic's comics (Dana Gould, Maria Bamford, Marc Maron, Andy Kindler) to some of the ATX's smartest jokers (Matt Bearden, Lashonda Lester, Chris Cubas, Avery Moore). This year's fest happens April 19-22.
More than 100 comedians descend on Austin for four nights of punch lines and podcasts. Headliners appearing at the Paramount Theatre include Ali Wong (Thu., 7pm), Jay Pharoah (Thu., 9:30pm), Chris Hardwick (Fri., 7pm), Ali Wong (Fri., 9:30pm), Ralphie May (Fri., 11:59pm), Margaret Cho (Sat., 7pm), and Patton Oswalt (Sat., 9:30pm). 713 Congress. www.austintheatre.org/moontower
Headlining at Cap City Comedy Club as part of Moontower will be Tommy Johnagin. Thu.-Sat., April 20-22. Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research. – R.F.
Out of Bounds Comedy Festival
Austin's granddaddy of comedy festivals (15 years and counting), Out of Bounds started with an exclusive focus on improv and sketch, but brought stand-up under the tent in 2009. These days, joke-slingers constitute about 60 of the 500 performers that play the weeklong event. Veteran programmers from both the Hideout and ColdTowne collaborate with a rotating cast of advisers and volunteers to draw improvisers and comics from around the country to perform with local talent. The highlight each year is a gigantic all-star Stool Pigeon improv show, in which performers improvise scenes based on an anecdote by a guest. Past stool pigeons have included Sen. Kirk Watson and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. This year's festivities happen Aug. 29-Sept. 4. – C.M.
In the SXSW family, burly big bros Music, Film, and Interactive get most of the notice, but scrappy li'l kid Comedy has the most fun. Since 2008, the Festival has offered a Comedy track showcasing some of the sharpest, most innovative comics in the biz, and coordinator Charlie Sotelo has a knack for booking acts seemingly minutes before they break big nationally (see: Tig Notaro, Hannibal Buress, Aziz Ansari, Chris Hardwick, et al.). With shows in cozy venues such as Esther's Follies, Stateside, and the Hideout, comics groove on the intimate and charged vibe, and many now pop up locally in March with the regularity of bluebonnets (see: Marc Maron, Scott Aukerman, Doug Benson, and Upright Citizens Brigade, which programs multiple shows every year). – R.F.