Vanessa Gonzalez Is Real, Funny, and Real Funny

The former Austin comic likes to let the audience into her life


Vanessa Gonzalez (Photo by Daniel Solano)

Every April, amazing comedic talent from all over the world descends on Austin, courtesy of the Moontower Comedy Festival. This year, we can all get especially excited, thanks to the return of comedian and forever Austinite Vanessa Gonzalez.

Now based in L.A., Gonzalez started her career in Austin doing sketch with the Latino Comedy Project. That led to an interest in improv and, eventually, to her current focus, stand-up. In 2017, she was voted Best Stand-Up Comic in the Chronicle's "Best of Austin" Readers Poll. She was drawn to comedy even as a kid, although taking the stage alone, with mic in hand, took some time. "Growing up, I loved watching HBO specials," she says, listing Chris Rock, Kathy Griffin, John Leguizamo, and Margaret Cho as "huge influences" and Def Comedy Jam as "the best thing on TV." "I remember being in, like, sixth grade and watching these specials and memorizing them," she says. In college, she studied theatre. She knew she wanted to perform but assumed she'd be an actor. "Comedy. Stand-up. I was always a fan of them, but it seemed so scary, I thought, 'I could never do that!'"

Moving primarily to stand-up was a process, and Gonzalez sometimes misses the creative outlets that improv and sketch provide. "With sketch, I feel like I pull from more absurd places. I let my imagination run wild. Because you're playing characters and you have other group members and scenes, you're able to get as absurd and wacky as you want," she says. "But with stand-up, you're talking with your voice. For me, my best voice comes from being truthful." Her kindhearted, relaxed style focuses on personal narrative – "I like to let the audience into my life" – and the largely autobiographical sets feature relatable stories refreshingly free of self-deprecation. "With my stand-up, I definitely try to be as honest and vulnerable as I can. That's just my type of writing style. I always pull from true, real things that have happened to me or my family, my friends, or my boyfriend." It makes for a show that gently pokes fun at our shared awkward moments. "It does get scary sometimes," she admits. "Especially if I'm talking about someone who's real. I'm like, 'Well, they're going to hear about this!'"

Before becoming a professional comedian, Gonzalez taught preschool for six years. Her sketch series, Ms. Vanessa, draws on her time teaching, and anecdotes have popped up in several sets over the years, including her set for the 2017 finals of the Funniest Person in Austin contest. "I loved working with kids," she says. "They're so honest, and the way they look at things is so genuine ... [Teaching] definitely influenced me as far as how I look at things. I miss working with kids and being around them all the time. The adults, not so much."

While Gonzalez is back in town for Moontower, she'll also be breaking big nationally, appearing in her own segment on the show Entre Nos on HBO Latino. "It highlights four Latino comedians," she says. (You'll be able to catch it in all the usual places, like HBO Go and HBO Now.) She also has a half-hour stand-up special on Comedy Central set to premiere this fall.


Vanessa Gonzalez will perform four times at Moontower: with Ron Bennington Thu., April 25, 9:30pm, at Antone’s, 305 E. Fifth; in SHEBANG Thu., April 25, 11:30pm, at the Stateside, 719 Congress; in Stars in Bars Sat., April 27, 7:30pm, at 800 Congress; and with Dan Soder Sat., April 27, 7:30pm, at the Parish, 214 E. Sixth. For more info, visit www.austintheatre.org/moontower-comedy.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival
Moontower Comedian Lauren Lapkus, Tube Raider
Moontower Comedian Lauren Lapkus, Tube Raider
The comedian and actress digs up the good, the bad, and the cheesy of pre-Y2K television in the podcast Raised by TV

Ashley Moreno, April 20, 2018

Making Tragedy Funny Again at Moontower Comedy
Making Tragedy Funny Again at Moontower Comedy
Stand-ups pull punch lines out of personal traumas

Sean L. Malin, April 21, 2017

More by Ashley Moreno
Moontower 2019 Review: Amanda Seales
Moontower 2019 Review: Amanda Seales
Her wide-ranging set proved this comic can't be pigeonholed

April 30, 2019

Moontower 2019 Review: Hari Kondabolu
Moontower 2019 Review: Hari Kondabolu
This stand-up act balanced light humor and social issues

April 29, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, Moontower Comedy 2019, Vanessa Gonzalez

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle