Moontower Review: Andy Kindler's Particular Show

That pain at the base of your skull? That's comedy!!

The cause of my cranial ache: Andy Kindler
The cause of my cranial ache: Andy Kindler

Most people measure how hard they laugh by the ache in their sides or soreness in their face. With me, there's a line at the base of my skull that throbs whenever I've laughed too much. Of Andy Kindler's Particular Show, suffice to say that that cranial seam started smarting mere minutes in and burned for two hours straight.

Initial blame for that condition lay, naturally, with Mr. Kindler, who served as ringmaster for this Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival show and couldn't get through one of his own bits, much less an introduction of a fellow comic, without dissecting every element of what he'd just said or done that wasn't as funny as it could've been. He is a master anatomist of comedy, and therein lies his brilliance. Every subject, every word, every second in his delivery, even the color of his shirt has the potential to undercut his ability to get a laugh. "Well, I'm wearing an autumn color," he opined upon taking the tiny Townsend stage at the back of the Congress Avenue bar, and the accompanying look on his face read, "So I'll never get a laugh wearing this." And even as the crowd roared, he spiraled into more self-sabotaging remarks that grew ever larger and more hilarious.

And Kindler has a gift for riffing off his comments and the audience reactions into impromptu side bits that develop their own outrageous logic, as on Saturday when some reference to Hitler gradually ballooned into an extended bit with Kindler as Fuhrer listing some of his crimes against humanity and asking defensively, "Oh, so I'm the bad guy?!" The comedian's skill is such that he could go on like this all night, and any time he picked up the mic, it resulted in a mini-set of comedic self-recrimination that kept my head aching.

Kindler did eventually relinquish the mic to other comics, and they proved as adept at provoking laughter/pain as their host. Anchoring the evening with broad-based stand-up – i.e., covering a range of topics – were Ian Abramson, Brendan Walsh, and Allen Strickland Williams, and their sharp and polished sets kept the SRO crowd – 50 seats but 100 people – from feeling too much like a can of sardines.

Three of the other acts shared an interest in family, which was more or less the focus of their sets, with extended tales that reminded me how gifted some comedians can be with narrative, spinning out a single story in the manner of a monologist in the theatre. Dana Gould brought a particularly keen edge to tales of his father, while the Sklar Brothers served up a warm saga of browbeating their dad into taking them to the restaurant run by St. Louis Cardinals legend Ozzie Smith, under the delusion that they would see him (which, against all odds, they did). The ever-swift Jackie Kashian, meanwhile, sprinted through a story of her dad being on his deathbed – on multiple occasions – and the final wish for her he left her with. All three stories were as compelling dramatically as they were engaging and funny, and they would've played even better off one another had they been set together in the program. But even spread out, they gave the evening a strong thread of family bonds.

The revelation of the night – for me, anyway – and the one that did the most damage to my cranium was Kate Flannery and Scot Robinson as Kassie Chew and Hori Pismo, respectively, who together form the throwback cabaret duo called the Lampshades. To get some sense of this Me Decade lounge act on life support, picture a sozzled John Waters as the Captain and a chirpy Ann-Margret with self-esteem issues as Tennille. Of course, that doesn't convey the gobsmacking hilarity of their sound, which astounds with its musicianship even as it assaults your funny bone. Case in point: Flannery opened with a verse of "Mandy" so revved-up and jazzy that the Manilow himself might not have recognized it. Then came a hand-off to Robinson, whose boozy rendition of "Brandy" was just how you'd expect one-hit wonders Looking Glass to slosh it out at last call. Then they started singing the two songs at once, and it was a Seventies Top 40 match made in comedy heaven. The pair could've taken their bows right then, and the set would've felt like a full meal. But then she launched into a slow, sultry version of "It’s Such a Good Feeling To Know You’re Alive" from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, to which he responded with a rap take on Sesame Street’s "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?," and somehow that spun off into Marvin Gaye’s "Sexual Healing" and "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other," exploring back alleys of those PBS 'hoods that were just 50 shades of wrong. And that made it a feast. I don't know what it would take to bring the Lampshades back to Austin, but if they don't return soon, I may just have to pack up the ol' AMC Gremlin and cruise out to whatever Tiki lounge in El Lay they're ensconced in.

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Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, Moontower Comedy 2016, Andy Kindler, The Lampshades, Dana Gould, Jackie Kashian, Brendon Walsh, Iam Abramson, Sklar Brothers, Kate Flannery, Scot Robinson, Allen Strickland Williams

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