Moontower Review: Austin Towers

The range of local comedy voices was on full view at the Velv

Carina Magyar (Photo by Bells & Whistles Productions)

The Austin Towers showcase helped close this year’s Moontower Comedy Festival. The lineup featured many of Austin’s comedy darlings, like Maggie Maye, Amber Bixby, Brently Heilbron, and Vanessa Gonzalez. And, like any other authentic Austin experience, it had its share of Californians, too.

L.A. native James Davis hosted the Saturday night lineup. He’s appeared on Real Husbands of Hollywood, @Midnight, and Chelsea Lately, and he recently received an order for a linear series based on his Comedy Central Snapchat show, Swag-a-Saurus. Given this growing list of writing/acting accolades, and with last Saturday’s set adding to a collection of strong stand-up performances, it’s no wonder he spent some of Saturday’s set musing about his future success. “I don’t know if I should meet someone now, or wait until I’m famous,” he joked – pointing out that if he met someone before he hits it big, then when he’s famous, “she’ll be where I am now. And I’m not Harriet Tubman, here to lead her to her financial freedom.”

Davis’ opening set varied from slightly nerdy to edgy, and it even included a solid Barack Obama impression. That range came in handy as he faced the daunting task of hosting nearly 10 diverse comedians with widely divergent styles. For example, longtime Austinite Matt Sadler reminisced about Moontower swag bags of Christmas Past, one of which included his all-time favorite freebie: a fleshlight. With his usual over-the-top energy, he then expressed his concerns with protestors today. “Call me old-fashioned, but I was brought up to believe in spelling,” he joked, recounting his favorite grammatically challenged anti-abortion sign, which read: Pray this is an abortion clinic! “That is not what you mean to say,” he said. “It needs like a comma, or, ironically, a period.”

The night’s other performances could not have been more different. For example, John Ramsey brought a collection of wordplay jokes, like: “I think we should spell efficient with one F.” And he did a few characters, including Paul David Peter, the hard-hitting Christian comic who “keeps it biblical.” (His jokes were “funny cause they’re truth.”) Vanessa Gonzalez told a long-format story about a trip to Schlitterbahn with her first boyfriend, and Austin’s beloved Maggie Maye reminded us that you “shouldn’t wish you were skinny. You should wish you were attractive.” Carina Magyar, a transgender woman and mother (and full disclosure: a Chronicle contributor) taught us a bit about the transition process and finally explained what the hell is up with our state’s legislative schedule. “Our government only has a session every 17 years because they are locusts,” she joked. “Every 17 years, they come out of the ground to make laws and eat our crops.” Andrew Dismukes, a Cajun Austinite who now lives in L.A., taught us about his heritage: “Cajun culture is proof that white people shouldn’t be allowed to make cultures anymore." And Ralph Hardesty talked a bit about the troubles aging gay men face with casting calls and party fliers. Evidently, such invites don’t normally read: “Hey, bald thirtysomething gay guys of Polish descent, do you like videos of people playing Magic the Gathering?”

The Velv Comedy Lounge, which has been an important home for Austin comedy since the late Eighties, provided the perfect venue to feature the festival’s hometown heroes. Overall, the show offered a great representation of Austin’s comedic talent and its broad range of voices. If you missed Saturday’s performance, Last Gas Comedy is a good place to check for upcoming performances, and Magyar will headline at the Velv May 19-20.

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Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, Moontower Comedy 2017, Austin Towers, Maggie Maye, Vanessa Gonzalez, Amber Bixby, Brently Heilbron, Matt Sadler, John Ramsey, Andrew Dismukes, Carina Magyar, Ralph Hardesty, James Davis

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