Day two of Moontower and everyone is wasted. Like, not in a funny “haha they were wasted” way. No – these folks are getting their money’s worth of entertainment. Jokes not funny? That’s ok, we’ll just take shots! Luckily, the jokes were funny so hopefully the fans of the fest woke up in their own beds with a glass of water accessible rather than going on an adventure with their Uber drivers at 3am to find the “In and Out Burger in that shady part of town,” a direct quote overheard from a man who was clutching his friend and double fisting vodkas. That said, Friday was solid!
I kicked off the day with a live taping of the Opie with Jim Norton Sirius XM radio show at the Driskell downtown. It took about two hours for Opie to announce that Jim would not be in attendance due to a show in San Antonio. Since Jim Norton was basically the only reason I wanted to show up (no offense Opie), it was a crushing disappointment. However, the show was solid and the guest drop-ins were pretty good. All was not lost.
If you haven’t heard the Opie morning show, know that it’s definitely a niche male-centric bonanza. They pointed out early on that women don’t generally attend their live tapings, which is understandable because there’s not a lot for them (us) there. However, there were no disparaging remarks about women, just a lot of guy talk and gross out humor that’s generally reserved for locker rooms, drunken asides by friends, and whatever other cliché concerning groups of men comes to mind. I enjoyed the taping, as did the other women in the room, so there’s obviously a market they’ve tapped without trying too hard.
Colin Jost, Joe DeRosa, Brad Williams, and Sean Donnelly dropped in, the highlights including a raucous debate concerning pedophiles while a wasted audience member chimed in on the legality of folks traveling to other countries to “get theirs” (it’s not legal, FYI). That paired with an intense discussion on prostate inflammation, the joys and sorrows of partying in Austin, and look backs on previous shows pretty much made up the three-hour block. Overall the show paired with a cheap beer and was a nice way to kick off the afternoon.
The evening consisted of mostly bouncing around from the Townsend to 800 Congress, both of which had solid line-ups all night that covered both local and national talent. Part of “The Next” showcase, Raul Sanchez killed during his time onstage as he dwelled on life as a broke Mexican kid. He started his set with “give it up for me, I have a white girlfriend” which was funny, but perhaps lost on half the crowd who were middle aged white parents (see the above taking shots mantra from earlier). Regardless, Sanchez toed the race line seamlessly, and his welcomed set stood out, making him easily one of the more interesting comics out there.
By contrast, Austin staple Mac Blake closed the night out with a well-rehearsed set and side of physical comedy. It was nice to see him branch out after his featured moment with Martin Short the previous night turned out to last a whole 30 seconds. Blake’s crown jewel was a joke focused on a person watching a magic show for the first time. Smart in its inception, he nailed the execution, and like Sanchez, stood out against the thronging crowd of comics on display.
Back at 800 Congress the longest showcase of all time would begin 10 minutes late. Jesse Joyce from the Opie radio show (and @midnight, or so he kept saying all day earlier and all night) hosted the ‘Stars in Bars’ showcase featuring some solid headliners all in the comfort of the tiny seats lining the concrete bunker that is this makeshift venue. Jon Rudnitsky returned after the previous night’s mediocre delivery, this time dealing with technical issues but also landing his jokes. He opened with “Yes I work on Saturday Night Live, no you’ve never seen me” which was fantastic. Self-deprecation looks good on Rudnitsky. As expected, there was a political tone to the whole day. Considering the ridiculous election we’ve been saddled with, it comes as no surprise that the comedy community would take the circus in stride. Rudnitsky’s contribution would be both a Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump impersonation, followed by an avid explanation as to why Sanders would make a great KFC spokesman.
Piff the Magic Dragon and side kick Mr. Piffles were the crown jewel of the evening. Piff dons a shiny dragon costume and performs close-up magic with his tiny fluffy chihuahua (also in a dragon costume) while simultaneously doing stand-up and being generally surly. I had missed his headlining act the night before in favor of Martin Short, and this shortened version made me yearn for a longer set. Piff’s act is not only original in content and ingenuity, but he pulls it off flawlessly with a storied gust of extreme boredom that causes the audience to latch on to his nonchalance like a needy ex-lover.
I caught another James Adomian set, which didn’t change much from the previous evenings fares, but I enjoyed nonetheless because his comedy kills. There wasn’t a single quiet seat at the edge of each of his jokes. Daily Show correspondant Hasan Minhaj did us right with his take on extreme PC and racism. His set was honestly one you’d hear from most first generation immigrant comedians, but he took an old idea and made it not only fresh but intriguing. There’s a general lack of diverse comedians, and Minhaj is certainly turning that standard on its head.
The stacked showcase would have been perfectly acceptable, however the Moontower Gods shined upon us and delivered one Leslie Jones a day early. Her comedy is abrasive, just as most of her SNL characters tend to be, however it’s a trade-off that works in her favor. She delivered what felt like a whole set (you do not pull out a phone to check the time in front of new Ghostbusters royalty), which was fantastic because it frees me up to stand in line for Maya Rudolph rather than check out ‘Leslie Loves Colin’ (sorry Jost, your waspy face is adorable but no Rudolph). Jones went down the docket addressing texting, women, and the insanity that comes with being in a relationship. She dropped “truth bombs” on an uncomfortable front row consisting of squirming couples. Jones embodies her comedy, taking to heart each joke, giving it a greater sense of self. Due to her drop in, the whole showcase lasted almost three hours, which was…those chairs were so uncomfortable.
There’s still two days of laughter to be had. Though repeat sets are now inevitable, truly most of the talent is solid enough that it’s not a bother. Wish the Moontower crowds luck as at least one of them is guaranteed to experience some bad tidings at the hands of the loads of alcohol they’re consuming.