Abby Rosenquist’s performance Matt Bearden’s Piranha show during Moontower is still etched into my brain. I didn’t think a comedian, who almost comes across bashful, would have a brain harboring a brutally dark sense of humor, but it’s true. Oh, it’s damn true and she didn’t take any flak from Matt Bearden and his panel.
Originally from San Antonio, you’d think Rosenquist would’ve just headed north to Austin. She missed the exit(s) and ended up in college in Nebraska just after the diaspora of Cody Hustak, Adam Hrabik and Ryan Cownie – three Nebraska natives who collectively packed up their belongings and headed to Austin roughly 5 years before Rosenquist started doing open mics.
Fortunately for us here at Comedy Wham, Valerie managed to catch the ever busy Abby Rosenquist in some down time and get some interview time. Naturally part one deals with Rosenquist’s past and how she got into performing stand up comedy and her eventual relocation to Austin.
In part two, Abby Rosenquist parlay’s her profundity of the dark and awkward netherworld of comedy and lands a cohost gig with Martin Urbano on a little showcase called The Damned Dirty Filthy Show at Nasty’s.
Unfortunately, Abby Rosenquist may not be long for Austin that doesn’t mean you can’t keep up with her activities, projects and shows. All you need to do is follow @abbyrosenquist on Twitter. Be sure to follow Valerie Lopez and of course, Comedy Wham as well.
I have covered quite a few comedy shows on this site. There was that one person sketch show about the Mothman Prophesy. Then there was the other one about dating. Surely we shouldn’t forget the one where the audience votes on who was funnier, the drunks, stoners or sobers. That’s just scratching the surface, there have been shows involving singing and comedy, plays, two person improv, one person shows and on and on.
This is what makes the Austin comedy scene so fun. The creators, curators and performers in these shows are limited only by their imaginations… and sometimes other stuff, but mostly their imagination. These endeavors have made my writing experience an eclectic tilt-a-whirl of word craft.
From Denver to Austin
One of these creative comedic types is Roxy Castillo. Castillo, who originally hails from Denver (Colorado, not Missouri) got her start in the stand up comedy scene in the Mile High City eight years ago. Here’s her abridged version:
“I always liked comedy as a kid, but it was in college that I took an elective theater class that was a comedy course. So they taught us basic improv, sketch, and stand up. When I excelled at that, it just fit my life. Gave me an outlet for my oddities and need for attention and ever since that silly class, I was hooked.”
Castillo went on to tell me that shortly after the class, she decided to move to Austin on a whim. She got the idea in December and by April, she was packed and gone – no job prospects, no housing plans, just a few personal items and a big jug of faith in that it was the right thing to do. She felt Austin was more suited to her, so she packed and moved, having never visited Austin before and according to her, it was a perfect fit for her and her sense of humor. In Austin where she started expanding into improv and sketch comedy. Her involvement with the sketch group, Bad Example, introduced her to the New Movement Theater and the topic of this article.
The Witching Hour
Roxy Castillo has decided to blend her love of comedy and the occult into her new show, The Witching Hour. What is it and why? Because this:
“It’s an occult comedy talk show. It’s a mix of Pee Wee Playhouse and a Hogwarts class taught by me. I’m really into mystical/occult/new age type stuff (tarot, crystals, astrology, etc) and a lot of my friends come to me for information on this stuff, so I figured I should put a show together where I can explain some of these things thru a comedic lens.”
In case you were wondering, yes there will be character guest interviews and presentations with the help of Kelsey Rogers, Zaftigg Von Bon Bon, Vanessa Gonzalez, Cody Cartagena, Stephanie Pace and Ariel Greenspooon. For the first show, Castillo is focusing on crystals, tarot, and magik (with a “k” not “C” like that David Blaine stuff). As a bonus, the show is sponsored by Nature’s Treasures, a local gem and crystal store, and audience will receive a few free gifts and coupons to start them on their cosmic journey.
Of course the show is at the New Movement Theater. It’s also this Saturday, May 28th, at 9pm. As you should all know by now, The New Movement is a BYOB establishment and is nestled near the corner of 7th and Lavaca in scenic downtown Austin. Ticket info can be found on this Eventbrite page. Remember, they’re cheaper in advance *wink.*
As for Roxy Castillo’s other projects and appearances, she be can be seen all over town doing all sorts of things. The best thing to do is follow her on Twitter. She also dabbles in burlesque under the name Miss Fahrenheit and performs weekly with Bad Example.
Lisa Friedrich’s story is nothing short of epic. I don’t even know how to start this article to be honest. You just have to hear her story. Don’t let her self-deprecating sense of humor fool you, Friedrich is a multi-faceted performer, whose credits are as long has her 18 year comedy career and of course her story is interwoven with the tale of The New Movement Theater and Chris Trew.
Part one of her interview with Comedy Wham’s Valerie Lopez has Friedrich speaking of her nomadic childhood, crisscrossing Texas and meeting her best friend who had a similar interest in sketch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live. She also talks about what the Houston Comedy Scene was like when she first got started.
In the second part of her interview, Lisa Friedrich and Valerie talk about her lengthy list of projects, her position at the New Movement Theater and teaching improv. They also discuss the Almost Related podcast Friedrich hosts along with local comedian, Norm Wilkerson and Voltaic Video owner/comedy videographer Dustin Svehlak.
Lisa Friedrich is extremely busy. So the best way to keep track of her shenanigans is to follow her on Twitter and check out the New Movement Theater website. For everything else, just listen to part two of the interview and grab a pen and paper… or get Siri to make a note or whatever it is you use to make notes. Be sure to follow Valerie Lopez and Comedy Wham on Twitter as well.
Joe Faina’s comedic career has been on a steady course, hampered only by the fact that he is really, really good at school. Faina completed his Phd in Communication Studies from the University of Texas, Austin in 2014. With his new-found free time, he’s exploring new show ideas and hosting Not a Fan podcast.
In part one of his interview, Joe Faina talks about growing up in southern California, just a stone’s throw from the west coast comedy epicenter of Los Angeles. While he dipped his toe in comedy while living in the Simi Valley, he focused on his education (he calls himself a “failed slacker”) until his arrival in Austin seven years ago. Faina shares his early comedic influences and deftly demonstrates why he can take one question and answer seven more without me prompting him. Click the link to listen:
In part two of his interview, Faina gets introspective about his time in Austin as a comic. From lessons learned about hosting shows to competing in the Funniest Person in Austin contest, Faina thinks metrics don’t tell the whole story of what a comic’s potential can be.
Carina Magyar is the friend you didn’t realize you needed in your life. She was raised in Denver and has had a love/hate relationship with stand up comedy. She’s recently settled into her comedy routine while transforming herself. Quite literally, Carina has been transitioning from a man to a woman and speaks eloquently about transgender issues. Magyar sits down with me to discuss comedy, transitioning, dating and parenting.
In part one of her interview, Carina Magyar talks about her journey from Denver where her family was marooned, to Queensland, Australia to Santa Cruz, California and finally Austin. After a few false starts in other cities, Magyar finally gets hooked on stand up comedy in Austin. Along the way, she finds her voice as a woman and life starts falling into place for her.
In part two of her interview, Magyar talks about her January 2016 article in Austin Monthly, “In Her Shoes” and how social media can be a platform to change people’s misconceptions about being transgender.
Magyar is celebrating a lot of comedic success: from taking over hosting duties at Live at Coldtowne to producing Date or Die to advancing in the Funniest Person in Austin contest. Her approachable style both on and off stage makes you want to be best friends.
I love it when a plan comes together. This year that is exactly what happened at Moontower Comedy & Oddity Fest. We released our picks for the festival the week before and I told you it wasn’t easy, but I’m so glad I did it. I stuck to my plan, with a few extra additions, and it really made for an awesome comedy experience.
So my first add-on was Ari & Kurt Do 4-20 on opening day at Cap City Comedy Club. It was an amazing lineup of local favorites, hosted by Ari Shaffir and Kurt Metzger. The show was such a great way to kick off Moontower and, despite the date, it was a very high-energy show (pun intended). Immediately following the show, ATX Uncensored(ish) did a taping of their show, with guests, Ari and Kurt. It was a great way to close day one.
I stuck to the plan and headed down to The Parish to watch This Is Not Happening and I’m so glad I did. Hosted by Ari Shaffir, stories from Dan Soder, Debra DiGiovanni, Big Jay Oakerson, Brad Williams and a surprise addition, Jesse Joyce. I have to say that I am forever a hardcore Brad Williams fan after hearing his “best day” story.
I remained at The Parish for Stashbox and had an incredible time. Because of some of the headlining shows competing with the time slot, the crowd thinned out some, but you couldn’t tell Andy Kindler that. He put on such a kinetic show, my face hurt from laughing.
I headed downtown early to catch a recording of the SiriusXM show The Bonfire, hosted by Dan Soder and Big Jay Oakerson. Donned in western wear for the occasion, they put on quite a show. Guests Joe DeRosa, Andy Kindler, and Ari Shaffir stopped by to join the campers. DeRosa and Kindler had some much fun trash-talking each other. It was the perfect way to lead me into my evening with David Cross: Making America Great Again.
Cross was incredible and his commentary on the election and our polarized nation was painfully honest and hilarious. This day truly spoiled me, as I ended it with the dynamic Ron Funches at Cap City. Funches has an infectious smile and an adorably confident persona that makes you know why he’s become such a force in the comedy/television world.
I got things going with the Ping Pong Slapdown with commentary by the Sklar Brothers. Badge holders enjoy this tournament exclusively every year. Anyone could sign up to compete and everyone was treated to free Amy’s Ice Cream, burgers from Phil’s Icehouse, and beer from Goose Island. Be sure to check out Comedy Wham on Instagram to see pictures from the tournament.
That evening I returned to my schedule to see Stars In Bars and it was incredible. JR Brow was wonderful, as always. Erin Foley, Phoebe Robinson, Arden Myrin, and Janeane Garofalo reminded me how much I love strong female comedians and how they inspire me. Then my world was captivated by the irreverent and fabulous Jimmy Carr. He brought the house down with his quick-witted rapid fire style…a perfect way to close this showcase.
Finally, my Moontower ended with Piranha, hosted by Matt Bearden. This time panelists included Arden Myrin, Jesse Joyce, and Mike MacRae. It was just as I had reported before, but cranked up a notch! Audience interaction started quickly, judges roused each other fiercely, and performing comedians were far from timid with the panel. It was a great way to close the festival.
Go to This Festival
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Moontower Comedy & Oddity Fest was one of the most well-planned festivals Austin has to offer. Almost every venue is a quick walk from the next, the volunteers are incredibly helpful and personable, and the comedians they book are as friendly and kind to fans as they are talented. I cannot wait for next year!
Whoa. That’s pretty much how I feel about my inaugural experience with Moontower, which celebrated its 5th year. Maybe the organizers felt they had to work extra hard to make it special for the 5th anniversary, but a few little birdies told me that this 5th year is just a sign that every year, Moontower gets better and better. Confirming what I already knew after watching a couple of shows this weekend: I absolutely want to come back for 2017.
I deviated from my original recommendations and it allowed me to have one of the most memorable comedy experiences of my life. My only regret as a big fan of The Bone Zone, I wasn’t able to get to the live taping. What I saw on Thursday, when I switched up my game plan, more than made up for that regret.
I saw a show called Stars in Bars which followed a traditional stand up format with comics from across the country. I saw stand up sets by Brendon Walsh and Randy Liedtke, so I felt a little less bummed about missing their podcast taping the following day. There were great acts on this lineup: Martha Kelly, The Sklar Brothers, Dana Gould, Greg Behrendt, Arden Myrin, and Jon Rudnitsky of SNL fame. Rudnitsky wowed me with his character work and high-energy set. A couple of bonuses to that show were that Colin Jost, also of SNL fame, dropped in to do a set while Matt Bearden hosted the entire showcase of excellent comics.
And now, the piece de resistance, the Goddamn Comedy Jam, hosted by the amazing Josh Adam Meyers. Meyers had a background in music before setting his sights on comedy. The Goddamn Comedy Jam is a blend of musical performance (by legit backing band, Elemenope) and stand up. The idea is Meyers kicks off with a musical performance which is engaging and involves the audience (I felt sorry for the guy standing next to me who got pulled in to do awkward things with Meyers’ mic, but he was a team player).
Meyers then introduces comics who do their traditional sets followed by singing a song for the audience. The comics also engage the audience and if you’re not on your feet, then you may just be dead. The night’s comics were Joe DeRosa, The Sklar Brothers, Adam Ray and Big Jay Oakerson. They each performed stellar sets and selected memorable musical pieces. From Huey Lewis to David Bowie to 4 Non Blondes to Pantera, the night was rocked. Ray’s performance of 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Up was so rousing, I heard it discussed well into Saturday. Since Prince died earlier that day, Meyers lead the entire lineup in a rousing rendition of Purple Rain that nearly had me in tears.
The Ron Funches late show on Friday night was my escape from downtown and I got to see Daniel Webb and Rob Khosravi support Funches that night. Funches is as adorable as he is wickedly funny. He pulls in the audience with his sweet demeanor. Don’t let that fool you, he made some wicked social commentary and let us know that he is no pushover. He was extremely gracious after the show and took pictures and chatted with those interested in seeing that bright smile up close.
Saturday brought a last-minute addition of the daytime Ping Pong Slapdown moderated by The Sklar Brothers. If you’re keeping count, that’s the 3rd time I got to see them over the course of the festival and each time I was more and more enamored of their style of comedy. The crew of Comedy Wham were present as was my 9 year old son. Not only was it a blast listening to The Sklar Brothers give a play-by-play commentary on the ping pong table action (which pitted a comic with an audience member), but they interviewed the losers of each round, and most amusingly, when they noticed my 9 year old in the front row, they incorporated him into their commentary, referring to “the 9 year old in the audience” to remind everyone any time the comedy turned blue (don’t worry, it stayed blue in all the right places). My son was beaming at the attention.
Saturday night, I stuck to my selections and enjoyed Leslie Loves Colin, featuring SNL cast members, Leslie Jones, Colin Jost and opener Jon Rudnitsky. Rudnitsky did a different set than the one he performed on Thursday, so I got to see his Dirty Dancing Live performance which you can catch on the February 6 episode of Saturday Night Live. Colin’s performance was a treat, but the firecracker Leslie Jones came out with a bang and never let up the heat.
Her energy reminded me of Kevin Hart, but Leslie is unique and even when she’s yelling at you for wearing a denim shirt on a date with a hot girl (yes, she did that), you can’t help but love her. The final portion of the performance was Leslie and Colin together answering “audience” questions (some were plants by each other) where you got to witness in action the exuberance of Leslie’s staged attraction to the awkwardly timid Colin. I loved seeing an all-SNL showcase since SNL is so near and dear to my heart.
The final show for Moontower brought together the Comedy Wham crew for Matt Bearden’s Piranha, which you can read about in Lara’s article from last month. The comedic “Shark Tank rip-off” was staged in a small room in the back of the Townsend club that gave an intimate feel to the experience.
Jesse Joyce, Arden Myrin and Mike Macrae assisted Bearden with the judging while comics Martin Urbano, Raul Sanchez, Avery Moore, Abby Rosenquist and Devon Walker performed sets in hopes of getting their jokes bought by the judges. While the other comics successfully sold individual jokes, Walker achieved a rare feat in getting paid to NOT sell his jokes and focus on making minor tweaks for added comedic effect. Walker was described by Bearden as a shining new star on the Austin comedy scene. His adoration of the comics on the show was evident throughout the evening. Bearden takes his role as ambassador of the Austin comedy scene seriously and it was clear to me why so many of the young comics in Austin look up to him.
Watching a home-grown show was a perfect nightcap to the Moontower experience which allowed me the opportunity to see great comics from across the country. It’s always nice knowing that the Austin comedy scene rewards you handsomely with its talent even in the midst of a national showcase event.