All comedy is about voice. Whether it’s the writer, the performer, or sometimes even the audience – the voice guides you to someone’s soul, and what it is they have to say to the world.
When Jesse Hensley sits down with Valerie Lopez, there’s simply no way to miss his powerful, addictive, North Texas timbre. (Nor would you want to). Hensley hails from the little not-quite-a-town of Diana, Texas. Diana is a geographical crossroads, one hour away from Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
Hensley grew up absorbing performances of names we’re all familiar with, like Mitch Hedberg and Dave Chapelle. Still, comedy wasn’t always a given in his future. Two years ago, during a brief bout as an aspiring author, he got the bug to head to Coldtowne Theatre and try his hand behind the microphone. It wasn’t a home run, but it became the first step on his journey to making comedy a full-time passion.
The ball really started rolling for Hensley after he got a guest spot at Cap City facilitated by one of his idols, Nate Bargatze. That led to opening spots and multiple runs in Funniest Person in Austin. As he honed his style, Hensley found himself trending towards storytelling, one of my favorite formats. A great storyteller can build a structure to suck you in and hold you on edge waiting for that sweet, sweet payoff. It’s a craft that is a mixture of rhythm, refinement, and even a bit of math, which we know is near and dear to Valerie Lopez. His philosophy of comedy, and what it means to the billions of us walking the planet, is fascinating.
Hensley appears in many Austin shows, including Drink Up: an outdoor, booze-themed experience. It runs the first and third Mondays of the month at The Parlor Room. In the interview, Hensley drops the secret phrase that may even score you a free drink. See more of his upcoming events at Last Gas Comedy, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Lashonda Lester is a sweetheart to talk to. She’s always approachable and easy to chat with. But beneath that friendly exterior is an iron resolve forged in the fires of The Motor City.
12 Years ago Lester left her native Detroit, MI. for Austin. Several years later, she seriously got into the comedy game and has been going full throttle ever since. In part one of their interview, Lashonda Lester tells Valerie Lopez about sneaking around and listening to “dirty” comic albums, and her very first open mic in Detroit. Go ahead and click the link below.
In part two, Lester talks with Valerie about medical setbacks, and getting her momentum going again. She also talks about giving back to the comedy community by hosting comedy seminars. In fact, I took my son, Tommy to one last year. We had a great time and found the seminar insightful. Tommy still carries a little notebook with him where he jots down joke ideas. He won’t let me see it though. Anyway you know what to do, right?
Recently Lashonda Lester has started ramping up her performance itinerary. In the immediate future she’ll be performing with Matt Sadler as they open for Ron Funches at Moontower Comedy Festival, and performing in other showcases. She’s also competing in the Funniest Person in Austin Contest this year; and in May, she’s putting on her popular show, Weird True Hollywood Talesat the Salvage Vanguard Theater.
Asking someone to pick their favorite lineup for Moontower is like asking someone to pick their favorite kid, no one wants to do it, but if you get mom and dad drunk enough, they’ll talk! So I’m sitting down with a nice gin and tonic to give you my picks for Moontower Comedy Festival.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
I’m taking it easy on you day 1. Maybe your plane just landed and you’re still getting acclimated. Maybe you live in the area, but didn’t take the day off of work. I’ll keep it simple for you. You’re welcome to hit up the Pre-Show Happy Hour at the Stephen F. Austin Bar & Terrace at 5pm. After that, find a seat at The Parish by 8pm for This Is Not Happening, the long-form storytelling podcast hosted by Ari Shaffir. The lineup for Thursday includes Debra DiGiovanni, Big Jay Oakerson, and Dan Soder. I’ve heard both Soder and Oakerson tell some incredible stories and I would feel terrible if I let you miss out on this.
Remember when I said I was taking it easy on you today? You don’t even have to leave The Parish to catch my next pick. You’re welcome, because up next is Stashbox at 10:15pm. Hosted by Austin’s reigning Funniest Person in Austin winner, Danny Palumbo, Stashbox includes a lineup of Andy Kindler, Allen Strickland Williams, Maggie Maye, Brendon Walsh, Jak Knight, Randy Liedtke, Chris Cubas, and Jenny Zigrino. The blend of comics on this set is incredible and Cubas and Maye are two of my favorites that still call Austin home. Spoiler alert: With Walsh and Liedtke on the lineup, this is my peace offering for making you miss The Bone Zone on Friday.
Friday, April 22, 2016
You have a day of great comedy ahead of you, but let’s focus on the night. I warned you that I was going to make you miss The Bone Zone, but it’s for good reason. David Cross is finally getting back on the road after a brief hiatus and has picked the Moontower comedy Festival to record his new special, Making America Great Again. Since he’s doing two recordings, I’ve chosen the 7:00pm show (there’s also a 9:30pm) because I have more things in store for you later tonight. It’d be a shame to miss it. If you’ve never been to Austin, The Paramount is a beautiful historic theater that just celebrated its 100th anniversary. Come for the comedy, stay for the atmosphere… but not too long.
After the Paramount Theatre, head north to Cap City Comedy Club to see Ron Funches at 10:30pm. I picked this particular set of Funches’ because Bob Khosravi and Daniel Webb are on the bill. Khosravi has an amazing gift of taking audiences on a story-telling journey. Sometimes it’s to a dark place, but it’s always a great ride! Webb brings a fabulous high-energy performance that will have you smiling for hours after. With Funches (Comedy Central’s @midnight and NBC’s Undateable) closing out your evening, you’ll be set! No need to thank me (@snowflake1138 on Twitter).
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Have I steered you wrong yet? I didn’t think so (thanks for all the tweets), and today won’t be any exception. I’ve given you plenty of time to roam during the day and there’s a lot to see, but we know the nighttime is the right time. Tonight, go to Google Fiber to see Stars in Bars.
This is the showcase that Moontower offers up each year to allow you to see big names in more intimate settings than you normally would. Tonight’s lineup brings you JR Brow, Greg Behrendt, Mike MacRae, James Adomian, Arden Myrin, Brad Williams, Jessica Williams, Phoebe Robinson of 2 Dope Queens, and Erin Foley. I’ve personally seen Brow, Behrendt, and MacRae in the past year and you are in for a treat! I can tell you with these three alone, there will probably be music, unforgettable impressions, and if you think Behrendt is giving an Oprah-esque class, you’re wrong. His stand up is on point!
Last but not least, I give you my heart, a show so fabulous; I did my first Comedy Wham article on it. At 10:30pm, make your way to The Townsend to see Piranha! Hosted by Matt Bearden, Jesse Joyce is already listed on the panel, and Bearden always has great guests up his sleeve. I could gush about this show, but I already have (go read it). See it for yourself!
I hope this gives you a little guidance and makes your Moontower experience even brighter than the towers of its namesake. Hope to see you out there! Don’t forget, all badges, tickets and information is available on the Moontower Comedy Festival website.
Picking a show to see at Moontower Comedy Festival is like picking your favorite child. You end up feeling guilty afterward and someone inevitably hassles you for making the wrong choice. Well, here goes nothing. I’m sure I’ll feel guilt, or at the very least, experience FOMO (fear of missing out) by missing many other splendid shows during the festival.
Thursday April 21, 2016
For the first night, I recommend heading up to Cap City Comedy at 8pm to see Ron Funches with Lashonda Lester and Matt Sadler. Lester and Sadler are fantastic local comics and this is a really cool opporunity to see them with Ron Funches, a Seattle-based comic whose own star has risen over the last few years largely due to his role on the NBC show Undateable.
Lester is a prominent feature of the locally produced Funniest movie and has appeared in Comedy Central shows. Her brand of comedy will pair nicely with Sadler and Funches. Matt Sadler has been very active over the last year. His high energy performance is extremely contagious and his style is reminiscent of Sam Kinneson’s style without making you feel like you’ve done anything wrong. Between Matt Sadler, Lashonda Lester and Ron Funches, you’re promised a great time.
Cruise downtown to catch Unhinged at 800 Congress at 10pm to see Daniel Webb host for several out of town comics. Webb has been enjoying his own meteoric rise over the last year, possibly accelerated by his appearance as Selena at the 2015 Comedy Seance hosted by Norm Wilkerson (a.k.a. Satan). Daniel Webb recently hosted for The Sklar Brothers and is set to host for Ron Funches on another night of Moontower. He’s been very and you can check out his Comedy Wham Presents interview posted in March. His high-energy sets and hosting skills will lead to a top-notch evening at 800 Congress.
Friday April 22, 2016
This one is fairly easy since I’m an avid fan of the Bone Zone podcast with Brendon Walsh and Randy Liedke. They’re dragging along their frequent guest, Johnny Pemberton, to do a live from The Velv Comedy Lounge at 7pm. You never quite know what to expect with a Bone Zone podcast and Brendon and Randy have a great dynamic together. Brendon is the 2004 FPIA winner and left for Los Angeles in 2009. He comes back to Austin regularly either as a solo act or with Randy.
After the Bone Zone, stay put at The Velv Comedy Lounge to watch The Foxxhole at 10:30pm. Catch Lashonda Lester again along with San Antonio transplant Raul Sanchez. They will be sharing the stage with Jak Knight and Tony Rock. Lester is great of course and Sanchez has been performing more and more in Austin. Having spent a few years in San Antonio, I appreciate his spot-on depictions of life in San Antonio.
Saturday April 23, 2016
If you’ve heard my segment on Radio Tatas “The Lady Warrior Mmmmatt Moment”, a tongue-in-check dedication to Matt Bearden; is it any wonder I wouldn’t let this weekend go by without recommending a Matt Bearden show? You can see him perform every single night if you’re a super fan, but the highlight for me will be seeing him roll out his Piranha show at The Townsend at 10:30pm with Jesse Joyce.
This show is loosely based on those car auction shows. Instead of cars, comics auction their jokes to the highest bidder. Matt is an actor (known for MTV’s Austin Stories), an FPIA winner and current permanent 3rd chair of 93.7 KLBJ FM’s Dudley and Bob with Matt Morning Show. He’s developed several comedy shows including Punch and Slug.
Since the Piranha show is so late, sneak in a show beforehand like Leslie Loves Colin at 7pm at the Paramount Theatre. Colin Jost and Leslie Jones are the current cast members of Saturday Night Live. If you don’t know, Jost and Jones have a running bit on SNL News Update where Jones flirts relentlessly with a relentlessly awkward Jost. It’s one of my favorite recurring bits on SNL and their dynamic is nearly as lovable as the dynamic created between Seth Myers and Bill Hader’s character Stefon several years ago.
Tickets to this show are likely to sell out, so if you don’t have a badge, you may be out of luck. It’ll be well worth the effort to try to catch these two mismatched comic love-birds in action. Plus, watching Leslie Jones is a great opportunity to watch one of the rebooted Ghostbusters movie stars in person.
Behind Chris Sebilia’s low-key demeanor is a very funny comedian. As with our other interviewees, his journey to the Austin Comedy scene is unique. The California native holds a masters degree in structural engineering from the University of California at San Diego. He came to Austin seeking a job in his career field and found a love of performing comedy.
Since his start in the Austin comedy scene, Chris Sebilia has taken on many projects that also include acting and writing. In part two of his interview, Chris Sebila talks with Valerie about being the host of ATX Tonight, performing in a variety of festivals and the upcoming Funniest Person in Austin Contest.
While Chris Sebilia will be passing the helm of ATX Tonight on to Blake Wilson, you still have plenty of opportunities to check out his comedy. In fact, you can see him try to become the Funniest Person in Austin on April 11th at Cap City Comedy Club. For other appearances, all you got to do is check out his website.
Piranha. Is it a vicious fish found in the Amazon? Is it a series of campy horror films? Yes, and it’s also the latest genius comedy showcase creation from Austin’s legendary comedian, Matt Bearden. Slated as a “game show style-up event,” Bearden self-describes it as a “rip off” of the television show Shark Tank.
How it Works
A panel consisting of Matt Bearden and two other seasoned comedians serve as judges and investors. Previous panel members have included Chris Cubas, Mike MacRae, Brian Gaar and Johnny Hardwick. A lineup of some of the best up-and-coming comedians perform jokes that they are willing to part with… for the right price. The panel is given a budget for the night to bid on jokes they would like to purchase for their own. These are the basic mechanics of Piranha. What actually happens is an absolutely unique comedy experience.
What You Get
On top of getting several great sets from the performers, audiences are treated to cross-talk between the judges, interactions with the performers and panel, bidding wars, and a whole lot of ball-busting! What this showcase offers that others don’t, is an opportunity to see the nuances of comedy and joke writing. Bits get broken down and sometimes even reworked in front of the audience.
Judges offer feedback on what jokes they love and sometimes what jokes to reject entirely. Often, members of the panel shell out large chunks of their budget just for the rights to a single phrase. You get to see behind the curtain at a part of comedy that often takes place at 3 AM in living rooms after a show. The crowd feels like it’s part of the bidding war as its cheers and shouts of suggested offers go flying around the room. It is truly one of the most energizing comedy events that Austin has to offer.
If you haven’t gotten to see an edition of Piranha, don’t worry, the showcase is coming to Moontower Comedy & Oddity Fest April 23rd 10:30 PM at The Townsend. If you can’t make it to that, follow Matt Bearden’s production company, Punch! Comedy on Facebook, Twitter, or visit its website for upcoming shows. Also, Matt Bearden hinted that there may be podcast version of Piranha coming soon. Stay tuned to Comedy Wham for updates. You can also hear Matt Bearden weekdays, 6am – 10am on 93.7 KLBJ FM’s Dudley and Bob With Matt Morning Show.
I first saw Daniel Webb at a Stoned vs. Drunk vs. Sober show at… yes, The New Movement Theater. It was a couple of years ago. I don’t remember if it was pre or post his headline grabbing fist bump with President Obama. In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t matter when the show happened, because Webb was on the ball.
This past week, Valerie Lopez sat down with Daniel Webb and talked about his past, how he got into comedy, and his younger days in Ft. Worth. His reasons for coming to Austin may be a bit surprising.
In part two of their conversation, Webb talks about his work on the drag circuit, his adventures in the Funniest Person in Austin Contest and his future goals.
If you haven’t seen Daniel Webb live, you’re missing out. The guy has a ton of energy and charm and radiates from his performances. Webb has plans to participate in the upcoming Funniest Person in Austin contest at Cap City Comedy Club this year. Hell also be performing at the annual Moontower Comedy Festival. More information about his upcoming performances can be found on his website.
The title of this article is one of those base level mathematical formulas so simple, you won’t have to Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.
Born in Arizona, Pengra wanted to beat feet to California as soon as possible, but her parents insisted on college. Find out how this, Peewee’s Playhouse and Maria Bamford affected her early comedy career in part one of her interview with Valerie Lopez.
Part two of the interview adds another element to Pengra’s story. Dustin Svehlak (sway-lock) pops a squat and chats with Valerie about several projects they have in the works under the Voltaic Video banner. Svehlak can be seen around town, filming Cap City Comedy Club’s FPIA Contest and sets for any comedian who want it done.
Katie Pengra considers herself more of a creative person rather than pigeon holing herself as a “comedian.” Stand-up, acting, writing are just a few of the feathers in her cap. She also owns and operates Skippy Leland Photography and is responsible for many of the head shots used by Austin area comedians.
The 2015 Funniest Person in Austin Week Four prelims ended just as strong as previous weeks. Being caught up with the Moontower Comedy Fest threw me off kilt a bit so I apologize for this last minute round up.
Sunday 4/26/15: Round 9
Lashonda Lester, Allie Amrien and Sonny Castillo moved on the the Semi-Finals in the conest. and David McQuary grabbed the alternate spot. I know Lashonda Lester and I am happy that she advanced. She’s a busy bee as well. Lashonda curates the monthly True Hollywood Tales show at the Salvage Vanguard Theater and has been featured in many showcases around town. The Detroit Diaspora participant also isn’t scared to do stand up in the valley where the paranoid wives of American oil company workers pack .38 Specials in their garter belts.
Monday 4/27/15: Round 10
Andrew Cooksey, Jon Mendoza and Allen Edwin Butt grabbed the Semi-Final spots, with Michael Foulk earning the alternate spot. Jon Mendoza is one of those joke tellers I love to listen to. Like Cody Hustak and Ali Safar, Mendoza’s set up and delivery are clean and simple. It’s his timing and word play that makes the judges want him to move up in the competition.
Michael Foulk is another New Movement Theater alumni who’s met success in the Funniest Person in Austin competition this year. Along with Martin Urbano, Vanessa Gonzalez, Ella Gale… and you know what? Just read my previous entries in this series. Foulk is a talented sketch performer with Bad Example and has costarred with Lisa Freidrich in the indy thriller, Meet Me There.
Tuesday 4/28/15: Round 11
Andrew Murphy, Kerri Lendo and Tafadzwa Gwaze scored those sweet Semi-Final envelopes. Cody Greenlee earned the alternate spot. Lendo is coming off a pretty successful Moontower run. She was featured on one of the Four Eyes shows at the Vuclan Gas Company and hosted for Maria Bamford at the Stateside.
Tafadzwa Gwaze is another comedian I’ve seen around town. He takes a new approach to race relations and mixes it together with a healthy dash of off beat pop culture references. I dig it and want to see him perform more.
Tonight kicks of the final week of the 2015 FPIA prelims. Ticket information can be found online at Cap City’s website or over the phone at 467-2333.
If you want to contact me here at Comedy Wham, the email is David@Comedywham.com or hit me up on twitter: @comedywham.
You 2015 Funniest Person in Austin Week 3 update is here! Cap City Comedy Club snuck in another week of Funniest Person in Austin in the face of the up coming 4th Annual Moontower Comedy Fest. The competition is getting tougher and the judges jobs are getting harder.
Sunday 4/18/15: Round 6
Ali Safar, Kath Barbadoro and Martin Urbano moved to the next round in the competition while Dean Kirkpatrick grabbed the alternate spot for the night.
I have not heard Ali Safar’s comedy before this show and his set hit a bullseye for my sense of humor. He’s a joke teller so its set-up and punchline. Mechanically he’s similar to Stephen Wright, or Cody Hustak but his jokes aren’t as non-sequitur. I dug his set and look forward to seeing more of him.
Kath Barbadoro was rock solid. I’ve seen her multiple times around Austin, notably at Punch! Comedy, The Velv and other Cap City events. She’s insightful and her jokes reach out to a broad audience. Martin Urbano had a very creative set leading him to lip sync and act out his jokes while an audience member read them verbatim.
Dean Kirkpatrick won the alternate spot among stiff competition from the likes of Chris Tellez, and Jared Hawley (who had such an epic set that folks are still talking about it a week later).
Monday 4/19/15: Round 7
I was extremely happy to find out that Rob Gagnon, Brian Garr, and Ryan Cownie made it through the prelims. I have had many opportunities to see these dudes do their thing and I can confidently recommend all three of them. Rob has a show called Drunk vs. Stoned vs. Sober. Brian Gaar is a father, a comedian a gamer over the age of 35 and is pretty Twitter famous. Ryan Cownie is one of those dudes you want at your party. Always funny and can freestyle rap in a pinch.
Vanessa Gonzalez captured the alternate spot. I am happy to see this sketch comedy vet crossover into the stand up scene. She can usually be found on Saturday nights performing with Bad Example at the New Movement Theater, and she’s just wrapped up a successful tour of her one person show, I Don’t Know Dating.
Tuesday 4/20/15: Round 8
The week wrapped up with Duncan Carson, Robert Segovia and Abby Rosenquist grasping those much sought after envelopes that moves them on up in the competition. Michael Priest grabbed the alternate spot.
Duncan Carson co-hosts Sure Thing at that particular Austin Java with Brendon K. O’Grady (who’s already moved on the semifinals this year). I take my stepson to the show since it’s legally all ages. I remind him that, despite Carson’s bit about education and life, that he should pay attention in school because if he doesn’t, his mommy becomes and that isn’t fun. But I digress, the boy is pretty rational and knows the difference between a bit and reality,
Rob Segovia can be seen doing his thing at the New Movement Theater with Taken Seriously. He also has a show at Cheer Up Charlie’s called LaLa HaHa. Segovia has the Half Empty podcast in which he and Terence McDavid interview local improv, sketch and stand up comedians.
I am not sure if I’ve seen Abby Rosenquist perfrom around town, but I am looking forward catching a set. Michael Priest is a solid comic, and I have also been lucky to see him at Punch! and Sure Thing.
Week 4 of the 2015 Funniest Person in Austin contest starts this Sunday, 4/26/15. Tickets are available online and by calling Cap City Comedy Club at 467-2333.