Comedy Giants Join Forces for Moontower Just For Laughs Austin
We chat with Kurt Braunohler, Scotty Landes and more stars from this year’s stellar lineup
By Meher Qazilbash
Photos courtesy of Moontower Just for Laughs Austin
Austin’s favorite comedy festival is coming back with a bang. Moontower Comedy and Montreal’s Just For Laughs are joining forces again to bring us good times with Moontower Just For Laughs Austin, held from April 13 to 24.
The two comedy powerhouses first partnered to create a four-day version of Moontower Just For Laughs Festival in September 2021.
This year brings even more merriment as the festival increases its length to 12 days of comedy happenings, all taking place at cherished venues around the city. The two weeks of nonstop comedy will include stand-up shows, live podcast performances, special events and unforgettable afterparties.
The comprehensive lineup includes comedy favorites like podcaster and stand-up Marc Maron, comedian and skilled roaster Nikki Glaser, SNL’s Chris Redd and the Emmy-winning Sarah Silverman. You can also look forward to hysterical podcasts like Fly on the Wall with Dana Carvey and David Spade, The 500 with Josh Adam Meyers and The Endless Honeymoon Podcast with Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher.
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Ahead of all the excitement, we spoke to two of Austin’s own acclaimed comics, as well as a nationally renowned podcasting duo, about what to look forward to this year, why they love performing in Austin and more.
Kurt Braunohler and Scotty Landes
from the Bananas Podcast
You may have caught Kurt Braunohler (right) doing a tight five on a late night show, performing his special on Comedy Central, acting in Oscar-nominated film The Big Sick or at a Moontower show from previous years. Scotty Landes’ screenwriting may also be on your radar, as he penned the psychological horror film Ma, starring Octavia Spencer, episodes of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America? and game show The Misery Index, hosted by Jameela Jamil.
Along with their many accomplishments, these men are also known for their hilarious podcast Bananas that covers farcical news. Lucky for us, they’re coming to Moontower together and will be presenting “Bananas” at 5:30 p.m. April 21 at Cedar Street Courtyard.
For our readers who may not be familiar, can you each give a brief introduction of yourself?
Kurt: I’m Kurt Braunohler, a comedian who once paid a professional skywriter to write “How Do I Land?” in the sky.
Scotty: I’m Scotty Landes. I’m a screenwriter who writes horror movies about adults killing teenagers and writes on TV shows about guys that do drugs before work.
Tell us about Bananas and how you two began collaborating?
Kurt: We met at a party. Scotty said he would like to travel across the country by Pullman car and I said I would like to as well. We realized that we had a deep friendship right away.
Scotty: Yes, and our interest [for the podcast] is in inserting absurdity into regular people’s lives so that they feel a little more excited about being alive and have something to talk about when they meet up with their friends later.
How do you pick the news you’ll cover on the podcast?
Kurt: It’s “Bananas” if it’s a celebration of the absurdity of the world.
Scotty: We have hundreds of stories submitted from fans everyday. Kurt and I try to pick the ones that will be the silliest and most uplifting at the same time.
What’s something you’ve learned from your large comedy and podcast performances that you’d pass on to a newcomer?
Scotty: I would say to all new performers — keep in mind how hard it was to get to where you are and don’t be nervous, because as soon as you get on stage, all the hours and minutes that you put into thinking about your comedy, know that this is the moment the dream is realized. Enjoy it the entire time.
Kurt: If you’re a new attendee and you’re coming to see “Bananas,” just get ready for it to be a party.
Who else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?
Kurt: I’m excited about Dan Soder. I think he’s so funny.
Scotty: Gosh, so many of our friends and peers are going to be there. I would like to see Dana Carvey and David Spade. I would like to see Neal Brennan, who always makes me laugh. We also had Sasheer Zamata on “Bananas” a few months ago and I would love to see Sasheer’s new material.
What do you love about visiting Austin in particular?
Kurt: I love Moontower. It’s so fun. Austin audiences are always some of the best in comedy.
Scotty: I always get martinis at Clark’s Oyster Bar. I usually proceed to get drunk at Lala’s Little Nugget. And I always make sure I go to see at least one show at The Skylark Lounge.
Kurt: And I’m right there doing it all with him.
Avery Moore is an Austin-based comedian who has been a part of the local comedy scene for over a decade. She’s toured with notable performers like Louie Anderson, Martha Kelly and Joe Mande. In 2o18, she was crowned Best Stand Up Comic by The Austin Chronicle, and this year, she is nominated again. You can catch her invaluable insights at multiple shows throughout the festival.
Congrats on your major accomplishment of winning Best Stand Up Comic and being nominated again! How did it feel?
It was pretty great. I’ve been telling jokes in Austin since around 2011, so to get to that point is amazing. I thought I’d be out of the city by then but I’d chosen to stay in Austin instead of going to New York or LA because I like to live near my family and I like the option of not living in a terrible place, but it was really an honor. So many friends of mine have won that and they’re really incredible comics so it was great just to be nominated. When I won, it was really special.
Why do you think Austin was a good place to stay as a comedian?
It has been a great place for comedy for a really long time. A lot of us are a tad bit annoyed with the opinion that Austin has become a comedy boom town only in the last few years. Really, it was just a mass exodus from the other cities — a lot of people moved here to follow Joe Rogan and other big comedians like that, but we’ve had SXSW and Moontower for years and years. Cap City Comedy Club is one of the best clubs in the nation and we have the Velveeta Room, which is world famous.
There’s always been a huge level of talent and a really accepting and diverse scene here. It was really run by a lot of women too, before the pandemic. Austin is a nice place to tell jokes because the audiences are so great. Alt comedy, traditional stand-up, sketch, improv — that all exists here and people just have an appreciation for it. All my friends who are national comics from New York or LA say that Austin is a favorite place of theirs to perform.
What is something that you prefer about a comedy festival to a typical show?
Moontower in particular is something we all call “Comedy Christmas.” It’s a gathering of people from all over the country and some people that you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s like a big family reunion. It’s super fun to have a few days to live in that world. You get off stage, catch a pedicab because you’re tired and go watch Andy Kindler, one of my favorite comedians of all time, who does Moontower regularly. He makes me laugh more than anyone in the world.
You can discover people, see old friends and see really cool shows, podcasts and all sorts of things. It’s a different atmosphere than going to see a comic at a venue one evening.
What does an ideal day in Austin look like for you?
I love the Austin Antique Mall — that’s my happy place. In an ideal day, I’d probably go to Thunderbird Coffee or somewhere that has a good green iced tea, then maybe go to Beto’s #2 and get breakfast tacos with American cheese because I’m from San Antonio and I miss getting breakfast tacos with cheese. Then I’d go to the Austin Antique Mall, walk around, talk to old people and buy weird stuff.
A seasoned Moontower performer and longtime Austin comedian, Andrew Murphy is a local favorite. He’s opened for big names like Fortune Feimster, Dan Soder, Theo Von and more. In 2019, he was named the Funniest Person in Austin and will be sharing his talent at a handful of shows during Moontower.
You’re currently the city’s reigning Funniest Person in Austin winner. What’s it like holding a huge title like that?
I won in 2019 at a competition held at Cap City. It felt awesome. It still feels really cool to just have this forever credit. It half-impresses people and then half-bumps their standards to an impossible level at shows. It’s kind of fun to see the crowd react like “Oh that’s really cool. That’s the funniest person in Austin,” and the other 50% react like “Oh, well, we’ll see about that.” Regardless, it feels exciting.
How does being an Austinite/living in Austin influence your comedy?
I think the comedy scene is so diverse — the type of people that do comedy, but even more importantly, I think it’s diverse in the styles of comedy that people do and that’s always been true. In 2012 and 2013, when I started, it was very clear immediately how creative people tried to be. Instead of just going for a down-the-middle, over-the-plate comedy style, people actually try to do new things and create a truly unique voice and that’s inspiring. There’s definitely some of that in other major cities but if I had to choose a trademark for Austin, it’d be the uniqueness and creativity of everyone.
What makes Moontower special?
The general scrappiness of it. It feels so DIY in a way that a lot of festivals don’t. A lot of festivals are over-branded or over-produced. Moontower instead creates this cool environment where you almost feel like you’re in New York, running all over the city and going room to room. You might have three shows a night and you can go back to back to back.
The venues are just so exciting and fun, and each venue is special in its own way. From a comic’s standpoint, it feels like you’re doing so many different things in a very short amount of time. The afterparties are awesome, too. It’s fun to meet audience members and comics. It’s a loose, shaggy, fun vibe.
What’s your favorite part of Austin?
My favorite place currently is Baby Acapulco’s. I think it’s a very Old Austin spot near Barton Springs. Great Mexican food, really nice staff. They’re known for their famous — or infamous, depending on your experience — Purple Rita margaritas. You can only have two of them. They’re like the strongest alcoholic drinks ever. Every time I have two, it feels like I made a new friend or something, talking about new small business ideas or getting the band back together.