Consider headliners. They are, of course, indispensable. They’re the acts people come to see, pay to see: familiar names matched to familiar faces and, at least to some extent, familiar material.
Headliners aren’t, however, the whole story. It’s not for nothing that we so frequently hear the phrase “Come for the X, stay for the Y”: Unexpected discovery is a key part of cultural excursions, and comedy festivals are no exception.
The Moontower Comedy Festival is a prime opportunity to — indulge us in the cliché for a moment — catch a rising star or two. So, here’s a look at a dozen of the performers you can see at satellite venues (that is, any place that isn’t the Paramount or Stateside). Although none of them are beginners and many are veteran comics with impressive resumes — including talk-show appearances, writing for and acting in sitcoms and various cable shows, appearing on podcasts, winning comedy competitions — we’ve concentrated on performers whose reputations don’t quite yet precede them everywhere they go.
Check moontowercomedyfestival.com to find out where and when they’ll be performing.
Alonzo Bodden. This politically-minded comedian with a no-nonsense demeanor won season 3 of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” back in 2004, did a Showtime special in 2011 and has been in a bunch of TV series and movies, so in no way is the 55-year-old Bodden a newcomer to the biz. You might wonder, though, why he’s not a household name by now.
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Chad Daniels. He looks like a typical white middle-aged suburban dad, and he does do Comedy Dad-type routines about raising teenagers and dealing with older family members, but stick with it long enough and the laughs just build and build. Daniels makes it look easy; it isn’t.
Ophira Eisenberg. This breath of New York-fresh air is the busy host of NPR’s weekly trivia, puzzle and word game show “Ask Me Another,” wrote a 2013 memoir “Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy,” and regularly performs with the storytelling group the Moth in addition to steadily gigging in and around New York and, fortunately for us, at Moontower.
Ian Karmel. Apparently this comic and writer is something of a big deal in Portland, Oregon, our sister Weird City to the west. Karmel won a couple of local comedy competitions out there back in 2010-11 and currently writes for “The Late Late Show with James Corden” in addition to his very active stand-up career. He’s a big, burly dude with a completely road-tested act, perhaps not as cutting-edge as some others at Moontower, but he usually persuades the doubters within a few minutes.
Jackie Kashian. For the past 12 years Kashian has hosted the podcast “The Dork Forest,” talking to anyone and everyone, both celebrated and not so much, about their particular obsessions. As a comic, she appears regularly on Conan O’Brien’s show and tours frequently. Fans rave about her album “I Am Not The Hero Of This Story,” released last year. Witty, observational, literate, addictive: Go down the rabbit hole with her on jackiekashian.com.
Felicia Michaels. Another candidate for “Why isn’t she a household name yet?” Michaels has won the American Comedy Award for Funniest Female, and in between bouts of podcasting, professional photography, directing documentaries and being a single mom of two boys, she takes her act on the road. You might expect jokes about kids and family life, and you get them, but she delivers much more than the comedic equivalent of mom jeans.
Avery Moore. Nerdy millennial best-friend type, veteran of several years on the ATX comedy scene. Don’t let her little-girl voice fool you; Moore is a mistress of laid-back, stream-of-consciousness monologues, and it’s a good bet to just let her take you where she wants you to go, even if that’s not really clear at the beginning, or the middle.
Dan Naturman. There’s something of Rodney Dangerfield in this 40-something’s uptight-car-salesman-like delivery: “You wouldn’t buy any product if people talked about it the same way people talked about being married.” You may have seen him on “America’s Got Talent” or doing his act on a late-night network talk show. Reliably hilarious.
Enzo Priesnitz. An Austinite born and raised, this relative newcomer to the scene had only been doing stand-up for about three years when he won Cap City Comedy’s “Funniest Person in Austin” contest in 2017. He’s confident and edgy, if still something of a work in progress.
Yamaneika Saunders. Actor, writer, podcaster, performer; loud, vulgar, hysterical in a good way. Saunders’ approach to stand-up is to steamroll over everything in her way, plowing a field with fake anger. At least I think it’s fake. She had a debut half-hour special on Comedy Central last year, and you haven’t heard the last of her.
Julio Torres. “I’m originally from El Salvador, but I live in Brooklyn now at a, uh, como se dice — vegan queer collective. I am vegan, and I am so sorry. People ask me if I miss meat or dairy. I miss being liked.” With his deadpan brilliance and absurdist bent, Torres is a natural heir to Steven Wright.
Jesus Trejo. Based in Los Angeles, the good-natured and creative Trejo riffs on family (especially his parents). “Best way I can describe my mom, she’s the type of lady who has a fake flower in a vase with real water. Hoping for a miracle.”