(Update: An earlier version of this story had the wrong date for the Austin Comedy Seance show)
October is a spooky time in Austin. The hordes of mosquitos, the four-hour wait for a photo at the ACL Fest picture frame, your ride-share driver’s incessant fist pumping. These are all modern horrors Austinites face. Choosing between which amazing comedy event to see also can keep me up at night, so please use this list to ease you toward All Hallow’s Eve.
Perhaps the one I’m most excited about is Oct. 29’s Comedy Seance at Spider House Ballroom in which Austin comics roast dead performers. It’s dark, delightful and seriously silly: Everything I love about Austin comedy. I spoke with the host, co-creator and um, Prince of Darkness, Norman Wilkerson about the history of this annual treat. From Norman:
“The Austin Comedy Seance originally started back in 2007. It was the brainchild of me and Avi Hartman. Avi and I decided we wanted to do something special for Halloween. We batted around several ideas, including a burlesque show, but everything seemed like it had already been done to death. I had been working a new Satan character for another event, and suggested it might be fun to have him host the show. I really can’t remember which of us came up with the idea of dead comics, but as soon as one of us said it, we both knew that it was a great idea. I decided to revive the Seance in 2014. Luckily, one of the best comedy producers in Austin, Katie Pengra, offered to take over the hard part, so that I could just show up the night of, tell some jokes, then take all the credit. She’s done an amazing job of it. It’s not exaggerating to say that the seance would not happen without her.”
Wilkerson is keeping the actual “celebrities” as a surprise until showtime, but the cast includes Enzo Priesnitz (2017 Funniest Person in Austin), Joe Hafkey, Carina Magyar, Nick Saverino, Mike Macrae, Katie Pengra, Adam Hrabik and the always brilliant Vanessa Gonzalez. Except a bloody good time.
Ryan Cownie with Chris Tellez at Velveeta Room: Nebraska native Ryan Cownie has performed at Fun Fun Fun Fest and Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival in addition to churning out hilarious online videos as his rap alter ego Thad Newman MC. He’s supported by the very funny Chris Tellez at the one and only Velveeta Room.
Smile More with Valerie Nies at The Institution Theater: Valerie Nies brings another solid lineup to her monthly feminist comedy show, curated from beginners through veterans on the scene. This month features the talents of Emily Howell, Avery Moore, Lea’h Sampson, Liz Wheat and Jill Friedman. Time to “break the glass microphone” once and for all.
Eddie Izzard at the Paramount Theater: I finally saw Eddie Izzard live a few years ago and the experience was a whirlwind of energy, gender, history and constant laughter. His newest show, “Believe Me,” is billed as a memoir of stand-up, family, and private photos and movies. This is a chance to see one of the most important forces in stand-up at his most vulnerable and intimate. The Paramount even offers a VIP package to get a photo with Izzard for the die-hard fan. (Izz-heads?)
One Hour Till Air at ColdTowne Theater: In a male sea of Fallons, Colberts and Conans, it’s about time we had a female-led talk show, even if it’s fictional. Inspired by “The Larry Sanders Show” and “30 Rock,” this team of adept improvisers reacts on the spot to take you behind the scenes of a late-night talk and variety show. The show’s lead is Katie Stone (Naughty Bits, Meninists) and features a cast of Austin’s most talented improvisers; this hourlong comedy program will also include live musical performances from local greats such as Arielle LaGuette and Sam Ehrnstein.
Death By Musical at Hideout Theater: Death By Musical is an improvised campy horror musical inspired by irreverent comedic musicals such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Evil Dead: The Musical” and “Little Shop of Horrors” complete with singing, screams, dancing, and (fake) blood. Campy, sexy, improv!
Tinder Live! With Lane Moore at Spider House Ballroom: Lane Moore takes you on a hilarious journey through the realities of online dating in an interactive, anything-can-happen show. Lane, a writer for “The Onion” and a comic who has appeared on HBO’s “Girls,” opens her Tinder account to audiences and invites them to join her in real-time, as she swipes and messages (and sometimes talks and texts) with Tinder matches who have no idea they’re part of the show. The New York Times called the show “one of the five best live shows in NYC” so naturally Moore will be swiping left to Austin, the land of sex and queso. (Update: The date for Tinder Live was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.)
Kevin Nealon at Cap City Comedy Club: Nealon is best known as a nine-year veteran of “Saturday Night Live” and has since been playing himself on shows like HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Xarelto commercials. Nealon began his stand up career back in 1984 on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” Catch a glimpse of those early roots when Nealon headlines Cap City Comedy Club.