The race for Austin’s comedy crown heats up in May (along with the creeping temperatures). Root for your favorites May 1 on the final night of the preliminaries of the Funniest Person in Austin Contest at Cap City Comedy Club.
The contest to crown Austin’s funniest, which continues through the final rounds mid-month, began over 30 years ago with a handful of contestants and has grown into a 200-plus comic slugfest. There are so many diverse and talented comics in this town that you’re in for a solid show regardless of what night you choose. For a great insight into what goes on behind the scenes, check out the documentary “Funniest” by Katie Pengra and Dustin Svehlak at fpiamovie.com. Who will take this year’s crown?
And those aren’t the only laughs to be found this month.
“Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” at Bass Concert Hall. Now in its 20th season, “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” is National Public Radio’s Peabody Award-winning quiz show. Host Peter Sagal leads a rotating panel of comedians, humorists and journalists, listener contestants and celebrity guests through a comic review of the week’s news. Contestants compete for the quirkiest and most coveted prize in all of public radio: a custom-recorded greeting by any of the cast members for their voicemail. Which is the most NPR-y prize ever.
Amy Miller at the Velveeta Room. Miller is a fast-rising talent on the West Coast and national scene and was a breakout favorite in Season 9 of “Last Comic Standing.” Her debut album, “Solid Gold,” is available on the indie music label Kill Rock Stars and was named one of the Top 10 comedy albums of 2016 by the Interrobang. You may have also heard her on NPR, “Doug Loves Movies” or the “Bennington” radio show.
“¡ESCÁNDALO!” at Hideout Theater. Ready for a Cinco de Mayo spectacular? Inspired by television shows like “Jane the Virgin,” “Teresa” and countless over-the-top telenovelas, “¡ESCÁNDALO!” is an improvised show filled with danger, intrigue and backstabbing (and front-stabbing). And passion. So. Much. Passion. The show is typically bilingual, but as a bonus for Cinco de Mayo, it will be entirely in Spanish. You are in great hands with this talented bilingual cast of Austin improvisers including Cindy Brio, Laura Galán Wells, Gabriela Vargas, Karlie Lemos, Cristy Salinas, Esperanza Rivadeneira, Claudio Fox, Andy Gonzalez-Bendiksen, Alonso Salas and Aaron Rubin. Enjoy the show (and watch your back).
“Stool Pigeon” at ColdTowne Theater. Stool Pigeon is ColdTowne Theater’s flagship show, featuring an all-star cast and a different monologist each week. Enjoy a unique, hilarious show based on true experiences of the guest storyteller. Past guests have included Wendy Davis, Sen. Kirk Watson and other heroes wondering what they’re doing in an Austin improv theater. Did we mention the show is free? “Stool Pigeon” is a delight.
“(Expletive This Week)” at Fallout Theater. Things are tough all over. Ever catch yourself saying, “(Expletive) this week,” but it’s only Monday? Don’t give into it yet! Come to the newly minted Fallout Theater and check out a comedic exploration of your crappy week. “FTW” will open the floor to an audience member to complain about how awful their week is going to be, whether it’s work, breaking up with a stupid significant other, or awful relatives in town. Then, the cast will improvise a show based on the complaints. Therapy through comedy.
John Witherspoon at Cap City Comedy Club. You might remember Witherspoon as Ice Cube’s outrageously funny, dog-catching dad in New Line Cinema’s smash “Friday” trilogy, or as Pops on the long-running syndicated sitcom “The Wayans Bros.,” or currently as Lloyd on Adult Swim’s “Black Jesus.” Witherspoon has been stealing scenes in movies for four decades as a character actor. As funny as he is on screen, Witherspoon is even more dynamic live and truly one of the greats. Check him out in this special event at Cap City.
Austin Sketch Fest at ColdTowne and Spider House. ColdTowne Theater presents the 9th Annual Austin Sketch Fest, showcasing the best scripted comedy from Austin and the national scene. I’ve been digging the rise of this festival for years, and the lineup to the 2018 edition is fierce. Featured performances include the 20th anniversary of the Latino Comedy Project, Sh*tfaced Shakespeare, Victrola, Slime Time with Chritina Parrish and more. Festival director Will Cleveland says the festival has been a success “because we love making sketch comedy and bringing people together. It’s a week of making art and making new friends who share a passion for sketch comedy.” That love is contagious, and we all benefit.
Thursday Night Speed Open Mic at the Velveeta Room. The Velv was the first place I performed in Austin years ago as a 17-year-old fresh out of Dallas, and it’s where comics like Bill Hicks have cut their teeth. Interested in trying stand-up yourself? This is the open mic for you,and not because it’s an easy one. The room is shotgun narrow and literally carved out of the Esther’s Follies building. The audience, fresh off Dirty Sixth, makes you earn every laugh. This is why I love the Velv and open mics in Austin.
Brently Heilbron is a writer, emo puppet and host of the PBS series “Stand Up Empire.” Got a show to recommend? Reach out @Brently on Twitter.