From April 22-25, weirdoes and stand-ups alike will converge in Austin for the Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival. The four-day excursion will feature the comedy stylings of national headliners like Patton Oswalt (Netflix's Bojack Horseman), Maria Bamford (Netflix's Arrested Development), John Mulaney (Fox's Mulaney) , Wanda Sykes (Amazon's Alpha House), Marc Maron (IFC's Maron), Ron White (Blue Collar Comedy), Pete Holmes (TBS's Pete Holmes Show) and TJ Miller (HBO's Silicon Valley).
Bamford, for one, doesn't know whether she should be categorized as 'Comedy' or 'Oddity.' "You know, I would like to say that I'll go to whatever category I'm welcome in. Whichever one gets people to go, 'Yeah, you fit there'."
Jonathan Katz believes he has an intrinsic understanding the of the Oddity aspect of the festival due to his unique upbringing. "Part of my youth was spent in upstate New York, where my grandfather had a low budget freak show," Katz deadpans, with his trademark pauses. "He had a bearded man. He couldn't afford Siamese Twins, so he had two guys with a joint bank account. And no fat lady. He just had a woman that was pre-menstrual."
Additionally, Moontower will be staging the 20th anniversary special of Dr. Katz Professional Therapist Live, an improvised therapy session based on the beloved cult Comedy Central series that aired from 1995-2002. Katz, a stand-up and writer, will be offering couch side mental analysis to a roster of recognizable faces including Andy Kindler (IFC's Maron) and Dana Gould (FOX's The Simpsons), as well as Maron and Bamford. On the thought of opening up to Dr. Katz, Bamford is concerned: "I don't think I have any secrets left. It's not like I have new secrets," the recently-married comedian says with a laugh, "It's just my old secrets."
For those not entirely sure what to make of Maria Bamford's unique brand of alt-comedy, look no further than her recent Special Special Special, an hour of comedy shot entirely in her parent's living room for an audience of two. "I just didn't have it in me emotionally to do a fake show. So I thought, what would be the least amount I could give and still get this material out there?" the former Comedian of Comedy-star joked, "I thought I could just do it from my bed, but... I mean COME ON! That'd be a slap in the face." While Special Special Special may have been Bamford's strangest stand-up hour yet, she warns ominously "maybe The Bed Special is next!"
While stand-up remains the first love of many comedians who have moved on to flashier gigs, Katz finds all his joy from playing doctor. "I did stand-up for 15 years before Dr. Katz, [and stand-up] is like being cast in a very bad one-man show on Broadway for the rest of your life... so Dr. Katz is a breath of fresh air." The origins of his therapist character are perhaps less surprising than most would think. Katz explains: "Growing up in Newton, Mass, most people were therapists. It has the highest per capita rate of therapists in the country. If you go outside and yell 'Help', someone will come out with a handful of antidepressants."
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Maria Bamford, who has sessioned with Katz previously, admired his straight man abilities. "I don't think I've ever seen him break. He is very strong." Katz himself humbly offers, "I was lucky to have such funny patients, until finally my producer said 'You know, you can be funny too.' And that opened up a whole other world for me." But Katz insists his role remains very easy. "[Being a therapist is] all in the voice, which unless you know me, is very soothing. Being cast as a therapist is the easiest role, because basically all you need to say is 'And that makes you feel...?' with the occasional 'mmmhmmm'. Very easy."
With so many comedians colliding during the Moontower Festival, Katz admits he feels nostalgic about improvising again with some of his all time favorite patients. "Dom Irrerra!", Katz booms with glee. "Dom is the best of all those guys. Here's a guy who would show up to cartoon therapy with a beer, and a sandwich. He would make me laugh. He would ask me to dance. He actually wrote a love song about me - DR. KATZ, DR. KATZ, I'M IN LOVE WITH DR. KATZ - He really had no boundaries in therapy."
Bamford too acknowledged the joy that comes from touring with an old friend. "Just to have people who know exactly what you're going through and can be empathetic," Bamford murmurs. "I still get stage freight... and some friends understand that. Like my friend, Jackie Kashian. Like sometimes when you're afraid or the show doesn't go well, that comic friend is important. There's a mutual understanding there."
For Katz, one of the great joys of a festival like Moontower is seeing all the funny people he's worked with over the years coming into their own. "I can't really take credit for any of them but its pretty interesting. Louis CK, Ray Romano, Jon Benjamin. Before Ray had Raymond, Dr. Katz was his biggest TV credit. Most people made their debuts in therapy."