Mixing punk rock and comedy may not seem like a sane idea, but if you were at Mango's last night, then you know that it is. The Montrose club played host to "Bukowski Lives! A Night of Drunken Headliners!" which was an exclusive four show comedy tour that only came through the great state of Texas. The tour is an off-shoot of sorts to the Altercation Punk Comedy Tour, which is the brainchild of JT Haberstaat, who currently hails from Austin. Haberstaat brought some friends along for this tour, including Jay Whitecotton, Ian Stewart and John Tole, who's done quite a bit of national comedy including Howard Stern.
What makes a comedy show punk rock? "It's more of an attitude," says Haberstaat. Haberstaat grew up on punk rock music and the DIY sensibility and has transformed much of that into his approach to comedy. The Altercation Punk Comedy Tour only goes to small punk rock clubs. If the Comedians of Comedy tour started the idea of playing untraditional comedy venues, Altercation is its bad-ass little cousin; they hit up Mango's not the Verizon Theater. "The first year booking was terrible," Haberstaat recalls, "but the next year was awesome." Once clubs got "it," they wanted more.
John Tole, who headlined the show, comes from a similar background as Haberstaat in terms of the music listened to and the scene he hung around. "Punk rock was about tearing down the system when I was a kid," says Tole. And his approach to comedy is about tearing down as well but now with jokes. Tole explains that with comedy the comedian has a different impact on people than say a preacher, but there is a similarity. The comedian can share a message while being entertaining. Fight the man, just do it with a good joke.
Opening the night were some of Houston's own; Ty Mahany, Dusti Rhodes and Lisa Friedrich took the stage. Our Houston comedians not only held their own, but were damn funny. If you hang around the Houston comedy scene you probably have seen these three working their material and all three brought their A games to this show.
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Jay Whitecotton was pretty hilarious. He is a self-proclaimed awkward guy who tries to attract girls with stories about dragons, which he explained rarely works. While Ian Stewart was a bit darker of a comedian with lots of drug references and great stories about scrambled porn.
Haberstaat is the type of comedian who gets you into the narrative of his life and then flips it around on you to a place you didn't see coming, my favorite type of comedy. He told a great story about acting concerned for his young neighbor whose car was broken into only to be completely scaring the kid himself with a pair of ill-fitted shorts. While he told me that he only occasionally makes punk rock/metal references, I was excited to hear him name drop some bands; when a comedian is making King Diamond jokes, that is some funny stuff.
Tole closed the show and it was obvious as to why. His comedy is somewhere in between completely random, dirty, political and self-deprecating. He told my favorite line of the evening: "Every knife is a butter knife when you are fat." Tole is a big guy and his relationship to food makes for good fodder.
This tour was a mini one and only stopped in Texas cities, but Haberstaat's Altercation Punk Comedy Tour has a lot going on. On March 16 his new album "Hostile Corporate Takeover" will be released and it will feature several comedians from the tour such as Mack Lindsay, Joe Staats, Mike Wiebe and Billy Milano. He will also be at SXSW this year spreading the funny and the rock at the same time. Check out his website for more information at jtstandup.com