There's a rivalry brewing in Austin, Texas, between two spring comedy fests: The Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival and South by Southwest's (SXSW) comedy festival. Well, it's a bit of a one-sided rivalry, as second-year festival Moontower prohibits comedians who perform there from performing at SXSW Comedy, which is currently in its sixth year, while SXSW is perfectly okay with comedians from Moontower doing shows there. Stand-up Matt Braunger (Up All Night, MADtv) has been caught between the two competing festivals, as Moontower has made an example of him by disinviting him after he agreed to perform at both festivals.
"He truly doesn't deserve it," SXSW comedy fest producer Charlie Sotelo says to Splitsider. "We've had numerous conversations with Moontower about their policy of forbidding comics from experiencing SXSW, and they refuse to change their minds. We don't ask for exclusivity, and we think it's unfair to the comics to prevent them from using SXSW to reach a wider audience."
Matt Braunger wrote a Tumblr post explaining to fans why he won't be at Moontower, but basically, he was committed to do stand-up at Moontower when he agreed to do a 10-minute set at a SXSW show called "The Nasty Show." "I thought my short set on 'The Nasty Show' would be cool promotion for my Moontower shows," Braunger tells Splitsider. "Several comics were doing both, and I even offered to cancel my SXSW appearance. Makes me sad, because I love comedy festivals. Heck, I helped start one." The Moontower producers disinvited Braunger from the festival after he agreed to perform at SXSW, but they're still allowing other performers to do both their festival and SXSW. Braunger's motives in writing the Tumblr post weren't to complain or criticize the festival. He explains, "I only posted about it online to let comedy fans know I wouldn't be there. I've had people tweet to me about it in the last couple of weeks." The Moontower Festival's producers refused to take Braunger back after he offered to drop the SXSW gig. A representative from Moontower declined to comment.
"Our goal is to support the careers of the comedians who perform at our festival, and we would never deny an emerging voice a chance to perform elsewhere," comments Sotelo. "We feel that having more than one comedy-focused event in our city can help build a stronger community, and we'll continue to look for ways to work together to build on Austin's growing reputation as a comedy destination." Hopefully by next year, Moontower will learn to compete with SXSW without needlessly trapping comedians in the middle of this situation.