Designed by legendary movie-house architect John Eberson and opened to the public as a vaudeville palace in 1915, the venue enjoyed performances by the likes of Harry Blackstone and Katharine Hepburn in its heyday. But things fell into decline during the 1960s as televisions became commonplace, more people migrated to the suburbs, and the stage?s trapdoor spontaneously grew fangs. The Paramount?s multi-tiered seating and historic ceiling murals languished in the theater?s years to follow as a tragically underused B-movie cinema.
In 1973, three men?John M. Bernardoni, Charles Eckerman, and Stephen L. Scott?formed a corporation with the ultimate goal of rescuing the Paramount, by that time slated for destruction. Soon, live performers were regularly supplementing a classed-up movie schedule, and the stage was graced by such artists as Dave Brubeck and Debbie Allen. The theater?s star rose ever higher in the ?80s and ?90s as the curtains introduced the world to such lasting works as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the Greater Tuna series. Today, the lovingly built and rebuilt artifact is a constant reminder of Austin?s long history of arts appreciation.
Although Esther's Follies' variety show of music, magic, and comedy recalls the vaudevillian entertainment of yesteryear (albeit with a more acerbic modern bent), the nostalgia goes beyond just the performances. The longstanding venue and comedy troupe was named after Esther Williams, the Golden Age starlet whose career as a professional swimmer led to numerous iconic MGM films. Posters for several of these pictures are plastered throughout the space, and an undersea mural bustling with brightly-hued coral, kaleidoscopic marine life, and even a Loch Ness monster further contributes to Esther's otherworldly, aquatic theme. The magical environment, along with the shows themselves, have wowed audiences and Austin Chronicle critics alike.
On the production end, Esther's Follies busts guts in record speed with satirical quips on current events; relevant parodies; and high-stepping, fast-paced comedy sketches. Resident magician Ray Anderson keeps things light with levitation illusions known to dazzle crowds. As the Follies cast ignites into choral skewerings of front-page newsmakers, audiences will laugh so hard that giggles come out their noses.
Dubbed a “powerhouse of comedy” by the Austin Chronicle, The New Movement unleashes a dizzying number of comedy shows that belie the institution’s young age. Founded in 2009 by improvisers Chris Trew and Tami Nelson, the theater and conservatory has already established itself in two cities, training fledgling performers in the art of the extemporaneous by inspiring them to take comedic risks on stage, whether it’s connecting emotionally with a character or performing actual surgery. Whether or not the performers are costumed or bearing props, they aim to create a fully realized world on stage through grounded situations and elegant but always creative transitions between scenes.
Comedy originated in 1974, when Benny Goodwin stood in front of a crowd, lost control of a complex, six-minute body odor pun, and spontaneously combusted. Today's Groupon lets you watch comics risk life and limb at Austin's coliseum of stand-up comedy, Cap City Comedy Club. For $32, you get 10 pairs of tickets to Cap City Comedy's regular touring headliners (a $65 value). These tickets are good for the Wednesday through Friday 8 p.m. acts as well as the Friday and Saturday 10:30 p.m. shows. This deal does not apply to the special events or the Saturday 8:00 p.m. performance. Reservations are required.
Cap City, now in its 25th year, hosts scruffy local talent as well as traveling bards and harlequins of humor. Serious about being weird, Cap City also conducts certified defensive driving courses, regularly feuds with a neighboring church over who's louder and bawdier, and seats almost all of its guests at long, cafeteria-style tables beneath '80s-era décor that recalls a more innocent teenage era.
Upcoming acts include perpetually frostbitten Minnesotan Chad Daniels, who strode across Conan O'Brien's stage, and the man named by a Rubik's cube, Myq Kaplan, champion of the New York Comedy Contest. Comedians are encouraged to interact with the audience, and, if the need arises, to administer vaccinations.
Since you must purchase two food or beverage items during the show, Cap City serves up its own remixes of traditional bar food, like egg rolls with chicken, mozzarella, jalapenos, red chili, black beans, and spinach ($8.95) and the fatso sampler, with fried pickles, parmesany mushrooms, and cheese sticks ($13.95). You can also get an alcoholic snow cone ($8.00).
Cap City's shows are a perfect alternative to the standard dinner and movie woo blitz, and with a professional comedian on stage, you won't have to struggle and strive to belt out your own charming jokes. Not to mention that laughter, as has been well documented, can improve your overall health and diffuse the stress that keeps you from reaching 6'4''.
Two Citysearchers give Cap City Comedy Club a perfect five stars, and Yelpers give it 3.5:
- I would suggest Cap City for anyone looking to do something different than the standard dinner and a movie, and laughter is definitely the best medicine! We will be back soon. :) – discomelly2, Citysearch
- I've been to Cap City a dozen times over the years, and seen a variety of shows both local and touring, and I've enjoyed each one. Some more than others of course, but always had a good time, had a bite to eat, a drink or two and some laughs. – Steve B., Yelp
- Great core workout laughing for 2 hrs. You really can't dis a place that can get you laughing after a hard day. It's better that [sic] drugs......and slightly cheaper. – Keri B., Yelp
ColdTowne Theater is Austin's main stage for alternative comedy. We currently run shows Thursday through Monday, featuring the funniest comedians in Central Texas. We also run a conservatory offering the most fun improv and sketch comedy classes Austin has to offer.
ComedySportz’s troupe of all-star laughletes is considered to be not only comedic, but also to have good sportsmanship, since there’s no swearing allowed, the subject matter is suited for all ages, and the show is monitored by a referee who calls offense fouls and hides unfunny heads in a shameful brown bag. Take a friend, relative, significant other, or the relative of a friend’s significant other to see two teams of expert improvisers fight for laughs through an average of 7– 12 scenes, games, and songs based on audience suggestions. At the end, the crowd votes to decide which team wins the honor of dumping life-size cardboard cutouts of the other team into an active volcano.