The final day of Moontower was surprisingly great thanks to excellent performances by Kids in the Hall, Michael Che and more, but the real surprise was the Whisper Live event, which the Loser City crew had a little too much fun crashing. For our previous Moontower coverage, here’s day three, day two, and day one.
John Bender: The early round of shows on Saturday wasn’t exactly loaded with must-see options. I decided to catch Comedy Jackpot at the Parish so that I could ensure that I saw at least a little bit of Bobcat Goldthwait before the festival ended.
It was a weird show. I first walked in to Nick Thune telling a very long, meandering story about learning the sex of his first child, and it had to be the coldest reception I’ve ever seen for a Moontower act. Crickets the whole way. I didn’t think Thune was funny, but I also didn’t see why people weren’t at least pity laughing. It felt like a poetry slam or something.
Cameron Esposito was next, and even though she was really on her game, the crowd still wasn’t having any of it. About halfway through her set, she dropped her act and started berating the audience for its shitty attitude, and we honestly deserved it. It was really strange. It was like those times in college when the teacher would ask a question of the class and it would become obvious that not a single person had done the reading. There was a prevailing sense that things were certainly bad, but there was nothing that could be done to correct the situation.
Brent Weinbach came up next and actually had a fairly strong set. Part of his success seemed to stem from his complete indifference to the crowd, although it could just be that everyone felt bad for letting Cameron Esposito down. I think Hasan Minhaj followed Weinbach, although he could have come later in the show. I dunno. I’ve honestly forgotten a lot of the showcase. Minhaj was earnest and intrepid in his pursuit of laughs from the shitty audience, but I don’t know that he ultimately got what he wanted from us.
Bobcat was next, and he was very good. He was the most present of any comic that I saw at this year’s Moontower, in the sense that he wasn’t afraid to read the crowd and abandon things when they weren’t working. Audiences don’t always appreciate that—it can come across as scatterbrained—but, improbably, our room was very receptive. The same is true for Paul Varghese, who closed out the night by playing clean jokes to one side of the room and dirty jokes to the other side in a quest to determine what the hell this crowd even liked.
But enough about Comedy Jackpot. This year’s Moontower concluded with the event to end all events: an incredibly awkward comedy/app branding interactive presentation titled Whisper Live.
Honestly, I was planning to catch a completely different show later in the night, but when I met the other Loser City writers at Royal Blue, they told me that rumors were circulating about free beer at this Whisper Live thing. We weren’t crazy about the comedians running the show, and we knew that Whisper was some kind of social media thing (yuck), but free beer will at least get me in the door of most events.
And there was so much free beer! The first time I went up to the beer counter, I asked the dude for one Lone Star, and he replied, “How about two?” Then he gave me two Lone Stars. This was already my favorite event of this year’s Moontower.
When we settled into our seats, it soon became clear that this wasn’t a stand-up showcase at all. There was a huge screen above the stage with various Post Secret-style captioned images streaming across it. There were chairs beneath this screen, and, for some reason, three video cameras flanked the stage. Most importantly, though, there was a prominent notification that tonight’s show was interactive. Everyone in the audience was supposed to download the Whisper app and participate in real time a la @midnight.
The race was suddenly on amongst the Loser City team to see who could derail the show most effectively, thereby exposing the folly of comedy-technology cobranding and punishing Whisper for giving us free beer. I’ll let the other writers outline their strategies while I stick to my own for the remainder of this writeup.
Ever prudent, I wanted to be sure that if the hosts did select one of my Whispers for discussion, I would have a consistent backstory to my posts. That way, I couldn’t be easily outed as the shitbird troll I was actually being (what I didn’t realize is that the app is anonymous, so they couldn’t really work backward through my post history even if they had wanted).
Nevertheless, after drinking my third beer, I settled on a character that seemed very promising: a guy under the mistaken impression that you operate Whisper by pressing your dick against the screen of your phone. My chosen username was dick_phone_guy.
My lack of experience with image sharing apps reared its ugly head off the bat, as my first whisper encountered technical difficulties:
Despite the glitch, I feel like this image fully captures what I was trying to create when I came up with dick_phone_guy. He just can’t get the damned thing to work, no matter how hard he pushes his dick against the phone. My next effort was more successful:
Looks like he finally got something to post correctly. He was even a little playful about it! Emboldened, he kept on Whispering:
I should note that the show hadn’t even begun at this point. I was just planting the seeds for dick_phone_guy. He needed to have a believable user history. I should also point out that these background images are selected at random. You just type in the text, and then Whisper gives you some stock photos to swipe through.
Apparently other Whisper users can start up a chat in response to one of your Whispers. This chat can be conducted in the form of public-facing Whispers (like tweeting @someone) or private messages. Someone responded to the above image almost immediately after I posted it via private message, and the following conversation ensued:
Me: Not working
Stranger: Lol I’m confused
Me: try it
Stranger: I’m a girl
Me: well then you will need to obtain a dick
Stranger: And how would I go about doing that. Or can I borrow yours?
Me: mine is currently pressed against the phone
Stranger: Don’t be stingy
Me: the app is being stingy. literally zero dick functionality
Stranger: You’re not helping
Me: I don’t know what else to do my dick is already smushed against the phone
Stranger: Well I don’t know either
I feel like this exchange was true to the character of dick_phone_guy, as he is so obsessed with getting the phone to recognize his dick that he fails to pick up on the anonymous flirtation going on. Also, how amazing is it that within two minutes of downloading this app I was already being asked to loan my dick out (for app-testing purposes, but still)? The future!
I finally struck cobranded comedy/app gold with this effort, which earned not one but two hearty-favey things from other anonymous Whisper users:
I don’t understand this app.
Whisper deleted some of my other Whispers, which was kind of shitty. I made one with the Duck Dynasty guy in the background that read, “hey so my dick is against the phone but this app is doing jack shit. is the app broken” that has since been wiped from the Whisper cloud. I assume it was removed for implying that the app was somehow broken.
To make matters worse, the Whisper hosts did not notice or select dick_phone_guy’s posts for discussion, with one exception: his response to the prompt, “5 words to describe your most awkward sexual experience ever…go.” dick_phone_guy wrote, “dick pressed against the phone,” which prompted the hosts to call him down to the stage to explain the whole story. I froze; this was a portion of dick_phone_guy’s backstory that I hadn’t fleshed out yet. Luckily, I was bailed out by another audience member asking, “What if you work for Whisper?” This allowed them to move on, and dick_phone_guy’s mask remained intact. I have no clue why someone else asked that question at that time.
In conclusion, my strategy for app disruption was the least effective among the Loser City team. Oh, and Moontower was fun or whatever.
RIP, dick_phone_guy. Lost and also forgotten.
Morgan Davis: My night began with Kids in the Hall, who performed a great set with a good mixture of classics and new bits, including a wonderful opening involving all the Kids in bridal gowns, explaining why they wear them (“I wear mine because it’s just so much easier to catch a cab, and you get better service!” “I wear mine because the pumpkin costume I used to wear was no longer shocking to society.”). But I’m going to let James go into more details on Kids while I continue what John started about our adventures crashing a questionably planned comedy/branding event for the Whisper app.
I knew a little about Whisper going in, because Dylan had explained their concept to me, but even with that slight understanding, I didn’t (and still don’t) understand what the company is really going for, or why they thought it would be a good idea to introduce the app by letting a crowd drunk on free beer run rampant with it.
Unlike John, I didn’t build a character so much as I built a few different characters all trying to figure out Whisper. The first, and most popular, was my dog Callie. I figured out pretty quickly that Whisper lets you change out the stock images for photos from your own phone, and since my phone is filled with pictures of my dog, I ran with that. Callie’s first Whisper was this image of her, with the text “i m doge how dis app werk:”
For whatever reason, Whisper deleted it and all of the other solo Callie Whispers, presumably because they all involved her stating her confusion over the app. Seriously, that is the only reason I can think of for their deletion, and I think John is on to something by questioning whether Whisper doesn’t want anyone to imply their app functions less than perfectly, which is weird given the far more tasteless Whispers all of the Loser City crew sent in to the show to say nothing of how many Whispers were popping up from underage kids. But Callie still managed to shine on stage thanks to a bit where the hosts, Beth Stelling and Sara Schaefer, tried to get Andrew Santino to carry on a dirty private conversation with a Whisper user, which resulted in this dialogue between my dog and Santino:
As fun as it was to respond as Callie to the various prompts the comedians put up on stage, my greatest achievement at Whisper live was more subtle and only the rest of the Loser City crew knew about it during the event. We knew Puddles the Clown was on the line-up, so one of the other characters I made for use during the event was someone who had been traumatized by Puddles, first contracting Ebola through Puddles’ monkey-woman assistant before confessing this:
It’s not the Whisper itself that’s so funny, but the fact that Puddles the Clown responded to it when he appeared on stage and performed “My Heart Will Go On.” The thing is, that Whisper never went up on the screen because I did it before the hosts told the crowd to put an asterisk after their Whispers so everyone would know they came from inside the theatre. Which means that Puddles (or someone with him) saw that on Whisper and decided to run with it by turning in an extremely creepy but hilarious performance of the song where he scanned the room in the most lecherous possible way, knowing that only the person who made the Whisper would be aware of what was actually happening. I was a Puddles fan before this, but the interaction made me a Puddles lifer.
I’m still not sold on Whisper as a social media tool, but I have to give it to the company, their app made for a completely unique comedy experience that kept me more entertained than anything else at the festival. There’s a lot of potential in Whisper as a tool for improv, whether it’s sets like this or something built into events like the Drafthouse’s Master Pancake series, which currently uses texts to let the crowd respectfully heckle the movie alongside the Pancakers. Stelling and Schaefer did an excellent job of keeping things moving while embracing the direction the crowd was taking the show. Like Fleshlight, Whisper’s involvement in Moontower was pretty surreal but it resulted in a lot of great comedy that also called a lot of attention to the brand. I don’t know if Whisper Live would work as well in other areas or without all the free booze, but I could easily see it turning into a fun @midnight style event and Moontower could use more of these kinds of shows, which force the comedians to improvise and not rely on the same set of material they’ve been performing all week.
Dylan Tano: I got a late start this morning. And by morning I mean I missed lunch. It was a late night for pretty much every Loser Citizen and that was all thanks to the Whisper Live event and our own post show celebration that went on with Karaoke Underground at Red 7. That isn’t how we started the evening, though. Up first was Kids in the Hall who were a bit more polished than John Bender reported about the night prior. I guess they’re starting to shake the rust off. James Pound and Morgan Davis were with me for the show and James will go into more depth than I will since he’s more familiar with KitH than I am. The show was great. The crowd had a ton of fun and so did I. There was one innocuous sentence though that would change the course of our night… and maybe our lives, “There will be free beer at Stateside during the 10 o’clock show.” And thus our course was set with destiny.
We were just going for the free beer, we told ourselves. There wasn’t even a line as we walked in. Some of the seats were marked off with blue marking tape so people wouldn’t interfere with the cameras during the live taping. It was all for an app that sounds a lot like a social media version of Post Secret. They were asking people to make posts in responses to questions posed by the hosts, Sara Schaefer and Beth Stelling, and they’d put them up on the screen. Once we realized the power that was being handed to us, Loser City, we had no choice but to act. And oh boy, did we. Gems like, “Why does my ass sweat give me a rash?”, “reborn anally,” and “Lost virginity with mom in room.” The Loser City crew ran the show from the crowd, I managed to win a Fleshlight on stage for telling the story of how I lost my virginity in front of a live studio audience. Everyone else can tell you of the ways they crashed and manipulated the show. It was a truly amazing night, a night where we all contributed to the folly of a live social media comedy show.
It was a great festival. And while Bobcat Goldthwait was easily my favorite performance of the week, last night’s Whisper show will always have a soft spot in my heart and a rubbery masturbatory device over my penis.
James Pound: Before I get into the final night’s write up, I wanted to amend my Day 3 one. The host for Maron’s set last night wasa local talent Ryan Cownie. He of the sexism twisty jokes and self deprecation and long winded sponsor thanking. He’s great, and I ran into him at the Stephen F bar last night and wanted to make sure his name appeared on the internet here.
Okay, so final night of the fest and what do we do? Almost all go to the same show! Kids In The Hall were great! Just hearing the bass line of the theme song got me giddy. Many dresses were worn, classic characters/skits revisited, and Canadian/Texan references were made. It’s been quite some time since I’ve watch episodes of KITH, but it all came rushing back to me once I saw the gentlemen in character. I had forgotten or maybe never realized how often Bruce McCullough was used in sketches. Or perhaps this tour just happened to lean more towards his characters. Nonetheless he was great and embodied the widest variety of weirdos. I’ve always loved Dave Foley, and seeing him as Hecubous was a treat. He really felt like a younger evil (if rounder) lad in the skit, and I think almost made Kevin McDonald break at one point. Evil! Scott Thompson’s sassy, cocktail sipping Buddy Cole and Running Faggot (in the encore) were big audience favorites. And of course Mark McKinney’s chicken lady killed it! So, so fun seeing these guys live (again, I caught them about 10 years ago) was such a joy and really transported me back to those college weirdo days of skipping class and watching goofy Canadians all day long.
I rushed over to Cap City Comedy Club to close out my Moontower ’14 and caught the very tail end of Dan Soder’s set. I believe I saw him last year, because that booming baritone voice is pretty unforgettable. Like I said, I only saw the very, very last joke of his but the audience seemed to love him. Then came Micahel Che, and he didn’t disappoint! Still, with a calm, cool delivery and the microphone sometimes drifting nearly too far away, he was tranquil but hilarious. Much of his set discussed race and racism and how dumb it is. But a few key moments outside of his normal jokes in his (self-admitted) drunk set really lit the room up. Someone to the left of the stage had one of the weirdest laughs ever, which tended to trail after the rest of the room had quieted. This totally threw Che off course at one point, “Is there a goose in here or something?! I can’t tell if that’s making fun of me or you’re actually laughing.” Then he mildly back peddled, “I mean you never want to DIScourage someone from laughing in a club, but what the fuck was that? Seriously? You okay?” The goose was never heard from again, but the couple was clearly loving the show as he occasionally would redirect his attention their way.