Grab the tissues: “This is Us” panel coming to ATX TV Festival

 Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

The ATX Television Festival announced today a panel on NBC’s hit series “This Is Us,” with cast members Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore, along with NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, creator/executive producer Dan Fogelman, and executive producer Ken Olin.

(Dear ATX and “This is Us,” please do what you can to convince Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones to attend as well. Come on, now.)

 ATX will also host a 30-year reunion of the iconic series “thirtysomething,” featuring cast members Ken Olin, Patricia Wettig, Peter Horton, Melanie Mayron, Timothy Busfield, and David Clennon, many of whom directed episodes of the series when it was on the air, and have gone on to direct and produce several other series over the years. Olin has done excellent directorial work on “The West Wing” and “This is Us.”

(Dear ATX and “thirtysomething,” please call this panel “sixtysomething.”)

 The producers and cast of HBO’s “The Comeback” will also reunite at this year’s festival, including co-creator, executive producer and star Lisa Kudrow; co-creator/executive producer Michael Patrick King; cast member and executive producer Dan Bucatinsky; and cast member Laura Silverman. Additional cast will be announced at a later date. 

 Fox will hold a special screening of two of their new pilots, which will just have been announced at their Upfront presentation in May.

 First-time panelist June Diane Raphael will participate in a script reading of her unproduced pilot “The Housewives,” co-written with Casey Wilson, along with a special guest cast.  Raphael, who currently appears on “Grace and Frankie,” will also join the previously announced conversation with the creative team behind that show, featuring co-creator/executive producer Marta Kauffman, and producers Hannah KS Canter and Robbie Rowe Tollin from Okay Goodnight.

The festival runs June 8 to 11.

John Hodgman, Wanda Sykes, Janeane Garofalo coming to SXSW Comedy

John Hodgman (remember before he had a persona and was simply a man with an onion in his pocket?), Wanda Sykes (currently being awesome on “black-ish”) and tiny, stand-up lifer Janeane Garofalo are all part of South by Southwest’s Comedy Festival, which celebrates its tenth edition in 2017.

After ten years, comedy has become a de facto track at SXSW.

Comics attending including Al Madrigal, Andrew Santino, Big Jay Oakerson, Bob Odenkirk, Bonnie McFarlane, Brendon Walsh, Chris Hardwick, Dan Harmon, Dave Hill, Doug Benson, Doug Stanhope, Dulce Sloan, Glenn Wool, Eddie Pepitone, Guy Branum, Horatio Sanz, Janeane Garofalo, Jason Mantzoukas, Jessica McKenna, Joe DeRosa, Joel Kim Booster, John Hodgman, Jon Gabrus, Liza Treyger, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, Matteo Lane, Michael Ian Black, Morgan Murphy, Nate Bargatze, Nick Swardson, Nick Thune, Nicole Byer, Phoebe Robinson, Rich Vos, Robert Kelly, Sasheer Zamata, Scott Aukerman, Scott Thompson, Sean Patton, Shane Mauss, Shaun Diston, Tim Dillon, Tom Lennon, Wanda Sykes, Whitney Cummings, Wyatt Cenac and more to come.

This year’s festival kicks off March 10 at ACL Live with Comedy Central’s “@midnight with Chris Hardwick Live,” a SXSW edition of the Emmy-award winning interactive late night game show. Tom Lennon, Whitney Cummings and Nick Swardson will be contestants.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 21:  Actor/comedian Wanda Sykes performs on stage at the Keep It Clean Comedy Benefit for Waterkeeper Alliance at Avalon on April 21, 2016 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Waterkeeper Alliance )
HOLLYWOOD, CA – APRIL 21: Actor/comedian Wanda Sykes performs on stage at the Keep It Clean Comedy Benefit for Waterkeeper Alliance at Avalon on April 21, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Waterkeeper Alliance )

NBCUniversal’s comedy streaming service Seeso will sponsor a slate of shows, including Dan Harmon’s live fantasy role-playing show, “HarmonQuest,” an improvised Dungeons & Dragons game that takes a cast of characters (Harmontown mainstays Jeff B Davis, Erin McGathy, and Dungeon Master Spencer Crittenden, and a special guest) on a dragon-slaying journey. Also returning is Big Jay Oakerson’s What’s Your F@%king Deal? a show in which comedians will rely solely on crowd work, mining the audience for their material.

Another Seeso program, Wyatt Cenac’s “Night Train” showcase, is here for the first time, with the musical stylings of Night Train regular DJ Donwill. Seeso will also record back-to-back performances of “Doug Stanhope and Friends,” featuring a lineup of some of his favorite comedians, hosted by Stanhope. All SXSW attendees are invited to be part of the live audience for two shows at 10 p.m. and midnight March 14 at Esther’s Follies.

Other shows include:

  • TruTV’s ‘Talk Show the Game Show” a mash-up of both formats with creator Guy Branum and judges Casey Schreiner and Wanda Sykes.
  • The Laugh Button Live! featuring some of New York City’s sharpest comics.
  • The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre will host events all week, including their flagship improvised show “ASSSSCAT,” as well as “420 with Matt Besser,” which is a whole mess of stoner jokes
  • “Lorne Michaels’ Above Average,” whose showcases have attracted SNL alumni and UCB regulars in years past.
  • “Good Trip with Shane Mauss,” which explores the comedian’s lifelong relationship with psychedelics. Expect stand-up, a one-man show and, hey, maybe some useful information.
  • Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane will host “Would You Bang Him?,” a comedy (one hopes) game show that, with the help of female judges, aims to answer the titular question for a batch of competing male comedians.
  • Dave Hill delivers “Witch Taint,” a “comedic live reading and concert” about the comic’s attempt to pose as a Black Metal guitarist online and try to get signed by a label.
  • Podcast recordings include”Comedy Bang! Bang! and “improv4humans,”  as well as live episodes of “Harmontown,” “My Wife Hates Me” and “Doug Loves Movies.”

The SXSW Comedy Festival is open to all SXSW badges as well as music festival and film festival wristband holders, and there’s plenty of crossover between the film and comedy fests.

The movie “The Big Sick” is a collaboration between producer Judd Apatow and writer Kumail Nanjiani, who first met on a podcast recording at SXSW in 2012.

Night Train host Wyatt Cenac stars in “Fits and Starts,” the story of a writer who can’t seem to escape his wife’s literary success. Austin’s own SNL alumna Noel Wells directed “Mr. Roosevelt” to the fest, in which she stars alongside comedian Nick Thune and “Doug Loves Movies” host Doug Benson.

If you need even more comedy, know that the cast of “Veep” will be in attendance, Gillian Jacobs and Phoebe Robinson will host a panel on the body positivity movement in comedy and actor/comedian Bob Odenkirk will hold “A Conversation with Bob Odenkirk.”


Jim Gaffigan coming to ACL Live April 22

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Comedian, performer Jim Gaffigan performs on stage as The New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation present the 10th Annual Stand Up for Heroes event at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Bob Woodruff Foundation)
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 01: Comedian, performer Jim Gaffigan performs on stage as The New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation present the 10th Annual Stand Up for Heroes event at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Bob Woodruff Foundation)

Moontower Comedy is bringing extremely pale, somewhat large funnyman Jim Gaffigan to ACL Live at the Moody Theater on April 22 as part of his “Noble Ape” tour.

The show takes place on the last night of the Moontower Comedy Festival, which runs from April 19 to 22.

Single tickets  go on sale at 10 a.m. CST on Feb. 24.

RELATED: Moontower Comedy fest adds Jay Pharoah, Chris Hardwick and more

LINEUP: Patton Oswalt and Ali Wong among headliners for Moontower Comedy fest



‘I don’t feel at home in this world anymore’ on Netflix Feb. 24 and other cultural happenings

“I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.” Austin filmmaking 16807109_10202566880731066_1936925860904908797_nreasserted itself in dramatic fashion at Sundance when River City actor/writer/director Macon Blair’s “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore” took the festival’s Grand Jury Prize for U.S. feature. It is Blair’s directorial début.

Blair, a native of Northern Virginia, directed Austinite Elijah Wood, Melanie Lynskey (“Togetherness”) and former Austin resident/Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow (whose acting career seems to be growing by the second) in the thriller about a burglarized woman who tries to track down the thieves and finds herself over her head. Blair shot the film last year in Portland, Ore. (Feb. 24)

RELATED: The oral history of Scratch Acid, Yow’s old Austin band

Dirty Projectors, “Dirty Projectors” (Domino). First music since 2012 for this act, which is probably just pretty much guitarist/songwriter David Longstreth at this point. Word has it it’s a breakup album about former bandmate Amber Coffman (who has her own solo record coming out later this year). Solange, Tyondai Braxton, Mauro Refosco and Dawn Richard all guest star. (Feb. 24)

 The Feelies, “In Between” (Bar/None). Man, all the old folks are putting out records. This is the second album this decade and sixth LP overall for these indie rock godfathers, who celebrated their 40th year of existence in 2016. (Feb. 24)

 Old 97’s, “Graveyard Whistling” (ATO). New music from Ryan Adams and these Americana lifers in the same month? Somewhere, Statesman music critic (and former “No Depression” co-editor) Peter Blackstock is firing up the turntable. (Feb. 24)

Michener Center director James Magnuson will retire this spring


James Magnuson, the longest-serving director of any creative writing program in the country, will retire as head of the Michener Center for Writers at UT this May, the university has announced.

The Michener Center home to a three-year, multidisciplinary Master of Fine Arts program created in 1993. It has become one of the country’s most prestigious and well-regarded.

The program originated with best-selling novelist James Michener’s gift of $20 million to create an interdisciplinary program in fiction, screenwriting, poetry, and playwriting that would, in Michener’s words, “train professional writers, not simply create more teachers of writing.”

Magnuson was already at UT’s English Department faculty when he was  tapped to be the Michener Center’s first full-time director in 1994.

Today, as many as 1,000 candidates compete for the 12 fellowships that are awarded annually. Each fellow receives an annual stipend of $27,500, in addition to tuition.

Since 1994, visiting faculty has included J. M. Coetzee, Colm Tóibín, Denis Johnson, Ben Fountain, Geoff Dyer, Margot Livesey, Zadie Smith, Richard Ford, Louise Gluck and many more.

Magnuson himself is the author of nine novels, including “Famous Writers I Have Known,” which was inspired by his friendship with Michener and his years as director of MCW.

In the 1970s and 1960s, Magnuson wrote a number of plays that were produced as part of that era’s street theatre movement and was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

More recently, Magnuson received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship for fiction and won the Jesse Jones Award from the Texas Institute of Letters.

During Magnuson’s tenure, Michener Center graduates have published more than 115 titles, many of which have been nominated for national and international prizes.

The books include:

  • Philipp Meyer’s “The Son,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist which he adapted into a miniseries for AMC;
  • Poet Kevin Powers’ debut novel “The Yellow Birds” won the PEN/Hemingway Award;
  • Prize-winning Australian novelists Dominic Smith (“The Last Painting of Sarah De Vos”) and Fiona McFarlane (“The High Places” and “The Night Guest”);
  • National Book Award finalist Karan Mahajan (“The Association of Small Bombs”);
  • PEN/Faulkner winner James Hannaham (“Delicious Foods”);
  • Former Texas Monthly editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein, now the editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine and author of “Nothing Happened and Then It Did.”

Poetry alumni include National Poetry Series winners Steve Gehrke, Carrie Fountain, and Sam Sax.

Screenwriting graduates include Kieran Fitzgerald (“Snowden”), Beau Thorne (“Max Payne”), and playwright Abhijat Joshi, now one of Bollywood’s leading screenwriters.

A nationwide search for Magnuson’s replacement is currently being conducted by the Graduate School at the University of Texas. Retirement celebrations in his honor will be held on March 31 and April 1  at UT.

Dan Chaon, Patty Yumi Cottrell among those announced for New Fiction Confab

All the big names.
All the big early- and mid-career names.

Dan Chaon, Patty Yumi Cottrell, Alexandra Kleeman, John Pipkin, Deb Olin Unferth and Yoojin Grace Wuertz will be dispensing writerly wisdom as part of the  Austin Public Library Friends Foundation’s 8th annual New Fiction Confab, which takes place April 1.

Each year, the Confab invites a handful of  early- and mid-career authors to Austin to spend a day leading writing workshops, reading their work, and engaging in conversations with the Austin literary community.

Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of six works of fiction, including “Await Your Reply” and “Among the Missing,” which was a finalist for the National Book Award. His latest novel is the thriller “Ill Will.”

Patty Yumi Cottrell’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Guernica, BOMB, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. Her debut novel is “Sorry to Disrupt the Peace.”

Alexandra Kleeman’s début novel, “You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine,” was published in 2015 and her debut story collection, “Intimations,” came out last year.

Austin author John Pipkin’s first novel, “Woodsburner,” earned multiple awards and was named one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The San Francisco Chronicle. His latest novel is “The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter,” which he discussed with the Statesman last year. 

Austin author and teacher Deb Olin Unferth is the author of “Minor Robberies, Vacation, and Revolution:The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War,” which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in autobiography. Her first short story collection, “Wait Till You See Me Dance,” is out in March.

Yoojin Grace Wuertz was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States at age six. Her debut novel,” Everything Belongs to Us,” is out in late February.

Here is the schedule:

Readings and Conversations (Faulk Library)     2:00-5:00

  • Yoojin Grace Wuertz and John Pipkin (2:00-2:45)

Moderator: Michael Noll, editor of “Read to Write Stories” and program director for the Writers’ League of Texas

  • Alexandra Kleeman and Deb Olin Unferth (3:00-3:45)

Moderator: Brittani Sonnenberg, author of Home Leave

  • Dan Chaon and Patty Yumi Cottrell (4:00-4:45)

Moderator: Scott Blackwood, author of See How Small, We Agreed to Meet Just Here, and In the Shadow of Our House

Book sales and signing to follow.

Austin Lit Fair (Faulk Library)     2:00-5:00 

The New Fiction Confab showcases local publishers and literary organizations shaping Austin’s dynamic community of readers and writers. Discover their work and meet the editors and publishers enriching Austin. Featuring: American Short Fiction, The Austin Review, Bat City Review, Books Are Not a Luxury, fields magazine, Old Books for New Teachers, The Writing Barn.

Badgerdog Writing Workshops     10:15-11:15

  • Workshop for Kids (Grades 3-5)

With Yoojin Grace Wuertz at Twin Oaks Branch Library

  • Workshop for Teens (Grades 6-12)

With Alexandra Kleeman at Yarborough Branch Library

  • Workshop for Adults

With Patty Yumi Cottrell at North Village Branch Library

  • Workshop for Adults

With Dan Chaon at Manchaca Branch Library

Register for writing workshops online at










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