Photo by Brianna Caleri

Picture it: you’re in your garden, and your knees are in the dirt. You feel a gentle breeze across your back. You feel a gentle breeze everywhere, actually, because this is Austin, the 2021 runner-up for best best naked gardening spots, according to LawnStarter and, of course, personal experience.

You are, of course, wearing a whole lot of sunscreen, and you’re taking breaks under one of your 50 percent shade cloths. As you’re reclining in the grass, enjoying yourself but trying not to think about bugs, you receive a call from a fellow naked gardener announcing that Austin just rose to No. 1. Every plant around you seems to smile.

May 7 marks World Naked Gardening Day, and this year, Austin takes the top spot on LawnStarter’s list, based on five related rankings across 100 cities: legality of public nudity (1), legality of toplessness (1), Google searches for “World Naked Gardening Day” and “nudist” (40), prevalence of sex offenders in the local population (45), and forecasted daytime temperature on the big day (10).

The top five other Texas cities ranked as follows:

  • Dallas, No. 16
  • Houston, No. 15
  • Fort Worth, No. 37
  • El Paso, No. 43
  • Corpus Christi, No. 50

Garland, the worst-ranked city in Texas, comes in at No. 85, with Arlington, Virginia, coming in dead last.

Austin unseated Miami, Florida, a city with more nudists according to the study, with its particularly strong protections for public nudity. Austin is one of 15 cities listed on GoTopless.org as a topless “tested” city, meaning that residents can actually take advantage of topless protections without worrying about being caught in loopholes like disturbing the peace or public indecency. The city also has the only nude beach in the entire state, Hippie Hollow.

Miami fell all the way to No. 6 this year, beat out by Tampa, Florida (No. 5), Baton Rouge, Louisiana (No. 4), Atlanta, Georgia (No. 3), and Orlando, Florida, as the runner-up. Orlando has the top local interest ranking, while Austin is quite far down the list. Dallas and Houston, both in the top 20 overall, showed significantly more interest than Austin, and were both in the top 10 rankings of the category.

Austin, however, is ranked the most friendly to nude gardeners, signaling that it doesn’t really matter how much a nude gardener cares about the activity; they’re just the most free to do it. Like many fringe activities, perhaps naked gardening starts with a firm push against the mainstream and slowly settles into just another option to live authentically. Or naturally, if you will.

Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center

Texas museum's new exhibit reveals laughing matters at the White House

Liberty & Laughter

Most of the time, the White House is no joke. But an off-beat new exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center reveals the pranks, quips, and humorous happenings that have lightened the mood in the Oval Office throughout history. Liberty & Laughter: The Lighter Side of the White House opened Thursday, March 3 and runs through December 31 at the museum on the SMU campus in Dallas.

The special exhibit promises entertaining first-family anecdotes, interactive multimedia, and amusing artifacts that will unveil presidential pranks and inside jokes, “while awards to the wittiest, quippiest, most mischievous president and first lady will grace the pursuit of happiness walk,” says a press release.

“‘Liberty & Laughter’ shows the importance of humor in a democracy,” says museum director Brig. Gen. Patrick X. Mordente in the release. “We are free to express our thoughts about our leaders in many ways — sometimes as cartoon caricatures. This exhibit reminds us that our presidents are real people with a sense of humor that helped them in their important job of leading our country.”

(To be clear, the exhibit covers more than “Dubya’s” White House, although God bless ’em if the word “strategery” appears somewhere.)

Among the jocular historical documents, photographs, and artifacts on display will be:

  • First lady correspondence with actors and personalities like Mary Tyler Moore and Marge Simpson.
  • President Ronald Reagan’s joke notecards.
  • President Bill Clinton’s sunglasses from The Arsenio Hall Show, and one of his many saxophones.
  • A hand-written humorous verse President Franklin D. Roosevelt composed to the three press associations.

“Visitors will experience humor through cartoons and caricatures, learn the savvy ways presidents have added levity to debates and interactions with the press, and laugh their way through a presidential talent show,” the release says. “A lively mirth-matching quiz will adorn one gallery while another will offer the chance to copycat famous presidential impersonators.”

Throughout the exhibit, organizers say, there will be reminders from the likes of President George Washington, who once said, “It is assuredly better to go laughing than crying thro’ the rough journey of life.”

More information and tickets, which include access to the museum’s permanent exhibit, are available here.

A new exhibit explores the lighter side of the White House.

Liberty & Laughter exhibit
Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center
A new exhibit explores the lighter side of the White House.

Popular podcaster Joe Rogan tied to new downtown Austin comedy club

ritzy makeover

A new comedy club associated with local comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan is on tap for downtown Austin’s vacant Ritz Theater, formerly home to Alamo Drafthouse.

Asylum Real Estate Holdings, which bought the landmark last year from Craddock Properties, plans to convert the theater into a venue called Comedy Mothership, according to public records. Asylum is managed by Matthew Lichtenberg, who is Rogan’s talent agent.

The Ritz Theater, at 320 E. Sixth St., dates back to 1927 and started as a movie theater. In subsequent years, it hosted musical acts like Stevie Ray Vaughn and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It also did time as an adult movie theater and as a temporary home of the Esther’s Follies comedy troupe.

Tim League, co-founder of Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse, renovated the building’s façade and interior in 2007, and returned the venue to its original use as a movie theater. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Alamo Drafthouse to shut down the theater in 2021.

Under its most recent configuration, the venue contained a downstairs theater with 175 seats and an upstairs theater with 96 seats.

The Austin Towers blog, which first reported on the Rogan-linked comedy club, notes that Rogan had eyed the One World Theatre in West Austin as a comedy venue but that deal fell through.

Now, Rogan — who recently has whipped up controversy over his views on COVID-19 and his use of racial slurs — appears to be setting his sights on the Ritz property.

As part of the building’s transformation into a comedy club, the Alamo signage is supposed to be removed and replaced with Comedy Mothership signage, but the Ritz signage is set to remain.

So far, there’s no indication about when work on Comedy Mothership will begin and when the comedy club will open.

Last July, an entity related to Asylum Real Estate Holdings filed a federal trademark application for “Comedy Mothership” that would cover, among other things, comedy shows, apparel, audio and video recordings, documentaries, and other products and services bearing the brand name.

Rogan moved to Austin in 2020 from Southern California after landing a $100 million podcasting deal with Spotify. He and his wife, Jessica, live in a tricked-out $14.4 million mansion along Lake Austin.

Colossal Austin comedy festival unveils star lineup for bigger-than-ever event

Just for laughs

If it’s been awhile since you LOL’d, the rib-tickling return of Austin’s favorite laugh fest may be just the dose of comedic medicine you need.

The first round of comedy talent has just been released for the inaugural Moontower Just for Laughs Austin, which will turn downtown into a veritable funny farm April 13-24.

Previously known as the Moontower Comedy Festival, the now 11-year-old local laugh fest partnered with Montreal-based powerhouse Just for Laughs Group in September to launch the all-new and hilariously improved Moontower Just for Laughs Austin, growing the original four-day event into a “colossal comedy experience” over nearly two weeks that will feature a curated assemblage of giggle-inducing stand-up performances, parties, live podcasts, and broadcasts across at least 10 venues.

“Partnering with comedy titan Just for Laughs has opened doors to new and exciting opportunities,” says Lietza Brass, Moontower Just for Laughs Austin festival director. “Knowing where we are and what we have planned for future announcements leads me to believe that the 2022 Moontower JFL festival will be a cavalcade of comedy for fans and industry.”

Festival badges ($125-$1,250) are on sale now at moontowercomedyfest.com, as well as through the Paramount Theatre box office or by calling 512-474-1221.

While more performers will be announced as the festival nears and the lineup is subject to change (we are still living in a pandemic, y’all), the initial talent pool of entertainers is, as one commenter on the Moontower website puts it, “an embarrassment of comedy riches.”

Headliners set to perform at the Paramount and Stateside theaters include:

  • Marc Maron, a fest favorite who boasts four hit specials, is known for his wealth of acting performances (including his role as the cantankerously lovable Sam on GLOW), and is the host of his landmark podcast, WTF with Marc Maron.
  • Dan Soder of Showtime series Billions and co-host of SiriusXM’s The Bonfire, who will make his Paramount debut.
  • Emmy-nominated Nicole Byer, host of Netflix show Nailed It! and Why Won’t You Date Me?, her comedy and relationship podcast, which will be staged live during the festival.
  • Deon Cole of ABC show black-ish and its spinoff, Grown-ish, as well as the new feature film The Harder They Fall.
  • Michelle Buteau, host of the newest season of the popular Netflix series The Circle and star of BET’s The First Wives Club, who will hit the Paramount stage for the first time.
  • Nikki Glaser, who’s been seen on Netflix, Comedy Central Roasts, and hosts The Nikki Glaser Podcast.
  • Mark Normand, a New York comedian featured in Netflix’s The Standups and co-host of the Tuesdays with Stories podcast.
  • Not Another Dungeons and Dragons Podcast, hosted by dungeon master Brian Murphy, Emily Axford, Jake Hurwitz, and Caldwell Tanner.
  • Christina P, who has had her stand-up featured on Netflix and co-hosts the hit podcast Your Mom’s House.
  • Saturday Night Live favorites Chris Redd, James Austin Johnson, and sketch group Please Don’t Destroy, featuring members Ben Marshall, Martin Herlihy, and John Higgins.
  • Donnell Rawlings, best known from Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show and Netflix’s The Degenerates.
  • Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher, who will co-headline two shows at the Stateside, in addition to hosting their live podcast, Endless Honeymoon.
  • Sasheer Zamata from ABC’s Home Economics and Hulu’s Woke.
  • Rachel Feinstein and Jessica Kirson, two formidable national headliners who will team up in a rare comedy tour de force.

In addition to these Paramount and Stateside headliners, Moontower Just for Laughs Austin features a sidesplitting array of national acts performing at more intimate local venues, where festivalgoers can get up close and personal with the funny.

And this year’s fest will also feature a first-ever audition showcase of Just for Laughs’ signature New Faces series, which will give Austin comedy lovers the first chance to check out the rising stars vying for a spot to perform in the iconic New Faces showcase, which takes place every July at the Just for Laughs Montreal festival.

“We’re excited to share that Moontower Just for Laughs Austin will be growing this year,” says Bruce Hills, president of Just for Laughs. “Our programming team has been working tirelessly to curate an outstanding lineup of performers, and the names we’ve revealed today is just the beginning. We are so excited for what’s to come, and are looking forward to reuniting with all of our industry friends and comedy fans this April.”

Check out the Moontower website for the long and impressive list of fest performers, live podcasts and broadcast series, and up-to-date info.

Courtesy of Whataburger

Whataburger ‘sleighs’ the season with new ugly sweater and more holiday gear

Winter Whataburger Land

The holiday season is upon us. And you know what that means in the Lone Star State: decking the halls, visits with Santa, dashing through no snow, and — oh, yeah — the annual release of some of the cheesiest Christmas garb in all of Texas.

That’s right, it’s time to “sleigh” the season by beefing up your wardrobe with some Whataburger finery. The Texas-based burger chain has plenty of new and classic holiday offerings Whataburger fans will relish this year and for Yuletides to come.

If it’s an ugly holiday sweater you’re craving, the fast-food company’s new design — featuring a snowy Christmas Eve scene at Whataburger, complete with Santa and his reindeer — is sure to jingle your bells. Make it a combo by adding the matching beanie and new holiday socks to stay cozy during the most wonderful time of the year.

Also new this season: pajama sets in sizes for the whole family and bedecked with a diamond flying W design. After all, as Whataburger notes, “the jolly man on Christmas night loves families in orange and white.”

And the 2021 collectible ornament, a signature orange vintage pickup truck hauling — what else? — Whataburger fries will help make the season bright and perhaps a little salty.

The company will also gift fans with additional product drops throughout the season, including more pajama sets and beanies, though the online Whatastore, where all seasonal items can be purchased, already boasts an abundance of holiday wares, from the clever “All I want for Christmas is Whataburger” T-shirt and the classic Whataburger A-frame snow globe to 7-foot inflatable Santa and snowman yard decorations, and even Christmas-themed Whataburger table tents.

Of course, Whataburger-branded apparel and gifts are nothing new for the brand, which has long offered a meaty line for the fashion-forward fan, including a flurry of strangely appealing holiday wear.

Visit the Whatastore to get more info and to check out the full line of holiday offerings.

The new holiday sweater will have you dreaming of a Whataburger Christmas.

holiday sweater
Courtesy of Whataburger
The new holiday sweater will have you dreaming of a Whataburger Christmas.

The Masked Singer reveals Austin date as part of epic national tour

Costume drama

The Live Music Capital of the World will soon play host to a touring version of America’s favorite song-and-dance reality show.

The Masked Singer, the Fox series guessing-game competition that features costumed celebrities belting out their best (and sometimes worst) renditions of popular songs, will take to the Bass Concert Hall stage in Austin on July 13, 2022 as part of a national tour.

Tickets for the Austin show go on sale to the public Wednesday, November 3 at 7 pm at texasperformingarts.org. VIP packages are available now through VIPNation.com and include meet-and-greet opportunities with the cast, exclusive merch, and photo opportunities.

Fans of the TV show can expect much of the same zaniness during the live performance, which will include some recognizable characters from the TV series brought to life onstage alongside “surprise celebrity guests,” according to a release.

Celebrity guest hosts from the TV show, who will be announced closer to performance dates, will join one “local celebrity” at every show, with that VIP performing in a top-secret disguise. (And considering Austin has no shortage of talented professional singers, we’re expecting a spectacular showing!)

The Austin audience will then try to decipher clues to guess the local celebrity’s identity until the he or she is unmasked at the end of the night’s festivities, with producers promising “an incredible production of song, dance, and craziness that only The Masked Singer could deliver.”

The tour is presented by Right Angle Entertainment — which has made a killing touring with live versions of popular TV series, including Price is Right Live — and producers Guy Phillips and Mark Swanhart, the minds behind Dancing with the Stars: Live!, The Bachelor Live on Stage, and the Simone Biles-led Gold Over America Tour, which canceled its Austin engagement this fall.

With the following The Masked Singer showhas amassed (it’s currently the No. 1 primetime series, averaging 7.9 million viewers across multiple platforms), it was likely only a matter of time before these producers took the show on the road.

The Masked Singer national tour kicks off in St. Louis on May 28, 2022. In addition to the Austin engagement on July 13, the tour will also make Texas stops in San Antonio on July 12, Sugar Land on July 14, and Grand Prairie on July 15.

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Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this holiday weekend

Weekend Event Guide

Holiday weekends call for packed schedules and these selected happenings are certain to keep you busy. Foodie festivals, outdoor films, and a plethora of live music performances are just a few ways to stay entertained in the days ahead. Check out the top seven things to do in Austin this weekend. For a full list of events, visit our calendar.

Thursday, May 25

Aaron Franklin's Hot Luck Fest
Big flavors and big cooking stars collide at the return of Hot Luck Fest. The three-day event at various venues including Franklin Barbecue and Fair Market will showcase the best in barbecue and live music. The chef lineup includes Chris Bianco, Crystal Wahpepah, Mashama Bailey, Ashley Christensen, Fermín Núñez, and many more. Live shows are scheduled nightly, immediately following the foodie fun. Visit hotluckfest.com for a full schedule of events and to buy tickets.

Texas Author Series with Cari Clark: Interview with Mark Pryor
Well-known mystery novelist Mark Pryor comes to Chez Zee American Bistro for an evening of dialogue as part of the Texas Author Series programming. The England-based author is best known for his successful Hugo Marston mystery series. Stick around after the conversation to enjoy an intimate Q&A. Get tickets on Eventbrite.

Austin Parks Foundation presents Movies in the Park: Free Guy
Settle in under the stars and in the glow of the silver screen at Gustavo "Gus" L. Garcia District Park. Guests of all ages are invited to a free screening of the 2021 film starring Ryan Reynolds, Free Guy, at this Austin Parks Foundation-hosted film series. Dogs, picnics, and lawn chairs are welcome. Admission is free.

Friday, May 26

Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church presents Austin Greek Festival
Experience and celebrate Greek culture and hospitality at this family-friendly festival. Highlights of the three-day event include Greek cuisine offerings, dance performances, souvenir markets, tours of the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, and live music by a band hailing from Greece. Go to austingreekfestival.com

Canopy Projects presents "Here Now" opening reception
Be among the first guests to experience the work of more than 50 artists from the East Austin community at Canopy Austin. The “Here Now” pop-up exhibition includes a range of mediums including photography, sculpture, paint, mixed media, and more. Following the opening reception, this exhibition will be on display through June 15. Admission is free and open to the public.

Saturday, May 27

Zilker Botanical Garden presents Woodland Faerie Trail Opening Day
Whimsical moments and folklore come together in the fields of the Zilker Botanical Garden. Guests to this summer trail kickoff will have the chance to participate in Scottish Country dancing, fairy story time, and activity tables for all ages. They can also learn botanical folklore and tour the Austinite-built faerie homes made in natural materials along the trail. Get more event details at zilkergarden.org.

14th Annual Lone Star Jam
Texas country music takes center stage for two days straight at Round Rock Amp. This year’s Lone Star Jam lineup features more than a dozen performers including Pat Green, Josh Abbott Band, Stoney LaRue, Bri Bagwell, and Parker Ryan. Check lonestarjam.net for ticket and schedule information.

Hot Luck Festival
Photo by Alison Narro
Indulge in equal parts food and music at Hot Luck Fest this weekend.

This is how big Austin apartments get for $1,500 a month


We all know what renters dream about when they’re not thinking about the logistics of owning a home: low rent prices with the perfect amount of space. In a city like Austin, that’s getting harder and harder to come by.

In fact, for renters who have a budget of $1,500 a month, the average apartment size they can get in Austin spans about 714 square feet. That’s according to a new study by apartment rental marketplace RentCafe. The study looked at data from their sister site, Yardi Matrix, to determine the average size and price per square foot for a $1,500 monthly budget in 200 of the largest American cities.

Austin is at the bottom of the list in the overall analysis of Texas cities with the smallest space for the price. In Killeen, which is only 70 miles north, renters can find apartments that span a whopping 1,095 square feet. San Antonio renters can similarly find apartments that are nearly 300 square feet larger for the same budget.

If you head to the Houston area, Pasadena residents get an average of 1,180 square feet of space for $1,500 a month, whereas renters searching for apartments in Houston proper will only get about 997 square feet.

Renters looking to live in Fort Worth or Dallas will notice a nearly 100 square foot difference between apartments, at 909 and 805 square feet, respectively. Residents can get the most bang for their buck in the suburbs with an average apartment size well into the 900-square-foot range. Mesquite residents, by far, get the most space, at 999 square feet, whereas renters in Garland and Arlington get an average of 937 and 928 square feet for the same budget.

Elsewhere in Texas, apartments in the Rio Grande Valley have the best price per square foot in the state. McAllen residents get the most space out of any other Texas city with an average apartment size of 1,471 square feet. Renters in Brownsville, which is 60 miles east on the border, can get a similarly sized apartment that’s 1,307 square feet for the same $1,500 a month budget.

Here’s how much space you can rent for $1,500 a month in other Texas cities:

  • Amarillo – 1,318 square feet
  • El Paso – 1,222 square feet
  • Lubbock – 1,218 square feet
  • Corpus Christi – 1,126 square feet
  • Grand Prairie – 873 square feet
  • Denton – 868 square feet
  • Irving – 848 square feet
  • McKinney – 809 square feet
  • Plano – 766 square feet
  • Frisco – 740 square feet

The full report can be found on rentcafe.com.

ATX TV Festival cooperates with WGA strike by hosting panel and adjusting programming

Not Written Off

Anyone on social media or the news has likely heard of the 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike. This demonstration since May 2 has had TV writers stepping away from creating content, while getting out in the streets to protest entertainment industry practices that put writers in a tough position.

Like any strike, it can be hard to understand the depth of the problem or the nuances of proposed solutions. But this is an important topic; Not only do most people benefit from the work of TV writers (who create what almost everyone uses to unwind at some point in their week), but the conversations occurring tackle subjects that apply to workers in many more industries, especially as AI content proliferates.

The ATX Television Festival (June 1-4) is making sure Austinites have local access to this discourse, using its "Season 12" programming as a platform for some of the WGA leaders to explain their goals and concerns. A panel conversation will cover what problems writers have been seeing in their daily work, what changes they want to see, and what this means for non-writers.

Perhaps most importantly, this will become a tactical conversation not just about creative rights, but what a strike can achieve, and how. (WGA Negotiating Committee member Adam Conover of Adam Ruins Everything briefly explains the logistics on YouTube, with a hopeful spin and some strong language.)

Panelists will include Zoanne Clack, Damon Lindelof, and Julie Plec of WGA West, plus Negotiating Committee member Greg Iwinski of the WGA East. Beau Willimon of WGA East will moderate the panel.

The WGA's demands, nearly unanimously agreed upon at 98.4 percent approval, are publicly listed and include increases of minimum compensation, adjustment of compensation after writing is finished (in reuse cases and excerpts, for example), and regulation of AI use for producing scripts.

“ATX TV Festival has always been a place of celebration and community," said co-presidents and founders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson in a statement. "It is where important conversations are had about the history and future of television in a safe and inclusive environment. We will maintain these tenets as we believe education and conversation between both Industry and Consumers are needed now more than ever."

"There wouldn’t be television without writers," the statement continues. "They have always been the rock stars of our festival, and though this year will look a little different, it will continue to be a place to showcase their talents and importance. The stories and characters we care so deeply about would not exist without them, and neither would this festival.”

Being careful not to figuratively cross the picket line, the festival has cleared the rest of the programming with the WGA, adding and removing coverage as necessary. It has also been sure to include content that focuses on a writer's experience outside the strike conditions, such as the panel “Why Do You Write?” The programming track "Hollywood, Health and Society" steps away from show business itself to discuss "social issues in storytelling."

Finally, the festival's sponsored pitch competition is still on the books, even though pitching shows is currently barred as part of the strike. In this case, the goal is not to sell any shows, but to receive feedback from mentors, inclduign other writers, showrunners, and producers. Hopefully, this advice can be applied in the future when participants return to business as usual — or rather, business in a whole new way.

More information, tickets, and badges are now available at atxfestival.com.

Clarification on added and canceled programming, from the announcement in its original language:

Programming Additions:

  • WGA on Strike!
  • Beyond the Page
  • Why Do You Write?
  • Queer Stories We Want To See
  • …The End Programming

Please Note: These members of the WGA support and believe in their series and teams, but stand with the WGA at this time and will not be attending.

  • Late Night with Seth Meyers
  • Andor: A Conversation with Tony Gilroy
  • Tiny Beautiful Things with Liz Tigelaar and Cheryl Strayed
  • Dawson’s Creek 25th Anniversary Screening & Conversation