Judy Maggio is a respected, veteran journalist who spent 3 decades as a lead news anchor in Austin. She currently hosts the Engage Breakfast Series and operates her own communications consulting firm. A longtime fan of Esther’s, we sat down over coffee to talk details about Austin, why she loves Esther’s Follies, and her insider haunts around town. These are excerpts from our lively conversation:
Laura: Judy, have you lived in Austin all your life?
Judy: I moved here in 1978 to go to the University of Texas.
Laura: Wow, so you’ve seen a lot of changes in Austin!
Judy: Yes, I’ve seen tremendous changes, but not Esther’s! It’s one of those mainstays, kind of like ACL, and South by Southwest. I love those mainstays.
Laura: Do you have insider places that you feel are authentic Austin establishments?
Judy: I still consider Esther’s an authentic “Austin place”. A few of my other haunts are The Saxon Pub, I love to go hear music there, and The Continental Club, and the Cactus Cafe on the UT campus. I do like the fact that you can see amazing musicians in a very small venue. I hope not too many people discover those places, but I know they have! (we laugh)
Laura: Do you remember when you first saw Esther’s?
Judy: It had to have been probably 1989 or 90. I had started doing news here in 1981. I worked such crazy shifts and so I didn’t really have a life until about 1990. I loved the show. When you cover this stuff every single day that’s being parodied on stage, I think it’s even funnier. It puts it in a different light and makes it a little bit more okay.
Laura: Esther’s has been around for 40 years now. What do you think is the secret to their success and longevity?
Judy: In a way, it’s unique. Yes, there’s Saturday Night Live, and other vaudevillian-type shows that come and go, but Esther’s just found that niche that I think no one can really replicate. They have it down to an art form. It’s just damn funny. People want to laugh; they want to be entertained. They have a great location, they have incredible talent in the cast, so all those things add up to the fact that I hope it’s here for another 40 years.
Laura: Me too!
Judy: Now let me tell you about being at Esther’s! When I left TV, I said, ‘I want to go do my dream jobs’, we called it “Judy’s Jobs.” I said, ‘I want to be a cast member at Esther’s Follies for a night.’ And I thought I’d deliver a line, but oh no, I was an Esther’s cast member for the night. I was in 4 skits, I had lines, Ray sawed me in half, it was hilarious! I had 3 or 4 costume changes, I got to see all the backstage. That’s one of the reasons Esther’s is in my heart, I saw how hard they work, they are so talented. When I saw how quickly they have to do everything…they make it seem so effortless and it’s not. So now when I go, I feel like an insider, like an honorary cast member. I feel like I need to help pick up the trash!
About the Author:
Laura Mathis is a past Esther’s Follies performer who graced the stage from 2003- 2006 with her Canadian charms and willingness to wear any type of costume to get a laugh. Follow Laura on Twitter @thelauramathis