Sep 6, 2022 - News

SNL alum partners with Austin public affairs firm

Alex Moffat and Frank Ward

Alex Moffat, left, and Frank Ward. Photo courtesy Frank Ward

A comedian departing Saturday Night Live is partnering with an Austin public affairs pro as he eyes philanthropic ventures alongside his comic and theatrical work.

Why it matters: In a town flush with strategy shops, Frank Ward, who recently stepped down as the communications chief at the Texas Education Agency, is trying to distinguish his new public affairs office with an entertainment and sports push.

  • Today Poplar Group, which has its roots in Nashville, launches its Texas arm, with Ward at the helm.
  • Alex Moffat, a regular on SNL for six years and a friend of Ward's from their days together at Denison University, is among the Austin office's first clients.
  • Besides Moffat, who lives in New York City, Ward reps Dan Smith, who owns Scholz Garten, and the ATX Open, a professional women's tennis tournament whose tickets go on sale today.
  • Building off his education know-how, he's also working with a Florida firm that does tele-mental-health and is pushing the legislature to pony up cash for school districts to buy their services. (Ward won't directly lobby policy-makers.)

Of note: Ward, who ran, unsuccessfully, in 2018 for Austin City Council, serves as a board member of Austin PBS.

What they're saying: "We will of course have a traditional focus on the policy matters people are paying attention to," Ward told Axios, ticking off energy, education and health care.

  • "But the world has changed so that now there's tremendous opportunity for collaboration and to bring unique venues and people and interests and cultures and fun together — and actually benefit society."
  • As an example, he suggested a collaboration between the Austin Symphony Orchestra and Scholz Garten — the two institutions have ties back to the symphony's early days.

As for Moffat, Ward said he's "the first person of consequence we're representing where he's got a voice and a platform and there are a lot of causes he cares deeply about — and I'll be the one working closely with him to build partnerships and help him do good through those means."

  • "I had my reservations at first," Moffat told Axios. "I told him I really don’t want to have any affairs, public OR private. He assured me he doesn’t deal in those types of affairs. I said, 'Good. Because I love my wife. And I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.'"
  • Ward is "thoughtful, genuine, and sees the best in people," he continued. "More importantly, though, he’s well-connected, handsome, and destined to be even more famous than me (I guess we’ll see if that’s possible)."

The bottom line: Last we checked, Austin is pretty far from LA or NYC, but a little Hollywood pizzazz could go far in this town.


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