Every business has a story. This is ours.
In January 2009, the first six students of DCH began their journey in the back room of Ozona's Restaurant. For the first few months, there was one improv class a month and one show per month. The curriculum focused primarily on short form improv, with a teaser of an introduction to long form improv at the end of the program. There was, of course, a weekly improv jam on Wednesday nights. On a few occasions, upwards of 20 people would show up to jam together over cheap beers.
As the student population began to grow to 45 students, DCH owners, Amanda and Clay, began to look for a more permanent home for Dallas Comedy House. They found a small little spot in Deep Ellum at 2645 Commerce Street. It was dark, it was gloomy, it was the perfect setting for a blackbox theater. They opened the doors of the first brick-and-mortar Dallas Comedy House in January 2010, with Man Dip being the star of the menu. The original schedule included one show on Friday nights and two on Saturday nights. After performing for tens of people, they added a second show on Friday nights. The first Dallas Comedy Festival was held in the new theater with headliners Joe Bill and Jill Bernard. By summer 2010, they opened their doors for an additional three nights. Tuesday nights were slated for the open mic night. Wednesday was the improv jam. And Thursdays were the popular "Free Popcorn and Comedy Night." The summer hit sitcom "Buddies!" was the first sold-out show at Dallas Comedy House during the summer of 2010. Friday nights at DCH were hot, and PBR was really coming into its own in Dallas. It was a match made in improv heaven.
In late 2010, Amanda and Clay expanded their lease to include 2647 Commerce Street. Construction began on the two classrooms that would serve as the training center for all improv classes. New rooms were being built while the menu was modified. Man Dip and Pita Tacos were replaced with Chex Mix and Sour Patch Kids. Having a theater space and more than a year of experience under our belt, DCH built a corporate team and booked some initial work, which has continued to grow throughout the years.
2011 brought Tim Meadows, a bona fide celebrity, to the 2nd Annual Dallas Comedy Festival. Prior to the festival, the original stage was changed from a pie shape to a flat back after several people fell into the corner of the stage. With no room left to fall, the green room was re-sized and a much-needed pass through to the training center was installed. In October, Amanda bought out her business partner and once again became Dallas Comedy House's sole owner.
2012 was a big year for food, the flu, and JELL-O. JELL-O shots hit the bar menu during the Dallas Comedy Festival and have become a fan favorite of the annual comedy celebration. Unrelated, the festival was riddled with bad luck. Several important performers and employees got the flu, resulting in last-minute programming changes and staff adjustments. The soda gun system malfunctioned in the middle of Friday night shows, resulting in all of the concentrated syrups to slowly leak into the theater. While trying frantically to clean up the sugary-syrup mess before the show was over, the men’s restroom toilet began leaking, flooding the bar from the other side. Surrounded by what is quite possibly the most disgusting combination of liquids during the busiest week of the year, we did what we do best and improvised our way through it. Nothing a “Caution: Wet Floor Sign” and several mops and rags couldn’t fix. Later that spring, hot dogs are served in the theater and patio.
In 2013, The 313, starring Keegan-Michael Key, Jaime Moyer, and Maribeth Monroe, performed at the 4th Annual Dallas Comedy Festival. Their high energy show and friendly demeanor to all of the DCH staff, performers, and students made it a week to remember. Jaime Moyer and Maribeth Monroe have continued their friendship with DCH and even came to Opening Weekend at our Main Street location. In September, we signed the lease on a training center space in Denton, where we would begin teaching classes at a second location. October brought the debut of The Improvised Horror Movie. A fun, new format, sold-out shows, and a haunted house, to boot. It was a memorable fall at DCH.
Dallas Comedy House celebrated 5 years in 2014. Troupes from past and present came back to perform in a celebration full of shows, beers, and the traditional birthaversary cupcakes. The fall launched two additions to our programming with the Family Friendly Show and the revitalization of the our sketch comedy writing program. The first graduating class of the sketch comedy program performed their revue, Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations!, for a four-week show run. This kicked off the steady growth of our sketch comedy writing program and what has now become a staple in our training center and theater programming. Amanda knew her lease was coming to an end, and a renewal didn't make sense for the growth the theater was experiencing. She spent all of 2014 looking for the perfect location for the next phase of Dallas Comedy House. She opted not to renew the lease for the Denton training center in order to focus on the growth and relocation of the Dallas scene.
In 2015, we hosted the 6th Annual Dallas Comedy Festival that culminated in our last night of shows at the Commerce Street location. Students and performers partied until the wee hours of the morning as the festival came to a close. Only a few hours later, they were back at DCH to pack and move the entire facility in one day. With the move to 3025 Main Street, we gained a second theater, twice as many classrooms, and so many bathroom stalls! Our sketch program continued to grow, and spurred the creation of the first extended run sketch revue: Law and Order: The SVUsical. We introduced the stand up comedy writing program. Food made its return to the menu, including fan favorite TLB Man Dip. And everyone finally settled into the new digs.
We made a big change to our training center enrollment policy in 2016. Rather than classes beginning every other month, we opened up a staggered registration program, allowing students to enroll every month for classes. We broke student enrollment records, and our first paid sketch revue made its debut in February 2016. The 7th Annual Dallas Comedy Festival was the first in our new space. The added performance spaces and classrooms for workshops helped support the continued growth of the festival. In the fall, Amanda extended the lease of the training center to include all 5,000 square feet. Construction began soon after on the remaining portion of the facility. Two additional classrooms, a writers' room, a open rehearsal space with practice stage, and an office were added to the facility.
2017 started strong for DCH. We added a third stage for the 8th Annual Dallas Comedy Festival and garnered local and national attention from press and sponsors. We've continued to grow our corporate program, and our summer improv camp for kids will now include a third session this year. And, after two whole years, we finally have an outdoor sign.
The best is yet to come.