I went out at my first Jam and did one scene and had one line that got a big laugh. After the round, I went to the bar to get more wine, and Jason Hackett was sitting there. He heard me tell my friend that that was the first time I had gone out at the Jam. Jason graciously said, “You did great!” I was ecstatic. It occurs to me now that Jason probably didn't even see my scene, but just wanted to be supportive. This support is what we base our Jam on, and this level of support runs through all of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). After several months of hosting, my time as a Jam host has come to an end, but I wanted to reflect on everything that I learned.
It’s supposed to be fun! That’s why this is the first rule. All of your teachers and coaches throughout your improv career will repeat some iteration of the line, “grown-up play time.” Jam is and should be peak fun. This is where you can try out your zaniest urges. If someone says, “This is my mutant dog, Archibald,” you are free to run out and play Archibald, the mutant dog. Taking risks is fun, even if you fail. If you’re standing on the sidelines at the Jam and you notice that you’re not having fun, let it go and jump in!
It can be hard! Everyone is welcome at the improv Jam. This means sometimes a Level 2 improviser is the most experienced person on stage. It also can mean a Level 1 person can be on stage with our theater director, who will make her look like a total rock star. Sometimes, thing go really wrong and you walk away feeling bad or feeling like you are a bad improviser because you couldn't save the scene. One of my improv teachers (I can’t remember, I think it was Ben) told me, “Darcy, you can’t save a scene because a scene isn't your responsibility; it’s everyone’s responsibility.” So what does that mean for the Jam? If you go out and support as much as you can, you are going to be in a much better place. If you try to make everyone else on stage with you look like rock stars, they’ll begin to feel like rock stars and the scene will reflect that. Will it always work? No. Can we always try? Yes
You’ll meet people. If you’re taking classes right now, but don’t feel like you know that many people at DCH, I suggest coming to a few Jams. You’ll do scenes with people and then remember them later when you need someone to sit with at a show. Or maybe, you've been around DCH for awhile and you are like, wow who are all these new people? They’re Jam people! People meet their best friends at the Jam. I met my boyfriend at the Jam (low-key brag). Meeting people is tough and scary, but all it takes is showing up to the Jam a couple of times to feel more familiar.
The Jam is a good place to laugh. Silly things are going to happen. Mistakes will happen. Ridiculous scenes will happen. My year hasn't been super easy. Like on the scale of my life when it comes to years, I would rank this one as REAL TOUGH, so I think it’s good to sit and acknowledge when you genuinely laugh. It’s very comforting to sit in the back of the improv Jam (or the front, sorry interns!) and share a laugh with a bunch of people who love the same thing you do.
So don’t worry, you’ll still find me at the Jam sometimes, working on my improv, trying to support, meeting the wonderful new improvisers, or just acknowledging laughs when I can. There are so many things that make our community wonderful and fun, and the improv Jam is a big part of that.
Over the years, we've had a lot of different hosts who've changed the way we Jam and left an impact whether you notice it or not. So as I sign off as a Jam host, I’d like to thank all of them and especially Jason Hensel and Patrick Hennessy for letting me Jam with them for awhile.
Darcy Armstrong is a graduate of the Dallas Comedy House Improv program and a Sketch Writing student. She writes for feminist comedy website superglooze.com, walks her dog frequently, drinks chardonnay at the DCH bar, and performs with Glistlefoot.