Each month, Dallas Comedy House highlights an individual nominated by their peers as Performer Of The Month. To cast your vote for a performer, simply fill out this form.
The recipient this month is Ryan Vicksell, a hilarious sketch and improv performer who puts his all into every project he works on. Whether it’s an improv team like Encyclopedia Moronica or a sketch group like Walker Talker, Ryan gives each show everything he’s got. Off the stage, Ryan is an approachable guy who is always game to talk about comedy, history, or the obscure song he sang at karaoke.
Here are a few words from the individual that nominated Ryan for Performer Of The Month:
“Ryan Vicksell is always very caring and a pleasant face around the theatre. He always puts others first and think this month we should put him first.”
I asked Ryan a few questions to better get to know this delightful person.
As many people know, you’re a big fan of history. If you could be on an improv troupe with any historical figure(s), who would you choose?
Ryan: Winston Churchill; unlike most major historical figures he had a sense of brutal honesty and occasional self-deprecation that wasn’t a fake persona. His razor-sharp wit is legendary, as is his French accent that was so bad it required his French to be translated into French.
What was your first exposure to Dallas Comedy House?
Ryan: I googled “Improv Classes in Dallas”; I didn’t know what to expect from the dingy theater with cardboard ceilings when I came in for my first level 1 class, but after that and watching a show by Age Appropriate that is still blowing my mind, I knew it was a special place.
Who were some of the performers that helped you out early on?
Ryan: Sarah Wyatt was instrumental in encouraging me and keeping me going despite my constant self-doubt. In addition, Ben Pfeiffer, Christie Wallace and Tommy Lee-Brown were amazing during my early days!
How have these performers influenced you (both onstage and off).
Ryan: I’ve struggled with depression and self-esteem issues my whole life, and they were encouraging yet honest. I tended to think that any positive remarks were just sugar-coated niceties, but they had a great combination of genuine criticism AND praise that gave me the encouragement to continue whenever I doubted myself.
You have years of experience with both sketch and improv. Can you describe what you enjoy about each of those mediums?
Ryan: I love how improv lets you build a world with other people and share in the magic of discovery in ways that are often much stranger than other forms of comedy. It’s weird, its whacky, and for the time I’m on stage I can stop overthinking and just be me – I often feel more free on stage than in my life! What really appeals to me about sketch is that I can focus on acting, and how the tiniest facial expression can take something ordinary and make it extraordinary. If I can stop worrying about if what I’m saying Is funny in the back of my mind, I can fully focus on being the character.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about performance?
Ryan: Just have fun with your friends, and forget the audience. If you’re making each other laugh and having fun, the audience most likely will too. My best shows occur when I care about the audience the least.
As a school teacher, you’ve probably received many apples over the years. What do you think the cliché gift should be for an improv teacher?
Ryan: In fact, I’ve never received a single apple. For improv teachers, the answer is clear: Pineapple!
David Allison is writer and performer at the Dallas Comedy House, who can currently be seen with Ballast Point, David & Terry, Gerald and The Rift.