The Dallas Comedy Festival (DCF) is the greatest week of the year. Full stop. No other five days on the calendar combines comedy, friends, and Jell-O shots quite like DCF. One of the best parts of the festival is that there are fantastic shows happening every single night. Yes, we all know that Sasheer and 3Peat are going to kill it on Friday and Saturday, but there are also some amazing shows happening all week. Here are some that I’m especially excited about!
This is my third year working on the festival, and every year I love it more and more. There's such a fantastic energy that week. Meeting comedians from across the country (AND CANADA!), seeing unique and hilarious shows, drinking JELL-O shots until you feed them to festival volunteers out of a bowl using a huge spoon pretending they're baby birds (CC: volunteers from 2016. I'm sorry. I love you.)
This year is no different.
While I'm pumped to see all of the shows, I've got my eye on a few that I think the entire city of Dallas needs to see. Here are my nightly recs:
I almost didn’t make it to Dallas Comedy House for opening night of A Brief, Endless Love, the latest work by award-winning playwright, Matt Lyle. The Texas sky had opened, dumping several inches of summer rain across the city, but I decided to buck up and venture out anyway.
During my 15-minute commute, I saw at least four accidents, even more emergency vehicles en route to other accidents, and—inexplicably—a man standing on the side of the street dressed only in a zipped-up, hip-length raincoat and wellies while holding an umbrella. That is to say, the man was not wearing any pants. I wondered if this was an omen; thought maybe this was a sign for the oddities of things to come, concerned that this would be the highlight of the night. But, I am pleased to report that it was not. In fact, the night only got better from there—much better.
A Brief, Endless Love fires on all cylinders. Its touching real-life perspective creates poetry in comedy, and leaves you laughing until you cry.
“I grew up basically an only child. It was just me and my dad,” said writer Matt Lyle, who also wrote Hello, Human Female and The Boxer to much acclaim. “I’m married now, and I have a child, and life is full of love, but nothing can pull at me like the search for love. I’ve always looked at everything I’ve written from that very real human place.”
That essence of humanity is embodied in his ensemble cast of seasoned performers, most of whom Matt has known and worked with for years—he’s even married to one of them. Steph Garrett, Kim Lyle, Jeff Swearingen, and Jeremy Whiteker bring to life the joy found in every dark corner and depict the loneliness found in each scene with a lightness of life that makes them instantly endearing.
From the mad scientist answering an ad on Match.com to parents questioning their preteen’s professions of love by describing—in very real terms—what goes into real love to the Stanley Sisters, which features Dot (my favorite character of the bunch, artfully portrayed by Steph Garrett), I could not imagine better players in these role or better performances by these players. And that’s for good cause. While a cast typically writes its own sketch shows, Matt Lyle already had much of the material for A Brief, Endless Love and then cast and honed that material to the strengths of the performers. What results is a cohesive, hilarious ensemble that will keep you on the edge of your seat and laughing from your belly.
Fortunately for us, belly laughs will not be in short supply. Matt Lyle likes to write—a lot. Writing is his creative outlet, which juxtaposes nicely against his IT job at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. He imbues his characters with such refined and unexpected comedic relief that it inspires performers and writers alike to embrace their own humanity and push themselves farther. With luck, we’ll have many more opportunities to see his take on the human condition.
“Always start with the most recognizable, true-to-life thing and go from there,” he said.
And fortunately for us, that is something Matt Lyle is damn good at it.
A Brief, Endless Love runs at the Dallas Comedy House every Friday & Saturday night at 9 p.m. now through June 24. You should go—like me—come hell or high water.
Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa is a current student at DCH. She spends her days wrangling children, avoiding housework, and hustling for acting or writing gigs. One day she’ll make her life easier by changing her name to Shashana O’Shanahan.
(Top image: Matt Lyle. Middle image: Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa)
DCH Snapshots is a webcomic where Shawn Mayer watches improv shows and then draws what he remembers. Please click the images to enlarge them.
It’s Go Time! Dallas Comedy Festival 2017 is here. For those who have attended in the past, you know what this means: Jello shots, comedy from around the country, long-lost friends reconnect, every form of comedy known to man, and did I mention Jello shots!?!? For those who have never attended before and are thinking, “Wow, this looks incredible, where do I start?,” here are some tips to get you ready for #2017DCF
Make a plan. Improv comedy is always made up on the spot. At least that is what they tell me at the beginning of each show. But you will need a plan for what shows you are going to see this week. Grab a schedule and map out your week. Nerds rule at this type of festival. If you bring a highlighter and a loose leaf notebook, you will receive head nods and looks of admiration from fellow festival goers.
Always go support out-of-town performers. They drove to Dallas, or took a bus, or maybe a boat to get to the festival to show you their funny. Let them know we appreciate their effort and show them that Texans are known for three things – Hospitality, BBQ, and big cowboy hats. (Note to self: Open up a Texas BBQ place that strives to have the best hospitality and serves all of its food in plates shaped like cowboy hats. Big cowboy hats. If anyone steals that idea, please credit the Ghost Watcher.)
Add some variety to your night. One of the great things about the DCF is that it will showcase improv, stand-up, song, Shakespeare, and sketch comedy. To make any night complete, make sure and check out one of each. It is like eating the perfect meal with apps, main course, and desserts, but in a mix-and-match order. You will not be disappointed.
Three stages! You may be saying to yourself “What!?!? Three Stages?!?! How in the hell does that work? I thought there were only two stages.” The amazing crew at the Dallas Comedy House has built a new stage in the Training Center just to the west of the main entrance. It is not a secret entrance that requires a handshake with a wink-wink, tip the doorman type of Dallas thing. It is a regular, welcome to the funny, entrance. Did I mention it has a bar? Well, it does. I have heard from good authority that it will be serving the coldest beer in the history of the training center bar.
This is a special week, always one of my favorites. A week to just let loose and have fun. Enjoy the 2017 Dallas Comedy Festival and make sure you buy Jello shots for everyone. Even me.
Ghost Watcher is a regular, DCH audience member.
(Photo: Jason Hensel)
Matt Stofsky is a Brooklyn-based writer and comedian as well as a Tufts graduate. Triple threat alert! Matt’s writing and sketch work have been featured on McSweeney's, College Humor, and MTVU. Some of Matt’s pieces include a look into what it’s like for a music critic to review his ex-wife’s new solo album and a reveal of the annoying questions Noah had to deal with before his Ark set sail.
How did you get your start in comedy?
I got my start in "comedy" giving my high school's graduation speech. I got some laughs and thought, like the delusional fool I am, "Hey, maybe I can make a career of this."
What qualities do other comedians have that you admire?
Qualities other comics have that I admire: Ability to adapt to a tough situation (e.g., a bad table/heckler) and also the ability to change your material on the fly.
How do you come up with new material?
To generate new material, sometimes I'll sit down with a pad and say, OK, today I am WRITING COMEDY, but mostly I just try to live with my eyes open and my brain on and process what's funny around me and to me.
What is your favorite event in history and why?
Favorite historical event: Big fan of the Battle of Hastings. 1066 seems like an interesting year.
Cake or pie?
Both if possible, but gun to my head, cake.
Are you looking forward to doing anything specific while you're in Dallas?
Big thing to do in Dallas: BBQ.
Matt asks himself an introspective question about life:
Why do I do this? Am I damaged? I don't THINK I'm damaged. I genuinely love making people laugh. There's no better feeling than helping someone get over a hard day by making them laugh. Also, I'm an only child.
Matt performs at the 2017 Dallas Comedy Festival on Wednesday, March 22, with Lily Callaway, Son Tran, Ashlee Voorsanger, and Cat Wagner; and Thursday, March 23, with Shahyan Jahani, Brandan Jordan, and Cat Wagner.
Anthony Salerno is from Buffalo, New York. He is a current DCH student and performs with Ewing Troupe: Clementine. When he’s not working at Improv or his day job, he's trying to talk himself out of buying Uncrustables at the grocery store.