They’re speeding into town like a freight train. Their cargo: comedy. Their name: Bad Boys. Their point of origin: Austin, TX. Their members: Adam Trabka, Brett Tribe, Byron Brown, Ed Reed, and Sam Malcom. Known for being highly entertaining and highly physical, Bad Boys performs tonight at 10:30 at the Dallas Comedy Festival. Last week, Adam Trabka took the time to speak with us about trust, Manpiles, and the dangers of audience expectations. How did you guys all get together? Danny, Brett, Byron and I were in classes at ColdTowne Theater together back in 2010, and we decided to enter Austin's Cagematch tournament together that summer, and we ended up winning.After that we decided to stick together and keep playing together around Austin, getting more and more shows, before eventually getting an offer to have an open-ended headlining slot on Friday nights starting in September of 2012, which we still run. So for the most part we've all been playing together since we started doing improv which has really helped us develop as an ensemble, and be able to stay consistently on board with being completely willing to support whatever one of us might throw out during a show, regardless of how left field it might be.
Has that level of trust and comfort allowed you guys to try things and take chances that you never would with anyone else? Absolutely. ColdTowne hosts a show every year called "The Lock-In" where the community just does the dumbest show formats we can come up with and basically performs them for each other, and a couple years ago we did a show called Manpile where we tangled ourselves up into a mass of bodies and improvised a show all tangled up and rolling around on stage together that I don't know I would've done with anyone else. We ended up pretty bruised afterwards, so we haven't had a reprise performance. But even in regular shows, we're generally very good at picking up on what each other is thinking and trusting that that even if we've got a weird idea on where the show could go next structurally, that it'll get picked up.
So the "highly-physical" description is not hyperbole? It was much more common for us to physically heighten something to that degree when we weren't doing a show every week, but we still have those moments every now and then. But it just wouldn't be sustainable to keep it at that level for a weekly show.
Because of all the bruises? Yeah, you don't want to walk away from your comedy show with an injury if you don't have to. We also started to get a reputation for it and people started expecting it in a way that wasn't fun, so we've tried to push in other directions just to challenge that preconceived notion of us and to keep things interesting for us.
After four years, how do you keep the show fresh for you as performers, and for the audience? There are a few ways. For one, if one of us starts to burn out we're cool with each other taking a personal day, and since we all have distinct styles of improvising that shakes up the dynamic some. We also have guests play with us. We just had a 6 week "Winter Best Friends" series where we invited improvisers we admire from the Austin community to sit in with us, we'll do that again in the summer as well. We also do stuff like just hang out and eat pizza and not improvise, so that really helps as well. We all mesh well off stage, so it doesn't really feel like things get stale on stage. Our only real rule for our shows is "whatever happens, happens," so each show is pretty unique structurally depending on where the show takes us.
How does it feel to take the show on the road? Is there a different energy or rhythm when you get out of Austin? Honestly, this is our first non-Austin show, so I don't know. We definitely have a different energy and the butterflies start to come back a little when we play shows outside of ColdTowne, but still in Austin. Away games are really exciting to us, so we're looking forward to Dallas.
Anything else at the Festival that you're excited about? The best part about festivals to me is always meeting improvisers from other communities, and seeing their shows and seeing how all these different divergent paths of improv are developing throughout the country. I think it's great how so many of us have improv in common, but its so decentralized that there are all these different perspectives on it.
What does improv mean for you? For me it's the best way to instantly collaborate with someone. It's so against my normal wiring to just dive in and go with something without negotiating that I think its really been helpful in stretching my day-to-day comfort zone. And beyond the self-improvement aspect, there's always a special thrill of going up on stage and having the confidence to be able to tell a room full of people "We don't know what we're going to do yet, but we're pretty sure you're going to enjoy it."
See Bad Boys tonight at 10:30PM. Get your tickets here.