The Dallas Comedy Festival starts tomorrow! Over the past few weeks, the street team has been all over Dallas, spreading the word about the comedy event of the season. Amanda Hahn is street teamer. She's been running the streets. She has tales. She has lessons. For this year’s Dallas Comedy Festival, I was a member of Dallas Comedy House’s street team. My job included hanging up flyers in local businesses and restaurants on Greenville Avenue. I live off of Greenville, but I’ve done a pretty bad job at exploring many of the bars, restaurants, and shops in my area. I saw street-teaming as a chance to jumpstart my adventures − to pop into new places and get a feel for them to see which ones I would be most excited to revisit. After walking into nearly every location between Mockingbird and Ross, I came to the following conclusion: everywhere is awesome and everyone is amazing.
I was putting up flyers on a Monday afternoon, and almost everywhere was filled with groups of laughing people. Warm smiles welcomed me, even in places that clearly hadn’t had a customer in hours. I didn’t meet a single disgruntled person. Everyone was so unnecessarily kind. When people said that I could hang flyers, they offered me tape, tacks, advice on the best place to put them up, and a helping hand to reach high spots on windows. One manager at an apartment complex even gave me one of the employee master keys, giving me free reign of the complex to “do what I needed to do.” When people said that I couldn’t hang anything, they were apologetic or offered advice on other businesses to try. No one sighed at me, and no one brushed me off. Even workers in the busiest restaurants took time to talk to me. They went out of their ways to check with their managers to see if it was okay for me to put flyers up. I got to know the faces of Greenville that day, and they were all a pleasure to meet.
Whether people gave me permission to hang up flyers or not, most people had many questions about the Dallas Comedy Festival which led to a lot more questions about what improv comedy is. Most people have never heard of improv, or their only frame of reference for it is Whose Line is it Anyway? My description of long-from improv as “like watching a sketch show, except it’s all made up on the spot” led to the surprisingly common question, “what’s a sketch show?” After describing it, there was a noticeable difference in how people talked to me. People that were kind and polite before became excited and engaged. They wanted to know even more about it.
When you say you do improv, people want to know more about you. If they have never known an improviser, you become the face of an improv comedian. You are their example of the kind of person that is nuts enough to stand on a stage in front of paying customers, not knowing in the slightest what you were about to say or do. Many people are surprised, intrigued, and impressed as they learn more about it. They think you and your hobbies are really cool.
It didn’t occur to me until later, but the best part about my street-team day interactions was that it was a great reminder that we improv comedians are actually no one special. Improv is just a somewhat uncommon activity (at least for places outside of LA and Chicago), so it seems exotic and interesting. By coming into establishments with flyers blasting info about the comedy festival, I merely opened a door for those people to get to know that aspect of me.
Everyone has a cool interest or hobby, but we usually don’t ask strangers what they like enjoy doing or what their histories are. We walk past or ignore hundreds of fascinating people and stories every day when we don’t engage with the people around us. So this week, I challenge you to not stay inside. Break your routine. Go somewhere new. Talk to a stranger. Listen to someone’s perspective that you might not normally hear from your friendship circles. One great place to do that will be the Dallas Comedy Festival. Meet interesting strangers from all over America. Be someone’s interesting person to meet. Go out and laugh with someone you’ve never laughed with before. Enjoy the shows and enjoy the people you interact with. I can’t wait to see you all and hear all of your stories there. It’s going to be a fun week.
Amanda Hahn can be seen performing at the Dallas Comedy Festival with Dairy Based (Thursday, March 20th at 9:00PM). Outside of improv, Amanda loves dancing while driving, turning her friends into memes, drinking wine on balconies, and blogs with nothing but pictures of hamster butts.