The Los Angeles-based troupe Bangarang! is a tour-de-force in the improv world. We're very excited that they're performing twice during the Dallas Comedy Festival, and through the magic of electronic mail, troupe member Dave Theune happily answered a few questions for us. He loves galas and soirées, by the way, so I expect everyone to help make his time in Dallas a Texas-sized gala and soirée.
DCH: I see in your bio that you performed in ComedySportz for many years. In what ways does short-form help you be a better long-form player?
DT: Yeah, I performed with ComedySportz in Milwaukee and Los Angeles for 12 years, and I will always love short form. ComedySportz is very, very audience interactive, and as a result, I think that those with short-form experience tend to be keenly aware if the audience is enjoying themselves or not. Consciously or subconsciously—and for better or for worse (usually better, I think)—we tend to adjust our long-form choices accordingly. I also think that because of the crowd work required of short form, we tend to be a bit more "presentational." I don't think this always benefits a long-form scene, but it for sure is a plus when doing more abstract group games that may involve speaking directly to the audience or a story-telling type group game. That's another benefit. Lots of long-form styles have a short-form "sister." If there is a long-form style, there is probably a short-form game that is similar, and vice versa.
DCH: How did Bangarang! form, and how has the troupe evolved since its first shows?
DT: Bangarang! started at the end of 2009, beginning of 2010. We all went through the required levels at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) and then auditioned to get onto a Harold team, which would be the first "house team" one would get on at UCB, as far as improv is concerned. Several of us had played together in different configurations prior to that, but Bangarang! was our first time all together. In fact, Ryan Meharry and I weren't added to the team until the second year of the group's existence. Since then, the lineup has remained the same.
As far as evolving, we have gone from being a UCB Harold team that does only Harolds at the theatre, to a "weekend" team (sometimes Harold teams "graduate" from Harold night, and get their own weekly show. After three years, we were able to do that and now perform every Friday at 8 p.m.) that does whatever we want. We do different forms and have guests, and it's just the most fun. While on Harold night, we worked with coaches multiple times a week, and that was HUGE. Harold teams are required to practice at least once a week, and for three years, we had three of the best (Billy Merritt, Eugene Cordero, and Suzi Barrett). During that time, our scenes became more grounded, our groups games soared, and we just got tighter and tighter as a group. I cannot stress how important it is to work with a coach on a regular basis and how important playing with the same people week after week, month after month, year after year, is. It's like anything else in the world. You have to put the time in if you want to get good at it.
DCH: Have you ever been to Dallas?
DT: Never. Not intentionally. I've just never been invited to any galas or soirées in Dallas (I love galas and soirées).
DCH: What are your impressions of it?
DT: I know almost nothing about Dallas, but when I think of it, I think of these three things: First, you had a TV show named after you, and that is pretty damn cool. Second, I'm from Wisconsin, and you used to beat the Packers a ton before we were able to turn the tables and sneak in a few wins. Third, I can never remember if your city gets real humid or stays pretty arid. I don't know why I think about that or why it matters to me, but I think about it just about anytime anyone talks about Dallas.
DCH: Why do you think comedy is important in life?
DT: For the same reason everyone else thinks it's important. Laughing and making people laugh is the best and most fun thing to do always and forever. Better than money. More fun than sex. Always.
DCH: Cooking time: What are the signature dishes of each member in the troupe?
DT: What is our favorite dish to make? Hmmm... Betsy Sodaro—Whatever six-pack of IPA she brings to the party Lauren Lapkus—Pickle Pie Toni Charline—Dump Cake Adam McCabe—Rabbit Stew Jacob Reed—Whatever that dish that Johnny Depp's character in Once Upon A Time In Mexico would kill people over Ryan Stanger—McDonald's Big Mac Ryan Meharry—He just bought some stupid jello mold, so usually something jiggly in that round shape Dave Theune—Homemade Ny-Quil
DCH: What's the most unexpected thing you've learned along your career path?
DT: That I can do a job that makes me happy. When I lived in Wisconsin, unhappily doing my "normal" job living my "normal" life, Hollywood was a fantasy land. It didn't seem real. Sure, people lived there and worked in the business, but certainly not any people that I knew. Just magical people with talents and gifts that I could never posses, living in a magical world that I could never step foot in. Then I moved to Hollywood and realized that it's all possible, and everyone there is just like me (some much more handsome/smarter/funnier/better-smelling/etc., but you get what I mean). You just have to do it. Pack your bags, and do it. And when you finally decide to go to wherever your version of Hollywood is (taking flying lessons, starting your own pork rind business, or moving out of your parents guest bedroom that used to be your bedroom but they made it in to a guest bedroom because they didn't think you'd come back after college to live with them for SIX YEARS), work your ass off and make it happen, because you can.