Since spring 2009, a neon sign on Commerce Street at the edge of Deep Ellum has lured passersby and regulars alike into the magical world of comedy. Sketch, improv, and stand-up acts fill the stage six days a week. The Dallas Comedy House (DCH) is not the only comedy club in the world. But sometimes it feels like it.
Go to the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, iO and Second City in Chicago, or any of the number of venues in L.A., and you're guaranteed drinks and good laughs provided by hilarious people. Some of these places even offer classes—and plenty of celebrity talent—but not a single one of them can claim the Dallas Comedy Festival (DCF).
Every year since 2010, DCH has hosted the festival featuring acts from all around the U.S. This year, as a first-timer I was hoping to see some of my favorite teams, work on my improv problem spots in workshops with members of visiting troupe Bangarang!, take some pictures, and spend time with my teachers and fellow improv classmates.
I got everything that I hoped for, but I discovered something I hadn't quite expected. Although DCF is, officially, a celebration of comedy, it is, at its core, a celebration of friendship, and the beautiful souls that frequent this Dallas stage. It is a showcase, yes, of talent and improvisational chops, but also of incredible heart and love.
I laughed a lot this weekend. But if I'm being honest, my favorite moments of DCF took place off stage: near-strangers taking Jello-shots, performers basking in a post-show glow, old and new friends laughing, hugging, and dancing together. Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was DCF. Maybe it was the nostalgia of moving to a new location, but more infectious than the laughter was the raw emotion of people who know there is nothing more important than being in the moment, loving what they are doing and who they are doing it with.
The Dallas Comedy House is not a location, it is a concept. And the Dallas Comedy Festival is not an event, it is an experience. I count myself lucky to have lived it and to be able to continue living it as long as I take the classes, watch the shows, or simply hang out at the bar.
I've been at 2645 Commerce Street for just six months, so I can only begin to imagine what it must feel like after being there for six years. But if I learned anything at this year's festival it's that as long as Amanda Austin, Sarah Adams, and all the other people who made the festival, taught the classes, and performed on that stage move over to (or, in the case of house manager Clifton Hall, visit) Main Street, it doesn't matter the number on the door, the spirit of the Dallas Comedy House will follow them wherever they go.
I've sat in other theaters, and laughed at other teams, but at DCH, and, this week at DCF, I really did feel like I never need to leave Deep Ellum to see just how good and special comedy can be when it is not the cause, but the result of wonderful people being wonderful together.
The Dallas Comedy House is not the only comedy club in the world, but this week, it might as well have been.
Until next year.
Isabel Lopez is a Level 4 student at the DCH training center and a Wednesday night intern. She performed at a Block Party with Spanishprov once and hopes to do it again pronto.
(Images: Isabel Lopez)