I've attended almost every jam at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) over the last five years. I was fortunate to have classes on Wednesday nights when I started at DCH, so I would just stay after class for the jam. And now it's one of my most cherished, weekly activities. I've chosen not to be an assistant teacher at DCH on Wednesdays just so I can be there for the full jam. I've skipped book clubs with my friends so I can jam. And when possible, I've booked travel around the jam so I won't miss it. The reason I love it so much is because it forces me to go back to improv basics, the "yes, and," the "because," the "I know," responses that make everyone in a scene look great. Sure, it can be difficult, especially when you have non-students getting on stage. But those are the moments I relish. I think to myself, "Can I help make this person who's never done improv look good?" And if I can help her have a positive experience on stage, then maybe she'll enjoy herself so much she'll want to take classes or come back for shows on another night.
"My favorite thing about the weekly jam is playing with new people and learning about them on stage," said Kyle Austin, a DCH teacher and performer. "Whenever I need a reminder about how to improvise, I come to the jam. I learn it all over again."
Austin first hosted the jam during DCH's Ozona days.
"My favorite memories are those ones where you get to do an improv scene with a newer student, and when they get done they realize, 'Hey that was scary, but not so bad...I think I'll try it again,'" he said.
Yes, the jam can be scary for students and long-time performers alike. And yes, I've heard the comments that it can go off the rails easily, that people step all over each other's moves, or that people don't listen to what is being said. Those are my favorite parts, though, because that's life. Everyday, I bet you're one move away from chaos, or you're not being listened to when you talk. How you deal with that can be practiced at the jam.
In fact, the jam is a great place to practice individual skills. For example, want to work on accents? Do it at the jam. Want to express emotions better? The jam is a great place to do it. Need to work on space or object work? Once again, the jam is a non-judgmental place to practice that.
There's another aspect to the jam, and it's the most important aspect and the one that keeps me coming back. And that is, the opportunity to meet new people. You may get in a scene with someone you've never performed with before and discover that you two work really well together, which may lead to a new troupe. Or maybe you see someone on stage who impresses you with some scene work and you ask that person to form a new troupe with you (that's how I asked Sarah Wyatt to be in .f.a.c.e., for instance).
"People should participate, not only to get better, but to meet people," Austin said. "You'll most likely meet the people that you get to make art with there. Ask them to do something. That's how anything gets started anyway. Why not attend the perfect 'on ramp' on Wednesdays?"
Exactly. You have nothing to lose by attending the jam. So, if you haven't come out in a long time or you're thinking about coming for the first time, I recommend you do it. And since this is the last official jam at the Commerce Street location, Kyle Austin will be taking over hosting duties. It's the perfect circle for what is one of DCH's longest-running, best-standing features: the weekly jam.