Quite the Characters: A Fake It ‘Til You Break It Interview

Have you ever been sucked into small talk about a film you’ve never seen? Or showed your face at a book club meeting for a novel you skimmed? There’s power in faking it, but what happens when you BREAK it?  In this interview, we sit down with a few of the cast and writers of the newest Dallas Comedy House mainstage sketch revue, Fake It ‘Til You Break It. This sketch comedy show features a stellar cast (Andrew Plock, Danny Neely, Emily Gee, Julia Estelle, Kate Grogan, and Patrick Hennessy), two writers (Ashley Bright and Brian Harrington), and is directed by Cody Hofmockel.

This show is titled Fake it ‘Til You Break It, a great play on words. How did you come up with it?  

 Julia - The sketches that we were landing on featured characters who were on the verge of losing it or having some sort of break down. 

Patrick - We acknowledged very early on that the big picture political, economic and social craziness that we see in the news has really started to seep into our everyday lives and created this feeling like tomorrow could be the day where you, as an individual, or everybody, just loses it. You can feel it in the sketches that we're performing so we had a good idea of the kind of feel we were going for and we just threw around punny titles in a group chat until one stuck.

 Brian - This is the first time I’ve written more than a sketch or two without having a clear theme already established.  After Ashley and I had written a good bucket of sketches, the ones that hit presented a theme of trying to hide who you are, or your insecurities.  I guess that kind of shows where our heads were at in life at the time, too, huh?

 Danny - We noticed that through writing and acting, we landed on a bunch of characters who were struggling (but in a funny way), so that title just fit. Once we made it a play on words. Classic sketch revue title move.

 Talk to me about the development of the show. With so many talented performers, I’d imagine things got crazy (FUN) at times.

Plock - Great to be a part of a new method of mainstage show here at Dallas Comedy House. Writers would come in with materials written for the cast and we got to sift through a lot of great sketches before we settled on the lineup. As performers, we got to punch up as we sank into the characters, but it was great to be collaborative in that way.

Ashley - This is my first time really writing for a show that I'm not performing in. It really gave me the freedom to play with accents, physicality, and other expectations that I knew I wouldn't have to do myself. But really - this cast is stacked with talent which makes it really fun to write for them

 Brian - Crazy. Fun. Crazy fun.  So many bits.  So. Many. Bits.  Almost too many bits, one might say! One might. Not me.  One might though.  No, we have a great bunch of whackos, and a lot of the bits lead to new sketches or lines in sketches, so they’re valuable.

Emily - Up top we did some improv for the writers so they could get some ideas and also get a good feel for how we all vibed together. We also filled out a sheet of our abilities to use in sketches as well. Like Andrew can melt metal with his belly button, Danny can nap for months and Kate could do the splits! We didn't end up using those three unfortunately. My personal favorite moment from the beginning was when we all sat in this circle in the middle of Tharp and pitched ideas for what seemed like...I don't know, hours? We had some crazy brain babies! Some that came to life in the actual show and some... for the future!

Say I’m a person off the street. Give me your best elevator pitch on why I should see the show this weekend!

Julia - This show is a bizarre reminder that we are all (at least) a little bit off, and that’s ok!

Plock - It's a solid hour with sketch after sketch delivering hot laughs about the beauty in a breakdown. Oh, and Tony Romo is in it.

Patrick - What!? No, I did not fart in this elevator! The one who smelt it dealt it. I probably just stirred up an old lingering one when I got on. You know what? I think I heard a clunk so it's probably someone riding on top of the elevator Mission Impossible style and they farted. Well, you should check to be safe... also check out Fake It Til You Break It Saturdays at 8.

Danny - This show is a high-energy exploration of characters on the verge of a breakdown. You'll feel better about your own situation once you watch what these people are dealing with.

These sorts of shows evolve significantly through their development. What was your favorite joke/character/scene that you had to cut along the way?

 Brian - Oh, good question. There are a few that I’m not going to mention, because they may see the light of day at some point.  I wrote a parody of “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, but instead of Glenda and Elphaba, it was Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Sanders, and instead of gravity, they were defying reality.  I wrote the entire song, which is 6 minutes, and is sung originally by two of the biggest Broadway singers in two decades.  In the end, it turned out a full Broadway production wasn’t “on brand” with the show which I do NOT understand, and we CAN AFFORD A FLYING RIG I WILL BUY IT MYSELF.  Long live Adele Dazeem.

 Plock - Kate, sex phone operator extraordinaire.

 Patrick - Singing Ariel's part from Little Mermaid where Ursula steals her voice. Aa-aa-aaaahh aa-aa-aa-aa-aaaaahh. It was beautiful.

 Danny - Andrew had a character based almost entirely on the phrase "bust a nap" and that was funny and stupid, and it's not in the show now.

 Emily - We had this one runner that Ashley wrote for Plock where he was Randy Newman but he would make candy bar puns and then would say, "You can call me..."Candy Newman". It made me wheeze, I loved it so much.

 Ashley - "Kate does the splits." It'll happen though. I trust the universe. 

 Do you have any advice for performers looking to get involved in sketch comedy?

 Julia - Go do it! Come take classes at Dallas Comedy House and meet a bunch of other people that are also into sketch comedy and make stuff together!

Andrew - It's the same advice a film professor gave me: "When everything in your life is falling apart — write. They can't take that away from you."

Patrick - Read ahead in scripts. Make your cold reads less cold. Think about what the writer is trying to accomplish with each line and overall. Imagine what kind of person is saying these lines and how they would say them. Timing, emphasis, cadence, and tone can all be done while sitting at a table and can make a huge difference.

Danny - I think writing your own material is helpful and writing in any way that you enjoy. You don't have to sit down and write out fully conceived sketches with scene descriptions and everything. Try writing a character monologue or stand up as a character.

 Ashley - Take a class. It's a good way to setup a structure for yourself and meet people. Ask people that make you laugh to meet up with you and write things. Audition for things. Submit to The Write Stuff. Do all the things. 

Brian - Do it.  Watch sketch content, anything from SNL to Key & Peele to old episodes of In Living Color, MadTV, SCTV, etc.  Find people who are on the same wavelength as you and write something.  If that sounds daunting, look up some writer’s room videos from your favorite comedy shows, and tell me you don’t want to immediately be in that room.

 Emily - Find a group you really enjoy spending time with creatively. Like, really, really enjoy. Your work will get better with and through them because they'll say yes to your ideas but then give them feet, arms, bones, heart and life. Find your group, then create and hold on to them until death do you part. 

Ready to join in the fun? You can catch Fake It ‘Til You Break It on our main stage every Saturday at 8 through March 23.