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How Do You Pick the Right Show Based Off Name Alone?

Photobomb My co-workers know that I spend a lot of time at Dallas Comedy House watching great comedy. They will ask me, “What show you seeing tonight?” And I will respond by saying Roadside Couch, .f.a.c.e., or Duck Duck Pants. Most people just nod and say, “Cool,” even though those words mean nothing to them but mean everything to me.   

When I encourage them to attend, they usually say, “That sounds fun, which show should I attend?" I will direct them to DallasComedyHouse.com and tell them to pick. That’s when the discussions start in—“Photobomb, do I need to bring a camera” or “Age appropriate, can I bring my kids?”

Which gets me back to the question: How do you pick the right show based off name alone? My advice is always go with a name that intrigues you. The first time I saw the name Franzia appearing on a poster, I knew I had to go. Because I love Fanzia and if I could watch a show with people who obviously share my desire to drink $7 gallon of wine, I am in. Same goes for Local Honey (which I try to purchase all the time), Manick (which took me two years to realize that was a combination of Amanda and Nick), and the 1995 Chicago Bulls. Side note on that one, when I first heard the 1995 Bulls were performing, I went to my closet and broke out my Luc Longley autographed Fosters can with the hope that he would drink the 19-year-old beer with me. Boy was I let down.

Be bold, pick a name, see a show. You will not be let down.

Ghost Watcher is a regular, DCH audience member.

(Image: Jason Hensel)

The DCH Diaries: The Passion of Sarah

Sarah WyattImagine what you would do with 27 hours every day instead of the usual 24. Would you get more sleep? Play with the dog? Work overtime? Start a Tumblr? Oh, wait. I forget who’s reading this blog: you’d join another troupe or take another class at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) or wrangle some additional stage time. Yeah, I got your number. You can take a lesson or two from Sarah Wyatt. Six troupes, teaching in the DCH training center, coaching a Ewing team, judging auditions, and more recently tending to your food and drink needs at DCH. Hmmmm, I’m sure I’ve left out a thing or two. Oh yeah, during her off hours, she’s a substitute high school teacher with D.I.S.D. and helps produce an online comic called Cyanide & Happiness at Explosm.com.

Sarah is also why I’m here at DCH. She performed with Roadside Couch in the first improv show I ever saw. I was thrilled when fate brought us together in my Level 1 class (and later in my husband’s Level 1 class—we want to adopt her, and have discussed it with her mother, who stubbornly refuses to give up custody. Who could blame her?).

From that first night, I’ve been intensely interested in why improv is as addictive as cocaine, but without the negative social consequences. I have set out to understand why and how improv changes lives. One of the first stops on my quest was a table at the All Good Cafe with Sarah.

You wouldn't know it to see her on stage, but Sarah hasn't been doing this very long. She started classes at DCH in January 2013 at a time when she really needed a diversion.

"2012 was the worst year of my life. Something from every part of my life was not good. And I decided that I was going to do something for myself,” she said.

Her only previous experience had been a drama class in high school, which she dropped after the first day. Years later, though, something clicked.

“I always wanted to do something like this. People told me I was funny so I signed up and—legit—it was Day 1, I fell in love and have not looked back," she said. "It was the best decision I have ever made.”

Why did it affect her so profoundly, I wondered. To Sarah, the answer was immediate and simple.

“More opportunities, more friendships, more real living than anything I have ever done. . .Elsewhere we're weirdos, but not when we’re at DCH. This is the one place, out of the entire city, where it doesn’t matter. And it’s encouraged that it doesn’t matter," she said. "Life is for the living. I stretch myself so thin, but I would so much rather be up at a Jam, tired, seeing people that I love, and meeting new people and seeing improv in this community affect people, than just being at home doing nothing. Experience over anything.”

Sarah Wyatt and Tommy Lee Brown

According to Sarah, the principle of "Yes, and" is a powerful force that spills off the stage and out of the classrooms to foster the sense of community DCH.

“After you learn ‘Yes, and,’ it is jarring when you go out into the real world and people say ‘no’ to you," she said.

Inside that community, she has seen improv change the people around her, like her roommate Ashley Bright, and many others who in turn pass along their love of improv to others.

“It’s a ripple effect that never ends,” she said.

Maybe it’s a bit hackneyed to say she’s a “natural” on stage, but it fits. In fact, I’d venture that in some ways, Sarah is more comfortable on stage than off. Even so, her stage work is not her favorite thing about improv. Her passion is teaching.

“It’s just instantly more engaging when you can tell that somebody is into something. I went through the five levels and was so into this, like 100 percent, sold, check please, cause I love this place," she said. "I TA’d and really enjoyed that. It helped me grow so much as a performer. I learned so much TAing that when I got the chance to teach, it was “Fuck, Yes.”

No doubt, “Fuck, Yes” is a variant of “Yes, and,” which materializes in class as boundless energy and constant support designed to build the confidence of novice and veteran improvisers. Even though I've moved on to other classes and other teachers, I still look to Sarah for guidance. An hour before my last showcase, I could not get out of my own head, so I sought her out. Her advice was unequivocal.

"Just stop it. As of right now, stop thinking. Stay in the moment. When you take the stage, keep it real, listen and stay in the here and now.”

Every word dripped: “You can do this.” Later, standing in the Green Room, laughing with my classmates, I realized that I was no longer worried or nervous. I was excited. That showcase was the most fun I have ever had at DCH.

As for Sarah, she sees no end in sight. This is her life and she loves it.

“What we have now [at DCH] is just the beginning. This is going to become a destination. DCH is going to change Dallas a little bit. Everybody who’s passionate about it thinks, 'I wish I’d been here in 2009 when this started. I wish I had found it earlier,'" she said. "But I found it when I needed to find it, when I was ready to change and be open and allow myself to be on this journey.”

Quite a journey, indeed.

Carron Armstrong is currently in Level 3 and has been obsessed with improv and DCH ever since she discovered that someone can actually take classes to learn this stuff. She is currently negotiating to purchase the naming rights for the brand new stairs added to ease access to the stages of DCH’s Main Street theaters (Thank you, Amanda and Kyle). During the day, she’s a lawyer.

(Second photo: Isabel Lopez)

Troupe Talk: .f.a.c.e.

.f.a.c.e. Let’s .f.a.c.e. it—if a troupe talk reader ever came .f.a.c.e. to .f.a.c.e. with me, they'd probably a.) be jealous of all the imaginary snacks and presents the troupes have been bringing to their interviews for me and b.) get in my .f.a.c.e. for having yet to interview one of Dallas Comedy Houses finest troupes—.f.a.c.e.! So in order to avoid any future .f.a.c.e. to .f.a.c.e. confrontations, ladies and gentleman, i present to youuuuu, .fa.c.e.!

Thanks for coming to the interview all wearing masks of the face of someone you want to tell a secret to! Tell our audience who is on each of your masks and what’s the secret?

Ashley: I’m wearing a mask of Terry’s face. I’m just going to lean in and make a fart noise. He’ll understand.

Jua: I’m wearing a mask of Ashley’s face. I’m going to steal her nose, and then wink. She’ll understand.

Terry: I am wearing a mask of Jua’s face. I have just been asked to sing bass in a barbershop quartet. I don’t understand.

Tommy: I'm wearing Sarah's face. The secret is a bonus track on our third studio album. The track is called "Uptown Fu¢k" Look for it, out soon, from .E.I.T.G.

Jason: I’m wearing Tommy’s face, and my secret is that I’m Stephen King, so Tommy actually has been reading my books and loving me all along.

Sarah: I’m wearing Jason’s face. Took it right off his face, no muss no fuss since he was S. King underneath it anyway. I want to tell Jason that his hair is luxurious.

Wow so many secrets. So tell me one more thing—what do the letters in .f.a.c.e. stand for? How’d the troupe name come to be?

Ashley: It stands for, again I’m just going to make a fart noise here. Mr. Hensel rounded us all up; he wanted to do something weird and we obliged.

Jua: Valar morghulis.

Terry: .N.O.Y.B.

Tommy: I think it stands for Fruit And Chocolate Eclair, but also probably not. But maybe.

Jason: Some things are better not known than known. We started as a King of the Mountain troupe. We won five (?) or six (?) times and then were ousted by Nick Scott’s one-man show. *shakes fist at Nick Scott, but then gives him a hug because that was such a great show*

Sarah: .f.a.c.e. stands for opportunity, support, love, trust; we try to show each other our best faces so when it’s show night, ALLLLLL RIIIIIIIGHT

So something NOT so secret: You’re nominated for an INNY award (which is awesome—CONGRATULATIONS!) What’s that mean and how does it feel?

Ashley: It feels profoundly awesome, but I don’t really know anything about the competition or how the heck we got nominated.

Jua: It’s amazing! I’m very proud to be the only Dallas troupe that was nominated. Besides that...fart noise.

Terry: We are up against a bunch of stage dwellers, or as we call them “Stagies.” They all lack imagination.

Tommy: I am also pretty pumped about the nomination. The INNY awards are sponsored by Improvisation News, created to recognize excellence in improv.

Jason: Tommy did a great job explaining what it is, so I second his comment. It feels great to be recognized. It’ll feel even better to win it for DCH.

Sarah: Ditto Tommy and Jason. I wanna bring this thang home for DCH. So vote if you haven’t, DCHers! Let’s show ‘em there’s something exciting happening down hurr.

What is the style of .f.a.c.e. comedy?

Ashley: Full Access. Beans.

Jua: Stage fright.

Terry: It’s is the perfect combination of a knife fight and a Sharknado.

Tommy: We try to be so supportive that the audience feels free to be in the show. We try to involve the audience in our show as much as possible, in a long-form context.

Jason: The style is to be as limitless as possible. Nothing is off limits. Our limits know no bounds. Have you heard about our limits? You wouldn’t have, because there are none.

Sarah: The limit does not exist.

List out all of your team members, and then complete the .f.a.c.e. acronym to describe the person’s name below you (e.g., Billy Bob is Fantastic Awesome Crazy and Eerie).

Tommy: Fierce, Artistic, Comforting and Enchanting

Terry: Sarah is Full of Awesome Cat Energy.

Sarah: Friendly Ace Chap Eeeeeeeeissocoolsupportbestdude

Jua: Jason is Fancy As Childhood Emphysema.

Jason: Ashley is a Fairy Apparition Charming Everyone

Ashley: Tommy is a Fearless, Adept Cornerstone of Ease

.f.a.c.e. performs at the Dallas Comedy House on Friday, May 29, with Manick, and Saturday, June 27, with LYLAS.

Tori Oman is a Level Four student at DCH. She’s trained and performed with the Second City and iO in L.A. and Chicago. Favorite pastimes include being irrationally competitive at Monopoly, eating an apple in every country she’s traveled to, and being the sole person on this planet that thinks Necco Wafers are a delicious candy choice.

DCF2015: Family Tree

Family Tree If you’re looking to incorporate some family sitcoms into your life during the Dallas Comedy Festival, then you won’t want to miss Family Tree! An improv duo from Oklahoma City, Family Tree turns their show into a family sitcom that’s different each time. Make sure to get tickets early, because I’m sure this show will be a Full House (I’m sorry).

Can you describe the format for Family Tree?

It's your favorite 1990's era TGIF sitcom - live!

How did the two of you decide to make it a family sitcom versus another type of TV show?

We both love sitcoms and the fact that over its run, a sitcom becomes an extension of your own family or friend circle.

Would you rather have Cheetos fingers for the rest of your life or have a popcorn kernel stuck in the back of your throat forever?

CHEETOS FINGERS. Not even close. Popcorn kernels are the WORST.

Do you watch a lot of family sitcoms as preparation? If so, what are your favorites?

Like most Millennials, we could have PHDs in sitcoms from all that we've watched over the years, but Ben loves Family Matters and Jaclyn enjoys Baby Daddy.

Any advice for young (or old) improvisers out there?

Hmmm. Do it, and keep doing it. Improv is a blast.

Family Tree performs Saturday, March 28, at 5:30 p.m. with Good Fight and .f.a.c.e. Tickets are on sale now.

Jessica Dorrell is a graduate of the DCH improv program, and is currently enrolled in the sketch writing program. Her one wish is that some day she can have a Mogwai as a pet. You can see her perform every Thursday at 9:30 p.m. in the current Ewing show.