Amanda Hahn

Comedy Centerfold: Amanda Hahn

Welcome to Comedy Centerfold, where we feature a Dallas Comedy House performer and get to know him or her a little better by using questions that Playboy centerfolds are usually asked.  Amanda HahnI once met Amanda Hahn outside an fMRI machine. She was flipping a quarter and popping bubble gum. She was a real cool cat, and she was looking for a brain to scan. I told her I'd let her peep into my pyramidal cells in my prefrontal cortex to prove my processes were premier. But she had her eye on another, who came in at that moment. Taking off his glasses and loosening his Robert Talbott tie, he rested himself on the bed outside the machine. He told her to call him Tyrone today before catching her quarter mid flip. She pushed a button that moved him under the magnet, but not before telling him he's on notice to visit her at the Dallas Comedy House during one of her shows with Dairy Based, SpanishProv, Bunny Bunny, or the Halloween Sketch Show in October. He offered a thumbs up, and she popped her gum one last time.

Hometown? I grew up in Franklin, Tennessee. It’s a relatively small, old Civil War/farming town outside of Nashville where Miley Cyrus and Paramore are from.

Guilty Pleasures? Well, I spent about 15 minutes at work today watching R. Kelly’s commentary on R. Kelly’s classic hip-hopera, Trapped in the Closet. So stuff like that.

Ambitions? Be Stephen Colbert. Also, to perform at Second City while being a neuroscientist with adorable, well-behaved, funny kids.

Best Concert? This is so hard to pick. I’ll go with Florence and the Machine, because Florence Welch is so stunning. Her voice sounds even more powerful when you see it come out of her in person. And she was dressed in an all black, flowy, partly sheer dress that made her look like a dark angel. Plus she was funny and charming! I think I fell in love.

Favorite Book? The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington by Brian Francis is the one I’ve re-read the most. It was recommended to me by a friend in high school, and no one else I know has read it. Go read it! It’s about an overweight, gay boy in middle school trying to hide his huge nipples. It’s very funny and has a slight Tina Fey feel to it.

Favorite Movie? I have to go with Little Miss Sunshine. I’ve never gotten tired of it despite how many times I’ve watched it, and I once watched it twice in a row in one night. I love how real it feels despite how coo-coo it is.

Favorite TV Show? I know this is everyone’s, but Arrested Development. It changed me. Watching it made me realize how great something is when you let yourself have fun when you write and perform, instead of trying too hard to make a “good” product. I love The Colbert Report for similar reasons.

Pets? Lucy. AKA: Lucy the Dog, Sweet Baby Lucy, Big Booty Baby, Little Boo Bunny, and Dog. She’s my first dog, and I couldn’t have picked a more strange one. She’s a shih tzu/terrier mix that looks like a grisly Ewok with a big butt. She sneezes on my face a lot, and when she flops over for belly rubs, she waves her front paws desperately up and down until I touch her. She’s perfect.

Foods I Crave? Spaghetti and meatballs is my No. 1. I’ve been trying to eat healthier, so I’m trying to convince myself to crave zucchini covered in tomato sauce instead. It’s not working.

People I Admire? My mom is probably No. 1 for being so patient, attentive, and insightful with me as a child. She took the time to understand how my mind, and my siblings’ minds, worked, and parented accordingly. I was stubborn, anxious, and hot-headed, and she gave me such a magnificent gift by teaching me to take control of my actions, regardless of my emotions. But she never made me feel bad for what I was feeling and was so loving, comforting, and understanding. She’s the reason that as an adult I have the emotional stability that I have. She’s an amazing woman. Also, Stephen Colbert. He’s so funny, nice, and smart, and I like that he’s open about being a Christian, but he’s never dogmatic. I want him to be a member of my family.

Dream Role? Something super-duper dramatic. I can’t think of a particular role right now, but something that involves dramatic speeches, crying, and yelling. Maybe a mom at the end of her rope. Or, or, or Heath Ledger’s Joker! Although that role literally killed him, so maybe I need to re-think this.

Favorite Song to Sing? "Rags to Riches" by Mr. Elvis Presley. I like it for the beginning when it goes, “You know I’d goooo…” and then pauses a sec, then goes “from RAAAAAGS toooo riiiichessss..” I’m not a good singer, so it’s just an excuse to yell alone in my car, really.

Good First Date Idea? Any date that allows you to talk and laugh with each other, but also has something to actively do in case the conversation lulls and you get nervous. Or just go on a first date with Tyler Simpson! It's a lot of fun and worked out great for me.

Troupe Talk: SpanishProv

Spanishprov This is what I can say in Spanish: Hola mi nombre es tori. Cómo estás? Estoy muy bien gracias. Me gusta el queso y las manzanas y el color azul. Cuántos años tienes? ¡Bueno! Feliz cumpleaños!

Not impressed? FINE.

Good thing we’ve got SpanishProv up for this week’s Troupe Talk. They are that group that improvs full shows in Spanish at the Dallas Comedy House. What’s even cooler? They are Troupe Talk’s first EVER bilingual interview. De. Nada. READERS. De Nada.

Everyone, please teach me a phrase in Spanish. Cesar: "Sin cebolla ni cilantro." No Onions, no cilantro. Colten: "Mande?" Which means like what? Amanda: "Maldita sea!" Which means "damn it." Jon: “Estoy embarazada” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means you’re pregnant. Sophia: "Pura vida" - it's like the catchphrase of Costa Rica. It translates into "Pure life," but they use it as a response to "What's up?" It's a reminder to not take things too seriously and to appreciate the simple things. I think it's a beautiful idea. Sam: “Ya para,” which means OK, stop. Katie: "Tu tienes cangrejos." That means you have crabs. Sal: "No manches," which is like one of my favorite things to say, and it means no way or get out of here. Isabel: "No me gusta el chile." I don’t like spicy foods. Amanda: I thought you meant the country. Isabel: Secondarily, it’s also important that everyone knows that Chile, the country, is the worst. Sophia: For the record…Chile the country is awesome. It's just not as awesome as Argentina.

Thank you. I can now say the phrase “No onions, no cilantro. NO way. I DON’T LIKE SPICY FOODS. Like what? Damn it, I’m pregnant -- PURE LIFE. And I have crabs. OK stop. GET OUT OF HERE.”

...perfect! I think I’m all set to have a legit Spanish convo. Thanks gang!

So speaking of speaking Spanish -- what motivated/inspired you guys to create an improv show performed entirely in the Spanish language? Cesar: Mi mama estaba visitando de California y la traje al Dallas Comedy House a ver un show. Ella habla inglés pero su primera idioma es español. No estaba seguro si ella lo iba entender o si le iba a gustar pero quería que viera de lo hablaba cuando hablamos por telefono. Resultó que se divirtió mucho porque era en vivo y medio entendió lo que estaba pasando por la actuación de los actores y los acciones físicos la hicieron reír mucho.

Me puse a pensar que si alguien que no entiendo el humor en inglés mucho le gusto improvisación, porque no le gustaria a un audiencia que probablemente no habla mucho español ver un acto completamente en español. Invité a algunos para tratarlo en el Block Party y fue un gran éxito. En verdad, pensé que lo iba hacer solamente esa vez pero fue tan divertido que decidimos continuarlo y practicar juntos.

My mom was visiting from California, and I brought her to the Dallas Comedy House to watch a Dairy Based show. She speaks English but her first language is Spanish. I wasn’t sure if it would translate or if she would really like it but I wanted to show her what I kept on talking about when we talked on the phone. Turns out she really enjoyed herself because it was live performance and she kind of understood what was happening based on the acting and she really enjoyed the big physical comedy.

I started thinking that if someone who doesn’t understand English humor much like an improv show, why wouldn’t an audience that probably doesn’t understand a lot of Spanish enjoy a show that was in Spanish? I invited some friends to try it out at a Block Party, and it was a big hit. Truthfully, I thought it was going to be a one-time thing but it was so fun we decided to continue it and start practicing. Colten: Cesar me pregunto y quería trabajar en mi español y me gustan todas las personas en el grupo. Cesar asked me, and I wanted to work on my Spanish plus I like everyone in the group. Todos: Awwwww. Amanda: Tambien, Cesar me pregunto y me gusta Cesar. Similarly, Cesar asked me and I like Cesar. Todos: OOOOOOooooooohh. Amanda: Ahh, oh, Como se dice wink? Mi familia es de Repubilca Dominicana y queria practicar mi español y que mejor manera de hacerlo? Oh, oh oh! How do you say "wink?" My family is from the Dominican Republic, and I wanted to practice my Spanish so what a better way to do it? Jon: Una vez en clase, en nivel tres, una compañera me hablo en español y ella no sabia que yo entendia Español y que lo podia hablar. Le respondi y la clase se reó mucho y era muy divertido. Mi madre es de Colombia y le gusta mucho que estoy usando mi español. One time in class during Level 3, one of my classmates started talking to me in Spanish without realizing I understood and spoke Spanish. I responded to her, and the entire class laughed a lot and that was very fun. My mom is from Colombia, and she enjoys that I’m using my Spanish. Sam: Estaba muy interesado porque se oyo muy divertido. Me gusta mucho la comedia mexicana y queriea ser parte de esto. I was very interested, because it sounded very fun. I like Mexican comedy a lot, and I wanted to be a part of this. Katie: Cesar habló conmigo y yo necesito practicar mi español y quiero trabajar con gente muy divertidos. Cesar talked to me, and I need to practice my Spanish and I want to work with fun people. Sal: Mi papá le gusta mucho verme hacer improvisación cómica. Cuando le dije que íbamos hacer un show en español se emocionó mucho porque ya por fin va poder ver un show y saber todo lo que decimos. Fue una experiencia muy padre haber poder decirle eso para poder satisfacer a mi papá y para que realmente entienda y se sienta como en casa. My dad enjoys watching me perform improv comedy. When I told him that we were going to do a show in Spanish, he became very excited because he’ll finally be able to watch a show and know everything that we’re saying. It was a very cool experience to share that news with him and be able to give him this experience, when he’ll really understand and feel at home here. Isabel: Me invitó Cesar y se me hizo una idea muy divertida y pensé que iba ser algo que me iba ayudar con mi spacework y me iba ayudar ser una mejor improvisadora en inglés. Cesar invited me, and it sounded like a very fun idea and I thought it would be something that would help me with my space work and it would help me in improv overall.

So along those lines, how is improvising in Spanish different than improvising in English? Cesar: En español no puedes ser chistoso con lo que dices. Es mas facil usar menos palabras para hacer la audiencia que se riera. Tienes que usar tu movimiento, las relaciones, y el contacto con los otros actores para expresar lo que quieres decir o lo que vea la audiencia. In Spanish, you can’t rely on being funny with what you say. It’s a lot easier to use less words to make the audience laugh. You have to use physicality, relationships (including status), and the connection with the other players to express what you want the audience to experience. Colten: Estoy de acuerdo con Cesar. No conozco muchas palabras en español y no tengo palabras específicas para usar y por eso es más difícil. I agree with Cesar. I don’t know a lot of words in Spanish, and I can’t use specific details and that’s why it’s more difficult. Amanda: Estoy de acuerdo con Colten. No tengo vocabulario muy grande en español todo es muy básico y real. No puedo usar la fantasía y magia. Solo puedo usar las reglas básicas de improv. I agree with Colton. I don’t have a large vocabulary in Spanish so everything stays basic and real.I can’t use fantasy and magic. I can only use the basic improv rules. Because I don’t have a big vocabulary in Spanish, everything has to be really simple and basic, and I only know what I’ve seen before or what I know is real so I can’t do really wacko stuff that’s out of left field because I wouldn’t be able to explain it well enough. Cesar: So I have this theory that this is one reason why kids are naturally good improvisers. They don’t have the handcuff of which clever word they should use. They just work off of emotion. Isabel: We’re taught to play to the top of our intelligence and they are. Jon: Estoy de acuerdo con Amanda y Colten. Necesito usar el cuerpo mas con improvisación en español porque se que la mitad de la audiencia , o mas, no entiendo lo que estoy diciendo. Quiero que todo la audiencia pueda gozar el show. I agree with Amanda and Colten. I need to use my body more when improvising in Spanish, because I know that half of the audience, or more, doesn’t understand what I’m saying. I want the entire audience to enjoy the show. Sophia: Típicamente en ingles cuando yo improviso soy un poco, no quiero decir inteligente pero um, mmm...soy inteligente, soy inteligente! Y relio en palabras y cosas intelectuales pero en español no se traduce. Entonces para mi es porque lo quería hacer. Para practicar spacework y emociones. Normally, when I improvise in English I’m a little, I don’t want to say intelligent but, um, mmm...OK, I’m intelligent, I’m intelligent! I rely on words and my knowledge but in Spanish that doesn’t translate. That’s why I wanted to do it so I could practice my space work and emotions. Sam: Estoy de acuerdo con Jon. Es muy diferente porque tenemos que hablar en español. Me pongo nervioso actuando en el escenario y ahora arriba de eso lo tengo que hacer en español que es algo que me da vergüenza hacer hasta enfrente de mi familia. Ha sido muy diferente porque ha tenido que salir de mis miedos; aunque todavía no lo he hecho. I agree with Jon. It’s different because you have to speak in Spanish. I get nervous acting on stage and now on top of that I have to do it in Spanish, which is something I feel embarrassed to do even in front of my family. It’s been very different, because I’ve had to overcome my fears, although I haven’t been able to achieve it completely yet. Katie: I agree with everybody. Es diferente porque tengo que usar todas las reglas de improv pero todo más grande. It’s different, because I have to use all the improv rules but so much biggerSo what I’m trying to say, in my English voice now, all the improv rules you have to make even bigger because you can use space work but if you’re not doing it well you don’t have the luxury of saying what you’re doing. Your actions have to be big and your emotions even bigger, so it’s like improv times Spanish. Sal: Se me hizo muy raro porque español fue mi primera idioma y cuando me invitaron a hacer el show pense que iba ser facil. No me imagine que iba ser dificil para mi porque he estudiado improvisación y actuación por tantos anos en inglés que el pensar en español y tratar que otra gente, que quizás no me entienda en español fue muy difícil. Tienes que hablar más lento y ser muy directo en lo que quieres decir. Y no solo comunicar con la persona en el escenario pero con todo el mundo. It was very weird for me, because Spanish is my first language and when I was invited to do this show I thought it would really easy. I didn’t imagine it would be hard for me, because I’ve studied improv and acting for many years in English and to think in Spanish and try to have other people, who maybe don’t understand Spanish very well, was very difficult. You have to speak slower and be more direct when you speak. And not only with the other people on stage but with everyone. Isabel: Yo estoy de acuerdo de todos. I agree with everyone. I’m gonna elaborate in English, though. It is harder, but for me it’s harder because you try to play at the top of your intelligence every time you’re on stage and you have big ideas but you have to take the extra step to shrink it down to its basic stuff. A lot of times here, we have the mentality to not worry about the audience and just do what’s fun for you and it will translate to fun for the audience, but in this show you have to keep the audience in mind because if you don’t, you could have fun but only four of us will really know what’s going on.

Spanishprov

What’s a Spanish phrase or saying that inspires or motivates you? Cesar: No contaban con mi astucia! A saying from one of my favorite shows in Spanish, El Chapulin Colorado. Colten: Te lo doy. I’m going to elaborate in English. It means, I give it to you. Using pronouns in Spanish is so hard, because you have to put the pronouns before the verb and it’s really hard to train your brain to do that. Anytime I can say a sentence with a pronoun in it, it motivates me to keep practicing. Amanda: CUIDADO! Because my parents first language is Spanish they often times would revert to Spanish when something quick was happening that I needed to pay attention to… oh, by the way reader, CUIDADO means “Careful.” So I had to learn that as a child to not get burned by things. It’s very motivating. Jon: Kind of like Amanda, I would hear things like siéntete or callete, which are informal commands to sit or be quiet. You know, things you say to kids or dogs or other small creatures. Sophia: This isn’t something I heard as a child, but my favorite phrase translates to salty salad, ensalada salada, that’s silly. And Colten’s thing made me think of my Spanish teacher telling me whenever in doubt spell "socks," S-O-C-K-S… "eso si que es" is actually just a bunch a pronouns and is a grammatically correct sentence. Sam: Ay Maria que punteria is a common saying in India Maria movies, and I think it’s so funny. Most of the comedy is just exaggerated movements. Katie: Te amo. Todos: Awwww. Katie: Something my grandpa used to always say. Just, the mijos and the mijas, because it’s just so sweet. And then just weird stuff they would yell at us in Spanish but we never understood, which I’m sure it’s probably better that we didn’t. Sal: Tengo dos cosas. I have two things. Una es "amor piel." My grandpa used to tell me that all the time and would just touch my arm with his forearm. It means "skin love," which is really weird when you say it in English but it was the sweetest most caring thing. The second thing is from the comedian Cantinflas, and he has a saying "alli esta el detalle," which means, there’s the detail, and I really liked when he’d say that. Everything he did was with a positive energy and was very confident in what he did. Isabel: My dad says this to me all the time. Que sonrie tu corazon, and it sounds really corny in English but it translates to "Let your heart smile." He always says it to me because I’m very serious, but when he says it to me it makes me smile.

What comedians in Hispanic/Latin culture do you admire? Cesar: Chespirito. His show, El Chavo del Ocho, was a family friendly show that had slap stick comedy but also a lot of wordplay that you didn’t appreciate until you got older. Colten: No los tengo todavia porque hablan tan rápidamente. I don’t have any yet, because they speak really fast. Amanda: Estoy de acuerdo con Colton. Pero mi abuelo fue muy cómico. I agree with Colten, but,] my grandpa was very funny. Jon: La versión español de "Los Simpson." The Spanish version of The Simpsons. Sophia: Lo que dijo Colten. Yo pienso que yo soy mas o menos proficiente en español pero lo más difícil es entender humor en otra lengua. What Colten said. I think that I’m more or less proficient in Spanish, but the most difficult thing to understand in another language is humor. Sam: La India Maria, Chespirito, La Chismoltrufia. I also enjoy Spanish comedies from Spain. Katie: What’s the question? I wasn’t paying attention. Sam: Ugh, just go on to the next person. Todos: (laughter) Katie: Oh, it’s Sam. It’s Sam. It’s Sam. Sal: One of my favorite characters is Cantinflas. Capulina y Viruta. Roberto Gómez Bolaños (Chespirito) fue un gran comediante y gran escritor. Me gusta mucho Adal Ramones porque el fue unos de los primeros comediantes que trajo stand up a México. Roberto Gómez Bolaños (Chespirito) was a great comedian and a great writer. I really enjoy Adal Ramones, because he was one of the first comedians to bring stand-up to Mexico. Isabel: My family is really funny and in Mexico, and maybe all Latin American cultures, it’s really common to use wordplay all the time that doesn’t translate into English at all. Outside of that, I really like Eugenio Derbez, because he’s starting to transcend Mexican culture. He was the voice of Donkey in Shrek in Spanish. That was the first movie translated into Spanish that made the the jokes their own and not just trying to translate the English jokes into Spanish.

Tell me your favorite joke in Spanish. (Because after I tell people that I don’t like spicy foods and am pregnant with crabs, I’d like to be able to say something funny.) Cesar: Que le dijo un jaguar al otro jaguar? What did one jaguar say to the other jaguar? How are you? [Editor note: In Spanish, jaguar is said Ha-goo-arr and it sounds like 'how are.'"] Colten: Solo conozco un chiste…Que hace un pez? Nada. I only know what joke. What does a fish do? Nothing. Amanda: Porque la gallina camina en la calle? Porque quería estar en el otro lado! Why was the chicken walking on the street? Because it wanted to be on the other side! Jon: Por que no nadas? Porque no traje traje. Why don’t you swim? Because I didn’t bring a swimming suit. Sophia: No tengo ningún chiste pero no tengo chistes en inglés tampoco. I don’t have any jokes in Spanish, but I don’t have any in English either. Sam: No me recuerdo de ninguno pero cuando estaba chiquito me gustaban mucho los de Pepito. I don’t remember them right now, but when I was a kid I liked the Pepito jokes. Katie: Refiere a pregunta numero uno. Please refer to the first question. Sal: Papa, tu te casaste por la iglesia o por el civil? Por estupido. Dad, did you get married through the church or through the courts? Through stupidty. Isabel: Cuál es el ultimo animal? El delfin. What’s the last animal? The dolphin.

Spanishprov

GRACIAS AMIGOS. Don’t miss SpanishProv at the Dallas Comedy House!

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: Troupes Are Groups of Friends

Cupcake I was Dallas Comedy House’s (DCH) backstage hospitality coordinator for the Dallas Comedy Festival on Friday night. My job was to make sure performers knew where to go, when to go there, and to make sure all of their performance and personal needs were met (performers gotta drink and eat chips too, y’all). For seven hours, I greeted a lot of people, ushered a lot of troupes through the training center rooms where they waited their turn to perform, and ate a lot of cold, backstage pizza.

I volunteered to be a hospitality coordinator because I wanted to meet new people and to help make people feel comfortable before their shows. For out-of-towners, I wanted them feel at home among a large group of performers that already feel at home at DCH. Something that is special about the Dallas Comedy Festival as opposed to others is that a large portion of the performers already feel completely at home in the performance space. Many troupes that strolled through the training center halls already knew the code into the center. They knew where the bathroom was and at what time they should start making their way toward the green room, just behind the stage, to be ready to perform. I wanted to make sure performers from out of town could navigate a script many of us already knew with the same ease. I wanted them to feel as at home at DCH as those who perform there several times per week and know where to move out of the way when someone yells “hanger up!” and starts tossing hangars at a ceiling.

But from what I could tell, I wasn’t an integral part of reaching that comfort level…at all. The troupes filled with faces that were unfamiliar to me didn’t need to feel at home between the DCH walls, because they already seemed at home with each other. Although everyone seemed appreciative of me telling them where to find bags of chips or where to wait to perform, they didn’t need to know that information to feel at ease. They just needed to be with their troupe.

Field Day

Field Day from Austin, Texas, seemed at home when a troupe member shouted “Crouch!” and everyone immediately popped their bodies into the same yoga position. The Night Rhymers from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, seemed most at ease when they were all warming up their vocal chords by singing some smooth, seamless melodies together. Toward the end of the night, when the final members of the UCB troupe Bangarang! from Los Angeles arrived at DCH, seemingly tired from a long journey to Dallas, the rest of the troupe was ready with warm greetings and offerings of beer and wine. That warmth was received with equal levels of gratification.

It was reminder that people that perform as a group formed together and stayed together largely because of personal connections to each other. Whether those friends form together to make a new troupe like Dallas’s Duck Duck Pants or Chicago’s veterans, TJ & Dave, these were just groups of friends who loved each other who and happened to channel that love into playing pretend on a stage. My stomach is a little larger from eating too much cold, backstage pizza, but my heart is a little warmer after seeing 12 different, little families of people show so much love for each other through support and laughter backstage. I hope none of you ever stop performing, but if you do, it’s comforting to know you still have your family to support you and laugh with you no matter what you’re doing.

Shannon?

Amanda Hahn is a DCH graduate and performer who regularly performs in the troupe Dairy Based.

(Images: Jason Hensel)

What We're Loving: Long Descriptions, Short Descriptions, Pre-Teen Interests, Teen Interests, Our Lying Brains

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison shares his inspirations, Jonda Robinson rules middle school, Sarah Wyatt is mesmerized, Amanda Hahn reignites her passion, and Ryan Callahan plows ahead.  P1-AT967_RADIO_F_20100224175520Terry Catlett and myself have been hard at work for a while trying to figure out what sort of written show we wanted to bring to the DCH stage. This week, we’ll finally be putting up the fruit of that labor with the show David and Terry: Portrait of a Crime. It’s a radio play, complete with live sound effects provided by Colten Winburn and Daniel Matthews. In honor of that upcoming show, I wanted to share a couple of clips that inspired the production.

The first idea for the show came about when I randomly heard WC Fields’ “The Day I Drank a Glass of Water” and played it for Terry. It’s super dumb and terrible, but you can check out the ten minute piece here. Favorite part would be the long, drawn out description when he finally goes to take a drink. The sheer absurdity of how they over explain it really spoke to us. After listening to this, and similar radio plays, we realized the sort of show that we wanted to do.

Our primary inspiration for the style of humor would be everything The Smothers Brothers did. If you’re not familiar with them, The Smothers Brothers were a comic singing duo that hosted a variety show in the 1960s. They created these happy, upbeat, clean, folk songs that still hold up today (Especially if you liked my piece on A Mighty Wind.). I love the dynamic between the straight and absurd players, something that is especially evident in “Boil That Cabbage Down.” Check it out here.

So if either of those billion year old clips, or my normal shows with Terry, are to your liking, we’d love to have you join us on 8/31 at 8:30 as we debut the radio play! - David Allison

Middle SchoolIt’s been a big week for students, parents, and teachers around these parts, as school started back this past Monday. Because of this, the thing I’m loving this week is hanging out with middle school kids. No, it’s not a creepy thing--I’m a “highly qualified” teacher by Texas standards, so it’s not only something I enjoy, but it’s something I get paid to do.

The first week is filled with lots of emotion. Crying, complaining, wondering if you’ll make any friends--and it’s pretty rough on the students, too. I teach both 6th grade and 8th grade, so I get to see both sides of the spectrum, all the way from the eleven-year-old on the verge of tears because she can’t get her locker open to the smooth 8th grader who has gotten as good at this middle school game as he did at [insert title of popular video game all the kids are playing these days]  over the summer. I’m only three days in, and I’ve already had had one sixth grader ask me if she could read Milton’s Paradise Lost, another tell me that when he grows up he wants to be “a problem, so people throw money at me,” and a group of 8th graders who have declared an “anti-spork” movement in our classroom, proclaiming the superiority of the spoon and hoping to get #antispork2014 trending.

If you get ever get the chance to hang out, work with, or mentor some middle school students, go for it. It will open up the door for some memorable conversations, you’ll get to make a (hopefully) positive impact, and you’ll also be reminded that even on your worst day, you can be thankful for the fact that you never have to be that awkward thirteen-year-old version of yourself again. - Jonda Robinson

nicki-anaconda-previewOh. If I could sum up Nicki Minaj’s music video for her latest single, “Anaconda”, in one word, it would be “Oh”. It’s a non-stop barrage of ass, sex, glistening skin, and Sir Mix-a-lot doing more work than Miss Minaj. And I kind of love it.

I thought I’d check it out while I was writing, foolishly thinking that it would just be background chatter. I was mesmerized from the first image. Oh. “What is this?? No! Why can’t I turn away??” It’s so much writhing, so much skin, so much Nicki. I mean, there’s no way everyone on set didn’t see her sorganz (my new slang for sex organs, try it out) well enough for a police sketch artist to use in court.

There’s such a build up in this video to her actually dancing but she never really does. Her back up dancers kill some moves while she pats their asses and twerks a little on a chair. Oh. There’s a section of the video that consists of cuts between her suggestively eating a banana and spraying herself with whipped cream and lots and lots of butt.

I’m not feeling it. But I could hear the sound of thousands of young boys closing their bedroom doors while I was watching it. And if that wasn’t enough, the bridge (???) is a scene of Nicki giving Drake a lap dance so good it seems to be a religious experience. I think we sometimes forget that he started as an actor because that lap dance looked weak as hell to me. This whole thing probably sounds like I hated the video. I did. I love that I hate it. I hate that I love it. I love it. Oh. - Sarah Wyatt

pomerantzThe new school year started up again this week. That doesn’t make much of a difference for grad students since our schooling is year round, but this marks the beginning of my third year in grad school, with about two or three more to go. This summer, for the first time since I started doing research almost 5 years ago, I started getting bored with what I do. I cared a little less about my ongoing studies and results. I spent less time playing with my data (usually a favorite hobby of mine). I stopped reading the RSS feeds of science journals I follow. I just wanted to lay in the sunshine all day and do comedy all night. I needed a kick in the pants. You guys. I got it. I got my kick in the form of this video by Dr. James Pomerantz.

Even if you’re not interested in neuroscience, I highly recommend watching it. Dr. Pomerantz was the PI of the lab I volunteered in after college, and he always demonstrated an amazing ability to explain such a vast array of different topics so simply, clearly, and interestingly. In this 8 minute long video taken at colloquia at Rice University, he does just that. He describes how we perceive, and essentially recreate, the world around us. As Dr. Pomerantz puts it, “when our neurons and the external world disagree with one another, the neurons win every time as for as our experience is concerned. We are all prisoners of our neural architecture.”

That applies to everything we experience. If you have vertigo and your neurons are firing in a way that says the world is spinning, then to you, the world is spinning. If you’re depressed, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you cheer up and that they love you. You’re going to be depressed until your body corrects itself or you seek help. Knowing why our brains don’t always mirror reality can help inform solutions. It can change lives. In the meantime, it’s just really, really cool to learn about. To all of you who are going back to school too: let’s learn the crap out of this weird little world we live in, shall we? Bring it on, year three. - Amanda Hahn

urlOver the past few weeks I have been working my way through the novels, stories, and other writings of Raymond Chandler. Okay, I haven’t read any of the stories yet, or the other writings, but I have finished the first two novels, The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely.

Both of these novels, in fact all of Chandler’s novels, star world-weary, hard-boiled, heavy-drinking, quip-ready private detective Phillip Marlowe. Chandler writes in the first person, allowing the reader to see the people and places of pre-war Los Angeles through Marlowe’s point of view, alternately sardonic and empathetic.

It is this point of view that makes the books great. The plots are nothing special; they’re often needlessly complicated. The mysteries are either incredibly obvious or impossible to sort out. It is the words, the tone, those descriptions – "She was thinking. I could see, even on that short acquaintance, that thinking was always going to be a bother to her.” “Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.” – which will keep you turning the pages.

I enjoyed Farewell, My Lovely more than The Big Sleep, likely due with my familiarity with the plot of the latter thanks to the Humphrey Bogart film version. Farewell, My Lovely also benefits from a virtuoso chapter in which Marlowe wakes up in a locked room, having been drugged, and struggles to regain his senses. It’s a terrifying flirtation with madness, made all the more effective by how grounded the character is the rest of the time.

My adventure through the Chandler bibliography shall continue. There are only dozens of stories and four more novels to go. After that, I can rest easy. Until I move on to the complete works of Ross MacDonald. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Elton John Fans, Edith Wharton Allusions, Perfect Writing, Dynamic Performances

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison plugs without shame, Jonda Robinson catches up, Amanda Hahn looks back, and Ryan Callahan watches a master at his craft. elton_johnI’ve recently gone through and absorbed much of Elton John’s career in preparation for an upcoming show at the Dallas Comedy House on 8/23 at 10:30 pm (Shameless plug). Because he’s been around for like forty years, it’s easy to forget just how much stuff he’s done in his time. Yes, you know that he wrote “Tiny Dancer,” but I bet you didn’t know that he performed a show in Japan in a Godzilla mask? I’m sure that you remember his scores for movies like The Lion King, but I would imagine you completely forgot about his appearance in The Country Bears. And I bet you’ve heard his Marilyn Monroe tribute song “Candle in the Wind,” but were you aware that he re-recorded a version upon the passing of Princess Diana?

If you don’t believe that Elton John is great, ask the internet. Because of his amazing talent and theatricality, Elton John has long been a favorite of humans. And due to the wonderful existence of the internet, we can all enjoy the absurd efforts of these super fans. This one started out strong enough with a singing Sun, but quickly ran out of steam when I remembered it was anime. Set to the same song, this next entry is much more watchable, but lost me about halfway through when I failed understand if the robots were holding hands or passing robot pills. The true gem is this Christmas video, created by a Russian fan. Simply entitled “Merry Christmas to all Elton John fans!” this little number was inspired when a to be fan attended her first Elton show in Moscow. Part Holiday footage, part shots of curtains being pulled up to reveal Elton John at a piano, this one is a start to finish treat.

My favorite part about these strange fan vids is the effort that went into them. Seriously, real time and potentially blood, sweat, and tears were poured into a project that didn’t turn out that great. And they still posted it online, because they knew that other super fans would enjoy the work. That’s so cool to me! Elton John and the internet have created a space where anyone can be creative and they know that even if the end product isn’t as good as “Crocodile Rock,” their comrades will appreciate it. Let’s hope the Elton John fan club is out in full force on Saturday, August 23rd at 10:30 pm for my weird, fan vid of a show (Shameless Plug Shameless Plug Shameless Plug). - David Allison

Gilmore-Girls-College-Advice-11I’m hesitant to write about this, only because I’m super late to this party, but I might as well be honest and let you in on the thing I’ve been loving the past few weeks: Gilmore Girls. I was only recently introduced to Lorelai and Rory by a friend, and ever since I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in Stars Hollow having coffee at Luke’s and getting to know all of its quirky residents.

There are many great things about this show that I could point out: the cozy setting that lends itself to a cast full of interesting characters, the relationship dynamics at play, or even the sheer amount of food that is consumed in the course of an episode (I only wish I could live on cheeseburgers and cookie dough and still look like Lauren Graham). One of the things I enjoy most about this show, however, is its abundant use of allusions. That’s right, folks, if you want me to get hooked on whatever you’re writing, throw in some quality literary/historical/pop culture references and I’ll jump right on board. The dialogue moves so quickly that if you blink you might miss one (ok, not blink, but whatever is the equivalent word for your ears), and I enjoy every fleeting reference covering topics from English monarchs to Edith Wharton and so many things in between. Even if there are many I don’t get right away, I appreciate the smart writing.

If you like Gilmore Girls, and love allusions like I do, I offer a book recommendation: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.  And If you ever want to discuss all things Gilmore with me, I’m totally up for it now that I’m in on the jokes. I do, however, respectfully request one thing: no spoilers, please! - Jonda Robinson

024325This week I took a walk down memory lane. My friend/stand up/current DCH improv student Tyler Simpson and I were talking about terrible poetry. Which led to his very own poetry of his younger days.  I loved it. I love all of his poetry and writing because it’s perfect. It’s such a perfect example of a time in our lives that most of go though. It’s that time period usually after high school, or sometime in the early college years, where we all think we have life figured out. We can feel ourselves flubbing about, but we find romance in feeling like we’re lost or helpless, or that no one else gets the world quite like we do.

During that sweet little time period, we think we understand everything: philosophy, love, hardship, art, poetry, people. We get it all. We (or at least I did) joined clubs to try to change the world because our ideas really mattered. We (...or at least I did) teamed up with a couple of Marxists to try to combat racism all by ourselves. We joined a group to support the gay community at our college because we really thought we, as an individual, would make a dramatic difference at how people perceived homosexuals.

That feeling lasts until we mature, just a little more, and realize we don’t know a thing.

I don’t necessarily want to go back to that time in my life when I thought I could conquer the world. I do like knowing my limitations, but it was invigorating at the time, and so humorous now to look at now, what I created back then than I thought was not only decent but high quality. So this week, I’m putting out my third call to action (I’m starting to get straight up bossy up on this blog, y’all): Walk down some memories. See how far you’ve come. Or see how far you haven’t. Either way, you’ll learn a little something about yourself and hopefully have a few laughs at your terrible attempts at creating something cool or profound. - Amanda Hahn

112_0805_01z+adam_west_celebrity_drive+batman_and_robin.jpgOver the past week I've had a lot of time to myself. My girlfriend was away on a trip and I was home alone, much like Macaulay Culkin in that movie, My Girl. Unlike young Mr. Culkin I did not attempt to fill my down time by defending my home from an invasion of bees only to get stung by the bees and die tragically (Spoiler). I chose to spend my time home alone watching hours of the old Batman TV show.

For those unfamiliar, Batman ran for three seasons in the 1960's. It starred Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as Robin, The Boy Wonder. For the first two seasons, the show aired twice a week, with the first episode ending on a cliffhanger that was paid off in the next. The show was originally meant to be a serious action tale but once the producers read the comic they decided the only way the show could work was as a camp comedy.

When I first watched the show, as a child in the 80’s, I had no idea the show was a comedy. Now I watch it and I see it as the source for many of my ideas about comedy. It’s a comedy show about crime fighters. If you know me, you probably know that is something of an obsession of mine. It turns out many of my favorite comedy tropes – overly literal signs, super villains with themed henchmen, ridiculous gadgets that serve one narrow purpose – come from this show.

At the center of it all is Adam West, killing it as Bruce Wayne and Batman. Watch the way he struggles to keep his true identity secret. Marvel at the way he casually compliments Bruce Wayne as Batman and vice versa. Feel his pain as he tries to keep his hormones under control whenever Catwoman is around. We tend to stay away from hyperbole here in What We’re Loving, but I would like to say that Adam West's performance on this show was the greatest performance in the history of acting. Don’t believe me? See for yourself. IFC is running old Batman episodes every day. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Unpopular Opinions, Hidden Upsides, Deleted Context, Specialized Pitching

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison makes a bold statement, Jonda Robinson fails greatly, Amanda Hahn needs a mind break, and Ryan Callahan goes to the bullpen. imgresSometimes I really hate popular opinion. There’s a collective hive mind that we all participate in and often times cinema is significantly affected by it’s whims. You’ll hear about this amazing movie that “everyone” loves, set plans to see it opening night, and then realize within five minutes that Benjamin Button is terrible. But you can’t say anything about how much you hated it because it gets nominated for Oscars and stuff. The opposite happens too and it’s even more disappointing. There are so many movies that our pop culture group mind simply rejects and we’re not supposed to give them a chance. Then, like an idiot, I see one of these flicks, love it, and can’t talk about my adoration for it in fear of receiving palpable judgement in return. The current film I feel self conscious about really enjoying is something that was released on DVD this past week: Muppets Most Wanted. AND IT’S WHAT I’M LOVING THIS WEEK. There, I said it.

Where are you going?

Don’t run away yet!

Hear me out on this. Yes this commercial failure that you didn’t hear anything good about is not a great film. With that said, there are numerous factors that make it highly enjoyable to watch. First, you’ve got solid performances from Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell. See, that’s not so bad! You liked them in that other thing you liked, so that’s gotta count for something. Also, it’s basically a musical and contains about ten full length songs, most of which were written by Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords). Flight of the Conchords was your favorite show! Plus, McKenzie won an Oscar for the tunes he wrote for the previous Muppets film, so that helps. Oh and it’s the Muppets! You remember how much you loved them as a kid? You would’ve killed another child, straight up murdered a newborn, to go to Muppet Treasure Island with the gang.

So give this movie a shot. Even if it means sneaking it home in a pizza box and watching it under the cover of darkness so that your friends don’t judge you. - David Allison 9780345472328_p0_v2_s260x420

Lately I’ve been trying to look at the positive side of failing. For example, last week I was visiting a friend and we decided to go eat at a certain restaurant. We got a cab and made the trek across town during rush hour, only to find out that they were closed. Sigh. Trying to look on the bright side, I told her that it wasn’t a total waste because it was a mistake we’d learn from. She appropriately rolled her eyes at me.

In an effort to prepare for another year of teaching middle school, I’ve been learning more about the concept of learning through failure from the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck’s theory is that there are two kinds of mindsets that you can have: the fixed mindset, in which you believe that your intelligence and talents are fixed and do not change, and the growth mindset, in which you believe that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. For the fixed mindset, failure is a terrifying thing that says, “You’re not enough.” But for the growth mindset, failure is a perfect opportunity to learn and become better than you were before. According to Dweck, you get to choose which mindset you approach life with. If you’d like to see which mindset you currently lean toward, there’s a quiz for that! And if you’d like to attempt to change your mindset, there are steps for that!

Some of the most fun things I have done in the past year, from taking a sketch writing class to wakesurfing, were scary things that I at first said no to because I was afraid of failing. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to try, I highly suggest that you go for it, even if you’re afraid you’ll fail at it. It’ll help you become a cooler, better version of yourself. And if you need something to help you get motivated, check out Dweck’s book to give you that little push that you need. - Jonda Robinson

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The end of each semester is typically unusually busy. This summer’s semester has been no exception. Sometimes you just need a mind break from everything. I found the perfect one: Ads Without Context . The name is misleading because it’s more like “ads re-contextualized” than ads with no context. And thank goodness it is. This entire feed is just .gifs from infomercials with captions giving new context to the melodramatic ads. The mix of the silent overacting overlaid with the captions is endlessly silly and delightful.

Some are simple.

Some are gross.

Some make me laugh out loud.

Some are weirdly sad.

And many more are endlessly re-watchable.

So turn off the TV and tune into No Context Ads. The infomercials are way better on there. - Amanda Hahn

51fbRsn29aL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_You ever find a book and feel like it was written just for you? That's how I feel about The Setup Man: A Novel, the debut thriller by T.T. Monday. The book introduces Johnny Adcock, a 35-year-old lefty relief specialist for the fictional San Jose Bay Dogs. Johnny only pitches when the Bay Dogs have a lead, and only against left-handed hitters. He works about ten minutes a night. Most guys in his position would be content to chew on sunflower seeds and let the money roll in. Not Johnny Adcock. He's the restless sort. He needs something to fill the rest of the day. That's why he works as a private detective. Worried your wife is cheating on you with the pool boy? Someone from your time in the minors trying to blackmail you? Johnny Adcock is your man.

The Setup Man combines my two favorite things: Private detectives, and private detectives who are also other things. Private detectives are my favorite fictional characters. As a child I loved them all: Encyclopedia Brown, Thomas Magnum, Rick and A.J. Simon. The A-Team was essentially a private eye super team. In high schoool I discovered Humphrey Bogart's Phillip Marlowe, still the greatest onscreen P.I. ever. After college I devoured the Continental Op stories of Dashiell Hammett, such as Red Harvest, for my money the best P.I. novel ever. I've spent many an afternoon or evening binge watching reruns of Psych or Monk. Private detectives are the best.

But the private detective who is also something else is even better. How can something be better that the best? Here's how: What would be better than a private detective who investigates the paranormal? Oh, I don't know, maybe a  private detective who investigates the paranormal and has a day job as a lifeguard. What could be better than a private detective played by Andy Richter? A private detective / accountant played by Andy Richter! And what could be better than a private eye who investigates the seedy underbelly of Major League Baseball? A private eye who investigates that seedy underbelly while having to pitch to lefties every couple of days.

I started reading The Setup Man late Tuesday night and finished on Wednesday. Once I started, I had to keep reading. That's about the highest praise you can give a P.I. novel. I needed to know what happened next, and I wanted to see how Johnny Adcock would solve the case. The book isn't perfect. There are a couple thudding moments of authorial intrudsion that feel like an after-school special, and the book jacket inexplicably features a right-handed pitcher, but the plot moves, the tone is charming, there is a vivid cast of characters, and the details about day to day life in the majors seem authentic. I can't wait for Johnny Adcock's next adventure. - Ryan Callahan