Brittany Smith

What We're Loving: The Sports-Comedy Connection, Funeral Planning, Old Virgins, Hard Boils

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison returns with his famous SNL preview, Jonda Robinson knows why there are only one set of footprints, Brittany Smith has some recommendations for your trip back to 2006, and Ryan Callahan is easily upsold. saturdaynightlive-logoSaturday Night Live is back this week, which means it’s time for my semi annual (annual as in yearly, semi as in never before) take on the upcoming season. I really do view each year of SNL like the handful of sporting teams I follow. All offseason long I watch as they release and acquire talent, hoping for the big move that puts them over the top and back to relevance. Also, like a sports fan, go into each year with the blind optimism that this year will be better, before watching my expectations crash back to Earth by Thanksgiving.

Here’s why I’m excited (Bullet pointed lists lead to maximum excitement!):

  • Cast reduction.
    • Fewer players means more stage time for those that remain, which means that we’ll actually get to see their talents this year.
  • Michael Che to Weekend Update.
    • Fantastic writer and proved on The Daily Show that he’ll be fantastic behind the desk
    • His move also removed Cecily Strong from Update. I didn’t mind her, but I like what I’ve seen out of Che better and think that she was better in her first season when simply concentrated on sketches.
  • Streeter Seidel added to the writing staff
  • Fortieth Anniversary
    • It has to be good if it’s an anniversary season, right?

- David Allison

secondcity_grandmasrecordsI have to admit that I don’t use Twitter as effectively as I could. I often forget to look at it, then I become overwhelmed at all the tweets I have missed, then I scroll to the most current ones, causing myself to pass over a lot of 140-character gems. Fortunately this week, even though I probably missed out on a lot of important world news, I didn’t miss out on Aidy Bryant (@aidybryant) sharing one of her favorite scenes from the Second City archives.

The sketch is called “Grandma’s Records,” and while I had read it before, I’d never seen it performed. The set-up is that Mother Superior, beloved nun and music lover, has passed away. Her friends are preparing for her funeral and hope to find a suitable record from her collection to play at the service. As with most things in sketch comedy and life in general, there are some hiccups along the path to completing this task. Seeing it performed brought new life to it for me, and there are some specific things to watch out for:

  1. Rachel Dratch’s retelling of the “Footprints” story is fantastic, and it’s the only way I ever want to hear that story again. Also, it reminded me that my own grandma had this story hanging up in her house for most of my life.
  2. Scott Adsit’s physicality in the scene is great, and watching him react to the songs on the records makes them that much funnier.
  3. The songs themselves will make you laugh, and one will even change your perspective on Herbert Hoover’s “chicken in every pot” promise.

In case you’re still on the fence about whether you should watch it or not, I’ll tell you that Tina Fey plays guitar in it. If you can say no to laughter and Tina Fey, you’re a stronger person than I am. - Jonda Robinson

ElizabethOn a weird whim Saturday night I found myself watching the HBO Miniseries from 2006, Elizabeth I. The drama puts Helen Mirren at the height of her Helen Mirren-est, playing the Virgin Queen, being sassy, and hooking up with dudes 30 years her junior. Basically fulfilling all of my fantasies for post-menopausal life.

The show follows the queen in the later years of her life still trying to find an advantageous suitor in order to keep England as a European superpower. What makes this difficult though, is the love she has for her long-time staffer, the Earl of Leicester. Since she cannot marry him as he is but a commoner, she does what so many of us have foolishly done and asks that they remain friends. Now, I don’t care who you are, beloved sovereign of the most powerful country in the world or not, you can’t be just friends with the person you wanna bone. Then, the Earl dies and his adorably shaggy haired son, (Hugh Dancy), takes his place as the queen’s confidante. Eventually he too falls for the queen, but once again, because he is not royal, the queen will not marry him. He then proceeds to knock up one of her hand maidens and the queen pulls the pimp move of blessing their marriage, only on the condition that Hugh Dancy is still allowed to hook up with the queen. Baller. Status.

If none of this is enticing enough, you also see a young Eddie Redmayne sporting Jersey Shore-level terrible extensions and the queen constantly referring to herself as “we”. So run, don’t walk, to your stolen HBOGo account to watch an 8 year old show about a woman who died 400 years ago. - Brittany Smith

StrandBooks800My sojourn in New York continues. Last week, I covered two of my favorite things to do in the city: Walk and Eat. This week, I'm still loving both activities (in fact, I had a pizza called a "Fraggle Rock" from Roberta's the other night at Madison Square Eats. Mozzarella, ricotta, squash, cranberries. Have you ever wanted to marry a pizza? Because I wanted to marry this pizza), and I have added a third favorite New York activity: Book Shopping.

My nights have been largely free over this past week, leaving me much time to walk around the city and enjoy the many book stores. Over the past few nights I have been able to visit two of my favorite book stores: Strand Bookstore and Mast Books. Strand reminds me of the Half Price Books super store off Northwest Highway, except that the stickers they place on the books come off easily and the staff has no interest in helping you at all. Seriously, every time I have asked someone for help in that bookstore, they respond with a combination of anger and panic, like I'm interrupting them right as they were about to hide a corpse. But The Stand is worth it for the treasures. They have more books about presidents than you can even imagine. And I'm sure you can imagine a lot of books about presidents. (The previous sentence was directed to Ryan Goldsberry.) I could spend several hours in the basement looking through the racks of essays, letters, and biographies. That's not an exaggeration. That's what I did on Tuesday.

From the outside, Mast Books looks like a little museum. On the inside, they have a lot of art books and photography books and used books that cater to the East Village crowd (Bukowski, Fante, Vonnegut). They also have the coolest little collection of crime novels. The other night I found some Black Lizard paperbacks from the 80's that were re-issues of books from the 50's, forgotten hard-boiled works with titles like Bury My Grave Deep and Kill The Boss Good-By. At the register, the cashier pointed out a stack of similar books she had yet to shelve. The stack contained several books by Charles Willeford.  I bought those books. She must have seen me coming a mile away. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Calories, Creativity, Love Not Meant To Be, Donut Metaphors

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ryan Callahan goes first,  Jonda Robinson celebrates the creative process, Brittany Smith loves trash, and David Allison takes a walk in another man's shoes.  nycskyline6A rather our-of-the-blue job offer led to a sudden work trip to New York City this week. Now that I'm here, I get to do two of my favorite things: walk around the city and eat. I don't get many chances to walk around in Dallas, unless it is to my car or from my car or between DCH and Uncle Uber's. In New York I walk everywhere. And I get to see all the sights: crazy people talking to no one, crazy people talking to people who aren't listening, people in suits, young college kids walking in packs and pretending to be Vinnie Chase, and couples fighting. I've been here two nights and I've spent both of them walking aimlessly around the city and people watching.

With all this walking I work up quite an appetite. In the past two days alone, I have eaten FIVE slices of pizza, two from Two Boots, two from a tourist trap named "Taste of Little Italy" and one that cost only 99 cents. The 99 cent slice was the best. I've also managed to eat a schnitzel sandwich and three delicious risotto balls from the Arancini Bros booth at Madison Square Eats. Oh, and on a scout yesterday the owner of a restaurant would not let me leave without eating some of his veal meatballs and homemade garlic bread. Little did he know he was playing right into my plan. (For the record, my plan is "eat whenever possible.")

I still haven't had time to visit the Red Hook Lobster Pound for one of their Connecticut style lobster rolls. (Warm, fresh lobster meat piled on a toasted hot dog bun and covered with melted butter) but they, too, have a booth at Madison Square Eats. It's only a matter of time.

If you ever happen to find yourself in New York in the fall, or really any time, I suggest walking everywhere. You'll save money on cab fare, you'll get exercise, and you'll stumble across some extraordinary eateries you won't find anywhere else. Join me again next week, when I'm probably going to write about Strand Boos Store.  - Ryan Callahan

10649706_754258354815_8449199643302227645_nI believe that we’re all programmed to create. It’s why three-year-olds make Crayola masterpieces, why musicians pen lyrics and pair them with music, why chefs cook up masterpiece dishes...etc., etc. Recently, I had the chance to help create something that didn’t exist before with my Level Three Sketch Class at Dallas Comedy House. They are an absolutely fantastic group of people, so indulge me this week as I express my love for my sketch mates and the sketch baby that we created, a show called Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations.

When we began the task of creating this show, we started out with a discussion of what was going on in each of our lives. As usually occurs in life and through comedy, we found out that hey, we’re not all that different! We had some of the same issues, questions, and ideas and that we were grappling with in life, and we went from there on our journey. Our writing room became a safe place to write commentary on real issues, propose seemingly silly ideas, and collaboratively put together the pieces of our sketch puzzle without fear of being laughed at--only laughed with--which lead us to some fun, crazy places that we never would’ve arrived at on our own.

So maybe this post seems like a shameless plug, and maybe it is. I’m definitely not going to discourage you from coming to our sketch show this upcoming Thursday night at 8:00 pm at Dallas Comedy House (click here for tickets). We’d seriously love to have you. Even more than that, though, I encourage you to figure out whatever your creative outlet is and put yourself out there to pursue it and work with others on it. If you’re anything like me, it’ll be good for your mind and soul, and you’ll probably even have some fun along the way. - Jonda Robinson

guilty_detective_story_196003I recently found out that a friend of mine is moving to another city, so in his memory, I wanted to invest time into taking in something that he enjoys. This week I’m loving crime stories! But I didn’t want to buy anything, invest too much time, listen to a dumb audiobook or put much effort in at all. With these constraints in mind, I searched Google for “crime short story,” hoping that I would find at least one. 0.39 seconds later, I was staring at 84,100,000 results. Finally, a break in the case!

The short story, “Death By Scrabble,” was fresh, like the wet glaze on a new batch of Krispy Kremes. I stared down the tale, making i contact with it’s many vowels. There I found an innocence, a cheery disposition one doesn’t normally find on the pages of a website obviously created from a template.

As I worked my way through it’s paragraphs, I began to realize that I might be the only person on the internet currently reading this story. I looked left. I looked right. Nothing. It was just me and this tale, like a protagonist and an antagonist in an alley just before the denouement.

The tale ended and I sat there, confused. What had I just read? Throughout the entire piece there was no robbery, murder, not a dastardly deed in sight. Like any good detective, I retraced my steps and realized that I simply clicked on the number one short story, not the number one  crime short story. Thwarted again. - David Allison

Love PrisonI should start this off with a disclaimer: I’m not a gutter person, I just like gutter people things. I eat McDonald’s twice a week and I keep up with the Kardashians, I’m a kid from the ‘burbs through and through. This is what led me to A&E’s new social experiment, Love Prison. Love Prison is the beautifully unholy marriage of Catfish and Orange is the New Black; it takes people who have been flirting online and sticks them in a house for a week without connection to the outside world.

On this week’s episode we meet Rosie and Chris who have been talking online for two years. To understand the type of girl Rosie is, imagine 99% of the women you see in Uptown. Rosie mentions three  times in the first fifteen minutes of the show that Chris is not the type of guy she normally goes for, in that he probably doesn’t have an HGH dealer. To put a finer point on it she adds that not being into fitness is a “deal-breaker” for her. Another deal-breaker for Rosie came when she had to retrieve her own salad dressing from the table during their first dinner. (The nerve of Chris to think she could reach it!)

For Chris, the deal-breaker came when he learned that Rosie had been dating two other men while they had been talking whereas he had been saving himself for her and had been “unconsciously waiting for her before they started talking”. Chris then doubles down on the crazy by calling his mom right after their first kiss, tells her about said kiss and then proclaims that Rosie is the “kind of woman he’d like to bring home."

These people are garbage and this show is garbage, but one man’s trash is this girl’s treasure. - Brittany Smith

What We're Loving: The Mundane, The Dysfunctional, The Delicious, The Discovered

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison catches up on some comedy, Jonda Robinson tries the book before the movie, Brittany Smith listens to people chewing, and Ryan Callahan, in something of a surprise, writes about a crime novel.  etc_critic15__01__970-630x420I’m not always the most timely person (Have you heard of this Bobby Darin fellow?) and that forces me to miss out on meaningful conversation about things I watch way after everyone else. For example, I just watched Road House for the first time like last week, but I can’t talk to anyone about it because then they’d know that I hadn’t seen it before. Thankfully, I wasn’t thirty years behind on my entry this week, because I recently watched Silicon Valley and loved it and must discuss it. This is a tv show that was nominated for an Emmy for best comedic series, so I don’t think that I’m unearthing a cult hit, but it’s so good that everyone needs to take the time to check it out.

Silicon Valley is an HBO sitcom from Mike Judge about a tech startup in modern day California. It was created by Mike Judge (Idiocracy, Office Space, and the still great but not as applicable to this recommendation, Beavis and Butthead), and his ability to extrapolate and heighten humor from the mundane is really fun to watch. Also, the show stars a stable of up and coming comic actors, almost all of which have strong improvisational backgrounds. Thomas Middleditch, TJ Miller, and Kumail Nanjiani all studied improv in Chicago, while Zach Woods has been performing at UCBNY and UCBLA since he was 16, which should give hope to all of us schmucks that love to do make ‘em ups.. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Christopher Evan Welch, a disconnected, cold, hilarious, investor that provided some of the best moments of the series.

It’s only eight thirty minute episodes, so catch up now and we can all watch Season Two together when it arrives next Spring. Like, watch it on time. - David Allison

imgresYou know how “they” say that you should always read the book before you see the movie? That you’re depriving yourself by skipping forward to the film? While I don’t subscribe to this idea on every book-to-movie adaptation, I fell to the pressure recently and decided that I must read Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You before the movie comes out September 19. The casting director for the film had me at Tina Fey, and I sure don’t mind sticking around for Adam Driver (not to mention all the other fantastic people I like who populate the film...Jason Bateman, Connie Britton, and more).

I’m glad I read it, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story centers around the Foxman family, and more specifically on Judd Foxman, the novel’s narrator. When we meet him, things are bleak: his wife is having an affair with his boss, his father has just died, and he’s spending the next seven days sitting shiva with his dysfunctional family. That set up begins the inevitable domino effect of family drama, and it’s an enjoyable roller coaster ride. There’s just something I love about dysfunctional families being forced under one roof together by death; this reminded me of a much more lighthearted version of one of my favorite plays, August: Osage County. [Sidenote: Don’t judge August: Osage County by the movie...go see the play.]

Near the end of the novel I was so hyped up on the drama and adrenaline running through the Foxman clan that I felt like I could punch someone if they crossed me the wrong way. If you’re in the market for an enjoyable read, give it a go. Or just go see the movie. No judgment here. - Jonda Robinson

Mike and MikeYou guys, the past two days have been an aural feast in my podcast dashboard. First, Mike Birbiglia has a segment on This American Life. Then U2 finally drops their new album, which ordinarily I wouldn’t care about, but now it ensures more episodes of the strange and sublime U Talkin’ U2 To Me will come out soon. And most importantly of all, my favorite podcast of all time returned from a year-long hiatus, Mike and Tom Eat Snacks is back, baby!

Hosted by Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh, it is the only podcast employing the PER system. They Pick a snack, Eat a snack, and Rate a snack. But that’s not what they’re about, to quote the guys, what they’re about is respect for women, (though it’s not who they are). This week’s snack is hard boiled eggs, and let me tell you, they do not go over easy (you’re welcome). The episode is a solid return for the guys, and if you enjoy this one I’d recommend checking out their Haggen Daas or  Ho Hos episode as a second course.

Broken down to its simplest element, the show is two old friends eating food they may or may not like and joking around, basically your ideal high school lunch table. And much like a high school lunch it clocks in at just over half an hour and it’s suspiciously cheap ($0). - Brittany Smith

41iKVAyB4ML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been working my way through the collected works of Raymond Chandler over the past month or so but I had to drop all that this week. James Ellroy’s latest book, Perfidia, was released. Ellroy’s books always shoot to the top of the to-read pile, like some kind of rocket ship burning up the sky.

I first discovered Ellroy in college. Having loved L.A. Confidential, the movies I decided to check out L.A. Confidential the book. It was a good news/bad news kind of discovery. Good in that I became so enraptured with the book I read it in a couple of days. Bad in that there were passages of such power and suspense that I knew I would never create anything this great. I've been an Ellroy devotee ever since.

Perfidia is the first book of a planned quartet. In his two previous series, the much-lauded L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz) and the less-lauded-but-much-richer Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy (American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood’s A Rover) Ellroy examined the intersection of crime and politics in Los Angeles and then the nation from the late 40’s until the early 70’s. Perfidia is set prior to these previous works (the book begins right before Pearl Harbor) but contains many of the same characters.  I’m about 200 pages into Perfidia and I’ll be doing little else but reading it over the weekend.

Ellroy’s novels are famous for their rough, staccato style, and the way he intertwines dozens of fictional and historical characters in massive, complex stories. But it is the simple moments that make his work memorable. Ellroy is at his best when he writes a man or a woman, alone, making a discovery, often a violent, horrific discovery.  In these scenes of silence and suspense, the inner monologue churning while the eyes peep clues, Ellroy shines. These scenes reveal much more than the truth about a mystery, they reveal the truth about people, the painful, regrettable truths that everyone wants to hide. – Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Robots, Vagaries, Wise Bloods, Pretentious Stabbings, Our Own Work

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison has his childrens' names picked out, Sarah Wyatt finds a book that's better than people, Jonda Robinson lowers the age mean, Brittany Smith sees white men finally get their due, and Ryan Callahan has a sketch show to plug.  Cleatus2_2012111112064234_600_400It’s football season, but who cares? I mean, who wants to watch a bunch of millionaire jocks hit each other until they’re concussed? Wait, cancel that rant, I love the NFL. With that said, the main thing that I’m excited for isn’t football, it’s the NFL on FOX intro.

The glory of the introduction animation for NFL football on the FOX network isn’t one specific thing; it’s two. First, the theme song. Think about the coolest you’ve ever felt in your life. Maybe you finally got that guy/gal to go out with you, picked up some cool new sunglasses, or were walking away from a giant burning building. Take that feeling, that emotion, add snare drums and an electronic orchestra and you’ve got the theme song.

The other half of the wonder of the NFL on FOX intro comes to us in the form of a dancing robot named Cleatus. Whoa, that’s a lot to breakdown. First of all, yes this means that FOX continues to love animated dancing after previous showing off it’s affection with the dancing baby on Ally McBeal. Second, yes the name of the robot is Cleatus and I would hope no one apologizes for it because the name makes me want to have an army of children, just so I can name them all Cleatus.

Whether you watch football or not, that’s your call. But taking in the NFL on FOX intro should be mandatory viewing every fall for every person on every planet. - David Allison

_panther booksI’ve been really bad about reading lately. I mean really bad. I’ve probably read, like, two books in the last year, which is especially awful because I used to work at a library and regularly knock out a book a week. I got back in the habit (Sister Act 2) this past week when I read Demian, by Herman Hesse. Woah, y'all. This book blew my mind a little.

It’s like an adult version of Catcher in the Rye. It’s full of universal feelings and moments of transcendence that, if we are lucky, we all feel at some point in our adolescence, young adult life, and beyond. Demian is the story of a young man, Sinclair, and his travels and experiences throughout his young life, always feeling pulled and pushed towards something bigger than himself.

To say that I enjoyed this book is putting it mildly. I loved this book. This book made me turn away from the internet, from socializing, and burrowed its way into myself and made me feel something truly special, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt absorbed. I gave myself wholly over to reading a book and imagining the world inside of it and it was awesome.

I’m writing in vagaries because I wish that each and every one of you who read this (thank you) comes to it as open as I did. It’s a short book and so worth your time. If you’ve been looking to get back into reading, if you’ve been looking to feel something, if you’ve been looking to have your mind blow, boy did you come to the right comedy blog post. - Sarah Wyatt

DIH_0This week I’d like to introduce you to a little place in Dallas that I enjoy, The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.  Because I live my life like I’m 67 instead of 27, I’ve spent way more time at this Uptown address on Routh Street than I have at any of the hip bars and restaurants that neighbor it.

The mission of The Dallas Institute is “to enrich and deepen the practical life of the city with the wisdom and imagination of the humanities.”  Here are some of my favorite things about it:

1. Dr. Louise Cowan is a Dallas treasure. This awesome 97-year-old lady helped found The Institute in 1980, and in 1991 she won the Frankel Prize (now known as the National Humanities Medal), which gives her something in common with Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, and Steven Spielberg.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak on any topic, I suggest you listen up.

2. It’s a great place to get your learn on. The Institute offers classes in which you can dive deeper into a piece of literature or learn about specific topics. (If you’re a teacher, you can get big discounts, and there is even a Summer Institute you can attend.)

3. The wine is always flowing, and the snacks are always delicious. If you attend a class at The Institute in the evening, you’ll get a side of wine and brownie bites to go with your studies.

4. It’s the perfect place to wear a blazer. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll take any opportunity I can find to wear a blazer and pretend I’m Liz Lemon.

5. You’ll most likely bring the average age of the group down substantially. And hey, you could probably learn a thing or two from your elders.

If you’re looking to learn a little and meet some interesting people, check out their upcoming classes and events. I would be taking their Flannery O’Connor class on Thursdays this month, but I am a part of a sketch show called Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations. running each Thursday in September at 8:00pm at Dallas Comedy House…*wink* - Jonda Robinson

FrankThis past weekend I saw Frank, the tale of a white guy who saw something cool and sought out to make it his. Not exactly uncharted waters, narrative-wise, (see National Treasure, 500 Days of Summer, the founding of the United States), but it makes for a charming two hours nevertheless.

Our protagonist, Jon (Domhnall [actual first name, not a collection of syllables] Gleeson), stumbles upon a band in crisis and fills in at keyboard when their band mate attempts to drown himself in the ocean. From there Jon and the audience are introduced to Frank (Michael Fassbender), the charismatic and paper-machè masked leader of the group. Jon is immediately taken with Frank and his world and wants to be a part of the fun.

This is a mistake I have certainly made on stage, you see your friends out there having a blast and you devise a way to insert yourself into the madness. And as anyone knows who has tried this, it rarely works. Jon learns this the hard way and comes out the other side a man much different than the one we met at the top of the film. The film also meditates on the origins of creative talent and the value of likeability, which I know all sounds quite pretentious, but it goes down easy with a fun cremation mix-up and stabbing scene. - Brittany Smith

10649706_754258354815_8449199643302227645_nThere's no subtle way to go about this, so I shall be frank. I'm plugging my own stuff this week. Specifically I'm plugging Charles Dicken's Great. Expectations., the all-new sketch revue that runs every Thursday night in September at 8PM. (Get your tickets now.)

Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations. is the first sketch revue written and performed entirely by students of the DCH sketch program. Previous shows that came out of the program featured a series of stand alone monologues, or a bunch of scenes, but this show ties all the elements together in one thematically whole show. And it features an excessive amount of needless punctuation in the title.

This is actually a dual plug. I'm plugging the show itself, which we have spent months working on, under the instruction and direction of Nick Scott, and which we are very proud of and hope you enjoy, AND I'm plugging the sketch program in general. If you have ever considered, even remotely, signing up for sketch class, I highly suggest you do it.

Sketch offers the opportunity to dig into a scene and create the best comedy possible. I appreciate the way the format allows me to hone my performance, to try different phrasing and cadence  to see what works the best. For a writer like myself, sketch offers the chance to tie things together in a way that I don't always get with improv. All those ideas I get on the drive home: "I should have shown emotion instead of talking about it," or "That scene would have killed if it had more references to one-term presidents from the 1920's,"are now in play. Sketch offers the chance to do it again, and get it right this time. In a way, it's like having a mini time machine, only without the fear of accidentally landing on Hitler and being forced to take his place as some sort of new Hitler. - Ryan Callahan