Cesar Villa

Put a Little Care in Your ‘Oke

Cesar Bearded Buddies I’m not exactly what I would personally describe as “shy” but I am pretty anxious, awkward, all that and yes, you know this by now, I’ve covered it. Don’t worry, that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. What I do want to talk about, though, is how much I love watching and experiencing what being on a stage brings out of a person.

I can imagine that the idea of being on stage, in front of a crowd, is completely paralyzing to some, and that’s perfectly understandable and valid. But, to others, simply by stepping foot on stage, you’re able to meet an entirely new and different person that you didn’t know existed.

Comedy in all of its forms will tell you a lot about someone. Comedy can be rather therapeutic. Let’s be honest, if I’ve been mad at you in a scene for being lazy, dirty, unmotivated, or anything of that sort, it was likely genuine anger inspired by an ex-boyfriend. Comedy can allow a person to come out of her shell, show an audience who she knows she's capable of being, but were maybe too afraid to show to others. If you pay close attention, there’s a good chance that you’ll get a glimpse into a person’s very real life through comedy. Under those lights, it’s your opportunity to show the world what you can do. I don’t say that to add any pressure, I say that to only reinforce what a glorious moment being on stage really is.

Aside from improv or stand-up, though, I think that maybe one of the most telling forms of the performing arts is most certainly karaoke. Why? It’s everyone’s chance to prove that they’re actually a rock star. No longer are you a teacher, a copywriter, a photographer, a social media manager, a historic arms and armor dealer (I’m naming actual careers of my actual, very diverse friends), you’re now Katy Perry, Patsy Cline, or maybe even Lionel Richie, whether you sound anything like them or not.

At the most recent Bearded Brothers Karaoke, I made sure to take the stage with others. I did this, not only because it’s sometimes more fun, but because, for whatever reason, in my head, which has a tendency to blow things out of proportion, doing karaoke at Dallas Comedy House (DCH), in front of the many talents I witness on a weekly basis, was just too much to tackle all on my own. It was a night of memorable performances, though, and what actually inspired this blog post. That night, I believe we all met the real DCH student Shawn Meyer through his most epic, “Wind Beneath My Wings.”


For the purposes of full disclosure, you should know that if I am performing alone, I’m THAT person about karaoke. I may as well be Dave and Kath from Portlandia, taking voice lessons to perfect their rendition of “You Can Call Me Al.” I pick songs based on whether or not I know I can nail them. I take having a microphone in my hand way too seriously.

And, then there’s a thing called Punk Rock Karaoke. You pick a song, you sing that song, they’re your actual backing band. There aren’t monitors with the words, nothing to indicate when you’re to come in, just a real band and its support. There are two very different versions of Punk Rock Karaoke but the one I have performed with, in my eyes, is the only one that matters. They’re a touring act featuring members of many of my eighth-grade favorites (OK, maybe, I still listen to most of them), including Eric Melvin of NOFX. The chance I had to be on stage with him was the only time I’ve ever taken a karaoke risk like, signing up for a song that I really didn’t know that well. You better believe, though, that I wasn’t letting this performance opportunity go to waste.

Megan karaokeI would become Brody Dalle (you can take a break here and head on over to Google) but not without the help of a bartender and listening to the song multiple times, alone in the bathroom of Prophet Bar to make sure I could handle the task.

I’m happy to say that it went pretty well but was ultimately fun and gave me what is, without a doubt, one of my favorite memories of the more recent past. The, at times quiet, reserved, sometimes bumbling, and often meek Megan Radke, became the no-nonsense, intimidating, rough around the edges queen from The Distillers.

Very, very long story short, harness the power of the stage and show the world (or at least the room) what a powerful presence you really are!

Megan Radke is currently a Level 4 student at DCH. She is a copywriter and social media manager by day and an essayist and mediocre musician by night. She is a constant consumer of books, music, film, and all things comedy. She is also great at racking up copious amounts of credit card debt with spur-of-the-moment travel.

Here's Why You Should be a DCH Intern

DCH Interns Sarah Wyatt met her best friend through the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) internship program. Jason Hackett got a behind-the-scenes look as a DCH intern. Cesar Villa got a sweet, staff shirt.

There are approximately 30 interns each term working for DCH. Most of them are night interns, but some fill duties as bloggers, tech, and graphic artists. And since the club is made up of people who are supportive, creative, and ambitious, those are the types of interns it is looking for.

"Being an intern is more than just taking out trash and seating people," Wyatt said. "It's becoming a part of the community that can sometimes seem out of reach. You get to know your fellow students and performers quickly and more closely than if you just saw your two classes per term and ordered a few drinks from Ashley behind the bar. (Shout out Ashley! You killin it, gurl!)."

The internship program also gives you insight into how to smoothly run a comedy club's operations (that behind-the-scenes look).

"The most important aspect of all is that it gave me a sense of pride to be a part of DCH, a sense of stakes and ownership in the success of the Dallas comedy community itself," Hackett said. "As it grows, and my role within it changes, I still find myself feeling like that quiet intern I was for at least five terms, still in awe of the ephemeral magic that happens with frequency on those stages, and it makes me proud to have done my part to make that ship run smoothly."

Ashley Sarah

DCH prefers first-time interns to be going into Level 2, although exceptions have been made with a recommendation, usually from another improv community or DCH instructor or performer. Theoretically, too, you could intern for improv Levels 1 -5, Sketch Levels 1-3, Stand-up class, and then endless workshops.

"The internship program helped me do the one thing that classes can't teach, that has to come from your own motor: talking to people," Wyatt said. "I was very shy and introverted when I came to DCH. I was pretty shy and introverted during Level 1, too. It was being an intern that really made me come out of my shell. Having to talk to my comedy idols on a nightly basis was terrifying and thrilling, and I honestly can't say that I would have done it without being forced to as an intern."

Villa added that he was able to quickly fold into the DCH community as an intern.

"Performers I admired, teachers, and students ahead of me became friends," Villa said. "I went in with the mindset that no job is too small, and it didn't go unnoticed. I went from mopping the stage, sweeping the sidewalk, and restocking the beer fridge to now managing the intern program and techs."

Now is the time to consider being an intern. Not only do you receive tuition exchanged for your time, you get the inside track to an amazing community of supportive people. Term 6 applications are now open. Deadline to apply is Thursday, October 1, at 11:59 p.m.

"DCH is such a special place, and getting to be a part of showing that to people who come in, whether it's their first time or their millionth time is really amazing," said Andrea Urbina. "There is always something to do when you're interning. You get to know so many funny people and see what goes on behind the scenes each night. Interning at DCH has been such a fun and unique experience. I'm so glad I've gotten the opportunity to do it for the past three terms."


Confessions of a Comedy-holic

Confessions of a Comedy-holic is a weekly blog series that features performers of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). What does it take to be funny? What make someone a great comedian? What brought them to DCH, what kept them staying, and how has it changed their own lives. Celebrities of DCH speak about their journeys in comedy. Local comedians share their story.  Did You Notice?

Cesar VillaIf you have been in DCH more than once, you most likely saw Cesar Villa. It is hard to miss his unique appearance and his kind, yet convincing, approach. We sat at the DCH bar to have a conversation.

Cesar, what brought you to DCH?

I just moved to Texas from Arkansas, and I was looking for some fun things to do. So I’ve signed up for kickball and went to check out the Dallas Comedy House at the same time. But each time I would go to kickball on Wednesday nights, I would think that I would rather be at DCH. So, I signed up for the first comedy class here about a couple of years ago. And I loved it from the first time!

What happened to kickball?

I finished the season. We won a couple of games, but comedy took over. I never looked back.

I see you here almost every day. Tell us what your main responsibilities are here at DCH?

I am a technical director, which means I also schedule all the techs. When I started, it was just three of us. Now it’s up to 13. We are managing different shows going on in two theaters.

It’s a lot of work. How many times per week are you here?

About six times per week. I am also an intern manager, so I am directing all the night interns. Yes, it takes a lot of my time, but I like being here.

What does your wife think about it?

I am not married. Cesar is single.

Not much longer after this info goes around!

We will see.

What do you do outside of DCH?

I work in the pharmaceutical industry.

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently performing in four shows here, three of them perform regularly. I would like to also move to teaching and coaching.

Would you rather teach or coach?

Teaching is the curriculum, which is great. Coaching allows more flexibility and freedom, and moving a group performance to maybe a different direction, which is a fun thing to do!

What do you like most about this place?

The people! Forming relationships. We are kind of like a bunch of misfits that have found each other. One thing I love the most is to see people coming out of their shells after being here for some time, maybe for a few months. We also become like a heart of the community. You can see how much people love coming in and watching our shows and hang out with performers. We all support each other here. We all become friends. That is a great feeling!

What is one thing about you that no one knows here?

I was born in California, and I was playing in a Mariachi band there. I also like to sing.

What brought you to Dallas?

I moved here for work. From California, I first moved to Arkansas, then to Dallas.

If you could change one thing in the entire world, what would you change?

For people to like each other more. One thing improv taught me is not to judge people, and accept them the way they are. Compliment each other, and be specific with your compliments. Notice each other's good moves and build on that. I now use that approach in my everyday life, as well.

Specifics matter. Little things matter. Supporting each other matters.

Yes, exactly.

Well thank you sir, for supporting me in this interview.

Thank you very much.

Iryna Spitzer is a writer and improviser. She is currently in Level 2 at DCH. Besides comedy, she likes drama (to balance it out), also flowers, children, animals, and world peace!  

Bulls in Heels

Bulls Show Dallas Comedy House troupe The 1995 Chicago Bulls will walk on stage tonight in high heels. The troupe is asking for show attendees to donate clothes and money, which will be given to Genesis Women's Shelter & Support.

The reason for the high heels, though, is based on Walk a Mile In Her Shoes, an event and organization that asks men to walk one mile in women's high heel shoes in order to raise awareness of violence against women. But the Bulls aren't stopping with high heels. They're donning dresses, wigs, and makeup, too.

"We were backstage before a show (we opened for Atlantic Pacific Billy), and there were heels backstage," troupe member Jua Holt said. "We laughed at the idea of Cesar [Villa] in heels, and the size he'd need to buy. And we 'yes, and' into a Block Party in heels to a full show in drag for charity."

And if you're wondering, Cesar wears a size 17.

Come out tonight to help raise money and donate clothes for a great cause. Funny Scenez starts the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.

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.


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.


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.

JFK, Sugar Ray, and the Sixth Floored

Our latest Level 3 Sketch class work hard to produce a stellar show, and it's evident they succeeded with Sixth Floored. Performer Jonda Robinson and assistant director Julia Cotton fill us in about the revue and how sketch writing can help make you better improviser. How did the group land on the theme of the show? What is the through-line in each scene connecting with the overall Dallas/Kennedy title?

Jonda: Because this is the first sketch show at the new Dallas Comedy House (DCH), we thought it would be nice to try to write some things that were inspired by Dallas. Nick Scott (our director) asked us to bring in pitches that involved the city, and almost all of them had to do with the Kennedy assassination in some way. This made us think about how that event is still such a big deal for the city, and Dallas has never really moved on from it. In our scenes, we saw this related theme of characters being stuck in situations, unsure of how to move forward, and that became that thread that runs through the show.

Julia: Nick and I had them go around the table and just tell what was going on in their lives. In everyone's response there was some mention of not knowing what was coming next in their lives. Everyone seemed to hint at the need to move on to the next thing, but not quite being sure what that next thing was or even if moving on would be the right thing to do. So that's something underlining the show, for sure: staying stuck in a situation or moving on from it. JFK came along because I think we had them bring historical pitches and Dallas centric pitches in the same week. There was some grim holocaust stuff, some grim 9/11 stuff, but I think mostly JFK stuff came through the pipe that week, and we ended up running with that. There was a joke about the JFK assassination being the thing Dallas is most known for and there's like this weird sense of pride about it. The title Sixth Floored, though, is also a reference to the band Sugar Ray, which is another prominent element in the show (their second studio album was titled Floored).

Sixth Floored

How does working together as a sketch group differ from working together as improv troupe?

Jonda: When you are onstage as an improv troupe, you don’t have time to overthink—you just have time to react, and once a scene is finished, you’ll never do it again. In sketch, you get to take your basic idea, write it, and rewrite it until it’s something you really like. Sketch involves a lot of bouncing ideas off of each other and, as a group, picking the ones that work best. The collaboration is different, because you get to actually explain the reasoning for your choices and hear other ideas to see which is best before putting anything up for the audience.

Julia: You're getting to explore each other's ideas further, which is great on a lot of levels. Not only does that mean you're digging into the sketch and what can make it great and better and finding different directions it can go, but you're also digging into each other more. In improv, you make things up on the spot and scenes and moments pass so fast and you forget about them so quickly. With sketch, obviously you're planning things, so you can ask someone, "How did you get to that thought," which prompts a lot of conversations in and out of that writer’s room. Being able to bounce ideas back and forth, you end up getting a deeper look into each other's psyche. I like that, because there’s the opportunity for writing specific things about the people you’re working with.

Sixth Floored

How does writing influence your improv skills?

Jonda: Writing sketch has helped me become more aware of just how important the basics are in an improv scene. When you write something, you know that you need to get the set-up of the scene out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Without this foundation, the audience is left missing out. Writing sketch has also forced me to take the time to analyze the game of a scene and figure out how to best heighten it, which in turn has made it a little easier to recognize the game when I’m in the heat-of-the-moment of an improv scene.

Julia: I think both skill sets go hand in hand. I signed up for improv with the intention of getting into sketch writing. Doing improv makes you focus on things like “who, what, where” and “relationships” and “finding the fun” and “burning the leaves.” When you go into writing a sketch, all of those improv “rules” are so vital in giving you places to take a scene and finding out which one of those places is most interesting to explore and make a sketch out of. I feel like going back to improv after writing, you end up finding those interesting places faster.

What kind of work goes into putting on a sketch show?

Jonda: The work is basically four phases:

  1. Pitch a million ideas and pick the few that you like and have the most potential.
  2. Write, perform, rewrite, perform, rewrite again, rewrite some more, etc., until you have your sketches where you want them.
  3. Memorize your scripts and rehearse to get your performance down.
  4. Spend the entire run of your show having lots of fun with your group, because you’ve got it all down and are excited to show an audience what you’ve created.

Julia: Each week, everyone meets together in a “writer’s room” environment. The first couple of meetings everyone pitches ideas based on whatever’s happening (in their life, in the world, etc.), or maybe a prompt or theme is thrown out there (“pitch something about Dallas,” “pitch something about a particular historical event,” “pitch something about sports”). We go through all of the pitches, pick the ones that jump out enough for everyone, talk about them for a bit, and then improvise them. If something is working as an improvised scene, someone is assigned to take it and write it out. When there are enough scenes that kind of lean toward a similar theme, we get a few more pitches specifically for that theme and go through that same process with them. The directors take them all and come up with a preliminary show order and after that, it’s much like doing a theater production: Everyone needs to get "off book." Usually there’s some rewriting. There are ALWAYS sketches that get cut. There are revisions to the show order. There’s a prop list. There’s blocking/staging. There’s sound and lighting. There are rehearsals. There are tears. And then there’s a show!

Sixth Floored

Which skills does one need to be a good sketch performer?

Jonda: To be successful as a sketch performer, one needs the dedication to memorize lines and the willingness to try to play scenes in different ways, even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone. To use a term from my days playing team sports, you’ve got to be “coachable” and willing to listen to your director and fellow performers to make the performance the best it can be.

Julia: Having an improv background is definitely helpful, not only for writing but for the nature of live theater (because who knows what will happen that one time when someone forgets to bring the birthday cake prop on stage!). Also, all improv fundamentals are relevant in putting on a sketch show: support, react, use the environment, make eye contact, etc.

Confidence. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, it comes across in your performance, so the audience won’t believe it either.

Thick skin is important. Not only are there ALWAYS sketches that get cut, not all pitches get the reaction you’re hoping for. That doesn’t mean you can’t write them and prove everyone wrong! But also, writing them doesn’t always prove everyone wrong… :)

Patience with yourself, your cast mates, your directors, your tech people, and those people building a brand-new theater for you to perform in. Sketches don’t always come together the way we expect them to come together in our heads. You may write something for a long time and it end up making no sense to you or anyone else. There are always technical challenges. There are sometimes new theaters being built in the middle of trying to put together a show, and you don’t have a stage to rehearse on for a while. Trust that all will come together as it should.

Also, night vision is good if you have that, because sometimes it gets dark on that stage.

Sixth Floored

Are there any scenes left on the cutting room floor that you wish could have been performed? If so, which ones?

Jonda: I don’t want to give away too much information about those top-secret scenes, as we might want to pull them out at some point, but the one that comes to mind was entitled “Peanut Butter Slap” and involved Ashley in the role of an office janitor who violently interrogated us all because someone was slathering peanut butter all over the workplace. Sometimes those sketches that never make it to the stage are the most fun because you’re trying hard to make some crazy premise work, and along the way inside jokes are created within your group.

Julia: SO MANY!!!

Katie had a really good idea that no one really latched on to that I was kind of in to. Something about a woman that talked to people that kept leaving or dying, but someone else would come in and be there for her to keep talking to. Then I saw an episode of Louie later this season where he did EXACTLY THAT! It was a good idea. Louis C.K. thought so.

Also, there was a "Middle Aged Mutant Lawyer Turtles" thing that never quite came together.

Jason Hackett had one that I really loved, but I do believe he’s still going to perform it somewhere, so I don’t want to ruin it. Stay tuned for that.

Plus, who knows what we can add back throughout the run of the show...

Speaking of the show, you can catch Sixth Floored May 21, May 28, and June 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for advance purchase

Sixth Floored was written by and stars Ashley Bright, Jessica Dorrell, Jason Hackett, Jon Patrick, Katie Pedroza, Jonda Robinson, and Cesar Villa. It is directed by Nick Scott and assistant directed by Julia Cotton. 

Sixth Floored