Comedy Centerfold

Comedy Centerfold: Murad Al Haj

Welcome to Comedy Centerfold, where we feature a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performer and get to know him or her a little better by using questions that Playboy centerfolds are usually asked.


Did you ever meet someone and feel like you've known him your entire life? That is exactly how I felt when I first met Murad in Level 5 improv class. He is witty, kind, and exemplary when playing the game of "Yes and." I've seen Murad play a rug, a toilet, and my favorite was an alien child. To know him is to love him!

-- Vicki Ferguson

Tripoli, Lebanon. 

Guilty Pleasures?
On rare occasions, I watch a show about people bidding on abandoned storage units. I feel bad afterward.

"Make a dent in the universe." 

Best Concert? 
I am not a huge fan of big concerts. I love music in small intimate settings. Giulia y Los Tellarini playing in a tiny venue in Barcelona is one of my favorite music events.

Favorite Book? 
This is a very tough one. I love so many books in various genres. If I have to pick one, it would be Cities of Salt.

Favorite Movie?
The Man from Earth. However, Scar throwing Mufasa into a stampede is the greatest scene ever made.

Favorite TV Show?
It is a tie between The Office and Veep.

No. Please no. I don't hate pets. I just don't like to exist with them in the same confined space.

Foods I Crave?
Boba tea.

People I Admire?
Multiple people in my family. They helped shape who I am.

Dream Role? 

Favorite Song to Sing?
Whichever song is stuck in my head. The last one has been "I Walk the Line." 

Good First Date Idea?
First dates suck. Skip them. Date someone you already know. Start from the second date.

You can catch Murad performing with Fantastical Arts at DCH on August 13.

Comedy Centerfold: Vicki Ferguson

Welcome to Comedy Centerfold, where we feature a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performer and get to know him or her a little better by using questions that Playboy centerfolds are usually asked.

Have you ever met anyone who bargained their way into free race car driving school when buying a Porsche? Have you ever received comforting, loving, and caring advice when you most needed it from the same person? I HAVE! That wonderful someone is miss Vicki (yes, she is single!).

TJ and Dave say it's our jobs as improvisers to lead rich and wonderful lives so we can bring those experiences and gift them to our scene partners. Vicki puts us to shame in that department! But make no mistake; she is passionate, committed, and always wanting more awesomeness on stage, however already awesome her life is.

                                                                                                                              -- Paco Giurfa Ley


Guilty Pleasures?  
Red wine and champagne with just a splash of orange juice.

My ambitions change every day. However, in the end, I hope to say I have conquered most of my fears and was the best person I could be. 

Best Concert?
Janis Joplin with Big Brother & The Holding Company at The Fillmore. 

Favorite Book?
How to Feng Shui Your Home.

Favorite Movie?

Favorite TV Show?
Outlander, but I'm enjoying The Handmaid's Tale.

I have two, long-haired chihuahuas, Maddie and Mia, and a Pom-Chi, Bella. I also have a Grand-dog, Marley Mae. I  also have a mini pig named Elvis and a 7-year-old Beta fish, Sylvester.

Foods I Crave?
Chocolate and French fries.

People I Admire?
My grandmother for her infinite wisdom and the Dalai Lama.

Dream Role?
Lead in the 2018 remake of Pretty Woman

Favorite Song to Sing?
"This Girl Is On Fire."

Good First Date Idea?  
The Dallas Comedy House, of course!

See Vicki perform in the troupe Out of the Blue on August 3 and August 17. 

Comedy Centerfold: Shawn Mayer

Welcome to Comedy Centerfold, where we feature a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performer and get to know him or her a little better by using questions that Playboy centerfolds are usually asked.

Shawn Mayer once took a golf lesson and scored a screenplay deal out of it. Shawn Mayer once banned bacon from the the Vatican. Shawn Mayer once hid under a table and listened to Churchill sing the blues. You may not know these things about it him, and they're all true. He told me so while we drank iced chai tea at a Seattle-based cafe. He's a man of the world and of the people. He's a great artist who captures emotions well. And you can see him perform in three troupes: Dad's Lap, Sunglow, and Wiki Tiki Tabby. He also irregularly performs in an impromptu one-man show called Corner Prov that no one has ever seen, but definitely exists despite its absence from the Dallas Comedy House schedule. It's totally real. 

I tell people Kansas City, Missouri, but really it's Blue Springs, Missouri, which is a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, but on the far eastern edge, so it's not technically Kansas City, Missouri, but basically it is. 

Guilty Pleasures?
I feel guilty about everything, and I don't take pleasure in any of it. That makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning, but it makes sleeping a lot easier.

I wanna be one of those guys who buys an old school bus and turns it into one of those tiny homes out in the woods away from where the student loan people can find me. 

Best Concert?
I once played Robert Russell Bennett's symphonic arrangement of "Victory at Sea" in band during undergrad. I also played Schubert's "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen" for my senior recital. I messed up a lot, but I was really nervous. It's a really pretty piece, but don't take my word for it. I didn't sing it. I arranged it for clarinet and euphonium. 

Favorite Book?
I'm always in love with the last book I read. The last one I read was The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.

“Because some stories end, but old stories go on, and you gotta dance to the music if you want to stay ahead.” 

Favorite Movie?
It changes all the time, but right now I keep revisiting Playtime by Jacques Tati. I don't think another film has ever had as much influence on me.

Favorite TV Show?
Home Movies. If you don't love that show, I have a hard time trusting you as a human being. That's not true, but it sort of is.

I'm for them. 

Foods I Crave?
I'm a human garbage disposal. 

People I Admire?
I have a soap box for this one but I'll keep it brief. I admire people who are capable of admiring others who they completely disagree with. Sometimes I feel like we forget we can say "Yes, and" to people off the stage as well as on.  

Dream Role?
Has anyone ever played themselves in the dramatization of their own life? Cuz that would be awesome. I want to play me in the movie about me. We'll call it Shawn: A Story Untold... Maybe I could get Charlie Kaufman to write it.

Favorite Song to Sing?
"Mr. Blue Sky" by E.L.O. If you ever need to feel better, sing that song. I'm a doctor. I know these things. Yep.

Good First Date Idea?
To never have one. Dates terrify me. An intimate connection with another human being is the scariest thing on the face of the planet. What if they hate you because you're dumb and  stupid and you don't know how to react and they never talk to you and ... nothing scares me more than broken relationships. That's selfish. Don't care. Just hide in your room and watch old episodes of Diana Rigg run on The Avengers. Or pick up quilting. Quilting's nice. Like they have quilts in museums now. It's like contemporary art or something. Do quilting. Be alone and quilt. Or don't. Live your life. Don't listen to me. Oh God...Oh God. *heavy breathing*

Comedy Centerfold: Ryan Vicksell

Welcome to Comedy Centerfold, where we feature a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performer and get to know him or her a little better by using questions that Playboy centerfolds are usually asked. Ryan VicksellThe malfunctioning TARDIS lands in a quarry and Ryan Vicksell immediately senses that something is amiss. Soon, he realizes that history is being altered and he must intervene to prevent a disaster. As he begins to investigate, his companions in the troupes Encyclopedia Moronica (performing at DCH on October 26) and Learning Curve (October 5) all sprain their ankles and he finds himself captured and put in a cell where he is subjected to a mind probe by his captors.

Meanwhile, Ryan's companions writhe on the floor screaming "Tractators! Tractators!" but they are in worse danger than they realize because several of their new friends are traitors.

Elsewhere, Ryan has convinced a wimpy bad guy to change sides and after a tense period of running back and forth down the same corridor is shocked to learn that the aliens have zips down their backs and the tension comes to a peak until, at the last minute, he saves the day by helping the rebels overthrow their oppressors.

Hometown? Carrollton, Texas. Really though, I spent most of my time as a kid and as a teenager on the Internet, so in reality I come from a land of dank memes, flash videos, immature weirdos, and lots of stuff about video games.

Guilty Pleasures? I wouldn’t say I have any guilty pleasures because everything I do is pretty damn awesome (like me), but I guess I can pick a few more questionable ones: collecting Star Wars Legos, die-cast starships, and other nerdy stuff I have no room for. Sleeping for 18 hours straight because I love sloths. Eating too many Raising Cane’s chicken strips.  

Ambitions? I’ve only had one big “ambition” in life, and that’s to find some awesome gal to spend some time with in that whole romancey way. You know, she doesn’t have to be perfect. Genuine, someone I get along with, funny, wants what I do out of life, wears apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur. It’s the only thing I’ve wanted that relies somewhat on chance, so I just keep trying to be a better person and hope for the best.

Besides that, I want to become a better teacher, comedian, and continue to challenge myself creatively. Preferably while cuddling with an adorable sloth, because sloths are perfect and adorable creatures and if you disagree with me you are wrong.

Best Concert? Trans-Siberian Orchestra puts on the most impressive shows you can imagine. Each year, it’s a new whirlwind of lights, flames that you can feel from the top rows of the American Airlines Center, giant platforms lifting musicians above the audience, and of course, amazing yet meaningful symphonic rock. Plus, they’re just classy as hell.

Favorite Book? All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque really piqued my interest in history freshman year of high school. It was written simply, but packed with so much emotion, despair, and depth. I realized then that history wasn’t a bunch of dates, but the story of people – real people, struggling with things far beyond my imagination. Despite the fact that pretty much everyone dies [Editor's Note: Spoiler alert!], I found the perseverance and humanity of the characters inspiring during a time when I was on the brink myself.

Favorite Movie? It’s not one movie, but the Lord of the Rings trilogy is probably my favorite. I’m a big sucker for big, sweeping dramatic epics on an epic scale, and the 12-hour runtime probably helped (I’m one of the five people on earth who think they should be even longer). I like to see characters evolve over long periods of time, and movies rarely allow that. It’s the only movie that I’ve ever thought was better than the books. They didn’t change me on any deep level, they are just really really good.

Fun Fact: The first time I asked a girl out on a date, I listened to the "Charge of the Rohirrim" from the Return of the King soundtrack as I walked up to her to gather courage. Unfortunately, my dreams ended up like king Théoden – trampled to death by giant elephants in a muddy field [Editor's Note: Spoiler alert!].

Favorite TV Show? Unlike most people at DCH, comedy TV/movies never particularly tickled my fancy. I grew up on a steady diet of Star Trek, Stargate, and anything else with “Star-“ in the title. Really, my favorite shows are often ones that either teach me to be a better person, have some emotionally-crushing drama, or both. There’s a lot of great TV, but I have a couple of favorites, though. Battlestar Galactica (the new one), taught me that every single one of us is pretty messed up in some way and that even though I’m no different I can still be a great person. Doctor Who taught me to embrace my weirdness, and that an Oxford jacket, bow-tie wearing nerd who rambles endlessly CAN be the coolest guy ever.

Pets? I love dogs and would love to have one, but between work, comedy, and other stupid grown-up responsibilities, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to give the poor thing enough attention and would just feel guilty constantly. Instead, I just longingly look at cute dogs on the Internet and instantly fall in love with any dog I happen to walk past.

Foods I Crave? I don’t crave food that often, oddly enough. I sort of eat because I have to, but usually, I’m not hankering for anything specific. I do love me a good steak, though. I’m very much a carnivore. Mostly, I need some caffeine.

People I Admire? People who are genuine and honest about themselves. Too many people hide behind masks and are afraid to be vulnerable. I understand it, but I feel like the world would be a much better place if we could be honest about, and help, each other with our flaws. I would rather be open about and laugh at my flaws than hide them and be miserable all the time. I admire people who can do that.

Dream Role? Playing the Doctor on Doctor Who. He’s full of life and energy, dashing about and rambling on about things nobody understands. He’s full of wit, humor, yet also carries a lot of darkness inside of him and is a truly caring, complex character that would be so great to play. Who wouldn’t want to dash around time and space saving the world while being a complete weirdo at the same time?

Favorite Song to Sing? Most of the music I listen to is instrumental, so often I’ve got some big dramatic orchestral flourishes, screaming choirs, or taiko drum beats in my head. I’ll go with “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan because A) It’s manly as hell B) Was the first Disney song I didn’t hate as a kid.

Lately, I’ve been singing “Yoghurt” by Ylvis, which is literally about nothing but yogurt, and yogurt is great so I approve strongly of the song.

Good First Date Idea? In the first spaceship to Mars. That way, you have plenty of time to relax, get to know one another over some freeze-dried peas, and if it doesn’t work out you can spend the time pretending to be captain of the Enterprise and playing the Star Trek theme on repeat and there’s nothing she can do to stop you! Win-win situation!

In reality, I would guess somewhere where you have plenty of time to talk, get to know each other in a stress-free environment, and determine if your date likes roller coasters. Anyone worth dating should like roller coasters. This is mostly theoretical since I have far more experience with roller coasters than dating. I’ve actually been on a roller coaster in the last three years.

Comedy Centerfold: Liz Barksdale

Welcome to Comedy Centerfold, where we feature a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performer and get to know him or her a little better by using questions that Playboy centerfolds are usually asked. Liz BarksdaleThe St. Petersburg streets were sparse with people. It was an unusually cold winter. A frozen ham leaned against the butcher's door. A tree creaked. Around a corner came Ms. Barksdale, her hands deep into her pockets. She stepped upon a park bench and opened a small notepad. She spoke like an eloquent empress, but alas, few could understand her as English was not their language. But one man understood her words and raised his hand. Ms. Barksdale stepped off the bench and took him by the elbow and lead them both away into the late afternoon. These two, brave souls are the reason you can read translated literature in English. All of it. They're 100 percent responsible for it. While her friend has since retired, Ms. Barksdale has not and often finds inspiration on stage. You can thank her for the gift of translation when she performs with her troupes Clarissa Explained Nothing (October 13, DCH; September 30, Pocket Sandwich Theater), and Autocomplete (September 23 and October 4, Pocket Sandwich Theater).


Hometown? Arlington, Texas.

Guilty Pleasures? I used to read a lot of comments on the Internet, and I used to watch a lot of Hoarders. I've cut down on comments and basically stopped with the Hoarders. But sometimes, it's still the most gratifying thing in the world to watch a bunch of reality TV and then go on some online forum and read thousands of comments and arguments and conspiracy theories about said reality TV.

Ambitions? To continue becoming slowly better at things I do, e.g.: writing, improv, working at a library, taking myself less seriously. I started a bullet journal a few months ago. It's pretty useful. It doesn't have to look nice like the ones on Pinterest, or even be super organized. I mean, it can, but it doesn't HAVE to be. I really don't want anyone to Google "Bullet Journaling" and feel defeated -- that is a mini-ambition.

Best Concert? Matt and Kim. I am somewhat stodgy. Very few other acts can make me think, "Oh! I will buy a ticket to this event and then I will, unquestionably, dance."

Favorite Book? I need a new answer to some of these questions because my opinions kind of froze when I was 17 years old and new things were extra awesomely new to me. My book opinion then was Notes from Underground. My very worldly 17-year-old opinion was also that Notes was like a better version of Crime and Punishment with a lot of the boring stuff cut out. Heck, I'll stand by that opinion. Come at me, Russian lit connoisseurs.

Station Eleven is also amazing and not all 19th century.

Favorite Movie? Walk Hard is my favorite comedy. Favorite drama's maybe Adaptation. Or Gattaca -- another holdover opinion from when I was 17 that's still pretty dang good.

Favorite TV Show? Mystery Science Theater 3000. It's going to be rebooted soon! I'm also really fond of Awkward Black Girl and BoJack Horseman.

Pets? Suzy and Sophie, who are both cats. They are both annoying and wonderful in their own ways. Suzy is fluffy and black, and Sophie is a gray tabby. Sophie's name was originally The Producer, but I decided that's not the best name for a cat.

Foods I Crave? I have this big bag of frozen paneer in my freezer right now. It's like Indian vegetarian cheese. I just learned you can keep a big bag of this stuff in your freezer. This big bag of frozen cheese thing is old news to some, but it's still pretty new to me, and I'm stoked. Those chile relleno crepes at Cafe Brazil. That Ben and Jerry's flavor where they put a massive chocolate cookie in the middle. Boom Chocalotta! The exclamation point is part of the name. It's horribly embarrassing. But so good.

People I Admire? Issa Rae is a very admirable actor/director/showrunner/comedian person to me.

In general, people who do the right thing even when it's a pain/boring and when they don't get much credit for it.

Dream Role? I don't really think about dream roles... I guess my big insane dream would be to write a Very Serious Novel that garnered High Acclaim, but then I'd go on Book TV on CSPAN2 and the right person would be home sick at the right time, flip the channel to CSPAN2 and think, "Wait...this one lady is weird AF, let's get her to host SNL."

Favorite Song to Sing? There is a 1979 song called "Moskau" by a German pop group called Dschinghis Khan. Go look up the video. Listen and observe. I know what you're thinking. What the hell is going on? What is with that one dude? And the other dude? And the dramatically whispered part?!

I don't know, I love it.

Good First Date Idea? I just learned that TGI Friday's was a *totally* different animal in the 1970s, so a time machine and TGI Friday's.

Comedy Centerfold: Cody Hofmockel

Welcome to Comedy Centerfold, where we feature a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performer and get to know him or her a little better by using questions that Playboy centerfolds are usually asked. Cody Hofmockel

Cody Hofmockel is hanging out with a celebrity backstage at the Xcel Energy Center while I sip a Negroni at a hotel bar. Once his text comes through, I plan to turn our Hyatt Regency room into party central for the celebrity and his entourage. Or maybe it's Cody's entourage. Maybe the celebrity is the one hanging out with Cody because those in the know know that Cody is the awe with the some, the hip to the hop, and the hoo to the ha. "It's a Negroni night, you wankers, get it on" was the last thing I remember Cody screaming before I passed out on the balcony. Dang, that Cody can hang.

Hometown? San Antonio, Texas. Northeast side.

Guilty Pleasures? Guilt negates pleasure, so when I eat pizza, Raising Cane's, Jimmy John's, or a Braum's vanilla frozen yogurt Heath® mix, or listen to Hamilton again, I tell shame, "Not this time, shame."

Ambitions? I think it would be nice to get paid a living to do something I enjoy and maybe own some property.

Best Concert? I saw a band called Enter Shikari at a small venue in San Antonio on my 16th or 17th birthday, and it was sweaty and exhilarating.

Favorite Book? Toss up between Dianetics and the Book of Mormon.

Favorite Movie? There Will Be Blood, because of the acting.

Favorite TV Show? The Office.

Pets? Once I acquire property.

Foods I Crave? Raising Cane's, Jimmy John's.

People I Admire? Andy Kaufman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and all my friends at DCH.

Dream Role? An original character on a mockumentary TV show.

Favorite Song to Sing? Right now it's probably the King George songs from Hamilton. Hey, what is shame doing here? Not today, shame.

Good First Date Idea? Something with soup to make sure they don't slurp when they eat soup.

You can see Cody perform in the troupes Coiffelganger, Midnight Passion, Pretty People with Problems, and Your Neighbor Karl, as well as the new DCH sketch review, Trump'd: The Musical.

Upcoming Shows: July 27, 8 p.m.: Your Neighbor Karl July 30, 11 p.m.: Sketch Dash August 3, 8 p.m.: Midnight Passion August 6, 11 p.m.: Coiffelganger August 13, 10 p.m.: Pretty People with Problems August 17, 8 p.m.: Coiffelganger Fridays and Saturdays, August 19-September 17,  9 p.m.: Trump'd: The Musical