Dallas Comedy House

"How to Tell If You’re Improvising or Falling Asleep on Stage" by Darcy Armstrong

Comedy is tough. Sometimes you think that you’re doing comedy, but really you’re sleeping. For example, in the above photo, we see two people doing comedy and one person sleeping. You can tell he is sleeping by the way his eyes are closed and he has his head resting on his arms. This is a classic sleeping pose. You can tell Andrew is doing comedy because he has his thumb out like, “Get a load of this guy,” a classic dig at a sleeping person. Throughout this article, I’ll help you walk through some different scenes and figure out the sleepers and the comedians.

Here we see a lot of comedians and one little sneaky sleeper. You may think Timmy is sleeping by the door; however, you would be wrong. He is very alert because he is being held up by a fellow comedian, Shawn Frambach, who is also very awake. You can see Christie’s extreme disappointment at being in the scene with a sleeper in the way she has her arms folded and is looking at him very disappointed. That’s right, Nick has fallen asleep in this scene. How could Nick have avoided this disaster? Maybe getting more sleep. Maybe he stayed up all night admiring his very cute dog? We’ll never know. But congratulations, you’re getting better at spotting those sneaky comedy sleepers. 

We’re switching gears for this one, so I hope you can stay with me. That’s right, we’re looking at sketch comedy. These three comedians have written down jokes instead of making them up off the top of their heads. I didn’t mean to throw you for a loop, but you’re learning very quickly. Here, Maggie has fallen asleep in the middle of a scene. Colten and Jade are clearly very concerned as to how to continue the scene while Maggie takes a quick nap. Maybe, Maggie still thinks she is doing comedy. Maybe, in her dreams, Maggie is standing in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden. However, we can tell, as comedy vs. sleep experts, that Maggie is actually sleeping.

After that toughie, I’m here to give you an easy one. In this photo, we clearly have two comedians. One mixing a bowl hilariously, while the other grabs something off the counter to help out. What a doozie of a laugher. But seated in the middle is our sleeping culprit. Rob Howe, taking a little rest in the middle of an improv jam! Rob, you gotta be awake to do comedy, buddy. You can tell Rob is sleeping by the way he has his hands resting on his legs, just relaxing into the slumber. Give him just another minute and that hat will be pulled down over his eyes as he drifts off to sleep.

You feeling cocky? You think you’ve got a handle on it? Well, here’s a really tricky one. This is an improv graduation. They are doing a bit! How can you tell who is sleeping and who is not? You think that it’s Nika? Wrong. Neeka is clearly cradling a sweet little improv baby. Only one person in this photo is yawning. A classic sign of a sleeping person. That’s right, our dear Jay Jacoby has fallen asleep mid-song. Jay, what are you doing? Get some vitamins, chug an energy drink, and power through. You only graduate once, Jay!

We’re back in the world of sketch comedy for this one. You’re experienced now, professionals. I’ll give you a hint. This photo was taken at an 11 p.m. Sketch Dash show. Did you say both? Both comedians are sleeping? You really think we would allow two comedians to just sleep on stage and expect people to pay to watch that? You’re not as quick as you thought, Sherlock! This was a trick question. Chelsea and Collin are both VERY awake and pretending to be stoners in high school. Waynes World has nothing on them! 

We’ve come full circle. You’ve seen this one before. One improviser, one sleeper. So who is it? Cesar has taken Jua’s place, but he’s awake and alert! He’s got his eyes fixated on Jason. Jason has his hand out as if to brace himself for a fall. Why would he be falling? Because Jason is asleep! Jason has fallen asleep during an improv scene and left Cesar trapped behind the C in DCH to save the scene. I hope that one didn’t trick you too much. You’ve come a long way.

That’s right. Now that you are correctly able to identify who is sleeping in an improv scene and who is doing comedy, you can see my secret shame. In the middle of this improv scene, when I was supposed to be launching into space with my fellow astronauts, I fell asleep. So I’ve taken these steps today to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. If you see someone sleeping in an improv or sketch scene, wake them up, let them know. We have to fight this improviser by improviser, scene by scene, or you too one day could be caught… sleeping in an improv scene. 

Darcy Armstrong is a graduate of the Dallas Comedy House improv, sketch writing, and storytelling program. She writes comedy occasionally, walks her dog frequently, drinks chardonnay at the DCH bar constantly, and performs with Glistlefoot and Serious Robots.

(All photos by Darcy Armstrong except for the last one, taken by Kaspars Skels.)

"How to Rise to Power in the Upcoming Dystopia" by Emily Ball

If you’re a concerned citizen, you’ve noticed that our nation is in troubling times. We are more divided than ever, turning on friends and family at the drop of a hat over any political disagreement. Our nation is ripe for a plunge into utter chaos, and that dystopian future will need a swamp king.

Here’s how to claw your way to the top, no matter how our democracy crumbles:

1) Nuclear War. Someone gets a little trigger happy, and nukes gut the topography of our planet like a gentle cleansing rain. Your first job here is to survive. You will need to immediately become comfortable with the idea of eating another human being, and couple that with the knowledge that the radiation poisoning experienced by your meal will eventually warp your mind. Run with it. Get as crazy as possible. Wear a bear’s head as a hat. Gnaw on human bones. Your personal brand needs to move from “Gentle yogi” to “Sweet Jesus, what is that thing” as quickly as possible. Start rumors that you murder for sport (or actually murder for sport, if you want to live authentically). Soon your reputation will be so formidable that those who once feared and despised you will now flock to you for safety and comfort. Congratulations, you’re the swamp king.

2) Militant State. Uh oh, we have a dictator now. DO NOT PANIC. Unfortunately, we live in a digital age, so you don’t have the “burn your political s**t” option that we did back in the good old days. The good news? Everyone loves a good #transformationTuesday. You need to start branding your Instagram hard, right now. Build out a 10-to-12 post storyline on your social media about how you’re slowly coming around to the ideals of the new regime. Tag your new leader. DM your new leader. Seduce your new leader. Marry your new leader. Murder your new leader. Become your new leader. Congratulations, you’re the swamp king.

3) Non-Human Overlords. Our computers/monkeys/vehicles (I see you, Disney/Pixar’s Cars) have finally outpaced us and realized that we are destroying the planet and each other at a truly horrifying rate. They have taken over for the sake of the planet, and humanity now plays second fiddle to creatures that were once subservient to us. You will now need to make yourself indispensable to your new overlords, whether that means managing the human labor force or knowing how to perform an oil change with your tiny human hands. You will eventually become a confidante of the current leader, despite the warnings of her allies, until you are determining her every move and political decision, a la Theoden and Grima. Congratulations, you’re the swamp king.

Hopefully these tips set you up for success in the coming age of anarchy and darkness! Obviously, you don’t want to see the world crumble amidst widespread catastrophe surrounded by the agonizing screams of the innocent, but someone has to step up and take charge, so why not you? Go get ‘em, girl.

Emily Ball is an improviser, bartender, and stand-up comedian based out of Dallas, Texas. In her free time, she likes to moderate arguments between her cat, Debbie, and her dog, Tucker.

"Comedy Debut: How to Get Started in the Funny Business" by Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa

So you want to try your hand at comedy, but don’t know where to start? Here are five steps to take to get you to the laughs.

1) Go see shows.To find the style of comedy that suits you the most—improv, stand-up, sketch, or a combination—you first have to see the varying types and styles. Fortunately for you, Dallas Comedy House (DCH) has all three types on rotation from Tuesday through Saturday each week. Check out the DCH monthly calendar to find something you’d like to see.

Bonus: Free shows happen weekly, too! Check out the free King of the Mountain show on Wednesday nights and the free Improv Playground on Thursday nights.

2) Go to a free Jam or Open Mic.Now that you’ve seen a few shows, you’re probably thinking, “Hey! I can do that! That looks easy and oh-so fun!” Well give it a go at a Tuesday night Jam. Improv Jams are come as you are, do as you do. They require no sign up and everyone can participate, from the passerby off the street to the seasoned performer. Open Mics require a bit more forethought: You must sign up by midnight the Sunday before and you must have three-to-five minutes of prepared material. Both are a great way to practice what you’ve got.

3) Take a free class.What, more free stuff? Yes! (We don’t want you to be held back from your dreams.) DCH offers a free improv class on the last Wednesday of each month. You don’t have to sign up, and you don’t have to know what you’re doing. You just have to show up and be willing to have fun.

4) Take more classes and learn to write your own material.After you’ve narrowed your focus to the style of comedy that you prefer, it’s time to get really focused and dedicate yourself to learning the craft. New courses begin monthly, including the upcoming Summer Improv Intensive for adults and Summer Camp for Kids. Classes meet weekly and culminate in a showcase of student work. Internships and scholarships are available to those who qualify. Courses include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

Improv: Learn how to get out of your head, think at the height of your intelligence, to listen, and to trust. Improv is a great way to improve your performance, your relationships, and your life.

Stand-up & Storytelling: Everyone has a story to tell. These classes will help you fine-tune your story in an easy-to-relay format fit for performance. Stand-up classes will help you write and polish a five-to-10 minute set, while storytelling helps you write and perform your personal narrative.

Sketch writing: These courses will show you how to take a character and build a story around them. Courses start with crafting for the stage and then, ultimately, for the screen. Prerequisites are required for all classes.

5) Perform, perform, perform! Each course culminates in a performance of some kind. These performances are gentle introductions in a safe environment to being on stage and putting your material out there. Take advantage of these opportunities to challenge yourself to be bolder each time you step out. Beyond the class showcases, DCH also offers several other opportunities to perform, from submitting a show to auditioning for King of the Mountain or being in an Ewing Troupe (DCH’s own improv method).

There are plenty of ways to hone your comedy skills, in and outside of the classroom. The very first step for all of them: Just show up.

Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa is a current student at DCH. She spends her days wrangling children, avoiding housework, and hustling for acting or writing gigs. One day she’ll make her life easier by changing her name to Shashana O’Shanahan.

(Top photo credit: David Allison. Bottom photo credit: Ryan Robins)

"Book Review: 'Bunny, Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort of Love Story' by Alan Zweibel" by Jamé McCraw

Bunny, Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort of Love Story written and illustrated by Alan Zweibel is a tender and very personal glimpse into the relationship between a writer and performer who meet in summer 1976 during the freshman year of Saturday Night Live. Zweibel is responsible for penning scripts to the sketches featuring outrageous and memorable original characters such as Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella for Radner.

A series of dialogues and simple line drawings tell the story of the duo’s delicate friendship. A friendship cut tragically short after 14 years when Radner passed away from complications with ovarian cancer on May 20, 1989.

Sparse vignettes recreate moments of tension, fear, and confrontation but do not feel overly voyeuristic. Zweibel lovingly paints himself as the “asshole” during times of conflict. Gilda is his champion and closest ally. The pair have a profound love for one another that endures during times of uncertainty.

When she is instructed by Zweibel to hold onto casino winnings he could use to pay credit card debt, Radner has hotel security escort him away from her hotel room door when he comes begging out of the arrangement. There is a playfulness to this gesture and her apology the day after the incident comes in the form of a letter, which is hidden in the lavatory of his aircraft during his flight home.

This secret is revealed to Zweibel by a stewardess who tells him: “I was so touched by how warm and funny and loving this person was that I felt like I knew her my whole life and would’ve done anything for her.”

Fame is inevitable for the beloved performer who is approached by strangers so fond of her that they feel she is a familiar friend and call her by name. It is at this point that she asks Alan to call her Gilbert.

A romantic affair between the two of them nearly causes a rift as things fizzle out and they begin to explore the possibility of other partners. The picture Zweibel paints during these passages are stark. Small-talk on elevators and in hallways is painful to witness after knowing how well they are able to communicate with one another. This period of estrangement is resolved when Gilbert tells him, “I need you in my life because I trust you more than anyone and I don’t want to lose that.”

When Radner discovers Zweibel is in the grips of cocaine addiction, she confronts him directly. She tells him what he is doing is not only dangerous, but especially unwise for someone as “naturally insecure and paranoid” as he is. She encourages sobriety. At this time, she encourages him to clean up his act if he is serious about pursuing a relationship with a woman named Robin Blankman. The advice from his champion, Gilbert, is taken to heart. Zweibel and Blankman were married in 1979.

Over the next 10 years, Zweibel and Radner’s conversations appear to be spaced further and further apart as their lives take new paths. They did, however, manage to fulfill the role of a touchstone for one another in instances ranging from hilariously mundane to life-altering.

I am thankful to be privy to moments from such a special friendship. I have read Bunny, Bunny at least a dozen times over the past 13 years. Every month, I think of Radner telling her dear friend Zweibel that saying “Bunny, Bunny” as soon as you wake up on the first day of the month would bring good fortune. It is a sweet fairy tale that I have incorporated into my life. That being said, June 1 is just a week away.

Bunny, Bunny.

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.

(Image: LIFE)

"Coworker Still Wearing Event Wristband from the Weekend" by Anthony Salerno

May 19, 2017 (Plano, TX)Nearly three whole days into the work week and your office coworker, Brian, is still wearing his “Over 21” paper wristband he presumably received over the weekend. As the self-named office “fun guy,” Brian has come to work on previous Mondays wearing wristbands and stamps from local bars and concerts, but these accessories are usually shed from his wardrobe by Tuesday. Brian appears to be making sure everyone in the office knows that he, indeed, went out and had a few drinks with his friends over the weekend.

According to Cheryl in Human Resources, Brian is “really struggling” with the fact that his days of Alpha Pi are slipping away. As a senior at Arizona State University (ASU), Brian was elected as Alpha Pi’s president and oversaw all the chapter’s campus events. He organized everything from the fraternity’s Naked Mile run to its Don’t Break the Seal party, affectionately known for free beer at a local pub if no one used the restrooms for the evening. Three years removed from his days at ASU, the entry-level temp position he holds is a harsh comparison to his glory days.

Many officemates are comparing Brian’s current wristband epic to Monica from Accounts Receivable hospital band saga. For two weeks last summer, Monica wore her hospital bracelet after going on an abrupt medical leave before Memorial Day weekend. Many assume this was her way of solidifying a made-up medical story to add an extra day off, but Monica is quick to point out that, “You’d want people to know if you had an emergency appendectomy, too, ass.”

When questioned about the wristband earlier this morning, Brian said, “Oh whoa, I didn’t even realize I still had it on! I’ve been pretty busy this week so I haven’t found time to take it off. Got back to the gym, had a few Tinder dates, and I’ve been practicing my new product pitch for Shark Tank. It’s called Frat Chat, for lonely fraternity dudes to know when another lonely bro wants to hang out. Hey now that you mention it, me and my buddies did go to a pretty chill Dave Matthews concert on Saturday. It was an acoustic set. Dave was playing guitar and whispering into the microphone. It was a special night, man.”

It’s unclear when Brian will remove this subtle reminder of his social life, but many in the office are inferring that it has begun to smell. It’s important to know that the wristband doesn’t just reflect on Brian’s life outside the office, it’s a cautionary tale for all Alpha Pis. When you burn too bright in college, the flame of life is harder to sustain. Also, if you’re burning in college, please see the campus physician and have that looked at.

Anthony Salerno is from Buffalo, New York. He is a current DCH student and performs with Ewing Troupe: Clementine. When he’s not working at Improv or his day job, he’s trying to talk himself out of buying Uncrustables at the grocery store.

(Image: L.A. the Blog)