Danielle Seright

Troupe Talk: Wiki Tikki Tabby

Wiki Tikki Tabby This troupe talk is dedicated to and written in loving memory of Jake Malnaughty.

If there’s one thing you should know about the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) troupe Wiki Tikki Tabby (see also Wikki Tiki Tabby, Wiki Tiki Tabbie, or Wifi Tiffy Tubby...spelling varies), it’s that first and foremost, member Byron Dow will do anything for free. And he means anything. In fact, he agreed to participate in this troupe talk for free. In addition, you name it, and Byron will also gladly f*** it or eat it, as long as he has the proper instruction to do so. Well, on one fateful day, the name Jake Malnaughty was whispered in hushed tones around the dark corners of DCH, as Dow was instructed to sacrifice the late great Malnaughty to the almighty gods of improv. Fortunately, the sacrifice appeased the gods, so they bestowed improv powers of passion, courage, whimsy, support, and bold choice-making upon Wiki Tikki Tabby. Thus, from that day forward, they were forever bonded in solidarity. Wiki Tikki Tabby (Emily Baudot, Byron Dow, Joe Halbouty, Houston Hardaway, Shawn Mayer, and Danielle Seright) is a troupe that always brings the unexpected, the outlandish, and the wildly creative to the stage. Like the love children of Lewis Carroll and Willy Wonka, a Wiki Tikki show is a delightfully trippy experience, full of laughs and lots of love for the craft and each other. It’s like a meticulously woven tapestry or an intricate mandala of colorful scenes that each seem bizarre on their own but somehow all come together in a mesmerizing and mind-blowing arrangement. A Wiki Tikki show is truly a one-of-a-kind...and probably would not be possible without the sacrifice of Jake Malnaughty.

Beyond Byron’s human sacrifice to the gods of improv, Jake Malnaughty may he rest in peace, how did Wiki Tikki Tabby originate?

Danielle: It was a cold, rainy day...

Emily: ...We were all in Level 3, and Byron came up to us, either together or separately, and he had this grand vision, and I think his vision was...(Byron starts grinning) well you know what, Byron, I don’t want to speak for you.

Byron: (Still grinning) No, go ahead.

Joe: Byron had a vision?

Shawn: Let’s all guess Byron’s grand vision. I got a text message like, “Hey, you wanna be in a troupe?” And I was like, “Yeah. OK.”

Byron: Yep, that’s actually the whole story.

Emily: Really? I got a face-to-face invitation.

Danielle: Darcy asked me.

Shawn: Wow. I got a text, man.

Byron: I was probably like, “Hey Darcy, can you ask Danielle?” I don’t think I knew you very well.

Emily: Then Byron said, “I think you guys will all play well together.” And I think we do. ...So that’s that story.

Houston: I agree. We all came up in the same levels together, not necessarily the same class. And we all had the same energy level and passion toward improv. We kind of just gravitated toward each other based on that and became friends that way.

Danielle: I knew who you all were, except for Joe really, but I guess we met at Jams and through interning and being at DCH all the time.

Houston: I knew you [Danielle] through interning.

Shawn: I had Danielle in my third level class, but I didn’t remember. When you [Danielle] came and talked to me after your open mic, I was like, “Who are you?”...in my head. But, now I know. I know your name.

Byron: What’s her name?

Shawn: Don’t put me on the spot.

Byron: Hey, you guys wanna make a troupe?

Houston: Yeah.

Joe: Yes.

Danielle: Yeah.

Emily: Yeah, that’s a good idea.

Shawn: We can form another troupe.

Byron: It’ll be Tikki Wiki. Reverse it.

Shawn: What would we do differently?

Houston: It would have to be everything opposite. Right?

Wiki Tikki Tabby

Speaking of Tikki Wiki’s and Wiki Tikki’s, where did the name Wiki Tikki Tabby come from?

Emily: Well, the original idea was that we were going to get a suggestion from the audience like...

Joe: ...Like, “What was the last Wikipedia page you visited?” And then we came up with the name based off of that...and then we dumped that idea.

Emily: Yeah, but we still kept this idea, or concept, of being on a Wikipedia page and clicking blue links until you’re like 3,000 steps away from where you started and still relate it somehow. I think we’ve still maintained that.

Houston: Well, we went through a bunch of “What should our name be?” and stuff like that, and I think it came from when we were in earlier levels, we were all interested in pushing boundaries and seeing other weird stuff we could do. What are some other formats and other weird things we can do that we haven’t been doing in class? And we thought, “Let’s do a Wikipedia thing for the suggestion.”

Danielle: I don’t know where the “Tabby” part came from?

Joe: Browser tabs, but we kept it as “Tabby” because someone made a bunch of posters of us with our faces on cats.

Houston: Also, I’m not sure any of us spell it the same. I think we all mess it up all the time.

Emily: That’s kind of like us, too, though. It’s [correct name spelling] not really a rule, more like a guideline. It’s a conceptual thing. I’m OK with that.

Since you guys took inspiration from the dark hole that is Wikipedia, what’s been the weirdest Wiki rabbit hole you’ve found yourself traveling down recently?

Emily: The Bell Tower.

Houston: Like the guy who shot people from the bell tower?

Joe: What?!

Emily: No! Jesus Christ!

Houston: Sorry! I didn’t know what we’re talking about! We were talking about Wikipedia rabbit holes, and then you said “The Bell Tower.” And I was like “What could be an article about a bell tower?”

Danielle: It was a scene. Did you forget our improv?

Emily: I was talking about a performance inspired by a Wikipedia thing. I’m sorry, I misunderstood the question.

Byron: Well, the last Wikipedia page I visited was an article about a torture device called the brazen bull.

Emily: Ooooh! I love that!

[All laugh]

Emily: Hold up. It’s a cool thing.

Byron: It’s a bronze bull, and you put someone inside it, and you heat it up, and basically...

Houston: They’re cooked inside.

Byron: And they get cooked. There’s also a horn that comes out of the bull’s mouth and as they’re getting cooked they start screaming...and it sounds like a bull. (making bull noises) I don’t know.

Is that what happened to Jake Malnaughty?

Emily: Well, that’s one thing that happened.

Byron: That is what happened to Jake Malnaughty.

Danielle: And then Byron ate him.

Byron: And then I ate him afterward, because they asked me too. I f***ed him, too. I got right up in there!

Joe: Before or after?

Houston: While he was in the bull?

Wiki Tikki Tabby

What’s Wiki Tikki’s style of improv? Do you guys have a format?

Houston: We’ve kind of evolved. We were trying to incorporate a bunch of different styles into one, but now, I think our main focus is having organic, playful shows and going wherever it takes us. Not placing any restrictions on ourselves.

Byron: It’s like Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole. That’s how we like to view it.

Emily: Exactly. It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Donnie Darko meets I don’t know...

Byron: ...A drug trip?

Emily: Is that pretentious?

Joe: Very pretentious, but that’s what we’re about.

Byron: I’m totally cool with being pretentious. I think it’s hilarious.

Shawn: We’re pretentious meets...

Joe: ...Mongooses. Or is it Mongeese? How do you pluralize “Mongoose?”

Emily: Mongeese. I’m pretty sure.

Houston: I hope it’s “mongooses,” because that sounds stupid.

Shawn: Couldn’t the plural and the singular just be the same?

Byron: Yeah, it could. But what if it was like “Duogooses?” Like you got two of them?

Houston: (Googling) The plural form is “mongooses” or rarely “mongeese.”

Emily: So once again, as is the usual, both Joe and I were correct.

Houston: Oooh a group of “mongeese” is called a “mob.”

Byron: Anyway, I think, and we’ve kind of all talked about this, we do scenes and we do super organic stuff. I have this challenging question: “Can you do a successful improv show without doing any scenes?” Non-scenic improvising. So, can we make the parts where we’re not in a normal scene more interesting?

Houston: I think it’s interesting with our group evolving because we’ve been trying to figure out what we want to do as a group. And Byron was gone in Chicago for a little while, and then we had some group changes, so now we’ve been trying to get back on our feet and figure out what direction to go in. I think Danny has been really helpful in pointing out, “Here’s things that seem fun that you’re already doing, so here’s the direction you might want to go.”

Byron: Shawn describes our style being like a dream.

Shawn: A fever dream.

Byron: A fever dream. It’s very weird. If you try and recall your dreams, they’re strange and weird things are happening, but they’re sometimes connected. You can go from one place and then have it magically transform into another place.

Shawn: Sometimes you can remember dreams exactly and recount it to somebody, but other times you can be like, “I was talking to my mom, but she had my dad’s face...and popcorn kept falling out of her mouth.” And I think that could be a scene. I’m cool with that.

Houston: I think we definitely have a stream of consciousness type vibe, where we’re using the show to build on each other and connect the dots. And wherever it's fun, we’ll follow that.

Byron: My favorite thing about a Wiki show is that it’s out there, it’s pretty unique, and we take a lot of risks.

Joe: I think it works pretty well...except when we forget we can edit.

Houston: That did happen. We had a 30-35 minute mono-scene once...I don’t know if it was really that long, but it felt that long. It wasn’t until the end of the show that someone edited and I was like, “Oh yeah! We can edit!” ...Anyways, to answer your question, I don’t think there’s a name for our format, but we take what we have and build on it.

Emily: I think we joked around calling it [our format] “Fever Dream Machine” at one point. Or some iteration of that, I guess.

Byron: I think it’s closer related to a Courtesy Sleeve. It’s very similar in that we follow rabbit holes down to interesting, unique scenes. Our scenes are out there, but they’re cool.

Wiki Tikki Tabby

What do you dig about performing with each of your fellow Tabbies?

Houston: Joe, I love that you are always super patient in scenes, which is something I’m not good at. You always have such witty things to say. You have some one-liners, where I’m just like, “Motherf***er! Damn you, that’s really good.”

Emily: (to Joe) Quality just leaks out of your mouth. I don’t know how you do it. Well, probably because you don’t just say the first thing that pops into your head.

Joe: (Wiping the quality from his lips) Is the quality still there?

Emily: Yeah, I don’t think you’re ever going to get rid of it.

Joe: I’m sorry. I probably need a handkerchief.

Byron: You [Joe] probably have an economy of words that’s like better than a lot of other performers. Like you choose words carefully.

Danielle: You got good words, Joe.

Houston: And you know when to say them.

Joe: Rad.

Emily: Houston is like a little pinball...

Danielle: Set on fire.

Joe: Or a super ball that you bounce and it goes higher and it shoots off all the walls.

Danielle: And is set on fire.

Emily: But not the shitty kind [of super ball] you get at Chucky Cheese, but like the good kind you get at Dave & Buster’s.

Shawn: I was thinking Houston is like a wet noodle covered in cocaine.

Danielle: Set on fire.

Joe: I would say he’s al dente.

Danielle: Yeah, cooked, not wet.

Byron: I don’t have any clever analogies, but I just love Houston’s use of emotion. I think it’s better than a lot of other performers out there. You’re not afraid to make something.

Joe: You’re really good at angst.

Danielle: Taps out like a motherf***er.

Emily: You’re an edit ninja.

Byron: I like Shawn’s analogy best about you, though.

Shawn: Oh, and he can mirror anything. (Houston mirroring) He’s that! He’s you!

Houston: Danielle, you always think of these really funny, goofy things that I would never think of. Whenever you’re on stage, I’m super excited to see what you’re going to say and what you’re going to do. You’re just so good. I’m always excited to see what happens.

Emily: When I go out into a scene with Danielle, I know it’s going to be a good time. I’m not worried about anything. Sometimes you go in to play with somebody and you get anxious because you’re trying to figure out what to say to them, but with Danielle it’s very natural, and I’m just like “Thank you!” You’re very grounded energy-wise.

Houston: You have great physicality, too. And you always surprise me with your choices. There was one time in class you had a scene with Joe, and you didn’t like the drink he had, and you just straight up poured it out. Like I would never think to make that choice, and it was such a great choice.

Shawn: I don’t know what to expect.

Byron: Yeah! Surprising, most definitely. A little goofster!

Shawn: Your face during the show-and-tell bit during the graduation show, so perfect. So beautiful.

Byron: Classic goofster!

Danielle: I feel really comfortable playing with Emily, always. She’s so creative, the things Emily comes up with, and her initiations are always awesome. She’s so good at that. I like her energy. Her characters are always really good. I like her little kid characters.

Emily: (using a little anime child voice) Thank you very much.

Houston: You [Emily] are always so bold and confident. More than anyone, you are always out in the first scene. You’re out in a lot of scenes. When you make a choice, it’s bold and big. You are so confident. That’s something I admire and try to emulate. You just go out there and f***in’ do it!

Byron: Courageous. Very courageous and brave. It’s inspiring to me because I still get super scared walking out into scenes and I’m hardly in the first scene of a set ever, and Emily consistently gets out there. (To Emily) You don’t let the stage be empty, you attack it.

Joe: I think you [Emily] have grown a lot too, since Level 1. You’re really good at being in the scene and building the world. The thing you did at Block Party was really good.

Danielle: You always make 100 percent choices. Bold and confident and awesome. You stick to your shit.

Shawn: You commit.

Byron: You do stick to your shit. A little sticker! OK, now Shawn...I’m going to start this out and it’s not going to sound like a compliment. Shawn, you are NOT balanced! You are not balanced. You are like a scale and every single thing you are really good at is on one side...and it blows my mind. Why is that guy so smart? Why is that guy so bold? Why is that guy...not me?

Emily: Why does that guy look so much like Gene Wilder?

Shawn: It’s the hair.

Byron: I do think you are good at everything. Not just good, amazing.

Joe: I don’t think you [Shawn] really look like Gene Wilder, but you act like Gene Wilder. Not mimicking him, but you’ve got a similar feel to the way you act in scenes.

Emily: I feel like we give each other a hard time, but I feel like that’s because you’re like my improv brother, my big brother. I try to emulate the way you think on stage because it’s so good. I wish I could crawl in your brain and live there. It’d be such a weird, wacky place.

Shawn: It’s a dirty place.

Joe: You did a really good bit about truck nuts last night.

Emily: Truck nuts?

Shawn: I was fondling nuts all over the place.

Houston: You’re so whimsical, Shawn. And playful. Even when you’re playing a character that’s pissed off, there’s still a sense of fun to it, which I think is so important in improv. You’re always having a good time, and you bring that energy to whatever you’re doing on stage. Interesting, quirky, unique, and it’s not something you can learn, it’s something you have.

Byron: You’re just a little curly whirly.

Emily: If Houston is a super ball, then Byron is like a nuclear power jet. He’s got so much energy, but like in a great productive way.

Shawn: Like the Kool-Aid® Man.

Byron: Thanks! That’s who I aspire to be.

Joe: Smashing through stuff. Also, you [Byron] went to Chicago.

Houston: Yeah, he went to Chicago

Shawn: He went to Chicago.

Byron: Yeah, I went to Chicago. Make sure you put that in the article. I went to Chicago and studied at the Improv Olympics...you know, the iO.

Emily: Yeah, he was there for a week, and then they got sick of him and sent him back.

Houston: You [Byron] have a lot of knowledge about improv, like way more than I do. Like way more than a lot of people I know do. You’ve opened my eyes to a lot of ways shows can be built. And you play with a really good intensity. You make really big, strange moves, but they always completely work within the structure of what we set up.

Joe: The first time we ever played together, I knew I wanted to be in a troupe with this guy. You [Byron] initiated with “Timmy have a seat”...and I was thinking in my head “Have a seat, Tim” I had the exact same idea in my head as you.

Danielle: I love how passionate about improv Byron is. Byron subbed in my Level 1 class, and he was the guy with the notebook out.

Emily: I don’t think there’s anyone as committed to improv as you [Byron]. You bring a passion that’s remarkable. When you perform, you can tell you love being there.

Let’s end this Troupe Talk with some fond words of farewell and a moment of remembrance, for the one and only, Jake Malnaughty, Wiki Tikki’s first sacrifice to the improv gods.

Joe: Poor uh...Johnny...uh what was his name?

Danielle: Jake.

Shawn: You’ve already forgotten?

Byron: Jake Malnaughty.

Houston: You know Jake Malnaughty. His name.

Joe: Yeah, that sounds right. That guy, oh how I miss him.

Emily: I think it’s good to distance yourself, you know, and dehumanize it. He served his purpose well, and that’s the kind of thing I can say about him. The reason we picked him to be our sacrifice was that he was a bit of a dick.

Shawn: He was an asshole.

Danielle: He did improv in New York.

Shawn: We weren’t havin’ none of that!

Houston: Also he fit in the bull really nicely. It was a small bull.

Joe: He was a petite man.

Emily: Except for the pot belly.

Houston: He was petite with a belly.

Emily: Well, you know, I don’t remember him well. But if I could go back and sacrifice somebody again...I’d do it.

Lauren Levine is a DCH graduate. When she is not trying to come up with witty things for this blog, she is a freelance writer and editor, an amateur photographer, a Zumba-enthusiast, a dog lover, and an 80s movie nerd. In addition, she enjoys all things Muppet-related, the smell after a rainstorm, and people with soft hands.

(First three images: Tom Halbouty; last image: Darcy Armstrong)

Congratulations DCH Class of June 2016

Oh my wow! I can’t believe we’re finally here. We’re graduating guys. We’re graduating from THE world famous Dallas Comedy House (DCH)! Saying that still feels so surreal to me. I keep pinching myself to try and wake up from what has felt like the most fantastic and exhilarating dream, well a dream minus flying cats and an encounter with a shirtless Chris Pratt because at times I think there’s no way this has all been real. But, I’m not dreaming, I’ve indeed reached the end of the whirlwind journey that has been my improv education at DCH. Jimmy Fallon

If you would have told me a year ago that I’d not only be taking improv classes but also come to be part of some amazing troupes, performing in front of actual people, I’d have said, “Shut yo mouth fool, you’ve lost your damn mind!” Or more likely, I would've have stared at you with a skeptical look and quietly thought that in my head. At that time, I was incredibly shy and anxious (plagued by horrible stage fright), and I wanted nothing more than to simply be a writer who could fade into the background of life, content with letting anyone else read my words and soak up the limelight.

But as I sit here, in front of my computer screen today, trying to wrack my brain with what exactly to say to all you fellow DCH graduates, I know that I’m not that same scared person I was when I started this whole improv thing. I’ve come a long way. My once frozen feet have begun to thaw out and my feelings of dread and panic when facing an audience have started to substantially fade away. Hell, I’m now part of two sketch comedy productions, I’m performing with my Big Stupid Fun crew, and I’m continually adding new delicious and exciting items to my ever-growing comedy plate.

I never expected any of that to happen, though. The thing is, when you embark upon a new endeavor nobody has an idea what’s going to happen next. NOBODY. None of us. Not even Neil deGrasse Tyson who is a literal genius and knows the complete inner workings of the universe, dark matter, and why waffles are so insanely delicious. Therefore, all anyone can do in these situations is go in with a positive mindset, hope for the best, and see where the journey takes you. Ugh, that sounds so cheesy, but it’s true.

Along the way, however, you accumulate knowledge and new skills (or arrows for your improv quiver as Kam De Haan would phrase it) and you start to realize the things that matter most to you, that helped you reach your end goal, that inspire you to keep moving long after you’ve crossed that finish line. So, I thought I’d take this time to share the three concepts, or pieces of pseudo-wisdom, that have come to matter most to me as an improviser and human being.

You’ve probably heard people telling you time and time again to “do what you love” or “follow your passions,” but that’s crappy half-advice and rather cliché, so I’m not going to do that to you fine readers and fellow graduates. Maya Angelou—poet, civil rights activist, and overall kween—once wrote, “Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” It’s fair to say that this may be better advice than simply, “Follow your passions, young Padawan, the future is yours.”

What Angelou’s quote suggests is that rather than “follow” your passion, take the time to “cultivate” your passion. Once you know what you’re passionate about it’s time to hone it, to water it, to nurture it, and to spend time learning as much as you possibly can about every facet of your craft. Whereas “following” implies something that results in an end, “cultivating” is a lifelong process. When cultivating plants, for instance, you don’t stop watering them or tilling the soil when you get a single bud. Nope, you just keep on watering and tilling, watering and tilling, even after the bud has blossomed, so over time, the whole garden can continue to flourish. In writing as in gardening, one dedicates a great deal to cultivation.

From a young age, I discovered my passion for writing. I was the weirdo elementary kid, constantly lost in a daydream, who carried a journal around and filled it with silly stories and whatever ridiculous other things popped into my head. On paper, I felt freest to express myself and I knew that whatever I did in life, I wanted it to involve writing in some form or another. I wanted to write and I wanted to make people laugh, simple as that.

I spent most of my time in graduate school studying the craft of storytelling and journalism, trying to wrap my mind around proper narrative structure and the use of figurative language and what it meant to expose universal truths through prose. All of those things are great to discover, I suppose, but as someone who was more interested in entertaining readers and writing funny things (praying desperately to have a Freaky Friday experience with Dave Barry or David Sedaris or Tina Fey or Jon Stewart my comedic literary gurus), I still felt incomplete as a writer. There was so much more out there to learn.

That’s when I started searching for sketch writing classes via the Internet and I came across DCH. I was so excited. Then my excitement turned into panic because I discovered that I had to take improv before I could set foot in the writer’s room. A terrifying prospect for a performance anxiety suffering individual. Initially, I scoffed at the idea of taking improv, thinking, “How could that possibly help my writing? These people don’t know what they’re talking about. This is just cray cray.” They weren’t cray cray, though. I was cray cray for thinking that they were cray cray.

Ten months and five levels of improv later, I’m still an incomplete writer, but an incomplete writer who has a new set of skills and new friends and new ways of thinking about storytelling. Improv not only significantly helped my confidence and allowed me to expand my creativity, but it’s also opened whole new doors of comedy wisdom and comedic approaches to writing. These are new doors that I will continue to open and voraciously consume all that’s behind in order to keep cultivating my passion.

But you see, a strange thing happens when you’re out, busy cultivating. You start to find yourself surrounded by an amazing group of individuals who share your passions and want to see you succeed in all your undertakings. These are the people who celebrate your distinct weirdness and want to learn from you as much as you do from them. The art and literary world call this wonderful phenomenon “finding your tribe,” which happens to be my second point.

In its simplest form a tribe consists of two parts: Tribal elders, those who hold and pass down their knowledge from years of experience, and the tribal juniors, those who learn from the tribal elders and bring with them fresh, innovative ideas to the tribal community. Eventually, the tribal juniors will learn and experience enough to become elders themselves, making room in the tribe for new members, resulting in a magnificent and cyclical process that inspires creativity and interconnectedness.   

DCH is a wonderful tribe, with elders and juniors constantly swapping knowledge and ideas. I am so very lucky to have found and now consider myself a part of that tribe. There’s never been a place where I’ve felt as unconditionally loved and accepted, and for that I can’t even find the right words to express the amount of gratitude I feel. It’s rare to find a tribe quite like the one at DCH, so I urge my fellow graduates and tribe-mates to cherish it, continue fueling it with positivity and encouragement, and remember that no matter how far you drift away from it your tribe will always be there with open arms to welcome you back.

I once read a Tumblr blog post that said, “You can’t do epic shit with basic people,” and that is so true. No one in this DCH tribe is basic. You’re all incredibly complex and passionate and wacky (shout out to the wackiest of them all, Danielle Seright) individuals who inspire and amaze me with your talents. Continue doing epic shit. Remember me when you’re famous.

Because the DCH tribe is so awesome and may become your home away from home, it’s also very easy to get sucked into spending all your time cultivating and dealing with tribal affairs, which isn’t a bad thing per se. But it’s important to remember that it’s also perfectly fine, even recommended, that you step back from the tribe every once in a while. Take a break and live your life. That’s my final piece of “wisdom,” fellow graduates.

Go out and do stuff. Ride a roller coaster, go bungee jumping, tell someone you love them, run butt naked through the street, climb a mountain, save a neighborhood from foreclosure by going on an adventure to find the hidden treasure of a one-eyed pirate (which coincidentally is also the plot to Goonies), whatever you do just do something. Live your life and experience amazing things...then come back to the tribe and tell us all about it so we can live vicariously through you.

That stuff that you experience away from the tribe is going to fuel your creativity even more and foster new ideas when you return. The more you go out and experience life, the better improviser, the better writer, and the better-rounded you you will become. In the words of the ever wise Rihanna, “Just live your life! Ay ay ay. No tellin’ where it'll take ya, just live your life.”

As I near the conclusion of this commencement post, I feel that the only thing left to do is thank the members of the tribe who helped get me to the end (of my improv journey, not the post, otherwise I’d be thanking caffeine and the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks). Truman Capote wrote that “anyone who gave you confidence you owe them a lot,” so with that said, I have a lot of thanking to do.

First, I have to thank all the teachers, TAs, and coaches who I’ve had the pleasure of learning from.

Sarah and Brent, thank you both for having the patience and kindness to get me through Level 1 improv and for not letting me run out the door on my first day. Because of you guys, I came back for more. Ashley and Scriven, both of you continue to inspire me, and I learned so so much from you two. Thank you for watering my seeds of excitement and showing me that even a quiet, gentle voice can make a loud impact in the right situation. Mike and Stephanie, thank you two for always coming to class ready to have fun and for teaching me what exactly a “Ewing” is. Without that knowledge, I would be nowhere.

Tommy and Jennifer, we cried together, we laughed together, and we certainly grew together. I think this was the level that I truly saw strides in my performing ability, and I thank you both for always being supportive and giving me the courage and push that I needed to come out and play more. Kyle and Allie, you are both so incredibly passionate about what you do and I think that’s a beautiful thing; don’t ever lose that spark. Thank you two for pushing me to make smarter improv choices and giving me a good dose of tough love at a time when I definitely needed it. I feel stronger and more confident than ever!

Amada Austin, thank you for seeing something in me and taking a chance by putting me on a Ewing team. I am eternally grateful for that experience and couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful group of humans to play with and call my improv fam. Maggie, my Big Stupid Fun coach, we’ve had a lot of big stupid fun moments together. So many good laughs. Thank you for showing all of us the power of laughter and positivity. Each practice, I’m energized and comforted by the positive energy you bring.  You are a gem, and I’m lucky I get to be coached by such a badass and supportive lady.

Second, I have to thank Chad Haught. C-Haught. C-Dog. The Chadster...wait, scratch that last one. No one should ever call you The Chadster, that just feels too weird. Chad, you answered my frantic email before I ever signed up for classes at DCH. I was worried about being surrounded by stuffy thespians and not having enough performing experience, but you put my mind at ease. You also laughed at what I wrote. Because of your kindness and your laughter, I signed up for Level 1. Without you, this blog post wouldn’t even exist right now.

Last but certainly not least, I especially want to thank all the homies I’ve gotten to play with since day one, fellow graduates or not. Whether you’re a Brew Ha-Ha-er, a Nood and Dump (reheated or original), or part of my Big Stupid Fun fam, I LOVE you all dearly! I would do just about anything for you. I probably wouldn’t kill for you, but if you needed someone to help you hide a body or play lookout while you’re up to nefarious activities, hit me up. I learned just as much from you guys, as I did from any teacher or coach. Thank you all for just bein your bad selves. *Virtual hugs for all of you!*

Alright, I’ll wrap it up. I can hear the orchestra warming up to play, which is the universal cue to step down from a soap box.

So fellow DCH graduates, again, may you continue to cultivate your passions, learn and grow with your tribe, and keep on experiencing life. Congratulations to all you guys, the DCH Class of June 2016.

We did it!

Legally Blonde

Lauren Levine is currently a Level 5 improv and Sketch 2 student at DCH. When she is not trying to come up with witty things for this blog, she is a freelance writer and editor, an amateur photographer, a Zumba-enthusiast, a dog lover, and an 80s movie nerd. In addition, she enjoys all things Muppet-related, the smell after a rainstorm, and people with soft hands.

The Many Benefits of Interning at DCH

interns We all gravitate to improv for different reasons. Some of us are “the funny one” in our friend group. Some of us need an alternative to Toastmasters. Some of us just like the positive atmosphere. Whatever your motivation for getting involved with improv, the sense of acceptance and community imbued in the art form encourages most people to continue.

I learned about long-form improvised comedy in college. I spectated for a couple years and eventually began performing myself. I loved the support and silliness that accompanied every show and hang out. Improv became a major part of my identity and the primary recipient of my time and effort.

When I moved to Dallas last summer, I was acquainted with exactly zero people. It was just my girlfriend and me. I had no job, no friends, and no vehicle. I couldn’t speak to my credit score, but I felt like the target audience for a used car radio commercial. Despite a lack of professional direction, I knew my tribe. I sought out an improv venue within the first two weeks of transplantation: Dallas Comedy House (DCH).

After attending a couple of jams and while awaiting the start of the next class term, I found myself asking, “How can I get more of this sweet, sweet juice?” A kindly instructor pointed me to the intern program. By working at the theater once a week, you can get your class tuition comped. As a then-practicing “stay at home dude,” I found that arrangement ideal. However, after starting the internship, I discovered the benefits extended well beyond monetary savings.

Interning requires you spend an additional night of the week at DCH. Finding availability in your schedule is difficult, sure, but if you love improv, giving your time to it is the best way to learn. As an intern, you’ll get to seat the theaters and watch veteran troupes put on a show as part of your job. You’ll get to know the performers, and they’ll get to know you. You may even meet future teammates and coaches while at work.

Plus — and this is going to sound corny — you develop a sense of ownership while working at the theater. I take pride in ensuring that the night runs smoothly. It’s part of my responsibility. That’s what makes DCH feel like a community and not just a comedy club. You know the owners. You know the performers. That’s rare. That’s cool.

I’m starting my third term as a night intern, and the first as a house manager. I’ve met so many awesome people as part of this program that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to know. I don’t claim that interning is all sunshine and lollipops. Yes, sometimes you have to clean a bathroom or tell someone to be quiet, but there’s also a Fight Club-y, blue collar, greaser sort of understanding among the interns. We didn’t just buy our way through classes, we worked.

Whether it’s the fraternity, the social benefits, or the free class, there are a host of reasons to intern at DCH. As a newcomer to Dallas, the program has helped me feel at home.

Internship Applications for Term 2 are due on Sunday, January 31, and can be found online at http://dchbackstage.com.

Danny Neely is currently a Level 3 student at DCH. He works part time at a bakery and another part of  the time as a freelance writer. You can see him at the theater as one-fifth of the troupe Coiffelganger or as one-oneth of the Wednesday night house manager.