Emily Baudot

Jason: A Campy Musical

Jason A Campy Musical(Fade in. A cool October evening in Deep Ellum, at the Dallas Comedy House's Training Center. A nervous young woman clutches her phone and a notepad, shifting in a rickety wheelie chair. Three men sit opposite her, equally nervous and shifty-eyed. Every creak of the building is exaggerated in the silence before the Jason: A Campy Musical interview.) Me: Could you guys talk a little bit so I can see where to put the mic?

Jason: Yes. Colten's man-spreading.

Colten: I have stopped man-spreading because now I'm self-conscious about it.

Daniel: Um, you're still man-spreading a bit.

Colten: Really?

Me: OK, there we go. You might just need to talk a little bit louder...

Colten: (Very quietly) I can do that.

Me: So, with me, I have Jason Hackett, Colten Winburn, and Daniel Matthews.

(David Allison could not be there, so I've inserted his responses where appropriate.)

Daniel: Just to clarify, Colten is spelled with an “E-N,” not an “O-N.” It's a common mistake.

Jason: And his middle name is “Man-Spread.” Just let the record indicate that the man lives up to the name.

Me: If possible, I'll draw a picture. (It was possible. See below. I felt bad that only Colten had a nickname so I took the liberty of giving one to everybody.)

Jason Musical

Me: First of all, congratulations. Opening night was awesome, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Would you guys like to start off talking about the show's inception, how you started getting everything together?

(Everyone looks at Daniel.)

Daniel: Uh...oh boy. Well, I got the idea last September, and it did not start out as me saying, “I want to write a musical.” It started out because there was nothing good on the radio during a drive, so I turned it off and started trying to make up lyrics to a song.

Me: Like you do.

Daniel: Haha, yeah, like you do. Colten and I work on improvising songs together from time to time, and we had been doing that, so I just started making up words. And, I got the line, “You can't make a horse drink when you lead him to water / You can't hand me a knife and expect me to slaughter.” And I really liked that line and thought, “What the hell kind of a song would that fit into?” And so, it was kind of just like, yeah, Jason Voorhees, if he didn't want to kill for some reason. And then, I talked with Colten, and we made it into a full song, got with David, learned our parts, separated the music out, and did a Block Party last October.

Jason: Which I hosted.

(Block Party, by the way, is a great little running program at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH), which is now hosted by Sallie Bowen. If you have 10 minutes worth of a show idea, submit to Block Party. It might even be picked for a longer running show. Anything goes!)

Daniel: We liked it so much that we did an encore performance of it on Halloween.

Colten: Was that after my thing?

Daniel: Yes, actually, it was part of Colten's Stage Fright sketch show last Halloween. And then, Amanda Austin said, “If you can make that into a full show, you can do it next year.” And it was just like, “Oh yeah. We're gonna do a musical...This is a very storied history. This is going on Twitter, right?

Me: Yes. I'll upload it piece by piece.

Daniel: Then David and I started working in earnest – I want to say in April or May. We started by watching the first three movies in the series, because honestly, I had never seen any one of them all the way through.

Me: Really?

Daniel: Really. I don't have a particular affinity for the franchise or the character. It all started because of, “Yeah, he might sing that line about the horse.” I also watched Jason Takes Manhattan because it had a ridiculous title.

Me: Doesn't he go to space at some point?

Daniel: Yes. That's Jason X. It's the 10th movie in the franchise and takes place 200 years in the future when a group of scientists decide to re-animate DNA, and it turns out to be Jason Voorhees.

(Colten laughs.)

Me: My brain hurts. So does my heart...Once you started writing seriously, was there a process to determine who would be suited for this musical? Did you just think of people you knew around DCH?

Daniel: The casting choices didn't come until much later in the process. We had the script almost finalized, and – well. The script was in a good place.

Jason: I mean, is it finalized yet?

Daniel: No. It's a living document. We had it in a good place, though, and Colten and I diddled out a few songs.

Colten: Most of the songs were diddled out.

Daniel: It's an industry term. Rogers and Hammerstein were proficient diddlers. But anyway – we didn't really have anyone in mind other than David and myself. We were going to play the main characters because we deserved it.

Me: Haha, fair enough.

Daniel: We just sat down and hammered out who we wanted to see. Who we knew around the club that might fit into each type of role. And David introduced the idea where – it was very important to him to include some of the performers who might not have as much experience. He didn't just want all the old dogs on stage, which I think is a wonderful choice because that's – we got Houston Hardaway, Darcy Armstrong, Emily Gee, those graduates – we wanted people who would be very excited to be in the show.

(There's a sudden jingling at the door. A face gazes in, stained with blood and wild-eyed – oh. Wait. It's just Wes Davis and the Saturday night intern crew, coming in clutch to clean the Training Center. Thanks ya'll! Don't worry, Daniel was nice and let them in.)

Jason: Around this time, they brought me into the process. Before this point, I wasn't involved at all. Hey Daniel, do you want to talk about bringing me into the process?

Daniel: I've talked enough. Let's hear your perspective.

Jason: Well – they asked me. That was my perspective. They asked if I wanted to direct it. I've never directed anything before. I was also unsure whether they knew that I very publicly dislike musicals, and of course, they were aware, and that did not seem to be an issue for them. So I was like, “I've never directed anything, I'll definitely give this a shot.” They brought me into the process. We started figuring out who to bring in for various roles. We auditioned people – that was the first time I'd ever been on that side of an audition table, so all in all it's been very interesting.

Me: Do you still dislike musicals?

Jason: Yes. I like this one. But you will not find me watching any musicals.

Jason Musical

Me: People don't usually think of horror and comedy together, so how did you work to combine the two?

Daniel: Oh yes they do. Scary Movie?

Jason: Yeah! I'd say they have a history. For me at least, I think there's a lot of similarity in the reactions people have. Laughter and fear are pretty closely tied in that they are uncontrollable experiences. I'll laugh if I've been startled.

Colten: (gazing off into the distance) All comedy is derived from fear.

(The lights flicker. Wes Davis drops his mop.)

Jason: Not to dismiss your initial premise.

Me: Oh no, I asked that question so you would say that. I already agree -

Daniel: Is this just a game to you?

Jason: Are you the Jigsaw in this...Saw...interview? I don't know where that bit was going.

Daniel: Well yeah. If you look at being scared and laughing, they both have this element of surprise to them, where laughter comes from the unexpected, and so does being startled. Both have a build up of tension and a release, a catharsis. But then, in terms of doing comedy from horror, it works so well because horror takes itself so seriously. If you've ever tried to parody something that's already funny, you can't because [the humor] is already there. But with horror, when everything is played so dramatically -

Me: Oh it's very pompous.

Daniel: Very pompous – but there's no intentional humor in the standard horror film. If you go back and watch the Friday the 13th  movies, they're pretty funny now because they're...campy, badum-ts. Joke. See title of show. But they're absurd just because they're bad.

Me: This is a very prop-heavy show. Were there any memorable workarounds, things you had to MacGyver to work right?

Colten: That's more David.

Jason: Yeah, David took charge of making all of those. When I read the script, particularly the [redacted] that gets pulled apart...well. I don't want to reveal anything. Oooh, wait, can this be redacted?

Me: The whole thing? Sure.

Daniel: Also, redact the part where I say [redacted].

Jason: I read that, and I thought, “Well, we'll have to get a whole [redacted],” but the next time we came in, “Oh...David did it.” I was very impressed.

David's response after the fact: "I just find props so fun to build. One of my favorite writing drills is, 'What can't we do on stage?' and then talking through how we can pull it off. Prop construction was really satisfying, and I'm very proud of how they turned out."

Me: Colten. You're very quiet. This next question's just for you...

Colten: Yay!

Jason: I'll take this one.

Daniel: Let me just say...

(All laugh.)

Me: When Daniel and David came to you with song ideas – what was the process there?

Colten: Daniel covered the lyric side. He'd come to me with song lyrics, sometimes melodies, usually both – and a lot of times, I'd say, “What do you want that melody to be?” And he'd sing it, and I'd try to pick it out, put chords to it, flesh it out...We'd brainstorm, once over Skype. Like, “'Flee' is a good word. How can we work it in?”...So yeah, very collaboratively with Daniel.

Daniel: One of the things that – I'm gonna compliment you right now, Colten -

Colten: Um, redacted.

Daniel: One of the things that Colten is so good at...If I didn't know the melody but knew the feeling I needed, I could explain that [feeling] to him in these weird terms... "I want it to be sad in a folksy way, like if Peter, Paul, and Mary wrote a dirge.” And Colten goes, “Hm...How's this?” and played exactly what I needed. That happened so many times...three seconds. And it was perfect.

Colten: Aw. Thanks!

Me: Dang! That was beautiful. Do y'all have a favorite memory from practicing?

Colten: I don't know...first time seeing Houston do his hosting song was really memorable.

Jason: Oh yeah! From the moment he came in, it was amazing.

Daniel: He did a great job of understanding that character and putting his on spin on it.

Jason: Mine would be my only contribution to the script, which would be Darcy's guitar solos. When I actually saw it in action, I was like, “Yeah. I made the right choice. I'm glad I added that.” That was the only thing I added out of whole cloth.

Me: I especially liked it because it gave a whole corniness to the whole thing...like a 90s sitcom.

Jason: Now that you say that, I want to add [redacted]...oh. Um, redact that.

Me: The whole thing?

Daniel: Yes. Let's just start over.

Colten: Second to that would be me playing "Ghostbusters" before the show. And then they asked me to play it again and again...

David's response after the fact: "Damn it, I was gonna say the first time Houston did the song! Um, maybe the time that the water pole fell out during a really emotional scene. The loud "THUD" juxtaposed against a tender moment in the middle of a stressed rehearsal was just so funny."

Me: Awesome. If there is a train going from Kansas City to Dallas at 60 miles per hour, who really killed Jason Voorhees?

Jason:...Those seem...unrelated.

Daniel: I want to hear what Colten says.

Jason: Yeah.

Colten: Hm...that throws everything off that I knew about Jason.

Daniel: Yeah, it only works if you're leaving from Dallas to Kansas.

Me: OK, then let's say that. What's your theory?

(Jason giggles.)

Jason: Is it a train or the band train?

Daniel: Oooh! How fast is it and/or they traveling?

All: Sixty miles an hour.

Colten: That's pretty slow for a train.

Daniel: I don't know... I mean, technically, the lake killed him.

Colten: But he's not dead.

Daniel: Yeah, so...nothing's killed him, though the lake did it temporarily...water.

Colten: The lake.

Me: Water or the lake?

Colten: The train.

Jason: Train water.

Me: That works. I'll accept that.

Daniel: That bit didn't go well. Redact it.

Colten: Just include my part about the band Train.

Me: Will do. Also, I think that's it...

Daniel: That's it?

Me: Unless you'd like to answer my other standard sketch question.

Jason: What is it?

Me: If this group was a vegetable, what would it be?

Colten: A pumpkin.

Daniel: 'Cause it's spooky.

(Jason laughs.)

Me: OooOOoohh! SpOOooky!

Colten: It's well carved.

Me: Is that a machete joke?

Colten: Um...yeah. Halloween, machete, it's anything you want it to be.

Daniel: It's a really gourd cast.

Me: Oh, [redacted] you.

Daniel: That can stay in.

Jason: Uh...pumpkins. They're not vegetables, are they?

Me: Oh, no. They're fruit. They have seeds.

Daniel: What's the most pumpkin-y fruit?

Colten: An eggplant!

(Why does everyone always want to be an eggplant? I'll never understand.)

Me: Oh, the FCC was already an eggplant. I apologize.

Colten: A carved eggplant?

Me: Doesn't count.

Jason: Um...Spaghetti squash.

Daniel: 'Cause it looks like brains?

Jason: Yeah, yeah!

Daniel: We're confident in our answer.

All: Spaghetti squash.

David's response after the fact: "That works for me because I love spaghetti squash and I love this show!"

(Fade out. A machete speared through a rubber chicken fades in. The credits roll:

Jason: A Campy Musical involves the talents of David Allison, Darcy Armstrong, Joseph Delgado, Emily Gee, Jason Hackett, Houston Hardaway, Daniel Matthews, Tyler Simpson, and the musical talents of Colten Winburn. The show is teched by Doug Caravella. If you'd like to see the show, it's running every Friday for the rest of October at the world famous Dallas Comedy House. Get your tickets while they're hot!)

A final comment from David: "[The cast and crew] were all a dream to work with. Seriously. Educated performers that have a detailed eye and are willing to speak up. And their work ethics!" 

(I'm sure they were, David. I'm sure they were.)

Jason Musical

Emily Baudot is a DCH graduate and sketch student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner.  Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.

(Poster: Houston Hardaway. Drawings: Emily Baudot. Photo: Jason Hensel)

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)

The Improvised Horror Movie

The American horror movie. What cinematic legacy can claim special effects mastery, emotional poignancy, and raw camp in the same breath? Scary movies have done so much good for cinema that it’s sickening. And now that we’re in the season (oh goodness HALLOWEEN I’m excited are you excited I love Halloween like no lie it’s my favorite holiday and I’ve been planning my costume for MONTHS) – Ahem. Sorry about that. As I was saying, now that we’re in season – eeek – the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) has started a month-long series of holiday-appropriate shows. As is tradition, it opened the first weekend of October with a premier of the Improvised Horror Movie. Though the show stands as a tribute to the horror genre, it also exists in memorial to Del Close, creator of the format, and Jason Chin, former director at iO Chicago who perfected the show. DCH runs the Improvised Horror Movie through the month of October as a dedication to their work. Improvised Horror MovieJust like its parent genre, the Improvised Horror Movie takes a couple different forms – forms, mind you, not scripts, because then it wouldn’t be improv, duh. Each form spins off of a particular type of horror movie. The version I had the pleasure of viewing was based off of one of my favorites: the "Slasher," wherein innocent, dumb kids fall prey to a psycho killing machine. Now that’s what I call comedy! Hooray!

The way the shindig worked in practice seemed pretty simple: At the top of the show, the audience assigned each cast member a role, all inspired by classic horror tropes. There’s a jock, a nerd, a goth, a stoner, a popular chick, and the surviving girl who will, in the end, determine who the killer is. (Spoiler alert, most of the archetypical characters die in a spectacularly funny fashion.)

Even though the roles are pre-determined and assigned at the beginning of the show, this doesn’t make things easier for the players. If anything, this is crazy hard. “Here’s a point of view, now understand it, adopt it as your own, and think up stuff to say from that point of view on the fly in front of strangers. Oh, and by the end of the show most of you have to have died and you have to be funny in the meantime.” Like, what even!?! That’s hard enough for me to do on a good day.

“Emily, you’re dumb. Those roles are pretty much stereotypes, and aren’t those at the antithesis of what good character work should be?”

Um, first, how dare you, I’m hella smart. Second, no. Just because the role’s been given to you, there’s still tons of flexibility as to what constitutes that role. Sporty jocks don’t have to be bullies, and the brainiac doesn't have to be socially awkward. For instance, the stoner in the last show (played by David Allison) was far away from being dumb and slow – instead, he was an energetic conspiracy theorist who suspected who the murderer was the whole time. (He felt the perpetrator was George W. Bush, but whether he was right or not is hardly the point here.) The popular girl (played by Maggie Rieth Austin) was ditzy, peppy, and fun – not a sexualized antithesis to the surviving girl the character is usually reduced to. Thinking with that kind of originality takes skill and quick thinking that isn’t often matched.

“Well, OK, fine, so the characters are diverse despite being typified. You still can’t bridge the gap between cinema and stage acting!”

Au contraire! You forget that critical element of improv – scene painting! It’s a heavy and, in this case, a critical show component. We already know what will happen at the end of our “movie” – the audience sticks around for the journey to that conclusion. Performers primarily conduct scene painting through a series of different “camera angles,” wherein they call out cinematic direction you’d normally only read in a script. These camera angles double as edits and is what give the audience a cinematic effect, if an imaginary one. Cast members are given close-ups, split-screens, and even aerial shots that they have to make work and incorporate seamlessly into the ongoing scene. Half of the fun lies in players giving each other impossible views to pull off. (Have you ever seen a dead man fly in circles around two women standing horizontally? Well, I did! You might see it, too, if you buy a ticket). It’s a brain and body workout, to be sure, not to mention the lighting and sound tricks that the techs execute on the fly. (Props to Raye Maddox - you done good, kiddo.)

Boy. What a ride. In short, this show is a keeper. It’s one of those shows at DCH that’s a must see. You won’t get spooked, but you’ll certainly laugh, and any student or fan of improv will also get a great lesson by simply watching the cast. Oh, before I forget – that cast includes David Allison, Amanda Austin, Sallie Bowen, Noa Gavin, Jason Hackett, Tabitha Parker, Ben Pfeiffer, Maggie Rieth Austin, and Nick Scott. The whole shebang is tech'ed by Jua Holt (Raye Maddox was the technical director for the show I saw). They all deserve a big ol’ basket of treats minus tricks, allergens, and razors. For tickets, please visit www.dallascomedyhouse.com.

Emily Baudot is a DCH graduate and sketch student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner.  Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.

Sketch Speak: "Trump’d: The Musical" - The Off-the-Record Interview

trumpd-posterI know you know it, but it has to be said: If art can send messages, comedy can scream them like your violently political uncle. But in the same way that not all political uncles are immature screamers, comedians can make effective points without embarking on diatribes. True to form, a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) sketch show has struck this balance in a fun, exciting way. They even put music to it! Trump’d: The Musical, directed by Kyle Austin, honestly portrays the show’s namesake and his recent…shenanigans. (Kind of a light word, shenanigans. Escapades isn’t right either…Crusade? Sure, that’s a nice, strong word with no historical significance whatsoever.) It stars the writing, acting, and vocal talents of Ashley Bright, Sallie Bowen, Josh Hensley, Cody Hofmockel, Andrew Plock, and Gabe Vasquez. Though they were not present for this interview, the show received invaluable help from Raye Maddox as show tech, Randy Austin as the show’s composer and live pianist, and Lauren Levine as assistant director. Despite their exhaustion (it’s no easy thing to do an hour-and-a-half long show), they very graciously accepted my request to interview them. The transcript follows. First of all, congratulations, that was a wonderful run. The advertisement that you put out, it’s just Trump’s wig and his name. A lot of people might think, just based off the look of the poster, that this is show driven by politics. Was your goal in writing this sketch to be political?

Cody: [quoting the show] Politics, politics, can be fun.

Josh: [quoting the show] Politics, politics, kill someone. I mean, yeah, wasn’t that basically the whole case? We came together, and we all wanted to do something that was important, and not all of us feel like this election year is really the greatest, and who hates anyone more than Trump, you know? I think it was all political in nature, if you had to look at it.

Ashley: We talked about the issues before we decided on Trump. I mean, we didn’t know we were doing a Trump show when we started writing.

Cody: I think it was on everyone’s mind.

Josh: I think there was so much material with Trump as the character he’s presenting – I don’t think we have a super political agenda, we just made fun of Trump.

Andrew: We did take little snippets of like, what we hate the most about the kind of things he’s spreading – hate against immigrants, hate against women, the weird things he does with his daughter, and all the weird stuff he’s about.

Ashley: And just, how did we get to now? You think in the ‘90s, like who Trump was then, and he’s seriously the Republican political candidate? Like, how did we get there?

Trump'd

And so, using comedy to make a more serious approach to how you feel?

[All laugh.]

Well, you know what I mean.

Cody: Well, once we started, once we decided, “Hey, this is a topic right now, and we can do this and people will respond.” I think we tried to be the least political – I mean, we tried to be as silly as possible. And not really try to push a huge political message. More like, “Hey, this is the show we’re going to do, but we’ll keep it true to the people that are writing it, and just be silly rather than political.”

That makes sense. When you were studying your… "artistic subject," – what kind of research did you do, for Andrew when you were getting into character to imitate him, and when the rest of you were writing about [Trump] for Andrew?

Andrew: I don’t know – for me it was just, I think we all shared a lot of articles about his worst quotes and things that he’s said, which a lot of material just presented itself. You don’t even have to change anything half the time. Everything he says is so ridiculous in the first place…but for me, I just watched him give some speeches, his hand motions, stuff like that.

Kyle: His little bitty hand motions?

Andrew: His ittle bitty hands…Oddly, it felt really easy to be Trump, I don’t know why.

[Author note: I would hazard a guess that it’s because he’s a walking caricature, but who am I to cast judgement upon such a towering, orange monolith?]

Andrew: It’s not a great Trump impression – it’s all body language. And that’s the main thing that I got from it, is that he uses his body a lot to talk…[under his breath] because he doesn’t have good words, probably…

Gabe: And even if you follow the news badly, you know about Trump. It writes itself, because everywhere you turn there is something.

Ashley: Which is why we didn’t go that way. You saw the show, we didn’t write about Trump himself – and when we picked periods of time to send him to, we thought, “What is this time period, and how does it mirror what Trump is about, like the sexism of the witch hunts. That was more what we were going for, with that.

Josh: And every week, people would come in like, “Did you hear this? Did you hear that?” And we had to have a cutoff date, we had to stop writing new stuff and just improvise the show after a certain point. We actually stopped writing at the Republican National Convention – like it says in the beginning of the show, we couldn’t keep up. But even after that, it was so funny to hear us all come together and say, “Did you hear this? Did you hear about this? How ridiculous.”

Trump'd

Is it different when you write sketch to accommodate songs?

[All laugh]

I mean, obviously it was. Could you talk a bit about the ways that you wrote and how those ideas came about?

Cody: Thank god for Randy.

[All agree.]

Andrew: That’s Randy Newman Austin.

[All laugh]

Gabe: That was the thing about it, though. We could write ideas of what we wanted a song to be like, or what to do, and then to come back the next week and he’d say, “I’ve got it! I’ve changed a little bit of it, but it’s the same thing,” and man, ‘cause none of us have that musical background needed to write a song. We can do lyrics, we can be funny about it, maybe, but not make the music like that. It was so hard to tackle, and I don’t think we could have done it without Randy.

Kyle: That’s for sure.

Cody: We would kind of – I guess, when we decided to write a musical, one of the first things Kyle made us do was have everyone go write a song. And so we’d write some lyrics and have a little tune in our head, and when we brought Randy in, we’d just be able to sing the tune we thought of and he would…just be able to play it, because he’s ridiculous. And we worked with him enough to where we got a cohesive song.

Did you have to do vocal training of any kind to –

[All laugh REALLY hard, like, I was killin’ em, guys.]

All: Yes, yes.

Cody: Um, yes.

Kyle: …When I asked these guys if they wanted to do a Trump show, they said, “YEAH!” I asked if they wanted to do a musical - “YEAH!” Can anybody sing? “…ehhhh…”

[All laugh.]

Kyle: I think what’s great about this is that the content is so rich, the songs are so catchy, that we didn’t bother with worrying about that. We knew it’d be fine. It’s a musical that we put together in two-and-a-half, three months. It should’ve taken six months to do. And the amount of time that people put into it is very obvious. When people come prepared and ready and know their stuff – you know how much time they’re putting into it, how many times they’re listening to that song in the car, or at work or whatever. Josh got caught working on Louis and Clark at work doing this [Kyle bobs up in down, in the style of the dance performed during the show].

[All laugh]

Tump'd

Was there a particular part of the show that ya’ll enjoyed the most? Performing, writing?

Andrew: I think everyone’s got their favorites, right?

Cody: My favorite line in the whole show is when Trump says, “I can pivot.”

[All agree.]

That’s a very good line.

Cody: I just think it encompasses the entire show.

Josh: I love Louis and Clark.

Cody: That’s my favorite one, too.

Sallie: Gets me every time.

Gabe: I like the now. We aren’t learning the show any more, and we can just have fun with it. And – oh my god, the preview was so stressful!

Really?

Gabe: I mean, it was our first time performing in front of an audience. And just, “[Redacted] do I remember this line, that line, do I remember where to step?” Now we’re past that point…it’s more second nature, and –

Cody: Now we’re changing stuff, improvising, [redacted] with each other.

Kyle: And, how many people was that their first time to sing in front of people?

[Half the group raises their hands.]

Ah, so that’s Ashley, Terry…

Kyle: Um. That’s Gabe.

[Cue me crapping my pants.]

Oh – what? Oh my god, Gabe, I’m so sorry.

[All laugh]

Andrew: Oh no, don’t worry. That’s what we call him, Gabriel Terry!

Kyle: Off the record, my favorite part is where [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted]. Off the record, of course.

Off the record, gotcha.

Andrew: Oh, and how [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted]. Off the record, too.

Trump'd

Haha, OK. And last question – this comes standard – if your group was a vegetable, what would it be?

Cody: [no hesitation] Corn.

[Author’s note: Please see my interview with the Look at Us show for reference.]

[Andrew laughs.]

Josh: Everybody’s corn…

Cody: [sadly] No, we’re not corn.

Ashley: Maybe we can be moldy corn.

Andrew: Yeah, we’re moldy niblets.

Kyle: What would Trump be?

Cody: An orange bell pepper?

Gabe: Or a carrot, maybe?

A taco bowl?

Sallie: That’s it. That’s what vegetable we are. A taco bowl.

Kyle: We would be Home Depot filled with taco bowls.

Josh: Yes. Agreed.

Gabe: Hm…Maybe an eggplant?

Ashley: I was thinking an eggplant, too!

[Everyone babbles excitedly]

No, The Wrong Party was an eggplant.

[Everyone awws dissapointedly. Go look at that interview, too.]

I’m sorry…I mean, ya’ll could be eggplants too…

Ashley: Maybe an orange eggplant…?

Cody: What’s a type of vegetable where they’ll be like, “Oh, wasn’t expecting that…”

Andrew: What’s a vegetable that has tiny hands?

Josh: Potatoes?

Kyle: We could do like, baby snap peas?

Oh, well, ginger, you call them “fingers of ginger.” That’s like, the technical cooking term or whatever.

Josh: Huh. That’s pretty good.

Gabe: Ginger is gross.

Kyle: What vegetable describes a bunch of random people that probably haven’t worked together a lot in other settings coming together and talking through it at the beginning (followed by yours truly) all pretending to know what they’re doing, and then faking it until we make it?

Ashley: [disgustedly] What vegetable is that?!

Cody: Yeah, what even is that?

[All laugh]

Gabe: Well, we just made that vegetable.

Cody: Wait, we brought a potato up…

Josh: Ooh! A sweet potato!

Ashley: A sweet potato, yes!

Sallie: A yam.

Cody: Once you peel it away…

Gabe: A potato is used in a lot of ways. Very versatile, you can use it in all three meals of the day, snacks…

Cody: Also very accessible to the masses.

All: Ahh, yeah…

Gabe: You could fry it, you could bake it, sauté it…

Kyle: The versatility, that’s worth throwing out there. True to Trump.

Cody: [to me] So, a potato. Sweet or unsweet.

Starchy and terrible for you.

Andrew: [in Trump’s voice] But oh so satisfying.

[All laugh]

Nice…I think that’s all the questions that I have.

Andrew: [In Trump’s voice] All I gotta say, is that if you see Derek Jeter, run. Don’t ask questions, protect your nuts, and turn the other way.

Trump'd

The Dallas Comedy House prides itself on being an open forum. Anyone with a show idea, script, or routine can submit to dchbackstage.com and it will be considered for a show slot. I bring it up because DCH did not ask for this show to be made. Rather, people moved by today’s political atmosphere came together and made it happen. This in itself says something about the passion they have for their subject, and if you can get yourself down to the House to see it in action, you certainly won’t be sorry. So go buy a ticket…and for God’s sake, go vote, too.

Emily Baudot is a DCH graduate and sketch student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner.  Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.

(Poster: Ashley Bright. Images: Jason Hensel)

Sketch Speak: FCC, the Stylish and Beautiful, presents: The Wrong Party

The Wrong PartyThis past Saturday, I had the pleasure of watching The Wrong Party, a sketch production written and directed by the FCC. The FCC is an all-minority sketch group made of Dallas Comedy House (DCH) regulars: Julia Cotton, Jerrell CurryPaulos Feerow, and Jade Smith. For those not in the know, the sketch production primarily focuses on issues of race and status. And guys? It’s one of the best sketch shows I’ve seen come out of DCH. The writing is strong and true, their performances were genuine, and the entire piece was a roller coaster of emotions. They candidly address horrible truths about our culture with grace and, incredibly, hilarity. They look their audience in the face and talk about what it’s like being at “The Wrong Party.” (See what I did there?) Reader, if you care about modern comedy, if you care about writing, you must see this show. It is non-negotiable. Go buy your ticket now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Good. Your country thanks you.

The good people of the FCC hung around after their stellar performance to answer some of my questions:

---------

Julia: All right, let’s do it!

All: Yeah!

Julia: Thank you for doing this, by the way.

Me: Oh, well thank you guys for letting me talk to you.

Julia: Yes. You’re allowed.

All laugh.

Me: Can you tell me a little bit about what FCC is?

Jade: It’s just kind of something we came up with. The way we wrote the show is, we met for – how many months?

All: Like four.

Julia: Yeah, they all talked about it, and then I showed up on one of the random days that you, where you just show up at DCH, and they said, “Hey, we’re thinking about doing a show! You should come do it too.” And I said, “Fine, I’m not doing anything, like raising my children. I’ll hang out with you guys once a week. So yeah."

Jerrell: We’d been kicking it around for a long, long time before we even – I actually think we almost had the same idea separately, like, “Oh yeah, we should do this.” And then – haha – maybe like a year and a half before we spoke to each other about it.

Julia: We’re all in very separate circles.

All: Yeah, yeah.

Me: Cool – since you all, sort of, came to the same idea – was it inspired by particular events you all experienced? I’m sure it was different from all of you.

Paulos: I’m not going to try to speak for everybody, but I’ve seen them play in improv or sketch, and they would make smart moves when race was brought up, or when being a woman was brought up. You know – smart moves that weren’t just the obvious joke. I wanted to write for them, or at least do something with it.

Julia: Yeah, at first it was very much “Let’s do something.”

All: Yeah. Yeah.

Paulos: The more that we wrote – and really, the more that we hung out, the more ideas we had that were really fleshed out.

Jade: I think the reason it happened is that we were experiencing a lot of the same things in our comedy careers. And not just here, but in general, from beginning to now, a lot of us were having the same experiences, and together we were able to flesh out some really fun ideas.

Jerrell: It’s been, like, the most cathartic five months.

All: Yeah! It has.

Me: I can imagine, yeah.

Jerrell: It was just, “Oh. I need this.”

Julia: I mean, on the real, we were able to say a lot of things out loud to each other that we’ve been thinking for a long time, but we needed the group to be able to let it loose. Being able to do that and put those things that we let loose into something as awesome as it is on stage – I think we all feel really good about that.

All: Yes, agreed.

Me: That’s really cool – and I was actually about to ask you – the links, the “behind the scenes” parts, did those come out of real conversations?

All: Yes.

Julia: Very real.

Jerrell: A lot of those were verbatim, how the conversation went.

Julia: Especially the Cosby one.

All: Oh yeah!

Julia: Cause I tried a very horrible Cosby impression, and then we all went, one after the other.

Me (to Jerrell): I have to say, that part was somehow so fun, and your commitment to that was amazing.

Julia: I mean, that’s pretty much Jerrell’s role. It’s always silly, but we’ll be on one page about something, and then Jerrell will just take it somewhere completely far away.

Paulos: Yeah, he’ll just…(Whooshing noise)

Jerrell: You know, I did that impression, and I’ve never actually seen an episode of The Cosby Show.

Me: That’s so great…I’m sure that each of you brings something different to the table. If Jerrell takes it to a new and different place, is that true for each of you?

Jade: That’s a good question.

Jerrell: That’s a really good question.

Paulos: Nods.

Julia: I can say that Jade, to me – this is the second time we’ve written something together, and even back to that first time, she’s so smart. Like, she’s like a whiz kid if we were a family.

Jade: So I’m like, Tahj Mowry?

Julia: (Laughs) Yeah, ‘cause that first day when we were working on the Disney roast, she came in with a stack of jokes already ready. But she didn’t just rely on that. Quick-witted. Her brain works so fast, and it’s always funny. So that’s who I say Jade would be.

Jade: Heeyyy. OK, OK, all right.

Julia: Killed it. Killed it.

Paulos: Well, if we’re speaking for people…

All laugh.

Paulos: I think Julia is – I’ve never seen somebody hear an idea and just get the logistics of it down. And then know to just – “Let’s heighten it here, or let’s take things in this direction.” She’s really good at punching up your thing. And also, the “Hey Mr. DJ” sketch is probably my favorite, and I don’t think we even messed with that. It was good from the first time. She was able to help us get everything tight and better.

Jade: I would say that, ah, Paulos over here…

All: Oh shit! Ooooh!

Paulos: I’m the foreign one!

All laugh.

Julia: He’s not of this world.

Jade: Paulos has such a strong idea of what’s funny, and what comedy is. He’s able to pull it out of anything. Ideas that I would never have thought of in a million years, and we’ll do them on stage and [redacted] kill. And I just – oh. I don’t think I can say ‘[redacted]’.

Me: I mean, the last interview I did, they said [redacted] like eight times.

Julia: Oh! So that was the redacted thing!

Jade: (Laughs) Yeah, and so the last thing – Paulos has a really strong idea of how the audience will take something. I think it’s his stand-up background.

Julia: Yeah!

Jade: Sometimes I’m like, “How the [redacted] do you know that? HOW DO YOU KNOW?”...And, uh, that’s us.

Paulos: We are all beautiful.

Jerrell: (Singing) You are beautifu-ul…

Julia: We are all very attractive. Make sure that’s written in there.

Me: (Salutes) Yes ma’am.

Jerrell: Title the article that way, too.

((Done and done!))

Me: I have to commend you guys. I feel like you did a very wonderful job of presenting some particularly sensitive issues on stage, but still maintaining this…somehow, you managed to make it fun. And I don’t know how you pulled it off, and I just watched you do it.

Julia: I think that’s because everything we talk about on stage is very real to us. We just happen to have a really good time with each other, and, thankfully, we’re able to make sure that translates – it just comes off on stage, because the whole time, we’re having fun.

All agree.

Paulos: The first couple of meetups that we had, I was like, “I don’t know if they’re gonna think I’m funny – “

Jerrell: Yeah, exactly.

Paulos: But then, it stopped being about being funny. We literally were just having fun. I feel like we wasted a month just talking.

Jerrell: This thing was really written in the last two-to-three weeks.

Julia: And it may have been just us sitting around, but that was so important, though. Because we don’t hang out every day, we’re all in different circles. So the first two-and-a-half, three months was us having deep conversations. And we were able to translate that into all of our sketches, I think.

Paulos: Yeah, for sure.

Me: Awesome guys – I have one last question. This comes standard. If your group was a vegetable, what would it be?

Julia: Oh, it’s gotta be like, a big-ass eggplant. Right?

Jade: Yeah, yeah…like an emoji.

Jerrell: Giant, giant eggplants.

Julia: The girthiest of eggplants.

Jerrell: None of that Whole Foods [redacted]. We’re Trader Joe’s.

Julia: Maybe even like, a Kroger one that’s been injected with a bunch of –

Jade: This is the eggplant that ate the other eggplants.

Jerrell: Boom. Yeah.

Julia: What’s that movie with the big plant?

Me: Little Shop of Horrors?

Julia: Yeah! Yes!

Jerrell: (Laughing) “That movie with the big plant…”

Julia: Yeah, like at the end of the movie, the plant’s like “Feed me, Seymour!” and the eggplant’s like, “[Redacted] you. Imma eat you.”

Jade: And Rick Moranis is still in it.

Jerrell: I thought you were going to say Rick Ross.

Me: I want to see that.

We hear a knocking.

Christie Wallace: Hey, Jerrell. Do you remember we have a show?

Jerrell: Oh! Yes, I’m coming!

Me: And I think that ends it.

All laugh.

Aren’t they lovely? I thought so.

And ya’ll know, I can’t leave anything alone without my two cents, so as a farewell note: Comics have such an interesting place in performance art. They can brighten a room, they can make an audience laugh, or cry, or gasp. They can speak honestly about things that hurt, and things that should change but can’t. I think every comic wants to be that kind of performer, the kind that can make a group nod, “So true, so true.” The kind of comic that can do it well, though – that’s something rare. It is easy to bandwagon or rant, but the comedian that can show you her perspective, and even convince you of her side, they are precious not only to fans but to an entire culture. I genuinely believe that FCC has four of them.

(I asked them what FCC stands for…Paulos said Fight Club Clips. Jade says [redacted] Calvin Coolidge. So the consensus is that they’re working on it.)

Emily Baudot is a Level Five improv student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner.  Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.

Sketch Speak: An Interview with LOOK AT US

You know that sinking feeling you get when you’ve done something awful, and you want to take it back so badly, but you can’t? All you can do is just let it wash over you, like a cold tomato bath after a skunky time. And constant readers, I had a pretty skunky couple of weeks. One of the skunkiest things (among many) involved me emptying out my phone cache to try and clear out some space. You want to know what was in there? Well, in addition to some priceless recordings of my grandfather telling a World War 2 story, I also lost my first ever interview with a Sketch 3 class from Dallas Comedy House (DCH).

This is a true story.

The good news is that I had the magic of the Internet and some really nice Sketch 3 people who were willing to redo the damn interview via Google Docs. Oh, Google Docs. You magical tomato bath, you.

LOOK AT US - posterSO, herein lies my interview with Ashley Bright’s Sketch 3 class, made of: Sallie Bowen, Tori Brenna, Bonnie CrissBrian HarringtonPatrick Hennessy, Cody Hofmockel, Tyler Johnston, and Kim Marr. They are all beautiful, lovely souls, and I apologize to them and my grandfather for my gross negligence. The sketch itself, in my humble opinion, was lovely – a reflection of themselves, really, with some of the most meta links the world famous DCH has ever seen. Not at all corny…though I think they’d take that as an insult.

So, let’s get on with it, then!

You've all been doing improv for a long time. What was the biggest change you had to make to start writing sketch? What was different or difficult about transitioning?

Sallie: Definitely doing homework. In improv, you come in, have fun, and go home. With sketch, there is a lot of work you have to put in outside of class. It was hard to discipline myself at first but I learned that if I could get my sketches done early in the week rather than waiting until last minute, I would usually end up with better quality work. Corn quality. (And so it begins.)

Patrick: Doing work outside of class. The beauty of improv is that it's all made up on the spot. You can decide to do an improv set anywhere, anytime. Any one of the sketches in our show was the product of hours of writing, tweaking, memorizing, and rehearsing. One of the things I found difficult was learning how to write dialogue that sounds natural. When you first start, it is very easy to write scenes that sound like two robots talking to each other.

Bonnie: I think committing to writing every day was definitely a change. You have to be really responsible for getting your work done, not just for yourself but for your classmates because everyone is relying on you to provide and put forth effort in the class to make a great show.

Brian: Yeah, with improv you just have to show up, do it, then you’re done. With sketch, you’ve really got to put in effort outside of class and, even harder than that, is not waiting until the morning of your class to do that work.

Cody: Doing work outside of class was the biggest change and the most difficult part of transitioning.

Tyler: The biggest change I had to make was really putting in the work outside of class. There’s more homework in sketch than improv, so preparing yourself for that transition was definitely tough.

Kim: I really struggled with the inner monologue of, “Wow, everything you are writing is terrible. You aren’t funny at all. Why are you doing this!?!?” Is this too personal? I hope not. My favorite part of improv is getting to ignore that voice on stage because there is just no time for it. Writing provided plenty of time for me to dwell on it.

What advice would you give to improvisers interested in taking sketch?

Sallie: DO IT. Just do it. It's so fun and so rewarding. It's definitely different than improv, but I think everyone should do it. Also, take it with some friends or people you like. Improv is a personal journey, while sketch is more of a group experience. We all were friends and knew each other before class so I think it made for a more enjoyable experience

Patrick: If possible, take sketch with friends. If you can’t do that, become good friends with the people in your class. You’re going to spend a lot of time with these people and occasionally you might have to give someone your honest opinion. It’s all much easier if you really know, enjoy, and respect them.

Bonnie: Do it! It’s so fun having gone through all the levels of improv because improv really helps you learn about the structure of scenes and how they look and feel, and when you get to sketch, you know how a scene should look and feel and you’re able to write with so much more confidence.

Brian: A lot of the fun of improv is building a scene, which you still get to do with sketch, but on a grander scale. How many improv scenes have you been like, “Aw man, I wish I had made this move or I wish they had made that move.” Sketch gives you a chance to really get that group mind going. Also, if you can work corn into your show, it’s good luck. (Straight from the husk, this one.)

Tyler: Find your voice and write toward your and your classmates' strengths. Once you start to get to know each other, it makes it easier to say, “Oh, so-and-so can do this weird voice really well, I can incorporate that.” But, don’t forget to know yourself and write for yourself, too. If you think you can write a really bomb sketch and you can knock it out of the park, then do it!

Cody: Write what makes you laugh. Remember to still yes-and your own ideas and the ideas of others. It’s easy to start coming up with reasons why a sketch doesn’t work. It’s far more productive to figure out how to make it work. You’re going to want to throw away a lot of ideas. Resist that and you’ll probably surprise yourself.

Kim: Do it! You’ll probably learn something and become friends with a great group of people. I did. It’s made me more confident in my performance as an improviser, as well. Do your homework earlier than the morning of class!

LOOK AT US - corn posterHow does Ashley help you write? How much of a hand does she have in making the final product?

Sallie: Ashley was our voice of reason. She was honest with us and told us when our ideas were dumb. She always pushed us to do better. She is the most supportive, smart, angel-haired teacher. She would listen to us spout our insane ideas for this show and she'd lay it out for us. She'd say, "OK, here are the risks, but if you want to do it let's f**king make it happen."

Bonnie: Ashley was the best Sketch 3 teacher this group of weirdos could have had. We were constantly throwing out crazy ideas, and she really helped us wrangle them in and hone our sketches.

Brian: Ashley is Wonder Woman and her lasso of truth kept us from getting too out of control, but if you saw the show, she still gave us plenty of wiggle room. (And what glorious wiggling it was.) Ashley was fantastic in looking at the first draft of a sketch, trimming the fat, finding the meat, and shucking the corn. (!!!) She never tried to write her own sketches; she’s got her own show for that. She just made our writing the best it could be.

Patrick: Yeah, it’s easy to go from a simple funny pitch to a cluttered confusing sketch. Ashley would help us focus on what the sketch was really about and cut out anything unnecessary. She also acted as the director of the show, so she had a say in the final run order and whether or not something would get cut.

Cody: Ashley taught me to read so personally she’s played a key role in helping me write. She made us do important things like write sketches, put a show together, and stop talking about corn for a second. She pushed us to do something “different” but probably saved a lot of audience lives by making sure we were the right kind of “different.”

Tyler: Ashley knew most of us really well going into the sketch class, so I think she had an idea of the kind of shenanigans she was getting into. We’re a beautifully, weird bunch, and she made sure we were polished weirdos. She made us go past the obvious corn jokes and dig deeper into the corn field that is Sketch 3.

Kim: Ashley was super supportive of all of our ideas, but was also a voice of reason because we had some crazy ones. She definitely kept us in check but allowed us to explore the weird depths of our hearts. Basically, she was like our mom who put a leash on us at the zoo. (Dare I go for a “and Harambe didn’t try to kill you” joke? Nah. Not my bit.)

I seem to remember the answer to the last question – I asked them what they would be if they were a vegetable. First, they said they would be [redacted], and then they changed their minds and said "corned lizard."

Sallie: I still stand by [redacted]. [Redacted] 4 life. Corn 4 life. Corn is life. Do you believe in life after corn?

Tyler: [redacted] Corn.

Bonnie: [REDACTED] FOR LIFE. BUT ALSO JUSTICE FOR CORN!

Brian: Cody asked Kim to say [redacted] to whatever the next question was. This was the next question. I wish you still had the audio, but I guess you can’t have your [redacted] and eat it too. (I blame the Android OS for confusing my dumb brain.)

Cody: I thought you said animal. It could be a [redacted] corned lizard. Damn, Brian, that was a great pun. Kim answered “[redacted]” to one of the questions but I was the only one who heard so I wanted her to say it again. The rest is Kimstory.

Patrick: It was def animal. “Corned Lizard” is very formal and that ain’t me. I prefer the more colloquial name, Corny Toad.

Kim: I just want everyone to know that after the initial interview, I went up to Cody at the bar and had to confirm that I had the right definition of [redacted]. (You sure did, Kim. You sure did.)

To round things off, I asked Ashley some questions as well.

What's different about teaching sketch vs. teaching improv?

Ashley: Improv is creating a free-flying ball of energy and support out of thin air; it's magic. Sketch is like if you caught that ball, choreographed some moves, practiced them, and became the Harlem Globetrotters.

What is your favorite thing about teaching sketch?

Ashley: The thing I love about teaching sketch is seeing the work pay off. In sketch, you can watch the tiniest half-baked idea become a fully fleshed-out performance. I get to watch the work go into it and watch the progress. It's like watching a time-lapsed video of a tree growing, and I love it.

What was it like teaching this group of writers?

Ashley: This group of writers have etched a li’l corn-shaped spot in my heart. They're these silly, cool kids with immense talent. Each of them. They probably could've skated by on that talent and charm, but they went to work. Citronella lives. 

~

And that’s all she wrote. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go let the tomato drain out of my tub. If you’d like to experience other sketch shows like this one, or maybe even get involved in one yourself, head over to the classes section of this website to learn more.

Emily Baudot is a Level Five improv student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner.  Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.

(Top Image: Patrick Hennessy. Bottom Image: Ashley Bright)