FRANK

What We're Loving: Robots, Vagaries, Wise Bloods, Pretentious Stabbings, Our Own Work

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison has his childrens' names picked out, Sarah Wyatt finds a book that's better than people, Jonda Robinson lowers the age mean, Brittany Smith sees white men finally get their due, and Ryan Callahan has a sketch show to plug.  Cleatus2_2012111112064234_600_400It’s football season, but who cares? I mean, who wants to watch a bunch of millionaire jocks hit each other until they’re concussed? Wait, cancel that rant, I love the NFL. With that said, the main thing that I’m excited for isn’t football, it’s the NFL on FOX intro.

The glory of the introduction animation for NFL football on the FOX network isn’t one specific thing; it’s two. First, the theme song. Think about the coolest you’ve ever felt in your life. Maybe you finally got that guy/gal to go out with you, picked up some cool new sunglasses, or were walking away from a giant burning building. Take that feeling, that emotion, add snare drums and an electronic orchestra and you’ve got the theme song.

The other half of the wonder of the NFL on FOX intro comes to us in the form of a dancing robot named Cleatus. Whoa, that’s a lot to breakdown. First of all, yes this means that FOX continues to love animated dancing after previous showing off it’s affection with the dancing baby on Ally McBeal. Second, yes the name of the robot is Cleatus and I would hope no one apologizes for it because the name makes me want to have an army of children, just so I can name them all Cleatus.

Whether you watch football or not, that’s your call. But taking in the NFL on FOX intro should be mandatory viewing every fall for every person on every planet. - David Allison

_panther booksI’ve been really bad about reading lately. I mean really bad. I’ve probably read, like, two books in the last year, which is especially awful because I used to work at a library and regularly knock out a book a week. I got back in the habit (Sister Act 2) this past week when I read Demian, by Herman Hesse. Woah, y'all. This book blew my mind a little.

It’s like an adult version of Catcher in the Rye. It’s full of universal feelings and moments of transcendence that, if we are lucky, we all feel at some point in our adolescence, young adult life, and beyond. Demian is the story of a young man, Sinclair, and his travels and experiences throughout his young life, always feeling pulled and pushed towards something bigger than himself.

To say that I enjoyed this book is putting it mildly. I loved this book. This book made me turn away from the internet, from socializing, and burrowed its way into myself and made me feel something truly special, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt absorbed. I gave myself wholly over to reading a book and imagining the world inside of it and it was awesome.

I’m writing in vagaries because I wish that each and every one of you who read this (thank you) comes to it as open as I did. It’s a short book and so worth your time. If you’ve been looking to get back into reading, if you’ve been looking to feel something, if you’ve been looking to have your mind blow, boy did you come to the right comedy blog post. - Sarah Wyatt

DIH_0This week I’d like to introduce you to a little place in Dallas that I enjoy, The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.  Because I live my life like I’m 67 instead of 27, I’ve spent way more time at this Uptown address on Routh Street than I have at any of the hip bars and restaurants that neighbor it.

The mission of The Dallas Institute is “to enrich and deepen the practical life of the city with the wisdom and imagination of the humanities.”  Here are some of my favorite things about it:

1. Dr. Louise Cowan is a Dallas treasure. This awesome 97-year-old lady helped found The Institute in 1980, and in 1991 she won the Frankel Prize (now known as the National Humanities Medal), which gives her something in common with Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, and Steven Spielberg.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak on any topic, I suggest you listen up.

2. It’s a great place to get your learn on. The Institute offers classes in which you can dive deeper into a piece of literature or learn about specific topics. (If you’re a teacher, you can get big discounts, and there is even a Summer Institute you can attend.)

3. The wine is always flowing, and the snacks are always delicious. If you attend a class at The Institute in the evening, you’ll get a side of wine and brownie bites to go with your studies.

4. It’s the perfect place to wear a blazer. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll take any opportunity I can find to wear a blazer and pretend I’m Liz Lemon.

5. You’ll most likely bring the average age of the group down substantially. And hey, you could probably learn a thing or two from your elders.

If you’re looking to learn a little and meet some interesting people, check out their upcoming classes and events. I would be taking their Flannery O’Connor class on Thursdays this month, but I am a part of a sketch show called Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations. running each Thursday in September at 8:00pm at Dallas Comedy House…*wink* - Jonda Robinson

FrankThis past weekend I saw Frank, the tale of a white guy who saw something cool and sought out to make it his. Not exactly uncharted waters, narrative-wise, (see National Treasure, 500 Days of Summer, the founding of the United States), but it makes for a charming two hours nevertheless.

Our protagonist, Jon (Domhnall [actual first name, not a collection of syllables] Gleeson), stumbles upon a band in crisis and fills in at keyboard when their band mate attempts to drown himself in the ocean. From there Jon and the audience are introduced to Frank (Michael Fassbender), the charismatic and paper-machè masked leader of the group. Jon is immediately taken with Frank and his world and wants to be a part of the fun.

This is a mistake I have certainly made on stage, you see your friends out there having a blast and you devise a way to insert yourself into the madness. And as anyone knows who has tried this, it rarely works. Jon learns this the hard way and comes out the other side a man much different than the one we met at the top of the film. The film also meditates on the origins of creative talent and the value of likeability, which I know all sounds quite pretentious, but it goes down easy with a fun cremation mix-up and stabbing scene. - Brittany Smith

10649706_754258354815_8449199643302227645_nThere's no subtle way to go about this, so I shall be frank. I'm plugging my own stuff this week. Specifically I'm plugging Charles Dicken's Great. Expectations., the all-new sketch revue that runs every Thursday night in September at 8PM. (Get your tickets now.)

Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations. is the first sketch revue written and performed entirely by students of the DCH sketch program. Previous shows that came out of the program featured a series of stand alone monologues, or a bunch of scenes, but this show ties all the elements together in one thematically whole show. And it features an excessive amount of needless punctuation in the title.

This is actually a dual plug. I'm plugging the show itself, which we have spent months working on, under the instruction and direction of Nick Scott, and which we are very proud of and hope you enjoy, AND I'm plugging the sketch program in general. If you have ever considered, even remotely, signing up for sketch class, I highly suggest you do it.

Sketch offers the opportunity to dig into a scene and create the best comedy possible. I appreciate the way the format allows me to hone my performance, to try different phrasing and cadence  to see what works the best. For a writer like myself, sketch offers the chance to tie things together in a way that I don't always get with improv. All those ideas I get on the drive home: "I should have shown emotion instead of talking about it," or "That scene would have killed if it had more references to one-term presidents from the 1920's,"are now in play. Sketch offers the chance to do it again, and get it right this time. In a way, it's like having a mini time machine, only without the fear of accidentally landing on Hitler and being forced to take his place as some sort of new Hitler. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Exclusive Meals, Old TV Formats, Illusions

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ashley Bright eats well, David Allison puts up with dancing, and Amanda Hahn visits the world of illusion. 1357889532_franklogotranspFood really resonated with me this week. I had one of the best meals of my life and now I'm going to tell you about it, mostly so that I can re-live it as I type.  In fact, I was so detailed in my re-living of the meal that my first draft of this piece was almost 400 words and I had only made it through the amuse-bouche and the first course.  How can I only hit the highlights if the whole meal was so bright? I'll try.  FRANK Underground is a private dining experience where you sign up to be on the invite list, get invited, sign up again, get on a lottery for that week's meal, and hope to be chosen.  We've been signing up for the past few months and finally got picked.  (By we, I mean good pals and fellow DCHers, Rob and Mariam.)   Days before our dinnertime, they emailed us the secret(ish) location and revealed the menu: "con gusto."  So, I had about four days to periodically look at the menu and drool over it.  Cut to  evening.  That night's location was in a loft at Adam Hat's.  Walking into the loft, there was a giant window giving a perfect view of Dallas Comedy House.  I'd never seen its roof before.  The chefs were plugging away at the meal in the homey kitchen.  All fourteen or so of the diners were asked to sit at the long table built by one of the chef's from salvaged barn wood. The chefs told us the story of the table and FRANK's conception; and they also explained that this Mexican inspired menu is one they've been wanting to do since they started two years ago.  Our first course included huitlacoche or as Americans call it 'corn smut.'  Don't google it, it is very unappetizing.  But it is so very delicious when stuffed inside of a squash blossom.  In our third course, there was an egg cooked at 63.5 degrees for an hour.  It was like no egg I've ever had before.  The yolk was the same texture as the white.  Absolutely incredible.  Okay, I could easily write a novella on this meal.  Please come ask me about it, so I can describe every bite and sip to you with insane detail.  Please.  I haven't even told you about the dessert yet. - Ashley Bright

The Maya Rudolph ShowThe variety show is back! This past week, The Maya Rudolph Show debuted on NBC, finally ushering in the return of one of my favorite television show formats. I love variety shows, their combination of comedy, music, dance, and overall show polish makes for a really enjoyable viewing experience. Now I understand that some of you aren’t dorks and may not be as familiar with what the general structure of such a special is, but fret not, I’m gonna help introduce you to what a variety show looks like. Also, I’ll let you know how The Maya Rudolph Show did in regards to each of these tropes, just in case you weren’t part of the 2.2 they pulled.

Trope 1- Tone I’m sure there was some bullshit Greecian theatre example of a dramatic variety show, but any successful one nowadays is going to be light, upbeat, and fun. Also, the humor is very specific, many times arising from quick banter back and forth between the players or audience interaction. Check out this clip of The Smothers Brothers on The Judy Garland Show to see what I’m talking about. The Maya Rudolph Show did pretty well with this in general, but she could really use a full time sidekick to bounce dialogue off of.

Trope 2- Dancing Ugh. So much dancing. Honestly, this is the part that I care the least about because dancing is boring. Generally speaking, it’s part of a variety show because old people find it graceful. In fact, I can only think of two examples of funny dancing, one is the classic bit “Fat guy is fat but watch out, he can get down!” and the other being the would be the way Rudolph danced on her program this past week. With that said, it’s become so ingrained in what a variety show is that it can’t be eliminated. The Maya Rudolph Show featured some dancing, but that was mostly because of the talents of Sean Hayes who, by the way, should be on every episode.

Trope 3- Celebrity Special Guests The only thing better than watching a famous person host an hour of television is watching a famous person host an hour of television with their famous friends! Mostly, these other celebrities come in the form of featured players that guest star in the sketches. It’s much like Saturday Night Live except it’s almost always self deprecating or physical (Example: “Ha ha, look at this oversized hat I’m wearing!”). Occasionally you’ll see a musical guest like The Maya Rudolph Show did in Janelle Monae’s performance, but most of the time the special guest either acts in the sketches or does stand up. You gotta keep the funny train moving. Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, Sean Hayes, Chris Parnell, Kristen Bell, and Craig Robinson dropped by the set on the Maya Rudolph show, so they more than filled the celebrity quotient.

Trope 4- Music Any variety show worth it’s salt must have a few musical numbers. There has to be an upbeat opener featuring lots of singing, which The Maya Rudolph Show definitely included with the opening number and a closing number that is more somber and heart felt. My favorite play on the closer comes from Paul F. Tompkins’ variety show, with his stirring rendition of “Skyfall.” On The Maya Rudolph Show this week, they ended with this great lullabye featuring her and Chris Parnell.

At the end of the day, not only did The Maya Rudolph Show nail pretty much every trope, it did so in a refreshing way. I really hope this gets ordered to series, but I’d take any variety show at this point. Except this one. - David Allison

HahnI spent the beginning of this week at a Vision Sciences Society conference. It’s an annual meeting where a bunch of graduate students, professors, and researchers get to together by a beach in Florida. We mainly go to get tan, but we also present and discuss research relating to all things vision. As part of the conference, there is a Best Illusion of the Year Contest. It’s a one-night event where contestants present their illusions, and the audience votes for the best one. It was personally special to me this year because my lovely friend and former lab-mate at Rice University, Kimberley Orsten, was presenting an illusion of her own (and won 3rd place!). Kim’s is a simple one, but it’s also one of the more fun ones to watch. I’ve watched the little roads move back and forth for what feels like hours now. Plus, hers and the rest of the illusions in the contest come with short explanations of why they are able to fool you (fair warning: some descriptions are better than others). The explanations are my favorite part because illusions can teach you so much about how the visual system works. That’s what I love about seeing these illusions presented live, right in my face, by vision scientists at the contest. They present the illusions, induce “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd, and then tell you why you saw what you saw. It makes learning about your visual system even more interesting (take notes, Miss Frizzle). Even if you aren’t a vision nerd, they’re just fun to look at. So if you want to see research’s latest mind tricks and learn a little something about why you see what you see in everyday life, pop on over to the Best Illusion of the Year website and view the top ten illusions. (Kim’s is the road one). Have fun, and find me later to let me know if any of them made you say “whoaaa.”- Amanda Hahn