Hayley Waring

Troupe Talk: Big Turtle

Big Turtle You know what they say: the bigger the turtle, the bigger the fun. And, Dallas Comedy House (DCH) is home to a pretty big turtle, a “burtle” in fact, all its own. While turtles are easily the chillest of  all the reptiles, this big one at DCH happens to also be a collection of some of the chilliest and illest broads (Yes, Danny, we will print "broads.") and two “turtley shellarious” dudes who definitely do not suck when it comes to delivering the funny. Big Turtle (Marilou Canon, Chelsea Gomez, Patrick Hennessey, Danny Neely, Andrea Urbina, Hayley Waring) was forged in the bowels of the comedy ooze-covered Deep Ellum sewers, where they learned the art of improv ninjutsu. Once ready, they crawled their way out to bring their hardcore burtle power to the stages of DCH. And, we’re all so glad they did.  

Also, let it be known that in no way, whatsoever did Chelsea’s legion of demon minions force me to write the above paragraph or the following Q&A (checks in with demon minion hovering over my shoulder and receives a nod of approval to continue).

Hello, Big Turtle homies! Let’s start this Q&A off with your troupe’s riveting origin story:

Big Turtle: Hayley, Chelsea, Andrea and Patrick were all born in a sewer and once crawled through some toxic sludge. A really nice, kung-fu sewer rat named Ben Splinter found them and raised them as his own. When they grew into full, big turtles they saved Marilou, a scrappy young reporter in a yellow jumpsuit, from being buried alive under the beach. They then found Danny, a feisty street urchin with a hockey mask and passion for justice. It was then that they formed BIG TURTLE.

Are there any big things coming up that Big Turtle is excited about, either in life or in improv, or both?

Marilou: I’m excited to drop my kids off at the pool, and by kids I mean “eggs,” and by pool I mean “buried three feet underneath a beach.” (finger guns into the air)

Patrick: We’re looking into submitting to out-of-town venues to bring turtle joy to all the girls and boy(s).

Hayley: Our littlest turtle (Andrea) is graduating college in Maaaaay.

Andrea: Yes! I'm graduating, hire me! This big turtle needs a big turtle job.

Danny: My summer shell is coming in nicely.

Chelsea: My life is really pathetic. (cracks up laughing)

For those who might not be familiar with Big Turtle, what might one expect to see at a BT show? How would you describe your performance style?

Marilou: Just like a big turtle, our performance style is high energy.

Chelsea: Expect Marilou to squat her eggs and bury them underneath a beach.

Patrick: Expect Hayley to check in with you throughout the show and make sure you're having a good time.

Hayley: Expect Patrick to physically hurt himself…or others.

Chelsea: Expect Danny to be an old man.

Danny: Expect Andrea to fall madly in love… with the stage.

Andrea: Expect Chelsea to sacrifice her body.

Patrick: Like as part of a ritual…to summon her army of demon minions.

Improv and cute, oversized critters make for a good combination. Besides turtles, what other oversized animals would each of your troupe mates be most like and why?

Chelsea: Mini horses. Look at my face right now…mini horses.

Hayley: That doesn't sound oversized?

Marilou: A mini horse is still a f***ing horse.

Patrick: Y’all aren't answering the question.

Chelsea: OK, a big mini horse.

Marilou: I am a big fertilized turtle egg buried underneath the beach.

Hayley: Patrick is a big cockatiel.

Chelsea: Hayley is a big Great Dane puppy who can’t figure out what to do with her legs and is always searching for validation from her human.

Patrick: Danny is big raccoon playing the bongo drums.

Hayley: Andrea is big carnival goldfish.

Marilou: Because she’s worth a buck fifty and if you shake her too hard, she will die. Chelsea is a giant version of the stuffed unicorn from Despicable Me.

Hayley: So true. If you’ve seen her hair, you will understand. It’s so dang fluffy.

Andrea: OMG, Hayley is one of those big rabbits; have you guys seen those?

Danny: Ah dude, Bongo Racoon sounds dope.

Big Turtle

What do you enjoy most about getting to play with this particular group of people?

Marilou: Performing with you (Big Turtle) makes me confident that my babies will make it to the ocean.

Hayley: I think it’s great that we all genuinely like and support each other. Also, they’re all crazy smart, and that’s so fun to play with. I hope I’m not being presumptuous in assuming that we all like each other.

Chelsea: I’m so lucky to play with them because they make me look good when I’m really a solid 5/10. That’s what my Yelp reviews say.

Patrick: (In an old-timey gangster voice) I like the chance to play with some real live-wire broads. They keep me on my toes. All my other troupes are sausage fests.

Andrea: Everyone is always down to get pretty weird—like choke each other out at brunch.

Danny: Also the broads. (Do you think they’ll print "broads?")

Turtlenecks, Turtle Doves, Turtle from Entourage: Pick one. Which do you choose and why?

Chelsea: None of the above; f*** birds, I’m claustrophobic so I can’t wear turtlenecks and f*** Entourage. I pick turtle man, look it up.

Danny: Turtle from Entourage. What an interesting show.

Hayley: I just googled what a turtle dove is. I don’t think I should have admitted that. I’m far enough in life that I should know.

Patrick: One of my favorite things about this troupe is that they let me wear my chain and my turtle neck sweater.

Marilou: My three turtle children, who survived the crawl across the beach with all the dingos and birds trying to eat them.

Andrea: I have a turtle car air freshener so I always have my burts with me when I'm traveling from land to sea (Denton to Dallas).

“Heroes in a Half Shell,” “Cowabunga,” and “Turtle Power” are just a few of the iconic Ninja Turtle catchphrases. So like that great turtle team before you, it’s time for BT to choose its own nifty catchphrase.

Marilou: Our improv does well on land or sea! (Or buried underneath the beach).

Patrick: We’re turtley shellarious!

Chelsea: We don’t suck.

Danny: Now that's-a-big-a Turtle!

Andrea: And who am I? That's a secret I'll never tell, xoxo Tig Burtle.

Hayley: Purtle, Murtle, Durtle, Churtle, Hurtle, and Andrea rock!

Andrea: I haven't earned a Burtle nickname yet?

Patrick: Vowels are hard! Fix that and you’ll earn one.

Lauren Levine is currently a Level 4 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.

(First image: Allie Trimboli. Second image: Kate Alleman)

The Quirky in Dallas: Feeling Fancy

My friends and I have a tradition that we like to call a lot of different names: fancy night, very Dallas night, bougie night, etc. Regardless of what we label it, the evenings always share one consistency—we do something we really can’t afford. Typically this night comes twice a year and never has any real justification. It’s a celebration when we’ve got nothing to celebrate. And so we put on a fancy dress, some high heels, and revel in the fact that our bank accounts are somehow not yet in the negatives.

Americano1This week, The Quirky in Dallas went upscale and we checked out the new restaurant at the Joule Hotel, Americano. This really cool restaurant is located in downtown Dallas, which is surprising to those of us who assume downtown is only home to accounting firms and Neiman Marcus.

Americano proved to be the perfect location for an evening of colorful sophistication.

The first thing you need to know about this place is that they have wine on tap. Wine on tap is basically beer on tap’s fancy cousin. Behind the bar, there is a long wall of faucets but I like to think of them as adult water fountains, miraculously releasing the sweet promise of a wine buzz. We opted for the chardonnay, and I have absolutely no regrets.

A good indication that a restaurant is sufficiently high-brow is if you find yourself reaching for your phone to Google some ingredients. Yes, this happened and sure, I could have just asked the waiter but I chose not to embarrass my fellow diners. Instead, I found myself furiously searching, “What is a sunchoke?” under the table. According to Wikipedia, a sunchoke is also known as a “Jerusalem artichoke” or an “earth apple.” Still confused? Me too, but I do know that at Americano you can order them crispy and with salsa verde!

The restaurant is supposedly “casual attire” but don’t be fooled. You’ll find an eclectic mix of people here and most of them will be dressed pretty dang stylishly. I was glad that I had opted to wear my faux fur jacket when I noticed that a man a few tables over was donning a top hat. I wanted to ask him if he, too, was having a fancy night but hesitated when I realized this was probably just his typical attire and my question could be perceived as rude.

Americano2On one bright, green wall there is an illuminated sign that reads, “It’s all in your head.” I have a penchant for walls featuring vague yet deep quotes and on this front, Americano did not disappoint. Naturally, I insisted we get a picture next to it. If we ever start a band (unlikely given the fact that we all lack any discernible musical talent) this picture will definitely be our album cover.

The dinner was delicious. I had butternut squash ravioli (just like kale and all things farm to table, butternut squash is a very trendy food and therefore an excellent choice) and finished it off with a pine nut tart (think pecan pie but with pine nuts, because pine nuts are FANCIER.) Throughout the meal, the waiter would walk around the table asking, “Sparkling or still?” as he filled our water cups. I appreciated this because that’s a choice that everyone should have the right to make.

If you want to eat delicious food, encounter interesting people, and take a cliché picture that is sure to get a lot of Instagram likes, then I highly recommend Americano for your next birthday, anniversary, or random weekday evening when you’re kinda feeling fancy.

Hayley Waring is a level 5 improv student at the Dallas Comedy House training center. If the world was a perfect place she would spend her days writing poetry with Alexander Hamilton while sharing an ahi tuna tower.

The Quirky in Dallas: The Uglier, The Better

uglysweater3The journey of the ugly Christmas sweater has been an interesting one. What started out as the endearing holiday wear of kindergarten teachers and grandmothers everywhere somehow morphed into a hipster trend and ultimately a mainstream obsession. From office holiday parties to family gatherings, the ugly Christmas sweater has become a seasonal staple. Fans of tinsel and pompoms once had to scrounge through the racks of thrift stores and Buffalo Exchange hoping to find that one perfect Rudolph sweater. But all that has changed, with the mass production of the ugly Christmas sweater (I’m looking at you, Wal-Mart and Forever 21) the festive outerwear has become incredibly common.

I think there is still something so much more charming about purchasing a pre-owned sweater that no one else is going to have. Evidently, I’m not alone because a store has popped up on Lovers Lane right next to the Inwood Village movie theater that exclusively sells ugly Christmas sweaters—appropriately named “That Ugly Christmas Sweater Store.”

Even if you wouldn’t be caught dead in anything with Santa’s face on it, you might still want to visit the shop as you scramble to buy gifts. You know those people in your family who are particularly difficult to shop for? Well, fear not. This place has something for all of them.

For the family member who can’t make it through the day without telling a dirty joke:

This bright red one features a picture of Betty Boop and the words “Santa Baby xoxo” (except the o’s are hearts). It’s cartoonish, and it’s creepy.

For the family member who has a “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper sticker:

This one isn’t a sweater technically, but rather a sweatshirt (which might be more practical for your duck-hunting, pickup-driving uncle anyway.) It features a snowy scene with an adorable snowman dressed like a cowboy. So go ahead, buy it for your loved one who knows all the verses of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

For the family member who is just a little… off:

uglysweater1You know that classic holiday tradition of peeking in your neighbors' windows to see what they’re up to? Well, this sweater celebrates your nosy family member’s urge to creep without the risk of unsettling the neighbors. This bright blue piece is adorned with numerous windows framing different scenes: a Christmas tree with gifts, a curled up kitten, some stockings hanging, and more. They can peek away and no one will call the police.

For the family member who hates the holidays:

uglysweater2Shopping for the Grinch? You’re in luck. This one is unique for numerous reasons: first, it’s short sleeved. I’m a little confused as to what kind of weather this item is intended for. When is it cold enough to merit a sweater but warm enough for short sleeves to be acceptable? Regardless, this sweater lacks anything holiday themed. Instead, it depicts a lighthouse, some sailboats, and an American flag. Why is this in a Christmas store? What climate-confused person is going to purchase it? These are all questions that I’ll be pondering throughout the season.

For the family member who REALLY loves the holidays:

uglysweater4This sweater vest practically screams “SANTA!?!!!? I KNOW HIM!!” It’s got everything the reindeer-loving, carol-singing, hot cocoa-chugging Christmas-obsessed person could ever want. I’ll be more specific: Tiny ornaments? Check! Christmas stockings? Check! Red and green festive fur-lined sleeves? Check!

The store is open through December 27, but I suggest you hurry before the ugliest sweaters are gone.

Hayley Waring is a level 5 improv student at the Dallas Comedy House training center. If the world was a perfect place she would spend her days writing poetry with Alexander Hamilton while sharing an ahi tuna tower.

The Quirky in Dallas: Let's Play a Game

Moby Dick So far this blog has focused on some wonderfully quirky places I’ve visited around Dallas. I’ve been to thrift shops, speakeasies, and 24-hour diners all with the goal of disproving the notion that Dallas lacks distinctive culture.

In a lot of ways this quest has become quite personal, it’s led me to some great places, and made me realize that it’s not just the crazy shops and charming diners that make a city interesting; it’s the colorful people behind them. And so today, I want to do something a little different and shift the focus from places to people. I’m excited to introduce you to some very special people in Dallas who have created something wonderfully original and refreshingly funny.

It’s a card game called “Dick” that’s based on Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. If you’ve seen New York magazine’s gift guide or browsed the Washington Post recently you may already be familiar with it.  

SMU English professor, Tim Cassedy, is the mastermind behind the game and he’s had some help bringing it to life from two former students, Jenna Peck and Chelsea Grogan (DCH graduate and former weekly blogger!).

You might be wondering what a card game about a classic American novel could possibly have to do with comedy. It’s a valid thing to wonder, but I’ll ask you this; do you enjoy the occasional dirty joke and inappropriate innuendo? If yes, it turns out you might have more in common with Herman Melville than you ever could have guessed at 16 when you struggled through Moby-Dick in your high school English Class.

This past spring during my senior year at SMU, I took an English seminar class and Tim was the instructor. Moby-Dick was one of the texts we studied during the course, and Tim consistently found inventive ways to bring the story to life. He did everything from jumping on the table and reenacting one of Ahab’s speeches to bringing in a giant tub of “whale sperm” (really just some soap making products) and asking us to sit in a circle and “squish the sperm” so that we could better understand what happened on those whaling ships. Because of these moments, we were able to connect with the text in an unexpected and delightful way.

During that semester, Tim came up with an incredibly unique idea--create a cards against humanity style game that highlights the colorful, absurd, and sometimes downright sexual language in the novel.

A few of my friends and I had the great pleasure of testing out some early versions of the game in the basement of Dallas Hall at SMU. We would spend hours after class sitting cross-legged on the floor and cracking up at the hilarious (and dirty) combinations we came up with.

Since those afternoons, the game has made its way out of the basement and is getting quite a bit of press. So, I thought this would be a good time to hop on the media bandwagon and ask two of the creators a few questions:

"Dick" has gotten a lot of press recently (Washington Post, New York magazine, Avidly, Dallas Morning News, etc.). When the idea was born, did you have any idea that it would appeal to this many people?

Jenna: At first I thought it was amazing and hilarious for the gaggle of literature nerds we played it with. I wasn't sure if people who hadn't read Moby-Dick would get it or care about it. But it kind of turned into a thing that played most with people who don't know much about the book, like it's trying to show them that maybe they should read this vague book they've heard of or skimmed in high school, because it's so weird and hilarious! 

Tim: I am very surprised by the game’s commercial success. But Moby-Dick has a strange hold on American culture. The book is definitely about America: American men, American power, American capitalism, American religion. I think most people have the sense that it is a big earnest book about rugged American masculinity, strength, doing what’s necessary, hard work, sin, faith, virtue, etc., etc. This is why senators and boards of education like it: they think Moby-Dick is reciting the pledge of allegiance or singing “America the Beautiful.” I also think this is exactly why no one wants to read it. No one wants to be lectured to for 700 pages about the same earnest pieties that you hear from presidential candidates. (People don’t listen to “America the Beautiful” for fun.) And if you have any sense that those American ideals of rugged masculinity, strength, courage, etc., don’t quite have you in mind — if you have any sense that you are not John Wayne — then you think Moby-Dick is telling you that you don’t belong. And it may be that on some level that is exactly how your teacher wants you to feel, because the teacher is the person in the room who has the power, and it’s frequently tempting or expedient to make sure the students know it. 

Is there anything specific you hope people who play the game take away from it?

Jenna: I think we want people to get that books written and read by people 200 years ago were just as quirky and weird and silly as the stuff we like now.

Tim: I’m hoping that the game undermines the sanitized view of history (and literary history) that we’re often fed: that people used to be virtuous, pious, chaste, obedient, respectful, etc., until the television or the sexual revolution or the Internet arrived and destroyed that past purity. Dick argues that there was no past purity to lose.  It argues that culture has always been messy and complicated and riotous and subversive. Or maybe that is just a lofty way of saying that I want people to understand that dick jokes existed in 19th-century America. But I really do.

Do you think Melville was intentionally trying to be comedic or does the language just sound funny to us now because we’re removed from the time and culture Melville was writing in?

Jenna: Melville was 100 percent trying to be weird and make puns that make us do a double take on the text. However, there is an element to the language of the time that is full of funny words and phrases that were weird and different at the time, but possibly humorous to us for different, but not dissimilar reasons.

Tim: Some of both. Moby-Dick is incredibly playful at the level of the word. Ishmael can’t help himself from playing with words and is constantly throwing in little ironies or clevernesses, most of which are not dirty, although some of them are: “that unaccountable cone” (the whale's penis), “the grandissimus” (the whale's penis), “methodically knocking people’s hats off,” “a loaf-of-bread face,” “an eruption of bears," “making the tallest boys stand in awe of you” (what you get to do when you are the teacher, Ishmael says), “a prodigiously hearty breakfast of chowders of all sorts,” “George Washington cannibalistically developed,” etc., etc.

The book is about male sexuality in addition to everything else it’s about, so when you snicker at Moby Dick being a sperm whale, that’s not just your dirty mind.  

According to their website (www.whysoever.com), “This novel, America’s national epic, is weirder, funnier, and more subversive than you think. As is America.”

Personally, I think the game is brilliant on so many levels. Its quick moving nature helps make the text more accessible to a generation that is accustomed to memes and gifs. But perhaps the thing I like best is that the game shows its players that they don’t have to choose between being smart and getting a laugh. In fact, the two go hand in hand remarkably well.

Hayley Waring is a level 5 improv student at the Dallas Comedy House training center. If the world was a perfect place she would spend her days writing poetry with Alexander Hamilton while sharing an ahi tuna tower.

The Quirky in Dallas: Breakfast at Midnight

Metro Diner I’ve always thought of myself as someone who hates breakfast. To be honest with you, this is not a trait that most people seem to appreciate. My heartfelt declarations against eggs and waffles are often met with confusion that borders on judgment.

But recently I’ve come to an important realization: I only hate such foods between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., hours that are known to most humans as breakfast time. My aversion to all things griddle cooked is in actuality a rebellion against the morning. This isn’t about sunny side up verses scrambled; it’s about my resistance to conform to a world that demands I be awake before noon.

And so I concede—I have been wrong for many a year, French toast and cinnamon roles are not my adversaries, they are actually quite delightful when enjoyed in the proper context. My solution? Breakfast at midnight.

Nothing sops up cheap vodka like a stack of buttermilk goodness, nothing aids a late-night study session like a side of cheese grits, and as I’ve recently discovered, nothing improves the most average of Wednesday nights quite like a trip with some friends to an all-night diner in Oak Cliff.

Metro DinerIf you ever happen to find yourself in that area of Dallas, I suggest you stop into Metro Diner. If you do, you’ll be greeted by a gray haired lady with a syrup sweet drawl and she’ll tell you to “sit anywhere you like, baby.” You’ll chose a red vinyl booth, and you’ll be surprised by how many people are there at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday. People from all walks of life will sit dispersed throughout the narrow diner, and you’ll recognize you all share a common bond: hunger.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll try almost everything on the menu—the fluffy pancakes, the crispy hash browns, the greasy bacon, and you’ll wash it all down with a cold glass of whole milk.

Here’s a pro tip: bring change because there are endless things you can do with 50 cents at a diner. You can play a Bob Dylan song on the jukebox, try and grasp a stuffed pink monkey from an old, claw machine, or purchase a miniature rubber ducky from a gumball dispenser.

You’ll leave milk mustached and happy wondering why it took you so long to realize that mornings might suck, but maple syrup sure doesn’t.  

Hayley Waring is a level 5 improv student at the Dallas Comedy House training center. If the world was a perfect place she would spend her days writing poetry with Alexander Hamilton while sharing an ahi tuna tower.

The Quirky in Dallas: A Deep Ellum Halloween

hw8 Last weekend was my first Halloween out of college, which is a bit like your first Halloween out of elementary school, when suddenly you’re 11 and probably too old to go trick or treating but still a little too young to do anything cool like watch a really scary movie (maybe that was just me?) or go to a party with beverages other than juice. And now I’m 23 and too old to go to “Heaven and Hell,” the infamous Halloween party thrown by a SMU fraternity (it made the list of Playboy magazine’s best college parties, so do with that what you will) but not quite old enough to understand what a Roth IRA is.

And so I find myself at the threshold of a new life stage faced with a dilemma. Do I stay home, watch Hocus Pocus on Disney Channel, and worry about my fleeting youth? Do I mourn the end of college Halloweens where I could silently judge the lack of creativity when seven different variations of 2013 VMA’s Miley Cyrus walked past me? Or do I embrace change and pave the way for new traditions? With the encouragement of a few friends, I chose the latter and set out to have a magical Halloween weekend and maybe even discover some new Dallas places along the way.

Friday night, I took my friends, Mac, Mary Paxton, Luke, and Daniel, to see the Improvised Horror Movie. There’s not much I can say that would do justice to this show but WOW MUCH TALENT. The show was chock full of creepy moments, perfectly timed music, hilarious scenes, and a real-life, flash-flood warning. There might be nothing creepier than a room full of cell phones alerting an audience on Halloween weekend to the fact that there is a dangerous and potentially life threatening situation going on outside. It was fine, because I’m not at all prone to over-worrying in such situations (jk, that's not true but my vodka cranberry helped).

hw7After the show, we ventured into the torrential downpour and waded through the empty streets of Deep Ellum until we reached our next destination, a bar called Truth and Alibi. By the time we got there, our clothes were drenched because none of us are responsible enough to own umbrellas. We didn’t let a little threat of hypothermia stop us from some Halloween fun, and so we walked in. This bar is unique because it’s set up like a speakeasy from the 1920s. The entryway looks like a candy store; rows of brightly colored treats line the walls. A bouncer stands at what you later learn is a secret doorway asking for the password. I felt incredibly sly when I smiled at him and said “spooky.” It wasn’t until I got inside and one of my friends said, “Oh God, your face!” that I realized that our walk in the rain had caused my mascara to run and my cheeks were now streaked with thick, black lines. There goes the dream of being smooth.

Once inside, we were met with a large, dark, and crowded room, off to the side was a smaller room with huge, white leather chairs that resembled thrones; the whole thing was reminiscent of a different time. This place is doing something so smart; it’s taking something that is completely legal for adults and making it once again feel forbidden. There’s something so enticing about being somewhere you aren’t supposed to be, and Truth and Alibi plays to that so well. My friend, Mary Paxton, commented that it’s like the secret tree house of adulthood and she’s right. Only this time, mean kids can’t keep anyone out of the club. I also didn’t see a single Miley Cyrus costume, so that in and of itself was a Halloween miracle. I did, however, witness two men dressed as traffic cones and tried (unsuccessfully) to come up with some “so a traffic cone walks into a bar…” jokes.

After we danced for a while, we decided it was time to call it a night and get home to some dry clothes. And so we exited the side door back into 2015 and walked down the street to Glazed Donuts on Elm Street. We finished the night huddled under the fluorescent sign, and as we watched the rain continue to fall and stuffed our faces with glazed donut bacon grilled cheeses, I decided I was glad I didn’t stay home.

Hayley Waring is a level 5 improv student at the Dallas Comedy House training center. If the world was a perfect place she would spend her days writing poetry with Alexander Hamilton while sharing an ahi tuna tower.