Iryna Spitzer

Confessions of a Comedy-holic

Confessions of a Comedy-holic is a weekly blog series that features performers of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). What does it take to be funny? What make someone a great comedian? What brought them to DCH, what kept them staying, and how has it changed their own lives. Celebrities of DCH speak about their journeys in comedy. Local comedians share their story.  Don’t Think: Feel.

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After spending about four months at DCH, and looking back at myself at the beginning of Level 1, I'm thinking about what I have learned/gained from improv. And not just me, but my fantastic classmates, as well. Because I wasn't in it just by myself, but with all these awesome people. So I just asked them some questions, and I'm happy to share their responses.

What was your goal/reason for taking improv? Please be specific.

Eduardo Rocha I work in advertising, so I wanted to improve my thinking on the fly and become more comfortable in front of people.

Colin Jamerson I wanted to become more comfortable speaking in front of people and thinking on my feet. I also wanted to push myself by trying something difficult.

Bianca Kirkpatrick To be honest, my only goal at first was to give improv a chance and to be a ham full time. I felt that improv was a great step into developing who you are on stage, as well as taking the time to discover what kind of performer you are. Most of the comedians/actors I admire either started/were involved with improv, so I took a risk!

Erica Harris My goal/reason in attempting improv was to see if I could pick up a new skill and really land it!

Charles Castillo My initial goal for improv was to be more comfortable as a performer. This summer, I was wanting to try stand-up a little bit and thought it might help. Two terms in, my reason is 100 percent that I just love comedy in general, and improv is the funnest thing imaginable.

Michael Bruner I wanted to take improv because it gave me a chance to explore a side of myself that I had always been afraid of. This was an opportunity for me to escape self doubt and do something that exposed insecurity and made a conscious effort to face my confidence head on.

Alok Pandya My goal was to put myself out there and have an experience of not knowing exactly what I was going. The fuel behind it all is that my passion is to go into inspirational and motivational speaking, and I figured improv classes were the best way to get out there and get inspired!

KC Ryan I've been an actress and performer on-again and off-again for the last decade or more, and improv is a skill set that I've always admired but never had the chance to indulge in. It opens up avenues to be creative in the truest sense of the word, having a small and simple idea at the beginning of your scene and expanding on it with a collaborator. And in this way, as we're experimenting in performance and making ourselves vulnerable, we build a pretty tight-knit community with the people we work with.

Name the most important thing that you have learned taking improv so far?

Eduardo Rocha How to work with others and not get too stressed out if my ideas change with other people’ input.

Colin Jamerson That listening closely to your scene partner is the key to a good scene.

Bianca Kirkpatrick I've learned that it's OK to be vulnerable in a scene, as well as the importance of building up your scene partner. Outside of improv, I've always been an A+ people watcher, but now I have even more of a motive to watch how others interact and observe situations. They can come in handy.

Erica Harris The most important thing I have learned is to respond to others’ feelings, not the surrounding “stuff” in the scene and/or conversation.

Michael Bruner The most important thing is to enjoy yourself. Anxiety around performance is one of the main debilitating factors in holding people back from letting go and giving it their all. It's that realization that the show/performance doesn't create the anxiety, but it is an internal battle. That is part of turning the tide of performance anxiety.

Lisa Blecher Improv creates an amazing environment of support. The whole backbone of the form consists of treating what your fellow improvisers say as brilliant and true and then adding on to their contributions. This applies no matter what might come up and no matter what style your co-improviser uses. This support extends to interactions beyond the stage, forming a culture of individuals who not only accept each others' unique qualities, but who embrace them.

Alok Pandya The biggest thing that improv has taught me is that it is OK to fail. Improv is about an experience of connecting with people and trusting another human being. I learned that it's OK for a scene to not go well or a scene to not have any laughs. I come from a world of business where you are always on or a world of constantly entertaining people. Improv has taught me to just have fun and not worry about the way things are going to end up, but more so enjoy the ride and the journey getting there.

Charles Castillo One thing I've learned about improv is that literally anyone can do it, which gives me confidence because if I'm ever struggling, I can just say "this is easy" and move on.

How did improv change you as a person? Did it affect your life in general? Or your life decisions? If so, why and how?

Michael Bruner It is a continual growing process. I feel a more confident person emerging, but every time I feel that anxiety and frustration building, I know I have a long way to go. It changes the way I approach my day-to-day feelings, as I am constantly having to bring them to life in improv.

Eduardo Rocha I've become a better listener.

Colin Jamerson I feel more confident speaking my thoughts confidently without over-thinking every word I say.

Samantha Seaman I would like to say that DCH has been such an eye-opening experience for me. I'm from Dallas and was completely oblivious to the club just a couple months ago, and now I feel like a family member. The level of support here is unreal, and I'm lucky to be a part of it.

Alok Pandya Improv opened me up to a world of active listening and really understanding people in my day-to-day life. I have been so used to doing things my way in business that I wasn't truly listening and feeling those around me that I work with. It has brought on connections with people that are so familiar that it's crazy that I've only known them for a few months. I've learned to add to ideas in my personal and professional life as opposed to just listening and acknowledging someone else's ideas. I've also noticed that I am taking more initiative in my life just like taking initiative on the improv stage. I overthink things less and just jump into work and social situations and then figure out the rest, which has been great. It's lead to some really great solutions and experiences as well as some great and funny stories.

Bianca Kirkpatrick Improv will continue to enlighten my surroundings, but it's already impacted my view on life after college (only been three years). Corporate America can make you feel like a real weasel and will encourage you to only focus on your job. Becoming involved in improv has helped me balance that stress and awaken that drive of creativity inside of me again.

Erica Harris It definitely has affected my life in a positive way in the sense that I have learned to self-edit “scenes” in my life. Focusing on my feelings and responding to those feelings has been a great lesson in how to improve my relationships with others.

Iryna Spitzer is a writer and improviser. She is currently in Level 2 at DCH. Besides comedy, she likes drama (to balance it out), also flowers, children, animals, and world peace!  

(Image: Michael Bruner)

Confessions of a Comedy-holic

Confessions of a Comedy-holic is a weekly blog series that features performers of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). What does it take to be funny? What make someone a great comedian? What brought them to DCH, what kept them staying, and how has it changed their own lives. Celebrities of DCH speak about their journeys in comedy. Local comedians share their story.  Trained to be the Best.

DCH performers

While writing my blogs about DCH performers, I have noticed some common qualities that they possess. Of course, it was my duty to share this great discovery with you.

  1. DCH performers have sense of humor. Which, of course, seems an obvious feature needed to perform improv. But it is also an awesome quality to possess in real life. Humor will help you to make any situation easier. One timely joke can make a difference in the life of an entire family or entire country. Don’t you think?
  2. They like to please. They know how to listen, how to agree, and how to take a good effort to the next level. They are team players and put the success of the team above their own. Another great quality to be a fond of.
  3. They are attentive. They take a notice, see the positive in a situation, and build on it. They emotionally feed their partners. So they are not selfish, but rather supportive. True? True. What if we saw more of it in everyday life?
  4. They pay attention to how they feel, and are not scared to share the way they feel with their partners. They are great communicators and strive to leave every situation better than the way they entered it. They do what they love to do and have fun with it. Who would not want to have a partner like that in real life?
  5. They are not afraid of challenge, and are looking for the ways to overcome it. Do you have a need to overcome a challenge? Come over to DCH!
  6. Having possessed all these qualities, they are working on improving them over and over and over again. Wishing to improve yourself? Come to improv. These guys spend their weekends entertaining you, but they work on improving themselves constantly, for you to be able to have a few laughs. So, they are hard working too!

But that is not all that I have noticed. Here it goes: many of these people are either single, happily married, or in great relationships. Yes, I said, many are single. That means great relationship-quality people are still available. Right here, at DCH!

So don’t wait any longer, pack your ticket, and get over here to DCH. Because life is short, and you just have to meet these great guys and gals in person. I am definitely grateful that I have!

Iryna Spitzer is a writer and improviser. She is currently in Level 2 at DCH. Besides comedy, she likes drama (to balance it out), also flowers, children, animals, and world peace!  

(Image: Rob Howe)

Confessions of a Comedy-holic

Confessions of a Comedy-holic is a weekly blog series that features performers of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). What does it take to be funny? What make someone a great comedian? What brought them to DCH, what kept them staying, and how has it changed their own lives. Celebrities of DCH speak about their journeys in comedy. Local comedians share their story.  Embrace the Challenge.

Jerrell CurryEach time I see Jerrell Curry on stage as well as off stage, his burst of energy is captivating. It seems like the joy and happiness that he radiates just brightens up the room. Of course, I couldn’t help myself but ask him a few questions.

Jerrell, you are always so full of positive energy. What source drives you to be so vibrantly happy?

I've always been a naturally positive person, I think. There are definitely times when I get super bummed out about life, so in those moments I just fake it until it's a real feeling. I also listen to a lot of pop music, so that helps. I recommend Carly Rae Jepsen's Emotion album for good vibes.

Good advice. How long have you been doing improv?

It will be two years this October. It's weird thinking about how much time has passed. I feel like I've done a lot but nothing at all at the same time. I'm a little improv baby.

What brought you to improv?

I don't know if it was any one thing. I know it was something that I always wanted to try, probably because I was obsessed with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the time, and once I started I was immediately sucked into it.

What do you like most about it?

I think it allows me to be my most free. I feel more like myself now than I've ever felt in my life, and improv has a lot to do with that. It's like when pop stars say things like, "This is my most personal record I've ever made...it drops November 21st..." That's how I feel about improv except instead of releasing Stripped, I make a poop joke on stage. It's equally fulfilling, honestly. Speaking of, my next poop joke drops October 3rd, listen on Apple Music.

Feeling free is fulfilling. Besides improv, what are your other hobbies?

I watch a ton of TV. I have the TV taste of a suburban mom, so I love anything soapy. So like, anything associated with Shonda Rhimes. Right now, I'm obsessed with How To Get Away With Murder. The acting is great, and the dudes are hot. I'm also really into making lists of books that I want to read and never doing it. And thinking about Nick Jonas.

Do you have any pets?

I have a dog! I love him. His name is Jasper. He's a scrappy little Lhasa Apso. Our birthdays are a day apart. If I was a dog, I would probably be him. He enjoys sleeping and rolling his eyes.

Jerrell, I see you are from Lewisville? Were you born here in Texas?

Born and raised. But I weirdly don't feel like a Texan. I definitely don't mind it here, but I don't know if this is my spot or not.

When you go to bed, what is one thing you mostly dream of?

Oh, that's a good question. I usually dream of things that are super related to what I have going on at the moment - all pretty realistic. So I've been dreaming a lot about boys, Rihanna, and coffee.

Who is your favorite actor/actress of all time?

I don't know if I have a solid favorite actor or actress. I love a lot of different people depending on their roles. It's a very long list, but the first person I immediately thought of was Jenny Slate, particularly in Obvious Child. She just kills it in that movie. She's funny, vulnerable, and super real. She's also really, really great in Parks and Recreation and The Kroll Show. Jenny Slate for President.

If you had just one wish in life to definitely come true, what would it be?

Um, I wish I was a little more confident. I scare myself out of doing things pretty frequently. I would get a lot more done if I spent less time in my head worrying and more time just doing, moving with a purpose. I've gotten better about just saying yes and pushing myself out the door, just turning that part of my brain off, but I'm scared the entire time. Now I'm worrying if that was the right wish or not.

I would never think that you lack confidence? I think there are so many of us at improv that feel like that, though. I know I do! Maybe it's a part of why we like it? Because it's a bit of challenge, that we succeed to overcome??

I completely agree! Improv at the very least forces you to fake that confidence until it's a real thing, for sure.

Jerrell, these are cool answers, thank you!

Thank you!

Iryna Spitzer is a writer and improviser. She is currently in Level 2 at DCH. Besides comedy, she likes drama (to balance it out), also flowers, children, animals, and world peace!  

(Image: Allie Trimboli)

Confessions of a Comedy-holic

Confessions of a Comedy-holic is a weekly blog series that features performers of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). What does it take to be funny? What make someone a great comedian? What brought them to DCH, what kept them staying, and how has it changed their own lives. Celebrities of DCH speak about their journeys in comedy. Local comedians share their story.  Yes, And…

Scriven BernardAfter watching yet another hilarious King of The Mountain show with Scriven Bernard, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with him at the DCH bar.

Scriven, I saw you at the Level 1 class today, passing by in the hall of the DCH Training Center.

Yes, I am a teaching assistant, and Ben Pfeiffer is the teacher. This is my first time at teaching improv. We have a lot of fun in class.

I heard the sounds of that, even through two different walls separating our class rooms :). Congratulations! First time I saw you on stage about two months ago, when you played a grandpa in a car…it was a really great performance. Was it someone specific you know in real life that you were copying?

Yes, that was a fun scene. That character is a combination of things. I didn’t really think it through, just kind of felt it, and let it come to life.

I happened to see the link to your TV interview, volunteering for American Cancer Society.

Yes, I was organizing their event, Relay For Life. It was a great way to participate for a great cause. I am now nervous. What else do you know about me?

I saw your video, playing Marilyn Monroe.

Yes, for our CEO’s birthday. My friends at work came up with this idea, and since some of them knew that I performed before, they bought me this dress and a wig, and I sang "Happy Birthday" to him.

So that was at your main job. What do you do for living?

I work at a software company as a project manager. I like it a lot.

Your family was here to see your performance today?

Yes, my mom, and her friend.

Not your girlfriend?

I don’t have one. I have been single for a while now. I don’t feel a need for a relationship. But if the right person comes along, I am open to it.

I have seen you play many different characters in a short period of time. What characters are your favorite? Which characters are more fun to play, male or female?

I like to pick a character that stands out and show it to the audience. I enjoy both male and female characters. I like to play a cheerleader girl or a southern older man. I like those two the most.

If you could play any real person, currently living or not, who would that person be?

Probably Paula Abdul. I don’t know why. I think she has a vibrant personality. I like rich characters.

If improv did not exist, what would you do instead?

Theater. Something that has to do with performing on stage.

That’s what brought you here in the first place, right? Love of the performing arts?

Yes. Improv takes a lot of my time now. But there will still be plenty of time for theater in my future.

What would you say to new people that just came into improv?

I would say to them, get involved. Come to the jam, come to see as many shows as you can, watch a lot of different performers. For some people, improv comes easier than to others. So don’t get discouraged right away. We all have good days and bad days. But this is a fun thing to do. And you need to get comfortable with idea that sometimes you won’t perform so well. You have to love what you do, and once you have fun with it, you will get better as you perform more.

You are great at improv yourself, and you perform a lot. How about life besides it? Everyone is good at something. What are you personally good at that we might not know about?

I feel like I am good at understanding people. I also like to be the life of the party, and I am good at calligraphy. I like rules, and I am good at math. Which might seem like it makes no sense at first if you think of improv as something that has no rules. But actually there are rules to improv, as well as a freedom to do whatever you wish at the same time. It gives you a great feeling, the ability to combine those things together.

I like structure myself. It might just seem like improv has no rules. But not everything is the way it might seem. Speaking of perception, what is your personal quality that you want people to see in you?

Sometimes, people might feel nervous, at work or at some other place. I want them to know that I am a very positive guy, and that I am here to support them.

I feel that about you. And thank you for supporting me in this conversation.

Thank you very much.

Iryna Spitzer is a writer and improviser. She is currently in Level 2 at DCH. Besides comedy, she likes drama (to balance it out), also flowers, children, animals, and world peace!  

Confessions of a Comedy-holic

Confessions of a Comedy-holic is a weekly blog series that features performers of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). What does it take to be funny? What make someone a great comedian? What brought them to DCH, what kept them staying, and how has it changed their own lives. Celebrities of DCH speak about their journeys in comedy. Local comedians share their story.  How Do You Feel?

Rob HoweThe very first time I met Rob Howe, he was my Level 2 teacher.  Here we are after class, sitting at the DCH bar, having a conversation.

Rob, today’s class was so much fun. How long have you been teaching?

This is my class No. 4, so almost a year now. I’ve been performing here for two years, and now one year of teaching. So I’ve been at DCH for almost three years.

Do you want to know what I took away from my entire experience at DCH so far? It’s when you said in our first class: “Don’t try to perform. You are here just friends, that came together to have some fun. So just have fun with it.” Ever since, that’s all I do here: just have fun.

I went to Chicago last fall for a 10-day workshop, and the first thing they said to us there was: “Whole point of this workshop is to have a good time. If you don’t have that, then you are doing it all wrong.” So, there’s no magic to this. All that we do, just have fun here. We all want to perform well. But the great thing about improv is that we can choose how we feel here, no matter what happens in real life.

We are in charge of our own feelings.

Yes, you are in control of it. You can make your own choice.

What about you, what is the major thing that you took away from improv during the entire time?

Bonding with people and making friends. People that I had a conversation with right after my very first class are still my close friends now. Even though we came from different backgrounds, we love the same thing.

I remember you once said: “We don’t do improv to make money.” That’s not what we are here for.

Yes. Some people think they will just come in, become a great performer, make a great income. That is not how it works.

Besides having fun, what is your end goal with this?

I love this place and the people here. This must be the first time in my life when I don’t really have an end goal. I just want to have as much fun as I can in this place. Hang out with my friends, put up a few shows, do festivals, meet new people. I am now taking sketch classes, to keep learning. I don’t like to stay still.

If you are not making a living at improv, then how do you make living?

I work in advertising.

It seems like you about achieved your goals with improv. How about your life goal?

I am struggling to commit to just one thing. I’d like to be the guy that makes a difference in something one day. I am still finding out what that thing is. I like change. And what is so cool about this place is that I can see people change, and I am happy to contribute to that.

You must know what your biggest wish is in this life. Your dream?

I want a waterfall of shoes. Hopefully some super rare sneakers.

Imagine that you can write a letter to future generations that will be opened and read 100 years from now. What message would you want to deliver to people of the future?

I would write a very poetic, heartfelt love letter to bacon double-cheese Whataburger and just express how I feel about it. And tell them, that if something in the world went wrong, it was from the moment of Whataburger going down and that they should not let anyone to tell them how their food should taste or how they should feel.

Are you from Dallas?

I was born in Louisiana, then I lived in Wisconsin, Arizona, Ohio, and Colorado, and now I can see myself living in Dallas for the rest of my life. I moved a lot while I was young. I played with the Globetrotters (basketball team/tricks show), and we went to visit and perform in 27 different countries back then. I am now going to travel to Singapore and Tokyo in a few weeks.

Adventurous.

That’s me.

How did you end up at DCH?

Once I moved to Dallas, to be close to my family, two of my friends from N.Y. and L.A. told me to try improv here, so I did. And I loved it. I was 24 back then. I am now almost 27.

Your birthday is coming up in October. Do you have a birthday wish?

I want to see Star Wars at midnight in L.A. with my friends.

So I guess "Star Wars or Star Trek?" would be a rhetorical question then?

I do like Star Trek, but the answer is definitely Star Wars.

I’ve learned a lot about you so far. If you were me, what question would you like me to ask you?

I would like you to ask me, what advice would I give to someone who just signed up for improv classes or is wondering if they should do so. I would tell them to stop coming up with excuses. There’s no risk. The worst thing that might ever happen is that you won’t like it. But if you do like it, the reward is tremendous.

Well, I think that some are just afraid to be embarrassed. Even though, you come here to be laughed at...

Being embarrassed is not fun. Everyone likes to be funny, but no one wants to take a risk. But no one was super great at anything for the first time. Here at DCH, you should know that your teammates are always holding your back. Knowing that you are surrounded by people that support you and care about you, isn’t that great?

That is awesome. And thank you for such a great conversation.

Thank you, and keep being bold in class.

You got it.

Iryna Spitzer is a writer and improviser. She is currently in Level 2 at DCH. Besides comedy, she likes drama (to balance it out), also flowers, children, animals, and world peace!  

Confessions of a Comedy-holic

Confessions of a Comedy-holic is a weekly blog series that features performers of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). What does it take to be funny? What make someone a great comedian? What brought them to DCH, what kept them staying, and how has it changed their own lives. Celebrities of DCH speak about their journeys in comedy. Local comedians share their story.  Did You Notice?

Cesar VillaIf you have been in DCH more than once, you most likely saw Cesar Villa. It is hard to miss his unique appearance and his kind, yet convincing, approach. We sat at the DCH bar to have a conversation.

Cesar, what brought you to DCH?

I just moved to Texas from Arkansas, and I was looking for some fun things to do. So I’ve signed up for kickball and went to check out the Dallas Comedy House at the same time. But each time I would go to kickball on Wednesday nights, I would think that I would rather be at DCH. So, I signed up for the first comedy class here about a couple of years ago. And I loved it from the first time!

What happened to kickball?

I finished the season. We won a couple of games, but comedy took over. I never looked back.

I see you here almost every day. Tell us what your main responsibilities are here at DCH?

I am a technical director, which means I also schedule all the techs. When I started, it was just three of us. Now it’s up to 13. We are managing different shows going on in two theaters.

It’s a lot of work. How many times per week are you here?

About six times per week. I am also an intern manager, so I am directing all the night interns. Yes, it takes a lot of my time, but I like being here.

What does your wife think about it?

I am not married. Cesar is single.

Not much longer after this info goes around!

We will see.

What do you do outside of DCH?

I work in the pharmaceutical industry.

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently performing in four shows here, three of them perform regularly. I would like to also move to teaching and coaching.

Would you rather teach or coach?

Teaching is the curriculum, which is great. Coaching allows more flexibility and freedom, and moving a group performance to maybe a different direction, which is a fun thing to do!

What do you like most about this place?

The people! Forming relationships. We are kind of like a bunch of misfits that have found each other. One thing I love the most is to see people coming out of their shells after being here for some time, maybe for a few months. We also become like a heart of the community. You can see how much people love coming in and watching our shows and hang out with performers. We all support each other here. We all become friends. That is a great feeling!

What is one thing about you that no one knows here?

I was born in California, and I was playing in a Mariachi band there. I also like to sing.

What brought you to Dallas?

I moved here for work. From California, I first moved to Arkansas, then to Dallas.

If you could change one thing in the entire world, what would you change?

For people to like each other more. One thing improv taught me is not to judge people, and accept them the way they are. Compliment each other, and be specific with your compliments. Notice each other's good moves and build on that. I now use that approach in my everyday life, as well.

Specifics matter. Little things matter. Supporting each other matters.

Yes, exactly.

Well thank you sir, for supporting me in this interview.

Thank you very much.

Iryna Spitzer is a writer and improviser. She is currently in Level 2 at DCH. Besides comedy, she likes drama (to balance it out), also flowers, children, animals, and world peace!