Jonda Robinson

Comedy Centerfold: Jonda Robinson

Welcome to Comedy Centerfold, where we feature a Dallas Comedy House performer and get to know him or her a little better by using questions that Playboy centerfolds are usually asked.  Jonda RobinsonJonda Robinson knows how to use a comma, and for that I respect her. She's also a reader of books. I'm sure she's a good reader of people, as well, but we've yet to talk about that. She writes, too, and has written for, performed in, and taught several sketch shows at the Dallas Comedy House. She's smart, fancy, and funny. See her perform with Duck Duck Pants on July 8 and August 15.

Hometown? Achille, Oklahoma, population around 500. It’s a place where four-wheelers are street legal and we just got a Dollar General, which is a really big deal. If you’ve ever been to Choctaw Casino, you’ve been not-too-far from Achille.

Guilty Pleasures? Country music. Naps. Ladies’ cut polos. Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Coke Zero with vanilla from Sonic.

Ambitions? Generally, I want to be happy and helpful to others. Specifically, I want to write a two-person show with one of my fabulous, creative friends and take it to some festivals, which will open doors and eventually catapult us both into Mindy Kaling-style fame.

Best Concert? Coldplay at Austin City Limits in 2011. We got there early super early, claimed our spot right in front of the stage, and listened to a bunch of other acts until Coldplay came on. When it was over we sat in the grass eating barbecue and listening to Kanye West perform on the other side of the park.

Favorite Book? I’m really bad at picking favorites, so I refuse to do it, but some books that have stuck with me are The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor, I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down by William Gay, We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss. Right now I’m becoming less messy through the power of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Favorite Movie? I rarely rewatch movies and don’t have a favorite, but I have seen How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days way too many times.

Favorite TV Show? My favorite show changes based on whatever I’m currently binge watching, and right now I’m totally immersed in the world of Mad Men. Friends, Parks and Rec, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show are go-to favorites as well.

Pets? I’m a fan of pets but currently do not have any at my apartment. Growing up I always had a few dogs, cats, and the occasional rabbit.

Foods I Crave? Pizza. Cheeseburgers. Chips and queso. Ice cream.

People I Admire? I admire people who have the courage to put away their fears, ignore the naysayers, and go after what they want in life. I also have a great respect who people who are loyal and make sacrifices for others.

Dream Role? My dream role would be playing the lead in a Broadway musical written around the music of Reba McEntire.

Favorite Song to Sing? Fancy” by Reba McEntire.

Good First Date Idea? Top Golf. You can hit a few, have drinks, and you don’t have to just sit there and stare at the other person while asking typical first date questions like, “What’s your best trait that you hope to pass on to our kids?” (I’ve never actually been on a date to Top Golf, so if you take me the odds are ever in your favor.)

JFK, Sugar Ray, and the Sixth Floored

Our latest Level 3 Sketch class work hard to produce a stellar show, and it's evident they succeeded with Sixth Floored. Performer Jonda Robinson and assistant director Julia Cotton fill us in about the revue and how sketch writing can help make you better improviser. How did the group land on the theme of the show? What is the through-line in each scene connecting with the overall Dallas/Kennedy title?

Jonda: Because this is the first sketch show at the new Dallas Comedy House (DCH), we thought it would be nice to try to write some things that were inspired by Dallas. Nick Scott (our director) asked us to bring in pitches that involved the city, and almost all of them had to do with the Kennedy assassination in some way. This made us think about how that event is still such a big deal for the city, and Dallas has never really moved on from it. In our scenes, we saw this related theme of characters being stuck in situations, unsure of how to move forward, and that became that thread that runs through the show.

Julia: Nick and I had them go around the table and just tell what was going on in their lives. In everyone's response there was some mention of not knowing what was coming next in their lives. Everyone seemed to hint at the need to move on to the next thing, but not quite being sure what that next thing was or even if moving on would be the right thing to do. So that's something underlining the show, for sure: staying stuck in a situation or moving on from it. JFK came along because I think we had them bring historical pitches and Dallas centric pitches in the same week. There was some grim holocaust stuff, some grim 9/11 stuff, but I think mostly JFK stuff came through the pipe that week, and we ended up running with that. There was a joke about the JFK assassination being the thing Dallas is most known for and there's like this weird sense of pride about it. The title Sixth Floored, though, is also a reference to the band Sugar Ray, which is another prominent element in the show (their second studio album was titled Floored).

Sixth Floored

How does working together as a sketch group differ from working together as improv troupe?

Jonda: When you are onstage as an improv troupe, you don’t have time to overthink—you just have time to react, and once a scene is finished, you’ll never do it again. In sketch, you get to take your basic idea, write it, and rewrite it until it’s something you really like. Sketch involves a lot of bouncing ideas off of each other and, as a group, picking the ones that work best. The collaboration is different, because you get to actually explain the reasoning for your choices and hear other ideas to see which is best before putting anything up for the audience.

Julia: You're getting to explore each other's ideas further, which is great on a lot of levels. Not only does that mean you're digging into the sketch and what can make it great and better and finding different directions it can go, but you're also digging into each other more. In improv, you make things up on the spot and scenes and moments pass so fast and you forget about them so quickly. With sketch, obviously you're planning things, so you can ask someone, "How did you get to that thought," which prompts a lot of conversations in and out of that writer’s room. Being able to bounce ideas back and forth, you end up getting a deeper look into each other's psyche. I like that, because there’s the opportunity for writing specific things about the people you’re working with.

Sixth Floored

How does writing influence your improv skills?

Jonda: Writing sketch has helped me become more aware of just how important the basics are in an improv scene. When you write something, you know that you need to get the set-up of the scene out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Without this foundation, the audience is left missing out. Writing sketch has also forced me to take the time to analyze the game of a scene and figure out how to best heighten it, which in turn has made it a little easier to recognize the game when I’m in the heat-of-the-moment of an improv scene.

Julia: I think both skill sets go hand in hand. I signed up for improv with the intention of getting into sketch writing. Doing improv makes you focus on things like “who, what, where” and “relationships” and “finding the fun” and “burning the leaves.” When you go into writing a sketch, all of those improv “rules” are so vital in giving you places to take a scene and finding out which one of those places is most interesting to explore and make a sketch out of. I feel like going back to improv after writing, you end up finding those interesting places faster.

What kind of work goes into putting on a sketch show?

Jonda: The work is basically four phases:

  1. Pitch a million ideas and pick the few that you like and have the most potential.
  2. Write, perform, rewrite, perform, rewrite again, rewrite some more, etc., until you have your sketches where you want them.
  3. Memorize your scripts and rehearse to get your performance down.
  4. Spend the entire run of your show having lots of fun with your group, because you’ve got it all down and are excited to show an audience what you’ve created.

Julia: Each week, everyone meets together in a “writer’s room” environment. The first couple of meetings everyone pitches ideas based on whatever’s happening (in their life, in the world, etc.), or maybe a prompt or theme is thrown out there (“pitch something about Dallas,” “pitch something about a particular historical event,” “pitch something about sports”). We go through all of the pitches, pick the ones that jump out enough for everyone, talk about them for a bit, and then improvise them. If something is working as an improvised scene, someone is assigned to take it and write it out. When there are enough scenes that kind of lean toward a similar theme, we get a few more pitches specifically for that theme and go through that same process with them. The directors take them all and come up with a preliminary show order and after that, it’s much like doing a theater production: Everyone needs to get "off book." Usually there’s some rewriting. There are ALWAYS sketches that get cut. There are revisions to the show order. There’s a prop list. There’s blocking/staging. There’s sound and lighting. There are rehearsals. There are tears. And then there’s a show!

Sixth Floored

Which skills does one need to be a good sketch performer?

Jonda: To be successful as a sketch performer, one needs the dedication to memorize lines and the willingness to try to play scenes in different ways, even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone. To use a term from my days playing team sports, you’ve got to be “coachable” and willing to listen to your director and fellow performers to make the performance the best it can be.

Julia: Having an improv background is definitely helpful, not only for writing but for the nature of live theater (because who knows what will happen that one time when someone forgets to bring the birthday cake prop on stage!). Also, all improv fundamentals are relevant in putting on a sketch show: support, react, use the environment, make eye contact, etc.

Confidence. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, it comes across in your performance, so the audience won’t believe it either.

Thick skin is important. Not only are there ALWAYS sketches that get cut, not all pitches get the reaction you’re hoping for. That doesn’t mean you can’t write them and prove everyone wrong! But also, writing them doesn’t always prove everyone wrong… :)

Patience with yourself, your cast mates, your directors, your tech people, and those people building a brand-new theater for you to perform in. Sketches don’t always come together the way we expect them to come together in our heads. You may write something for a long time and it end up making no sense to you or anyone else. There are always technical challenges. There are sometimes new theaters being built in the middle of trying to put together a show, and you don’t have a stage to rehearse on for a while. Trust that all will come together as it should.

Also, night vision is good if you have that, because sometimes it gets dark on that stage.

Sixth Floored

Are there any scenes left on the cutting room floor that you wish could have been performed? If so, which ones?

Jonda: I don’t want to give away too much information about those top-secret scenes, as we might want to pull them out at some point, but the one that comes to mind was entitled “Peanut Butter Slap” and involved Ashley in the role of an office janitor who violently interrogated us all because someone was slathering peanut butter all over the workplace. Sometimes those sketches that never make it to the stage are the most fun because you’re trying hard to make some crazy premise work, and along the way inside jokes are created within your group.

Julia: SO MANY!!!

Katie had a really good idea that no one really latched on to that I was kind of in to. Something about a woman that talked to people that kept leaving or dying, but someone else would come in and be there for her to keep talking to. Then I saw an episode of Louie later this season where he did EXACTLY THAT! It was a good idea. Louis C.K. thought so.

Also, there was a "Middle Aged Mutant Lawyer Turtles" thing that never quite came together.

Jason Hackett had one that I really loved, but I do believe he’s still going to perform it somewhere, so I don’t want to ruin it. Stay tuned for that.

Plus, who knows what we can add back throughout the run of the show...

Speaking of the show, you can catch Sixth Floored May 21, May 28, and June 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for advance purchase

Sixth Floored was written by and stars Ashley Bright, Jessica Dorrell, Jason Hackett, Jon Patrick, Katie Pedroza, Jonda Robinson, and Cesar Villa. It is directed by Nick Scott and assistant directed by Julia Cotton. 

Sixth Floored

What We're Loving: Prepared Material, True-Crime, Fake Crime

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison can handle the truth, Jonda Robinson likes it real, and Rachel Hall assigns homework. 10270314_10152469666271935_5549480507233317716_nAs someone that performs comedy at the theater for which this Internet page exists, I have been known to use this weekly space to talk up shows that I’m doing. This week, I’m breaking all the rules, because what I’m loving is a show at the Dallas Comedy House THAT I AM NOT IN. I know, I didn’t think it was possible either. What I’m loving is !Cambio Cambio!, the latest sketch revue at DCH.

Sketch comedy is something that the Dallas Comedy House put a lot of effort into teaching in 2014. There is now a three-level program in place, from which you learn what it takes to put on a sketch show AND you get a four-week run for whatever revue your class created. In this case, the class put together a smart showcase that does a nice job of mixing funny moments in with truth. A favorite scene was where a pig must leave it’s owner to live life on its on terms.

Once this goes up, you’ll have two remaining opportunities to see the show (12/4 and 12/11 at 8pm). And once you check it out, sign up for the sketch program! You’ll learn a new craft and grow as an actor.

OH! And if you want to sign up for sketch or improv classes, then take advantage of the Black Friday sale coming up. You save $50 off of any class at the Dallas Comedy House if you buy them the day after Thanksgiving. Do it! - David Allison

serial-social-logoI have always been a fan of true crime stories. As a teenager I was fascinated by Ann Rule’s book, The Stranger Beside Me, in which she recounts her true story of working on a crisis hotline with serial killer Ted Bundy and slowly realizing that he was the murderer everyone was looking for. Later it was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood that drew me in with its beautiful prose and ghastly tale of murder in a Kansas farmhouse. Nowadays, If I run across Dateline telling the sordid details of some relationship gone wrong, I can’t pass it up.

Considering all of this, the currently popular podcast Serial is right up my alley. I started listening to it this week, and I’m so intrigued by all the details. The podcast features host Sarah Koenig (producer for This American Life) investigating the details of a true story over the course of a season. Currently she’s looking into the 1999 murder of high school senior Hae Min Lee in Baltimore. Hae’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was 17 at the time, is currently serving a life sentence for the crime. As the story unfolds over each episode, new details are unraveled that call in to question what really happened. Is Adnan really the killer? Did the jury really get all the information? There are lots of twists and turns along the way that so far have provided more questions than answers. I’m really, really hoping we get answers by the end.

I highly recommend checking out Serial on your daily commute, or run, or lunch break, or whenever you preferred podcast time is. If you’re anything like me, you’ll move quickly through the episodes in search of answers, making your own assumptions and hoping that truth will be found. - Jonda Robinson

TheFollowingNetflix is awesome! Duh. Nothing new there, Rachel. Yes, we all know Netflix is awesome until it isn't. Who hasn't discovered the greatest show of all time, binge watched all seven seasons in one week, then the complained about how dumb Netflix was because there is nothing to watch! Well, I am here to fix your Netflix blues with the current greatest show of all time—The Following.

Not to long ago at work, I stumbled into a conversation that was not Game of Thrones, Scandal, or The Walking Dead related; these are all shows I started and am now hooked on due to peer pressure and a need to feel like I belong. The show they were discussing was called The Following starring Ren McCormick (a.k.a. Kevin Bacon). It centers around a extremely handsome and british serial killer named Joe Carroll and his cult of aspiring killers. Essentially the show goes like this (don’t worry there are absolutely no spoilers, so please continue reading). Years ago a detective, Ron McCormick, looking to make a name for himself in the FBI, devotes his a career to catching a serial killer who is terrorizing a college town. The killers’ victims are all women in their early 20s, the weapon used is a knife, and the signature of the killer is removing the victim's eyes. Did I mention this show is normally aired on FOX? Through some great TV detective work, Ren learns that the serial is in fact popular English professor and failed writer, Joe Carroll. Also through the discovery, Ren is almost killed and Joe Carroll is sent to prison. Super long story short, Carroll—with a lot of help—breaks out of prison, and serial killing terror begins to reign over the U.S.

Shonda Rhimes has nothing on the writers on this show. Never in my life have I actively been nervous and a little scared to watch a TV show. Not even that crazy clown on American Horror Story disturbs me like The Following does. Allow me to channel my inner Stefon and say this show has everything! Love, murder, action, mind tricks, Kevin Bacon, and excellent fitted jeans, hot British guys, adorable man ice. What’s adorable man ice? It's that thing where Shawn Ashmore, Iceman from X-Men:Days of Future Past, makes you feel all the feelings. This show will have you distrusting everyone and full of anxiety. In fact, I may have had an anxiety attack watching this! In all seriousness, The Following is the most suspenseful show on FOX and on TV.

Episode after episode, I watched Ren put clues together, and episode after episode, I was genuinely shocked at what I saw and what would come next. Unlike most shows where you learn its formula and eventually stop watching - I’M LOOKING AT YOU SCANDAL - this show will have you guessing and thinking well after you finish it. Just give it a chance, you guys. Go watch the first episode and then tell me what you think in a week. I say a week because you get hooked, call in from work, and binge watch this show. Kevin Bacon has never given us a real reason to distrust him; look how he convinced an entire town dancing was the answer. Oh, and at no point during the show does Kevin Bacon shout “LET’S DANCE” while chunks of glitter fly in a old building on the other side of the tracks in a red velvet tux. Sorry. - Rachel Hall

What We're Loving: Archive Obsession, Target Exclusives, Winter Weather, Fake Real News

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison thinks he's better than you, Jonda Robinson has her spandex ready, Rachel Hall drops some truth for men , and Ryan Callahan steps in a pile of Sorkin. Original_New_Yorker_coverThis week I’m loving something that I’m embarrassed to share. Embarrassment is a very difficult emotion for me to feel, because I unabashedly love most pieces of pop culture for which others hide their adoration. The inspiration for this feeling comes from the fear of coming off like an elitist asshole, so before you continue, please remember that I am one of you and not a snob. Do you forgive me? I need to know that you do and that you won’t judge me before I share it. Promise? Promise me! OK. This week I’ve spent a lot of time reading the archives of The New Yorker. The reason I’ve waded through the backlogs of such a fancy publication isn’t to find black-and-white pictures of interpretive dance, instead the goal of the dig was to find every single thing that my new favorite writer, Simon Rich, has ever created. And it was worth the effort because he is phenomenal humorist.

Simon Rich has the cliche resume for a great comedic writer: he once worked at Saturday Night Live and was president of the Harvard Lampoon. You can check out the archive of his creative writing for the New Yorker here, but before you click the link, prepare to lose the rest of your afternoon. Rich does an amazing job of creating realistic outcomes from an absurd premise. The best example of this talent is seen in "Guy Walks Into A Bar," which is an amazing continuation to what happens after a standard guy-walks-into-a-bar joke comes to an end.

So do yourself a favor and check out the writing of Simon Rich, partially so you can enjoy his work, but mostly because I don’t want to be the only one obsessively searching through The New Yorker’s website. - David Allison

taylor-swift-1989-deluxe-album-coverYes, I do own Taylor Swift’s newest album, 1989. Yes, I did buy it the day it came out. Yes, I did go to Target so I could get the deluxe album with bonus tracks. So what? Listening to T-Swift bumpin’ and blarin’ through the Bose system in my sweet sedan makes me feel like I’m hanging out at a super wholesome club—which, if you know me at all, if “wholesome nightclubs” were a thing, I’d be there, sporting a cardigan and dancing awkwardly to “Blank Space” while it plays at a level that is both respectful and responsible.

Don’t worry—1989 is not what I’m here to talk about this week. The thing I want to present to you, in case you haven’t enjoyed it yet, is the aerobics video that pairs perfectly with the first single off the album, “Shake It Off.” If you’re in a bad mood, watch this. The outfits! The moves! The happy, fit people! They’ll get your endorphins going by just watching them shake it off.

If anyone wants to collect enough people and spandex to re-enact this, I’m in. All in. -  Jonda Robinson

wintersocksThe temperature today and for the rest of week is set to be in the mid 40s. Nothing to rejoice over for northerners, but here in Texas it means two extremely important things: 1) Finally a season other than summer has begun, and 2) ladies can stop shaving their legs.

That’s right, it is officially the most wonderful time of year. Sorry to break it to you guys, but us woman folk look forward to this all year long. The summer months are very unforgiving, and as women, we are constantly reminded to look beach ready. That means sun-kissed skin, fresh out the water hair, and shaved legs. But who needs those things when it’s 50 degrees outside? NOT I SAID THE FLY. The fall and winter months bring so many options for the unshaved leg. Boots of all heights, tall schoolgirl socks, maxi skirts and dresses, and oversized everything are all on trend for the upcoming months. Fashion camouflage for those who may be scared of looking frumpy is a thing so go out and explore your favorite stores because you have options.

This is our time. Whether you are single, dating, or married, know that you’ve worked hard this year making sure your legs were looking great and now nature is telling us to take a shave-cation. Retire that razor, because that’s why God invented tights! No more need in feeling self conscious because you forgot to shave one day; take solace in the fact that the only thing you have to maintain are your eyebrows. You deserve this. TREAT YO’ SELF! - Rachel Hall

newsroom3Two years ago I gave The Newsroom a chance, mostly due to my undying love for The West Wing. I did not like what I saw. The show was the worst of Sorkin: excessive pratfalls, smugness, and the belief that smart people show their smarts by speaking in lists. One scene in particular, which featured Jeff Daniels and his news team discussing the jersey scene in Rudy, so irked me that I took to Twitter to ask if Aaron Sorkin has ever spoken to real people or been in a room with real people or watched real people from across the street. You could say this particular scene struck me as phony.

Then the other day a TV blog I read praised the first episode of the new season. I'm nothing if not suggestible, so I gave the show another shot. The third season premiere was quite good. Good enough that I decided to go back to the beginning and give the show a chance. I watched the first season over the past two nights and have already finished the first two episodes of the second season.

Either time has been kind to the show or I have mellowed over the past two years. I found the show fun, witty, and full of all kinds of good Sorkin bits, like people being really sarcastic and people being really honest about their flaws. And it has Sam Waterston, and Sam Waterston is probably the best person ever. Sure, there's still all kinds of bad Sorkin, like the casual misogyny, the romantic subplots that no one could possibly care about, and the sudden tonal shifts. But when the show is good, it is very good, in a very West Wing kind of way. The Osama Bin Laden episode and the Gabrielle Giffords episode in particular got me all choked up. And the Rudy scene wasn't as bad as I remembered either. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Disfigured Narrators, Success Waffles, Interstellar Misleads

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ryan Callahan is superficial, Jonda Robinson believes in waffles, and David Allison aims for the stars.  imgresWolf in White Van by John Darnielle is a book I judged by its cover. Okay, it wasn't solely the cover; I read the inside flap of the dust jacket and the blurbs on the back. but the half-hypnotizing-half-headache-inducing cover sold me on the book more than anything else. The cover was like a Magic Eye painting. It pulled me in with the promise of worlds hidden in plain sight.

Wolf in White Van delivered on that promise. But. unlike a Magic Eye, which reveals a schooner or Micky Mouse, Wolf in White Van creates a world that, when squinted at, reveals an entire world hidden in plain sight: a desolated wasteland where everyone is alone and the only options are go forward or die, where the game never ends, and where our goals and dreams will forever be out of reach. The book takes place entirely inside the head of Sean Phillips, the creator of a mail-order role-playing game who lives primarily in seclusion due to an accident as a teenager, which left him horribly disfigured.

Wolf in White Van has no plot. Sean's narration jumps between the past and the present, between the game he created and the real world, all a series of overlapping memories. Through the memories, more information is revealed. We learn more about Sean, his game Trace Italian, the terrible accident that led to his creation of Trace Italian, and the terrible accident his game caused. The novel is dark and beautiful, full of evocative sentences and well-observed moments between a young man and his parents.

John Darnielle is apparently a well-known musician, the vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. I knew nothing of his work prior to picking up his book. But now I'll have to listen to all of it. Or buy all of it, listen to one song, tell myself I'll listen to the rest someday, and move on to another interest. - Ryan Callahan

imgresWhat do you believe in? Yeah, this just got deep. The reason I pose this question to you is because it’s a question I’ve recently asked my eighth grade students. We’ve spent the past week studying up on what others believe and figuring out how to pick and portray an idea that we really believe in. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time checking out what other people believe at www.thisibelieve.org.

The website belongs to This I Believe, Inc, a “not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.” Based on a radio program that ran in the 1950s and was hosted by Edward R. Murrow, it’s a place where individuals can publish essays explaining their beliefs on a topic, with the end goal being to encourage people to have a respect for the beliefs of others. When I was browsing the site, I decided to check out the “humor & laughter” section, because hey, I like humor! I like laughter! I was not disappointed when I stumbled upon an essay entitled “Give Me a Waffle,” because waffles are delicious and a great way to celebrate successes, deal with whatever is going on in life, or distract your friends when needed.

The website features thousands of essays on a variety of topics, ranging from everyday people talking about courage to Albert Einstein explaining his belief that we should put service to others above our own gain. Check it out, and maybe you’ll feel inspired to let the world in on something that you believe. - Jonda Robinson

lsff-logoThis week, I’m loving the ol’ silver screen herself, MOVIES.

Most cinematic attention this weekend will be directed toward Interstellar, which seeks to answer the question, “Can Matthew McConaughey fly a spaceship as well as he can drive a Lincoln?” I am very excited for this flick, but I’m sure you can find detailed breakdowns of it from much more qualified people that have a PhD in gaffing or whatever. Because of that, I want to use this space (GET IT??????????????????????) to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum—The Lone Star Film Festival.

Each fall, Fort Worth hosts a showcase for independent filmmakers and movies with very little distribution, known as The Lone Star Film Festival. It’s a five-day event that not only includes full-length films and shorts, but also gives us local yokels a chance to interact with real-life famous people! For example, 2013 saw Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall participate in a Q&A (which is movie insider slang for Question and Answer) about their motion picture, Jayne Mansfield’s Car. I’m most excited for the short films, a medium that is a great opportunity for emerging artists on a tight budget to create something fantastic.

You can find out more about The Lone Star Film Festival by looking it up on the Internet. - David Allison

What We're Loving: Obligatory Horror, Celebrity Visits, Meta Batman, Silly Writing

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison fulfills a legal obligation, Jonda Robinson teases human trafficking, Molly Jakkamsetti goes deep Keaton, and Ryan Callahan asks that you hold him accountable. MV5BNTUxNzYyMjg2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTExNzExNw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_I believe that I'm legally required to write about something Halloween related in this space this week. Like if I don't then they, whoever they are, will check me into a facility where unwilling persons check in, but they don't check out. The hard part about that forced assignment is that I feel like so many of the cool horror films are just kinda gross. For me, gory films that are created just to sicken the viewer are kind of like that overly competitive asshole who starts throwing shit when he loses at bar trivia; you're doing something that's supposed to be fun, so just calm down. Not to say that there shouldn't be blood, guts, or gore in film, I think that stuff is great if it happens in the right context. I should still enjoy watching the movie right? Is that too much to ask?

The best example of the sort of fun horror movie that I love is Cabin In The Woods. If you haven't seen it, the 2012 film does an amazing job of telling two stories concurrently. The micro view follows a group of college kids that are travelling to a CABIN IN THE WOODS. The macro view focuses on the architects of the scenario. Meta is the dumbest word in the fucking world, but it's very apt in this example. This was unquestionably one of the most fun experiences I've ever had watching a movie in the theater, regardless of genre. It's got blood, but the blood is like fun blood.

And if you want to see a live horror movie, come out to DCH on Friday to check out the improvised horror movie! The Friday show at 10 p.m. includes actual fake blood! - David Allison

2On Tuesday afternoon I got home and was greeted by a most welcome face—my good friend, Amy Poehler. That’s right, she was waiting for me at apartment. I had known for weeks that she’d be arriving that day, so I was thoroughly excited about hanging out with her. So far, she hasn’t disappointed.

Ok, so you’ve probably guessed that it was not the REAL Amy, but her book, Yes Please, that showed up at my doorstep. While I haven’t had a chance to read all of it yet, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve taken in so far, and I have enough faith in Amy to say that I will love it. At the very start of her book, Amy declares that “writing is hard” and admits that “blood was shed” in the fight for her to get this thing written. She offers many stories from her life, her take on certain topics, and even sex tips (for girls AND guys!).

Amy is a source of inspiration for me and so many others, so instead of blubbering on any longer I’ll close with two quotes from her so I can get back to my reading:

  1. “So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.”
  2. “I have the Angelina Jolie of vaginas.”

Never change, Amy—never change. - Jonda Robinson

awesome-birdman-teaser-trailer-michael-keaton-is-a-superhero-again-michael-keaton-goes-meta-batman-in-birdman-trailerBirdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance:  Let me start by saying although people much more qualified than myself have already praised this movie, I’m throwing in my two cents of support. It’s about a former Hollywood superstar who is trying to restart his career with a serious play on Broadway. And Michael Keaton, who starred as Batman in the 1989 and 1992 blockbusters, plays Riggan, whose alter-ego is Birdman.

While much of the movie focuses on Riggan’s internal struggles with insecurity and fear surrounding his "comeback," it is also about the art of acting. It is about what is real and what is not on and off stage. Edward Norton is hilarious as the New York theater actor who comes in to "save" Keaton’s play, right before previews. Zach Galifianakis plays Riggan’s delightfully harried agent. The whole movie looks like one long, uninterrupted take. This amazed me and really drew me in. The soundtrack is jazzy, adding to the cool New York City vibe, where it was filmed. And if you’re still not interested, there’s Emma Stone as Riggan’s cynical daughter/personal assistant. Naomi Watts as the starry-eyed actress who is new to Broadway. Did I mention Edward Norton is in his underwear at one point? It’s meta and weird, and I want to see it again. Critics are praising Keaton as they should. I have enjoyed his work since Mr. Mom. That’s his 1983 comedy with Teri Garr where she works and he stays at home with the kids. Not unusual now, but back then WOAH!! - Molly Jakkamsetti

imgresIn the hopes of making up for my absence the past few weeks, I humbly offer TWO things that I am loving.

Loved Thing Number One: A Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk. There has been no show that influenced my sense of comedy more than Mr. Show with Bob and David. As I have said before, my favorite ever comedy sketch: "The Story of the Story of the Story of Everest" comes from Mr. Show. Hooey is Odenkirk's first book, and I will say that it is all rather very silly. There are brief speeches, unabridged versions of famous quotations, and even a short play featuring Hitler, which will no doubt draw the ire of Nick Scott. The book reads like a comic's notebook, but one that has been polished. It's also the quickest book you'll ever read.

Loved Thing Number Two: National Novel Writing Month. Starts tomorrow. If you have always wanted to write a novel, but have always made excuses, here is your chance. Sure, you'll write a terrible, sloppy first draft, but you will have a draft, and that is so much better than just having an idea. It's 1,667 words a day. Many of them can be the word "and." You'll be done in no time.

I have attempted NaNoWriMo (that's really what people call it) twice in the past, failing once and winning once. Finishing a 50,000-word novel is considered a win. Sadly, there is no parade. Unless you have an abundance of action figures. I'm giving it another try this year. I am making this announcement publicly so people will give me a hard time if I don't do it, and badger me about my progress. Who's coming with me? - Ryan Callahan