Maggie Rieth Austin

Humor on the Brain: Puns

I have a huge interest in brain science. I also have a huge interest in humor. I'm going to put those two together for a new series on this blog. It will explore the inner workings of what your brain is doing when it's creating or processing comedy. Maggie Austin

Let's start this series with everyone's favorite (or despised) comedic device: Puns. University of Windsor researchers recently published a study in Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition explaining how your right and left brain hemispheres work together when you hear a pun.

Study participants viewed a pun on one side of their visual fields so they would be processed first by the corresponding hemisphere (e.g., right eye = left hemisphere). They analyzed reaction time to find out the dominant hemisphere.

“The left hemisphere is the linguistic hemisphere, so it's the one that processes most of the language aspects of the pun, with the right hemisphere kicking in a bit later” Lori Buchanan, a psychology professor and co-author of the study, told Scientific American.

The teamwork of both hemispheres is what helps us understand jokes.

"Puns, as a form of word play, complete humor's basic formula: expectation plus incongruity equals laughter," Roni Jacobson reported for Scientific American.

Words can have multiple meanings, and it's the left hemisphere's job to interpret them in specific ways. It's the right hemisphere's job to help us understand other meanings for the words and then "get" the joke (often met with a groan).

While puns are funny (yes, yes they are), there can be a darker side to them: They could be the sign of a damaged brain. And for your brain, that's no laughing matter.

Jason Hensel is a graduate of the DCH improv training program. He manages the DCH blog and performs with .f.a.c.e., the ’95 Bulls, and Bound Together.

The Improvised Horror Movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations DCH Class of June 2016

Oh my wow! I can’t believe we’re finally here. We’re graduating guys. We’re graduating from THE world famous Dallas Comedy House (DCH)! Saying that still feels so surreal to me. I keep pinching myself to try and wake up from what has felt like the most fantastic and exhilarating dream, well a dream minus flying cats and an encounter with a shirtless Chris Pratt because at times I think there’s no way this has all been real. But, I’m not dreaming, I’ve indeed reached the end of the whirlwind journey that has been my improv education at DCH. Jimmy Fallon

If you would have told me a year ago that I’d not only be taking improv classes but also come to be part of some amazing troupes, performing in front of actual people, I’d have said, “Shut yo mouth fool, you’ve lost your damn mind!” Or more likely, I would've have stared at you with a skeptical look and quietly thought that in my head. At that time, I was incredibly shy and anxious (plagued by horrible stage fright), and I wanted nothing more than to simply be a writer who could fade into the background of life, content with letting anyone else read my words and soak up the limelight.

But as I sit here, in front of my computer screen today, trying to wrack my brain with what exactly to say to all you fellow DCH graduates, I know that I’m not that same scared person I was when I started this whole improv thing. I’ve come a long way. My once frozen feet have begun to thaw out and my feelings of dread and panic when facing an audience have started to substantially fade away. Hell, I’m now part of two sketch comedy productions, I’m performing with my Big Stupid Fun crew, and I’m continually adding new delicious and exciting items to my ever-growing comedy plate.

I never expected any of that to happen, though. The thing is, when you embark upon a new endeavor nobody has an idea what’s going to happen next. NOBODY. None of us. Not even Neil deGrasse Tyson who is a literal genius and knows the complete inner workings of the universe, dark matter, and why waffles are so insanely delicious. Therefore, all anyone can do in these situations is go in with a positive mindset, hope for the best, and see where the journey takes you. Ugh, that sounds so cheesy, but it’s true.

Along the way, however, you accumulate knowledge and new skills (or arrows for your improv quiver as Kam De Haan would phrase it) and you start to realize the things that matter most to you, that helped you reach your end goal, that inspire you to keep moving long after you’ve crossed that finish line. So, I thought I’d take this time to share the three concepts, or pieces of pseudo-wisdom, that have come to matter most to me as an improviser and human being.

You’ve probably heard people telling you time and time again to “do what you love” or “follow your passions,” but that’s crappy half-advice and rather cliché, so I’m not going to do that to you fine readers and fellow graduates. Maya Angelou—poet, civil rights activist, and overall kween—once wrote, “Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” It’s fair to say that this may be better advice than simply, “Follow your passions, young Padawan, the future is yours.”

What Angelou’s quote suggests is that rather than “follow” your passion, take the time to “cultivate” your passion. Once you know what you’re passionate about it’s time to hone it, to water it, to nurture it, and to spend time learning as much as you possibly can about every facet of your craft. Whereas “following” implies something that results in an end, “cultivating” is a lifelong process. When cultivating plants, for instance, you don’t stop watering them or tilling the soil when you get a single bud. Nope, you just keep on watering and tilling, watering and tilling, even after the bud has blossomed, so over time, the whole garden can continue to flourish. In writing as in gardening, one dedicates a great deal to cultivation.

From a young age, I discovered my passion for writing. I was the weirdo elementary kid, constantly lost in a daydream, who carried a journal around and filled it with silly stories and whatever ridiculous other things popped into my head. On paper, I felt freest to express myself and I knew that whatever I did in life, I wanted it to involve writing in some form or another. I wanted to write and I wanted to make people laugh, simple as that.

I spent most of my time in graduate school studying the craft of storytelling and journalism, trying to wrap my mind around proper narrative structure and the use of figurative language and what it meant to expose universal truths through prose. All of those things are great to discover, I suppose, but as someone who was more interested in entertaining readers and writing funny things (praying desperately to have a Freaky Friday experience with Dave Barry or David Sedaris or Tina Fey or Jon Stewart my comedic literary gurus), I still felt incomplete as a writer. There was so much more out there to learn.

That’s when I started searching for sketch writing classes via the Internet and I came across DCH. I was so excited. Then my excitement turned into panic because I discovered that I had to take improv before I could set foot in the writer’s room. A terrifying prospect for a performance anxiety suffering individual. Initially, I scoffed at the idea of taking improv, thinking, “How could that possibly help my writing? These people don’t know what they’re talking about. This is just cray cray.” They weren’t cray cray, though. I was cray cray for thinking that they were cray cray.

Ten months and five levels of improv later, I’m still an incomplete writer, but an incomplete writer who has a new set of skills and new friends and new ways of thinking about storytelling. Improv not only significantly helped my confidence and allowed me to expand my creativity, but it’s also opened whole new doors of comedy wisdom and comedic approaches to writing. These are new doors that I will continue to open and voraciously consume all that’s behind in order to keep cultivating my passion.

But you see, a strange thing happens when you’re out, busy cultivating. You start to find yourself surrounded by an amazing group of individuals who share your passions and want to see you succeed in all your undertakings. These are the people who celebrate your distinct weirdness and want to learn from you as much as you do from them. The art and literary world call this wonderful phenomenon “finding your tribe,” which happens to be my second point.

In its simplest form a tribe consists of two parts: Tribal elders, those who hold and pass down their knowledge from years of experience, and the tribal juniors, those who learn from the tribal elders and bring with them fresh, innovative ideas to the tribal community. Eventually, the tribal juniors will learn and experience enough to become elders themselves, making room in the tribe for new members, resulting in a magnificent and cyclical process that inspires creativity and interconnectedness.   

DCH is a wonderful tribe, with elders and juniors constantly swapping knowledge and ideas. I am so very lucky to have found and now consider myself a part of that tribe. There’s never been a place where I’ve felt as unconditionally loved and accepted, and for that I can’t even find the right words to express the amount of gratitude I feel. It’s rare to find a tribe quite like the one at DCH, so I urge my fellow graduates and tribe-mates to cherish it, continue fueling it with positivity and encouragement, and remember that no matter how far you drift away from it your tribe will always be there with open arms to welcome you back.

I once read a Tumblr blog post that said, “You can’t do epic shit with basic people,” and that is so true. No one in this DCH tribe is basic. You’re all incredibly complex and passionate and wacky (shout out to the wackiest of them all, Danielle Seright) individuals who inspire and amaze me with your talents. Continue doing epic shit. Remember me when you’re famous.

Because the DCH tribe is so awesome and may become your home away from home, it’s also very easy to get sucked into spending all your time cultivating and dealing with tribal affairs, which isn’t a bad thing per se. But it’s important to remember that it’s also perfectly fine, even recommended, that you step back from the tribe every once in a while. Take a break and live your life. That’s my final piece of “wisdom,” fellow graduates.

Go out and do stuff. Ride a roller coaster, go bungee jumping, tell someone you love them, run butt naked through the street, climb a mountain, save a neighborhood from foreclosure by going on an adventure to find the hidden treasure of a one-eyed pirate (which coincidentally is also the plot to Goonies), whatever you do just do something. Live your life and experience amazing things...then come back to the tribe and tell us all about it so we can live vicariously through you.

That stuff that you experience away from the tribe is going to fuel your creativity even more and foster new ideas when you return. The more you go out and experience life, the better improviser, the better writer, and the better-rounded you you will become. In the words of the ever wise Rihanna, “Just live your life! Ay ay ay. No tellin’ where it'll take ya, just live your life.”

As I near the conclusion of this commencement post, I feel that the only thing left to do is thank the members of the tribe who helped get me to the end (of my improv journey, not the post, otherwise I’d be thanking caffeine and the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks). Truman Capote wrote that “anyone who gave you confidence you owe them a lot,” so with that said, I have a lot of thanking to do.

First, I have to thank all the teachers, TAs, and coaches who I’ve had the pleasure of learning from.

Sarah and Brent, thank you both for having the patience and kindness to get me through Level 1 improv and for not letting me run out the door on my first day. Because of you guys, I came back for more. Ashley and Scriven, both of you continue to inspire me, and I learned so so much from you two. Thank you for watering my seeds of excitement and showing me that even a quiet, gentle voice can make a loud impact in the right situation. Mike and Stephanie, thank you two for always coming to class ready to have fun and for teaching me what exactly a “Ewing” is. Without that knowledge, I would be nowhere.

Tommy and Jennifer, we cried together, we laughed together, and we certainly grew together. I think this was the level that I truly saw strides in my performing ability, and I thank you both for always being supportive and giving me the courage and push that I needed to come out and play more. Kyle and Allie, you are both so incredibly passionate about what you do and I think that’s a beautiful thing; don’t ever lose that spark. Thank you two for pushing me to make smarter improv choices and giving me a good dose of tough love at a time when I definitely needed it. I feel stronger and more confident than ever!

Amada Austin, thank you for seeing something in me and taking a chance by putting me on a Ewing team. I am eternally grateful for that experience and couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful group of humans to play with and call my improv fam. Maggie, my Big Stupid Fun coach, we’ve had a lot of big stupid fun moments together. So many good laughs. Thank you for showing all of us the power of laughter and positivity. Each practice, I’m energized and comforted by the positive energy you bring.  You are a gem, and I’m lucky I get to be coached by such a badass and supportive lady.

Second, I have to thank Chad Haught. C-Haught. C-Dog. The Chadster...wait, scratch that last one. No one should ever call you The Chadster, that just feels too weird. Chad, you answered my frantic email before I ever signed up for classes at DCH. I was worried about being surrounded by stuffy thespians and not having enough performing experience, but you put my mind at ease. You also laughed at what I wrote. Because of your kindness and your laughter, I signed up for Level 1. Without you, this blog post wouldn’t even exist right now.

Last but certainly not least, I especially want to thank all the homies I’ve gotten to play with since day one, fellow graduates or not. Whether you’re a Brew Ha-Ha-er, a Nood and Dump (reheated or original), or part of my Big Stupid Fun fam, I LOVE you all dearly! I would do just about anything for you. I probably wouldn’t kill for you, but if you needed someone to help you hide a body or play lookout while you’re up to nefarious activities, hit me up. I learned just as much from you guys, as I did from any teacher or coach. Thank you all for just bein your bad selves. *Virtual hugs for all of you!*

Alright, I’ll wrap it up. I can hear the orchestra warming up to play, which is the universal cue to step down from a soap box.

So fellow DCH graduates, again, may you continue to cultivate your passions, learn and grow with your tribe, and keep on experiencing life. Congratulations to all you guys, the DCH Class of June 2016.

We did it!

Legally Blonde

Lauren Levine is currently a Level 5 improv and Sketch 2 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.

Troupe Talk: Photobomb

Photobomb It’s baaaack!

The moment you’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. That’s right; ladies and gentlemen, the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) blog is bringing back Troupe Talk. This is the somewhat-semi-bi-weekly series, in which one lucky blogger sits down with one of your favorite DCH troupes to discuss performing, life philosophies, who they’d want to take a selfie with, and other deep/important questions about the universe.

For Troupe Talk’s first re-installment, we ‘re kicking things off by bringing you the best of the best, DCH’s newly awarded “Best Troupe,” Photobomb. Photobomb (Sarah Adams, Maggie Rieth Austin, Ryan Goldsberry, Ben Pfeiffer, Daniel Matthews, and Colten Winburn) pretty much has it all: beauty, brains, and perfect comedic timing. Though, when they’re not busy inserting themselves into audience members’ treasured memories or winning fancy DCH awards, Photobomb wants you to remember that they’re just like everyone else, except better and more good-looking.

Congratulations on winning this year's "Best Troupe" at the first annual DCH awards, Photobomb! Because you're winners and winners obviously know a lot about being the best at things, what qualities do you think make a troupe a "best” troupe?

Maggie: I think, for everyone who voted, they probably had different reasons for the troupes they picked. I hope people who voted for us did so because we're supportive of one another, have fun, and consistently put on a decent show. But, most people probably voted for us because we are really attractive.

Sarah: First thing is to have a "Colten"—then mix it with a "Daniel and a Ben," a dash of a 'Ryan," a healthy sprinkle of a "Maggie," and a touch of a "Sarah," and then BOOM, you’re a best troupe...but really what Maggie said, you just need to be really attractive.

Daniel: If there’s one thing I know about comedy, it’s that it is an objective, measurable competition. So clearly, Photobomb earned enough points in the “comedories” (comedy categories) to qualify us. Also, Ben can play an inanimate object like nobody’s business.

Ben: Relentless support of one another on and off the stage. We also give away shirts at the end of our show. We have no objections to bribery, in order to win votes.

Ryan: I guess liking each other helps, as does all having different and complementary playing styles, but I think it’s more about the gift baskets we sent to all the academy voters.  

Colten: Firstly, I can tell you the qualities of Photobomb: fast paced, supportive, zany and fun. I think the qualities of a “best troupe” are slightly different: agile, strong, steadfast, and adept in multiple martial arts. We aren't quite there yet.

For people who might not be familiar with you guys, how would you describe Photobomb's performance style?

Maggie: A Photobomb show starts with an interview and ends with a laugh—with a lot of inanimate objects and absurdity in the middle.

Daniel: It’s goofy and dynamic, and then sometimes Cell Block Tango does a scene in the middle of it.

Ben: It is a premise-based improv show, in which we interview an audience member and pull fun details and themes throughout the interview. Once the interview is done, we improvise based on the information provided to us.

Colten: We attack with our ideas after bothering an audience member.

Sarah: What they said.

Photobomb

Tell us about your most memorable Photobomb scene or show.

Maggie: Dallas Comedy Festival (DCF) 2014. We were gifted with a Friday night spot and were so excited. The audience was great, our show was great, and I think it was a defining moment for us. It helped us find our voice and style.

Sarah: I know you’re asking for a scene or show, but the thing that will always be the most memorable for me are our pre-show warm-ups.  We sing, we dance, we do bad jokes, we catch each other from falling, or make each other fly...our pre-show warm-ups are hands down some of my favorite moments in life.

Daniel: I think it was DCF 2014 that we did a musical show, right? That was fun, but Maggie already covered it. There was a show recently when Ben and I were both playing Willy Wonka simultaneously. Or some take off of that. Some weird twin Willy Wonka-esque guys. That was neat.

Ben: DCF 2014 was very memorable and fun. Also, as mentioned, we give away shirts after our show. We did a show on Friday night, and I saw the person we interviewed on Saturday afternoon at Kroger wearing the Photobomb shirt. I’m telling you people LOVE free stuff. I can’t prove this, but I’m pretty sure he slept in the shirt that night.

Ryan: Real sorry I wasn’t a part of Photobomb during DCF 2014, guys.

Colten: One time, in a Photobomb practice, Maggie just straight up spit in my hand. It was memorable, because it was real spit in my hand. The scene had something to do with MacGyver.

If you could replay/relive a fun (or deep or big) moment in your life over and over, like Groundhog Day style, what would it be?

Maggie: Probably, because this is Troupe Talk, I'd relive the moment in a Photobomb practice when we all set our phone alarms to go off in the middle, grabbed sandwiches out of our backpacks and pockets, and ate them over the buzz of alarms while staring at Nick Scott (our first coach).

Sarah: I would ditto Maggie’s moment. The look on Nick’s face is worth seeing for eternity, plus the sandwiches were really good.  

Daniel: Regardless of the quality of the moment, reliving anything over and over on an endless loop would become an abject, Sisyphean hellscape. But probz DCF 2014.

Ben: That one burrito.

Ryan: Probably, the first stroke of a sharpened Ticonderoga pencil. (This answer brought to you by Ticonderoga.)

Colten: One time I coughed, and my friend asked if I was OK, and I said, “Yeah, I'm just bad at beat-boxing.” And I'm proud enough of that joke to relive it over and over. So proud.

PhotobombImagine if every time you took a selfie, the same person (celebrity or someone you know) always showed up as a Photobomber in the background. Who would you enjoy seeing crash all your face pics?

Maggie: Probz my mom.

Sarah: Um…anyone? Probably, Maggie’s Mom.

Daniel: If I had to pick...probably, Maggie’s Mom.

Ben: The Trix rabbit.

Ryan: I had a long-winded answer about how I’d choose a historical figure, because, the way I interpret the question, this person is going to be summoned into my presence every time I turn on my front-facing camera and I could interview them. But you know what they say about planning your scenes in improv, so I’ll drop my shit and yes-and the Maggie’s mom bit.

Colten: Novak Djokovic.

Now it’s time for our “best troupe” winners to pull out their improvised award acceptance speeches. Who are a few people you’d like to thank? Remember to keep it short; the orchestra will cut you off if you go over time.

Maggie: Thank you to the panel of judges who put us together at the DCH auditions back in 2012, to the members of Photobomb who have moved away, to my parents, my husband, and my “phavorite phriends” I've ever had the pleasure of playing with. What an honor.

Daniel: I’d like to thank Grace, Danielle, and Madeleine for abruptly leaving Dallas, giving the remaining members of Photobomb no choice but to add me on to the team—because they knew that deep down, I’m actually three women.

Ben: I’d like to thank the members of Photobomb. It is a delight to perform with such talented individuals on a weekly basis. It is without question one of the highlights of my week.

Ryan: The folks at DCH for making me feel welcome every time I’m there, the folks of Photobomb for inviting me to play with them a year or so ago, and the folks at the Taco Bell on Washington for always having some quick bean burritos ready in-between work and evening classes/practices.

Colten: I would like to thank Nick Scott for starting us off strong and Terry Catlett for shaping us into a stronger team. Thank you to all of the members of PB for being so supportive and professional and consistently awesome. There is one member I would like to thank especially, my favorite member. My rock, my sun, my joy of joys. Her/his name, of course, is…

Sarah: I would like to thank the Academy, for this honor I am truly humbled by. Maggie, Daniel, Ben, Ryan, and Colten, for being so much better than me. Nick and Terry for always believing and always pushing us to be better. And finally Baxter T and Lady Squirrel Adams…they know what for. GOOD NIGHT!

Catch Photobomb’s upcoming performances at DCH on January 22, January 29, and February 5. They will also co-host the free improv Jam on Tuesday, January 26. 

Lauren Levine is currently a Level 3 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.

Next Week, DCH Celebrates Its 7th Birthaversary

dch-Back2 That's seven years of classes, seven years of jams, and seven years of laughs.

Some of you have been around since the very beginning, some of you came somewhere in the middle, and some of you are brand new to the wonderful world of DCH. So, for this week's post—and in honor of seven lovely years—we take a look back at some highlights.

Sucker Punch

2009 – Dallas Comedy House opened in January in the back of Ozona's Restaurant. Six people came to the first class—four of whom were paying students and two people who Amanda bribed to come so that it looked like a legit class. The curriculum focused on short form improv and only introduced long-form improv (now the staple performing style at DCH) at the end of the third level. During Level 1 and Level 2 showcases, scenes were called by instructors because editing hadn't been taught yet.

2010 – DCH opened its doors on the Commerce Street location. The first Dallas Comedy Festival was held in the new theater with Joe Bill and Jill Bernard. Construction began on the Training Center, adding two classrooms and allowing for more classes to enroll. Man Dip and sandwiches were introduced on the menu... and shortly after being introduced, disappeared. This started a multi-year food menu desert – with only Chex Mix and Sour Patch Kids to satiate performer and student hunger. Having space and a year under its belt, DCH built a corporate team and booked some initial work, which has continued to grow over the years.

Tim Meadows

2011 - The Training Center opens adjacent to the Commerce Street Theater. Tim Meadows, a bona fide celebrity, came to the Dallas Comedy Festival. Buddies Season 1—an improvised sitcom—changed the game, routinely selling out shows and setting a new standard for comedy in Dallas. The original stage was changed from a pie shape to a flat back after several people fell into the corner of the stage. This change made the green room a little smaller, but also saved a lot of people from falling. In October, Amanda bought out her business partner and became DCH's sole owner.

2012 – This was a big year for food and flu. JELL-O shots hit the bar menu during the Dallas Comedy Festival. Unrelated, the festival was riddled with bad luck. Several important performers and employees got the flu. The soda gun burst open in the middle of a show, leading to syrup and soda covering the floor and slowly leaking into the theater. While trying frantically to clean up the sugar-syrup mess before customers let out of the show, the men’s restroom toilet began leaking, flooding the bar from the other side. Surrounded by what is quite possibly the most disgusting combination of liquids during the busiest week of the year, we did what we do best and improvised our way through it. Nothing a “Caution, Wet Floor Sign” and several mops and rags couldn’t fix. Later that spring, hot dogs are served in the theater and patio.

2013 – The 313, starring Keegan-Michael Key, Jaime Moyer, and Maribeth Monroe, performed at the festival. Their high energy show is still talked about and made it a week to remember. Jaime Moyer and Maribeth Monroe have continued their friendship with DCH and even came to Opening Weekend at our Main Street location. In the fall, the Improvised Movie debuted. A fun, new format, sold-out shows, and a haunted house to boot. It was a memorable October.

"Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations."

2014 - DCH celebrates five years. Troupes from past and present come back to perform in a joyous reunion! The fall launched two additions to our programming with the Family Friendly Show and our very first sketch revue, Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations. The first graduating class of our sketch program put on the first four-week sketch revue as graduates. This kicked off the steady growth of our sketch program and what has now become a consistent course offering.

2015 – We said goodbye to 2645 Commerce and moved down the street to 3025 Main Street. Our U-Haul got stuck on the middle of Commerce mid-way through the move. We held our first graduation at the new space. We gained a second theater, twice as many classrooms, and so many bathroom stalls! Our sketch program grew. We have food on the menu. Man dip is back!

2016 - We have a record-setting 280 students, classes registering every month, and our first sketch revue with paid performers in the works. Corporate bookings are at an all-time high, and we will hold our first auditions for corporate team additions this winter. Most importantly: You are here.

Let's make some memories for the next seven years!

Maggie Rieth Austin is a DCH performer and teacher.