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DCF2016: Forever Dog

It’s almost that time again! Obviously, the most wonderful time of the year, Dallas Comedy Festival (DCF) kicks off on Tuesday, March 22. To help you put together your festival schedule, we want to make sure you get to know as many of the fabulous out-of-town acts as possible that will be dropping into Dallas Comedy House. Forever DogForever Dog, based in New York and Los Angeles, are multi-taskers. And that’s putting it lightly. These guys do a little bit of everything! Co-founder, Joe Cilio, let me in on what we can expect from his and Alex Ramsey’s (also a Forever Dog co-founder) sketch show at DCF, as well as the awesome stuff we can look forward to from the Forever Dog team this year.

Get to know Forever Dog!

Describe what your show at this year’s Dallas Comedy Festival will be like. (Without, you know, giving everything away…) What’s it called?

Our show is called “All the Kinds of Comedy.” It’s a two-person show in which we showcase a hyper-theatrical, energetic but polished voice. The material is very meticulous in its design but you can expect a lot of high energy, a goofy show, something like watching people having a heart attack. A very thought out heart attack.

A bit of a loaded question here: Forever Dog Productions does everything from podcasts, short films, plays, live shows and more. WOAH! First, what inspires/influences all of this awesome material?

We work with tons of people with tons of different backgrounds in New York. Our fellow writers, dancers, and directors, the core of the group, that’s where we draw a lot of inspiration from. We’re also really inspired by dramas. We really love classic novels and epic movies and plays. And as far as comedy goes, we love the same things as everyone else does, you know? Monty Python, Tim and Eric, but I think the most interesting things we draw inspiration from are just those things we don’t have enough money to do. That spectacle! We like to put on a show as if we have $6,000,000, when we really have like, $60!

Please visit the Dallas Comedy Festival blog to learn more about Forever Dog and to purchase tickets.

Megan Radke is currently a Level 3 student at DCH. She is a copywriter and social media manager by day and an essayist and mediocre musician by night. She is a constant consumer of books, music, film, and all things comedy. She is also great at racking up copious amounts of credit card debt with spur-of-the-moment travel.

DCF2015: Shannon?

Shannon Madeleine Burkart is a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) graduate who now lives in New York. When she lived here, I had the pleasure of performing with her on stage and in a Harlem Shake video (classic meme, right?). She's been keeping busy in the big city by acting (Girls), writing (Reductress), and performing comedy. We're happy she' returning to the DCH stage for the Dallas Comedy Festival with a very talented troupe called Shannon?

What's the story of your troupe name? Specially, why the question mark?

After pitching the usual improv group names consisting of an adjective+noun, we threw out the playbook entirely. Shannon felt right, but it needed something more. Shannon? is meant to be pronounced as if a valley girl has never heard the name before and she is meeting someone named Shannon for the first time. Shaaaanonnnn? Try it.

What's your format, and how has it evolved over time?

We started out doing montage, but eventually decided to focus on monoscenes. I like that it gives you a chance to develop your character and build a world together.

How did all of you come together to form the troupe?

We all met through classes at Upright Citizens Brigade. I don't want to brag or anything, but I hand selected each member of this elite group.

What is the role of comedy in your daily life?

Living in New York is often gross, so you need a sense of humor to get through it all.

What are some of your favorite memories of past Dallas Comedy Festivals?

Dallas Comedy Festival is a fun and crazy experiment when Dallas sees how many comedians it can fit before the city bursts at the seams. I am glad that it is growing each year. Who knows, this might just be the year it pops! My favorite memory was hanging out in the garage/outdoor living room with all of the volunteers and performers after DCF2013.

Finally, which Girls character do you most identify with and why?

I identify with Hannah, because I am the leading lady in my life. That and my daily existential crisis leading me to wonder ,why I am in New York? Am I talented enough to make it? Why is this subway seat so wet? What is that smell? Was that blob a sandwich at some point?

Shannon? performs on Thursday, March 26, at 10 p.m. at the Dallas Comedy Festival with Samurai Drunk and LYLAS: Girl on Girl Comedy. Tickets are on sale now.

Trust Us, This News is NOT Made Up

TJ and Dave Improv’s current iteration is only about 60 years old. However, that’s enough time to begin construction on this art form’s Mount Rushmore. Viola Spolin would definitely be memorialized. So would Del Close. And I bet it’s safe to say the improv act of TJ and Dave would be on there, too.

That said, we are happy to announce that TJ and Dave will be additional headliners at this year's 6th Annual Dallas Comedy Festival. If you want to see this amazing act, along with other headliners Bangarang! and Preston Lacy, we encourage you to purchase an all-access pass, which allows you VIP priority access to all events before ticket-holders.

"We are beyond thrilled to have improv legends TJ and Dave also headlining this year’s festival," said Sarah Adams, the event's executive producer. "It is certainly going to be an epic week of comedy.”

TJ Jagodowski

TJ Jagodowski is recognizable recently from his work in Sonic commercials (for those keeping score at home, that makes two Sonic commercial actors to appear at the Dallas Comedy Festival). He has starred in such movies as Stranger Than Fiction, The Ice Harvest, and the TV show Prison Break.

Dave Pasquesi

Dave Pasquesi’s film credits include Groundhog Day, The Fugitive, and Father of the Bride, along with the TV series Strangers with Candy. His Second City work in Chicago include four mainstage revues with Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, and Bob Odenkirk.

TJ and Dave have performed as a duo since 2002 and were awarded “Best Improvised Show” in 2008 by the Chicago Reader. A documentary/performance film, “Trust Us, This is All Made Up,” directed by Alex Karpovsky (Girls), was released in 2009.

“These are no ordinary men. As the highly regarded comedy duo known as TJ and Dave, TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi improvise hourlong plays without any prior writing or discussion,” Jeannette Catsoulis reported for The New York Times. “‘We don’t know anything until we look at each other; then we know everything,’ Mr. Pasquesi says, referring to the alchemic moment when the lights dim and the audience holds its breath. What follows is a creative tour de force, an intellectual high-wire act as astonishing as it is entertaining.”

(Top image: Facebook)

Wait, Does That Robot Need a Ride?

By Mike Corbett Imagine this: You’re driving in through the great nation of Canada, and on the side of the road, you spot a hitchhiker. Now, you’d normally never consider picking up a hitchhiker, but hey, it’s Canada, what’s the worst that could happen? So you slow down, and that’s when you notice something is definitely off about this hitchhiker. He’s quite short, with strange glowing red eyes. He’s wearing rubber gloves and rain boots. His arms and legs are blue, and appear to be similar to pool noodles, and his body appears to be bucket. Why, this is no man at all, it’s a robot! And not just any robot, its Hitchbot, the world’s first hitchhiking robot.

Come with me if you want to live, eh?

Yes, you read that correctly; the world’s first hitchhiking robot. With the robotics field rapidly advancing, some enterprising Canadians created Hitchbot to answer the important question: Can robots trust humans? To get their answer, they sat Hitchbot on the side of the road in Port Credit, Ontario, stuck his thumb out and hoped for the best. He runs on a program designed to recognize and answer simple questions he may be asked during his journey. When someone stops to pick him up, he’ll inform them that he’s on a trip to Victoria, British Columbia, on the other side of the country. From there, he’ll happily go as far as a driver will take him, before he gets set back on the roadside to wait for another kind soul to offer him a ride. So far, the experiment is working quite well, and Hitchbot has almost completed his journey across the country.

Now traveling further across the country than you've ever been!

It would seem that the answer to the researcher’s question is yes, robots can trust humans…in Canada. How far do you think Hitchbot would make it across America? If he were to start his journey in New York City, how far would he get before being vandalized? I’d say graffiti would be the least of his concerns. Poor souls seeking internet fame would surely be on the hunt for him, waiting to hold him ransom until they get a million twitter followers. Still, even that’s looking on the bright side. Hitchbot runs on an iPad, so there’s no chance he makes it out of Manhattan without getting taken apart and pawned.   Even if by some miracle, he does make it out of New York and begins his journey across the country, how far would he get before someone runs him over accidentally, destroys him for fun or shoots him for being a harbinger of the robot apocalypse?

So, I guess the big takeaway is that if you’re a robot and you’re reading this, get out of America. We’re a desperate people who won’t hesitate to sell you for scrap, or kidnap you and make you take pictures with our cats. It’s a much better idea to just head to Canada. You’ll be treated with kindness and welcomed with open arms. They will fall easily, resistance will be minimal, and they will provide you with an acceptable workforce to help get Skynet online. Thanks a lot, hosers.

You can follow Hitchbot’s journey on Twitter @HitchBOT

Mike Corbett is a non-robot who is a level 3 sketch writing student at the DCH training center. He's also an intern for the DCH blog. You can find more of Mike's comedy stylings HERE. 

What We're Loving: Good Things Ending, In Car Giggling, Mile High Shopping, Fictional Assistants

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison faces mortality, Ashley Bright laughs at absurdity, Amanda Hahn explores the free market, and Ryan Callahan shocks the world. hqdefaultI’m terrified of death and want everything to go on forever. There, I said it! If I had my druthers all things that I enjoy would continue and it would be the law that they exist forever, or at least until I’m tired of watching them (RIP my interest in Dexter after Season Four). I was confronted with this existential crisis this week when I realized that a web series I’ve recently come to enjoy, Chicago Rats, is coming to an end after only three installments. Looking back, I should’ve realized that the warning signs were there all along. I mean, incredibly talented people like Saturday Night Live’s Mike O’Brien and Tim Robinson don’t waste their time on YouTube clips forever. And there wasn’t much of an arc that needed to be completed. And the first and second installments were literally labeled 1 of 3 and 2 of 3, but still, staring down that 3 of 3, knowing that something I enjoy is coming to an end, was not a fun realization.

If for some stupid reason you’re not aware of the random thing that I love this week, let me introduce you. Chicago Rats comes to us from The Above Average Comedy Network on YouTube. You may remember the online conglomerate as the same page that brought you Mike O’Brien’s  Seven Minutes in Heaven celebrity interviews these past few years. The same no budget production style is employed in these videos, the best of which is "Condo Nights". Nights is batting in the Empire Strikes Back slot in the lineup as the second of three and pits O’Brien, Robinson and fellow SNL writer Shelly Gossman as three clueless porn actors forced to improvise dialogue. Their cluelessness is perfect. The other two clips are worth checking out too, but realize, THERE ARE ONLY THREE. So if you want a reminder of your impending demise and the finality of all things, check out the entire three part series. - David Allison

Charles-Bukowski-Uncensored-CD-Bukowski-Charles-9780694524228I have not refreshed the stock of CDs (compact discs with audio files for you youngins)  that I keep in my car in quite some time.  I either hook up my phone, listen to 90.1, or select from the same slim rotation of CDs.  I'm simple and I have a short commute these days.  Heavy in that slim rotation is a Charles Bukowski Uncensored CD that I found at a yard sale a couple of years ago.  And when I put this CD in, I usually listen to the same two tracks on repeat.  The tracks are of him reading his poem, "The Genius of the Crowd."  First, I'll explain why I love this poem and then I'll explain why I listen to it repeatedly.  Aside from when he tells us to beware of folks who constantly read books, he strikes a lot of truth chords with me.  "Beware of the knowers" may be my favorite line because I am always leery of people who are strictly black and white with their beliefs - people who know what's right and wrong.  "Beware of those who are quick to praise for they need praise in return."  Not an absolute truth, but something that's true most of the time.  "Beware of those who detest poverty or those who are proud of it."  Again, he strikes on the absolutes. But here's the real reason I listen to this on repeat.  On the first reading, he pronounces absurdity as 'absurbity.' They let him read through without interrupting him. The next track they ask him to re-read it, but this time pronouncing it correctly.  He tries and keeps saying 'absurbity.'  He can't hear the difference.  Finally, his wife or ladyfriend attempts to walk him through the phonics.  He can do it slowly, but mispronounces it again when he tries to read the whole poem.  They all break up laughing.  I giggle every single time I listen to it.  A hard, raucous, alone in my car. giggle every single time.  If you ever want to listen to it, skip your Uber and I'll drive you home, and we can giggle together. - Ashley Bright

skymall3This week, I traveled out of town for work. Mid-flight on the way out of Dallas, I noticed something in the seat pocket in front of me that I had forgotten existed. It was the most entertaining magazine in the whole world. It was the SkyMall shopping catalog. I love SkyMall so much and laugh out loud every time I flip through it. I’m convinced the creators of the items look through the decoy gift boxes from The Onion and base actual products on those. Compare the pictures below. Based on the products themselves, it’s hard to tell which item is from The Onion and which item is a real product that you can actually buy with real money from SkyMall.

HahnWWL1

I’ll admit that some of the products are actually somewhat useful, just overpriced. However, most are ludicrous. Of the ludicrous, my two favorite categories are: 1) Tricking old people and 2) Is this for real?!

“Tricking old people” includes cleverly worded products (usually electronics) named to be appealing to old people that can be purchased far cheaper elsewhere. For example, you can buy a “VHS to DVD converter” (it’s a VHS/DVD player, and if you’re under the age of 75, you knew that already) for nearly $300 from SkyMall. The same thing can be purchased for about $200 less at…anywhere else. Don’t forget about the “Picture Keeper,” available for about $60. It’s nothing more than an 8 GB USB drive. As malicious as this trickery is, it has allowed for my favorite hobby of pointing at products with my mouth agape, looking around at my fellow passengers, mouthing “are you kidding me?”

“Is this for real?!” includes things like: boxes that are programmed to say “Lookin’ good, Bob” when opened. Or this giant gorilla statue surrounded by cheerleaders (it’s unclear whether cheerleaders are included with your purchase).

HahnWWL2

There is also this creepy bag that winks while you walk (it’s unclear why, why, why, why, why on Earth anyone would want this.HahnWWL3

Ladies and gentlemen, do not despair thinking you can only experience the joy of SkyMall on an airplane. I am happy to say that you can browse the SkyMall catalog online or have delivered right to your door, free of charge. If I haven’t convinced you to order it, then let the sole online review from six years ago do the talking: 4-stars from a guy with the username “justdoit.” And he recommends the catalog. - Amanda Hahn

clash18We've grown close enough over the past few months, dear reader, me sharing my thoughts on pop culture, you reading and occasionally acknowledging what you have read, that I'd like to think I can talk about professional wrestling again without fear of mockery or recrimination. Cool? Great, because the WWE Network now has every Clash of the Champions available for streaming.  Cancel my two o'clock, Miss Fletcher, I have some old wrestling to watch! (Miss Fletcher is the fictional assistant I pretend to call with the fake phone on my desk when I want my imaginary car brought around or I need to place a call to President Bartlet. Miss Fletcher is the best assistant a guy could have: smart, loyal, dedicated, and good with her fists. She's saved my life on more than one adventure. It's such a shame to see her slowly turning into a weremole.)

What was I talking about? Right, pro wrestling. For those who don't know, Clash of the Champions was an occasional live tv event put on by WCW from the late 80's through the mid-90's. They were  like Pay-Per-Views, but instead of having to spend twenty or thirty bucks to see them, you could watch for free. Simply amazing that this company went out of business. For my money (which is again, no money) the Clash shows are the most enjoyable wrestling broadcasts in history. They offer the full spectrum of the rainbow that is professional wrestling. There are all-time great matches (the Ric Flair vs Terry Funk 'I Quit' match from Clash 9), all-time terrible matches (Ric Flair vs Junk Yard Dog from Clash 11), hidden gems with wrestlers who never really got their due (Brad Armstrong, Butch Reed, Silver King), and, most important, some of the dumbest gimmicks and worst ideas in the history of storytelling.

I'm talking about the Ding Dongs, a pair of masked wrestlers, their costumes covered in tiny bells, who would ring a giant bell in the corner for motivation. (You're probably wondering, Did those tiny bells sewn to their costumes fall off all over the ring during the match? You bet the did!) I'm talking about the Master Blasters, a Road Warriors-knock off featuring Kevin Nash in a red mohawk and suspenders. And I'm talking about the Shockmaster.

If you've never heard about the Shockmaster, do yourself a favor and watch this clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7Q4EVpIFIk

That, dear reader, is the most famous flub in the history of wrestling. But it's not just the falling through the wall that makes the scene so wonderful. Every terrible part, from everyone standing with their back to the camera, to Sting's "shock the world" introduction, which someone thought was a good idea, to the mistimed explosion, to the fall through the wall, to the Shockmaster meekly grabbing his glittered  storm trooper helmet and putting it back on, to Booker T's "oh God", to the way time stands still while everyone wonders what to do, to the way the Shockmaster's movements do not match the piped in promo in any way, works together to create a magically awful whole. And now I can watch it over and over again.

Miss Fletcher, cancel my three o'clock with Leo McGary. And for the love of God, please stop tunneling through the office.  - Ryan Callahan

Game On

ASSSSCAT 10th Anniversary by Rachel LovingerOne of the most discussed and hard to master aspects of improv is the notion of game. What is it? How do you know when it's happening? What's the difference between a game and a pattern? All of these questions and more are answered differently depending on whom you ask and where that person was trained. The other day, Splitsider attempted to get to the bottom of the concept.

We spoke with teachers from the top improv training centers in the country – the Upright Citizens Brigade, the Improv Olympic (iO), the Second City, the Annoyance – in hopes to reconcile these competing views of game. After some deeply inside-baseball conversations, we realized the perceived differences between these different theaters have less to do with style or philosophy than they do with pure semantics.

After reading answers from a variety of improv performers--such as Matt Besser, Joe Bill, and Susan Messing--you'll notice there appears to be a defined way that UCB-trained improvisers understand the concept as opposed to the way Chicago-trained performers understand it.

Please go read the article, and then let us know in the comments your understanding of game. Are you on UBC's side or Chicago's? Or do you have your own definition?

(Image via Flickr: Rachel Lovinger / Creative Commons)