Noa Gavin

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.

Podcast Rec No. 10: Sword and Laser

Sword and LaserWith hubs like Goodreads, it’s no surprise that online book clubs are becoming a thing. Speaking for myself, reading is one of my favorite things. I should not be disturbed if I have my nose in a book. I will get angry. I mean, not Hulk or She-Hulk angry. Whenever I try to get angry across, I think I’m more like an annoyed Agent Coulson—I look nice, but I can get snarky. What was I talking about? Oh, right! Since I prefer genre fiction, my go-to podcast for all things nerd lit is Sword and Laser, hosted by the Internet's very own Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. Sword and Laser's primary function is a book club, which switches out science fiction and fantasy picks monthly, but it also features publishing news, author interviews, and so much more. I guess I should also mention that they talk about Game of Thrones often. Even though I'm not a fan of the books or the show, I know plenty of you are in Season 6 mode. There are also brief discussions regarding other book-to-screen adaptations like future film Ready Player One, and SyFy’s The Magicians and The Expanse.

Recommended episode: 2011 Interview with Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind).

It’s a little hard to find a starter episode, if only because there is so much history to this show. You could possibly start with the fairly recent “Episode #251: How Veronica Tamed Tyrion,” as it kicks off the latest book of the month. However, to play it safe, I would suggest going through the archives and find an author interview that interests you. I recommended the Patrick Rothfuss interview because I believe he is very thoughtful and funny in interviews, he’s a pretty big deal with his Kingkiller Chronicles books, and I respect his charity Worldbuilders. Then again, you Game of Thrones-adoring fans might want to find the George R.R. Martin interview. Or maybe you're interested in publishing and going the InkShares route. Good news! Sword and Laser has interviews with authors who have won Sword and Laser’s Inkshares contests (Editor's Note: One such contest was won by DCH's own Nick Scott and Noa Gavin, and you can now buy their book.). If you can think of an author, they have interviewed them.

Except Neil Gaiman...they have not interviewed the ever-elusive Neil Gaiman. Curse you and your elusive brilliance, Neil Gaiman.

Running time: Approximately 20 to 45 minutes.

For more information, visit swordandlaser.com.

KC Ryan is currently a Level 5 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.

Bulls in Heels

Bulls Show Dallas Comedy House troupe The 1995 Chicago Bulls will walk on stage tonight in high heels. The troupe is asking for show attendees to donate clothes and money, which will be given to Genesis Women's Shelter & Support.

The reason for the high heels, though, is based on Walk a Mile In Her Shoes, an event and organization that asks men to walk one mile in women's high heel shoes in order to raise awareness of violence against women. But the Bulls aren't stopping with high heels. They're donning dresses, wigs, and makeup, too.

"We were backstage before a show (we opened for Atlantic Pacific Billy), and there were heels backstage," troupe member Jua Holt said. "We laughed at the idea of Cesar [Villa] in heels, and the size he'd need to buy. And we 'yes, and' into a Block Party in heels to a full show in drag for charity."

And if you're wondering, Cesar wears a size 17.

Come out tonight to help raise money and donate clothes for a great cause. Funny Scenez starts the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.

Nick and Noa Wrote a Book and You Should Buy It

Imagine a world in which you have five days to save the universe. The only thing you have to do is buy a book. Easy-peasy. Nick NoaThat's right, at this very moment, on May 27, you have exactly five days to help fund a book that two Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performers have written. You may know them as Nick Scott and Noa Gavin, improvisers par excellence, and now you shall know them as Nick Scott and Noa Gavin, authors par excellence.

Their co-authored book, Practical Applications For Multiverse Theory, is currently listed on Inkshares, where it's going through funding in order to be published. If the book is in the top five sci-fi/fantasy pre-sales on Inkshares by Sunday, May 31, the book will be professionally edited, designed, and then published (sold on Amazon, Apple, Google, and shipped to independent bookstores and Barnes & Noble).

To help you know more about the book, I sat down with Nick and Noa in their Aspen, Colorado, writing cabin for a short interview.

Give me the elevator pitch. What's the book about in 30 words or less?

Nick: Two high school students who hate each other must stop all possible universes from converging on their high school and thus ending existence as we know it.  Was that 30 words or less? I’m too lazy to click on “Word Count.”

Noa: It was 41, Nick. You’re a failure.

What is this book's genesis?

Nick: That’s a good question. I think I was the one that approached Noa about writing something together. Writing is a lonely process, and I thought it would be fun to do something where I wasn’t alone. As far as all the ideas and whatnot, everything is so intertwined I don’t remember who came up with what or how the premise came about anymore.

Noa: Nick sat down with me on the brown couch in the old DCH lobby and said, “Would you...would you want to write a book with me?” And then he didn’t mention it again for six months.

Also, yeah, coming up with the plot and ideas, that was both of us. It all kind of snowballed.

How long did it take for you to write it and how many drafts did you go through before listing it on Inkshares?

Nick: Probably a lot longer than it should have. Our goal was to do a chapter a week. But we both went through break-ups and sketch shows and all kinds of stuff during the process, so it ended up taking like a year or two to actually get the first draft done. We only had the rough draft when we put it up on Inkshares. We’re in the process now of revising before (hopefully) submitting it to professional editors. So just one draft. Unless you’re counting the draft where Noa had to email and say, “Hey Nick, this isn’t a chapter, this is just you listing reasons you hate your ex-girlfriend” as a separate draft.

Noa: It was just a year, because at one point we just said, “SCREW IT JUST BURN THROUGH THESE LAST FEW CHAPTERS.” Stephen King was right: first draft is for the author, it’s about figuring out how the world works, so you include a lot of unnecessary details. We had a LOT of fun figuring out how the world worked, so we took forever. The first ¾ of chapters are really long, because we kept writing dumb jokes for the other one to find. Really dumb jokes, that we will most likely leave in, because we are not good people.

That was a real fun chapter, the Ex-Girlfriend list. Nick was not in a good place.

Since it's bi-authored, what kind of writing guidelines did y'all follow? For example, did one of you only write Scott's story line and the other Davey's?

Nick: Yeah, I wrote Scott’s chapters, and Noa wrote Davey’s.

Noa: No spoilers, BUT ALSO THERE’S A CO-WRITTEN CHAPTER WHERE THEY’RE BOTH IN IT. That was a spoiler. We also tried to be the most true to our character’s story. Sometimes the chapters are equal length, sometimes one is much longer or shorter than the other’s. Different people, different stories.

Nick Noa bookHow does improv influence your writing process?

Nick: Really, the whole process for this book was like a hyper version of the “Yes and” drill. We had a basic idea for a story, and the basic idea for the ending, but everything else was discovered on the fly. Noa would have no idea what I was going to be writing and send to her one week, and I would have no idea where Noa would take the story when she sent me her chapter the next week. Just like in an improv scene, if one of us said something or set up a rule for the universe in one of our chapters, it was immediately part of the reality. This was as close to improv that writing a book can be.

Noa: That’s really what made it so much fun to write. We had a really bare outline (we knew the school layout, we knew the three biggest characters, we knew the open and the close), and the rest was just us having as much fun as possible with our plot and our characters. It led to some really cool moments of group mind where we’d come up with the same thing, and just as many instances of, “Oh wow, that’s a really amazing scene/idea he came up with.” Now we have the fun ability to go back and look at a "scene" and then frame it into the best possible, most fun version of itself.

What have you learned about yourself by writing this book?

Nick: That I remember high school much too vividly. Also that I probably I find violence involving school supplies more hilarious than a normal, sane person would.

Noa: That I was much more angry in high school than I thought. That given the chance to fight or make a joke about it, Nick and I are vastly different in choice. I will always fight, preferably with the most Evil Dead-like weapon.

Nick: I think in real life I would probably fight as well, but the character I wrote in the book would definitely just make a joke and then run away as fast as possible.

You describe this as a sci-fi, horror, comedy young adult book. Who are some authors from those genres that influence your writing?

Nick: I think the most favorable comparison we’ve received is to that of David Wong, who wrote John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders. But all kinds of writers influence how I write: Stephen King, Christopher Moore, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Kevin Smith, John Scalzi, etc., etc. Oh also Kim Kardashian. That book of selfies she just released provided a lot of uhhh...inspiration.

Noa: I loved that comparison of David Wong because I think his works, JDATE (really unfortunate acronym there) and TBIFOS, are some vastly underrated books. They’re incredible, go read them right now. I’m also influenced by King, but add in a healthy dose of Joe Hill, Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, and Kelly Sue Deconnick. I preferred The Monster at the End of This Book to the selfie book. SLAM.

What kind of book would you like to write next?

Nick: Together? We have ideas for the two books to make this a Multiverse Trilogy. We also have another fun idea that we could write the same way and involves magic. Also a book of really sexy selfies.

Noa: The next two books get even weirder, so if this premise is too strange for you, STRAP THE FUCK IN. The magic book is going to be equally ridiculous, and we also have our own individual novels going (though those are much harder to finish). The sexy selfie book is the same format as The Monster at the End of This Book.

Remember, you have until Sunday, May 31, help fund this book. And as an incentive, every copy that you buy is an entry into a raffle drawing to get a character in the book named after you. Thank you for your support of Nick, Noa, books, and the universe.

What We're Loving Year-End Spectacular (Part One)

We've loved many things this year - books, movies, tv shows, websites, people - but these things we loved  the A-Number One Best.   

fe66b2db92fc4b458530464df6bbf9fbWomen on TV fall mostly into three categories:

- terrible stereotypes of dumb girls and bad jokes (every show on CBS) - super-hot girls getting murdered (every show on the CW or ABC Family) - better-but-still-somehow-a-stereotype smart women doing intense things who have no time for love (every show on NBC).

This is a huge bummer for the majority of women who are sometimes cool, sometimes self-conscious, sometimes funny, sometimes angry, sometimes hot, sometimes gross, but always women.

Thank you, Broad City.

Ilana Glazer and Abby Jacobsen have nailed stories about being a woman, and more specifically, being a millennial woman. They’re just trying to get their lives together—bad jobs, weird love, gate-crashed parties, god-awful roommates, and sweet sweet Bed Bath & Beyond discounts.

It’s so refreshing to see a true-to-life friendship on TV where two women go through some serious weirdness together, but always have each other’s backs. They’re gonna get into the weeds with buying drugs for the first time, ending up with two guys who desperately want a four-way, or getting way too drunk at your birthday dinner. They’re gonna be ugly sometimes, be mean, and do gross things to and for one another. They’re gonna fight. They’re gonna yell. It’s not always pretty, it is always funny.

Even as ugly as it can get sometimes (because that’s real life), for the love of Carol Burnett, they’re real women telling real stories. We need that. - Noa Gavin

8 Out Of 10 Cats Does CountdownI love word games. I love game shows. Wheel of Fortune is one of my favorite shows of all time. If there's game in the title, I probably like it. I like trivia. I also like comedy. Along this theme, what I loved in 2014 is 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. It's a mash-up of two things I love: word games, and British accents.

Let me explain. Countdown is a British game show that is a combination of word games, and math games.  It's a panel show where comedians make jokes about current events. kind of like Best Week Ever, but it also shows these same comedians doing poorly at math! What more could you ask for? Plus, tt's been around since 1982! That's a long time!

8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is hosted by comedian Jimmy Carr, with a rotating cast of comedians including Jon Richardson, Sean Lock, Joe Wilkinson, Rhod Gilbert, and David O'Doherty, all vying for the prize of a countdown teapot.

If you're like me and like to jumble letters in your head to think of other words, and also like to laugh, then give 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown a try, and tell 'em Jua sent ya. – Jua Holt

Interstellar1-210x300Sometimes when you admit to something you love, you have to be willing to look stupid. I feel foolish admitting this, but my favorite thing from 2014 is one line out of a movie, Interstellar. You know, the one where it’s the future, Earth is dying, and Matthew McConaghey has to find humanity a new home.

John Lithgow is his father in law. He remembers life before Earth was a dried up dust bowl, and in one moment he pretty much blew my mind. He is talking about the way things use to be: how there was a new invention just about every day, how every day was like Christmas, and how there were 7 billion people on the planet, every one of them trying to have it all.

His wistful look at the past (our present) made me think. Why are we all trying to have it all? We can’t possibly, but at least in our minds (or maybe just my mind) we want to. We think we can. And we get upset when we can’t. And we (I) throw fits when things do not go our way. But hey, there are 7 BILLION OTHER PEOPLE also trying to get their own way, and we just aren’t all gonna get it. And in the movie, there is a stark contrast- humans go from trying to have it all to struggling to survive.

I have thought about this a lot. More than the black holes, relativity, or other sciencey stuff. Don’t get me wrong, the special effects in Interstellar were cool, but Mr. Lithgow’s delivery in this scene made an impact on me. It sure beats hearing Michael Caine recite "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" ONE MORE TIME. - Molly Jakkamsetti

Jack-Links-Sriracha-Beef-JerkyWell, they did it. Show’s over, go home. Competition quelled. In 2014, Jack Links, purveyor of fine, dried beef snacks, offering classic variations of their “jerky” such as: cracked black pepper flavor and (my old favorite) carne asada with real jalapeno, ventured out onto the proverbial limb and landed on what will be remembered as their ultimate jerky incarnation: Sriracha Beef Jerky. Let’s get one thing straight - I’m not one of those jerk-off, try-hards that loves to tout their love of Sriracha sauce as some kind of hipster/foodie virtue. I just have an unnatural affinity for beef jerky, and I love spicy stuff.

This is the best gas station snack available. It’s spicy without being too spicy. It’s chewy and beefy. It’s a primal, visceral, delicious experience. You finish a bag knowing you’d give your next breath for there to be another spicy, meaty shard lingering at the bottom of the pouch. You think about your life. You think about the news. You realize you forgot about the crushing weight of existence for a few minutes as you inhaled this fantastic foodstuff.

I scoff at doofuses who walk right by this ridiculously delicious snack option in favor of literally anything else. Just last summer, I witnessed a young man pilfer a pack of Cigarillos with Jack Link’s Sriracha Beef Jerky plainly in sight, risking incarceration for a cheap, Georgia O'Keefe vagina desert flower reprint when an original Frida Kahlo is within view. Who can say what became of that young man? Hopefully he went on to make better choices. I guess I just don’t get it. I don’t get why other people don’t eat this at every chance possible, because I do. I love it. The end. Of this article. – Tim Brewer

811This year, I loved something that you can’t really measure in critical acclaim. I guess if there was something for it, “feels” would be a just description. 2014 was 12 months of real relationships with real people: new and old friends, a continued spark of love for my wife and learning to take more time for myself and the things that interest me. So as I look back at the things I loved the most, each is surrounded by these little pockets of happiness that involved the people in my life. Inside jokes, learning people’s pasts, their futures, and ultimately giving up a piece of myself in return along the way.

What I’m trying to get at is this: among the quiet hum of the things we ingest on a daily, yearly, life-long basis, take a second to push aside the veil of pride that accompanies your likes and dislikes, and think about the people who shaped, affected or made your 2014 an all around better experience. I know I will.

Oh, and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was probably the greatest cinematic experience of the past decade from writing, acting, directing, score, execution -- everything. Man, those drums accompanying the movement of that film just had this kinetic burst, didn't it? High praise for that film.

But also, people. People are what matter. – Andrew Plock

anna-kendrick-pitch-perfect-650-430I’m crazy. I don’t just love things. I obsessively love things. And the person I love the most that isn’t a family member or friend is Anna Kendrick. If you’ve had a conversation with me, seen my iPhone case, or follow me on Instagram, more than likely you picked up on my love. Why do I love her so much? She’s funny, beautiful, intelligent, talented, driven, humble - I could go on. She’s basically everything I want to be. And I truly feel that if we were ever to meet, we would become best friends. Her tweets make me laugh. Her face makes me smile. Hearing her talk brings pure joy to my heart.

Anna’s birthday is August 9th. My birthday is July 9th. I KNOW. Our birthdays are a month apart. How destined to be best friends are we?! My birthday this year was very special. I had a show a few days after my birthday. After the show, I was talking to Sean, my best friend. Sean steered me towards the lobby of DCH and waiting for me was a cardboard cutout of Anna Kendrick. I was surprised, happy, and touched. I couldn’t believe that Anna (I know it’s not the real Anna) was in front of me. She was all mine. Sean orchestrated the surprise with our friends. So thanks Sean, Amanda, Ashley, Britney, Carolyn, Clarence, Clifton, Dana, Jonda, Jua, Mike, Milo, Nick, Rob, Sarah, and Weikei for giving me the thing I love most this year – Anna. I don’t deserve to have such sweet, caring, understanding, wonderful friends.

Are you interested in joining the Anna Kendrick fan club? I suggest you watch Pitch Perfect, 50/50, and Up in the Air. After you watch those, you can join me in watching her upcoming films, Pitch Perfect 2, The Last Five Years, Cake, and Into the Woods (out December 25th)! – Monica Pantharath

ArianaGrandeLast week I cried to Ariana Grande. It was very unexpected and a little scary because it was such a visceral reaction that I wasn’t ready for. See, I spend most of my time thinking about pop music and recently I’ve been wondering about the difference between a pop song and a POP SONG. A pop song is usually boring and released in May, just in time to capitalize on the breezy summer months. Its cultural importance is fleeting and the song is uncomplicated. There are many of these. A POP SONG changes lives. A POP SONG is important. This song serves all of your feelings on a neatly decorated dessert platter and leaves you to clean up the mess. It’s the difference between Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Britney’s “Toxic.” There are always tears during this song.

This year all of my emotions were served to me by Ariana Grande. Before I heard “Love Me Harder,” I had no real opinion on her. She was a singer who existed; a ponytail with vocals. Ariana caught me off guard. I was sitting in my car eating when Ariana’s now trademark vocals flowed through my speakers over a synth pop beat. She was pleading for the love of her life to “love her harder” if he wanted to keep her. Listening to that, coupled with the fact that I was eating an ugly sandwich alone, had me tearing up by the 45 second mark. By the end of the song, I bought her album. What surprised me was how much of a personal connection I made with the song. She, like all of us, deserve the best kind of love. With “Love Me Harder,” Ariana put me completely into my feelings and solidified herself as a pop star. I just hope the next time she does this to me I’m more prepared. – Jerrell Curry