Sarah Adams

You Won't Believe What Happens When You Watch These 7 Videos

Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performer and tech Scriven Bernard was a teacher assistant this past term for a Level 1 class led by Sarah Adams. The assistants are instructed to send follow-up notes reinforcing what the students learned in class each week. Scriven changed the note-giving game by turning them into music videos.

I recently sat down with Scriven in his Plaid Park studios to learn more about the project.

How did you come up with the idea to produce the videos?

I came up with the idea to produce the videos during the first class of the term. Sarah Adams and I recognized that the students had a lot of energy and seemed like a really cohesive group, and we really wanted to capitalize on that. So she turned to me and said, "We should do some sort of bit with them." I wasn't sure exactly what to do at first, but I knew it would involve music and costumes because I love both of those things. I told Sarah I'd think about it and that I'd draft something when I did the notes. The next day, I recorded that first video during my lunch break and sent it over to her. She loved it and insisted that I share it.

I also tend to get bogged down in the structure and rules of everything and forget that after all, we are improvisers. We are all here because we love spontaneity and supporting other people. So, these videos are another way of sharing that spirit with the students and reminding all of us that while there is a structure to the program and while there ARE higher-percentage choices, we can still let loose and have fun.

What kind of reaction have you received from the students, teachers, and other T.A.s?

The students seemed to love the videos. They were excited each week to see what I'd come up with next, and I think it made them feel more comfortable about coming out of their shells. And they were absolutely thrilled when I told them I wanted them to be in the last video with me.

I've only spoken to a small number of teachers about it, but a majority of the reviews have been positive. For the most part, the teachers love the idea and the energy that the video notes bring. The teachers with reservations about them value the structure, consistency, and neutral energy of the traditional note-taking system. One of the fears expressed is that a shy student might feel out of place when confronted with such strong energy in a Level 1 class, but I have not yet had that experience, and I will continue to make sure that all students feel welcomed and comfortable regardless of how I'm sending the notes.

Fellow T.A.s have loved the idea, but some have expressed concerns over its sustainability. And yeah, I definitely had that fear at first. I thought, "Oh, crap, what have I gotten myself into?" But, you know, I'm having so much fun with it. I love doing the videos, I love getting the students involved, and until someone tells me to stop, I'm going to keep finding fun ways to enhance students' improv experiences.

How can you top what you did this term?

I learned a few valuable lessons when writing the lyrics to the music videos. The first is that I can't choreograph to save my life, and the second is that things are better when I let them happen naturally and don't try to force them. When I'd write out the notes first then let the natural rhythm of the words inspire a song, the end result was far better than when I picked a song and tried to force the words into it.

I'll adopt that second lesson with figuring out what to do for this next Level 1 class. The idea for the video notes came naturally from my desire to have fun with the class, the energy dynamic between Sarah and me, and the overall chemistry among the students. So, just as in an improv scene, I'll listen to the situation before I respond. I'll let the ideas form naturally, then I'll see where that takes me. Perhaps I'll do another round of video notes. Perhaps something even better will happen. I don't really know yet, and that's the beauty of it.

If I had to give advice for how everyone can top the notes, I'd say this: Adopt the teachings of improv in everything you do. Follow the normal structure, but support the moves of everyone around you and have fun. Listen to the things happening around you and respond honestly to them. Be spontaneous. Make each other laugh.

A rundown of the song list. 

Week 1 - "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars Week 2 - "Africa" by Toto Week 3 - "Price Tag" by Jessie J Week 4 - "Hello" by Adele (Fun fact! Rob Howe subbed in for Sarah during this week, and before we'd talked about choosing a song we each independently wrote our own lyrics for "Hello." I ended up combining them.) Week 5 - "MMMBop" by Hanson Week 6 - "Dragostea Din Tei (Numa Numa)" by O-Zone Week 7 - "Bye Bye Bye" by *NSYNC

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.

So That Happened Debuts on WFAA-TV

Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performers, teachers, and alums Sarah Adams and Maggie Rieth Austin recently debuted a new series for WFAA-TV called "So That Happened." It's funny, and you should watch it (click the image above to do so). First, though, let's find out how "So That Happened" happened.

DCH: How did this come about?

Sarah Adams: WFAA held a casting a few months back and reached out to DCH about sending some improvisers to audition. Maggie and I wound up being partnered together, and it was the MOST fun. We found out a few weeks back that WFAA wanted us to be part of this project. The episode that was release on Saturday was the first installment.

DCH: Did you two write it?

SA: Yes we did! We received the topics the producer wanted us cover on Tuesday, October 27. We supplied a draft to the producer Tuesday evening, the script was approved Wednesday, and it was shot Thursday.

DCH: Will there be more?

SA: Yes. From what we understand, the goal of "So That Happened" will be to release weekly videos focusing on the odd news of the week.

Find Your Role in Life; Support This Series

Supporting Roles I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "It takes a village." Well, if you're in the movie-making business, that village consists of directors, camera operators, script supervisors, production assistants, grips, actors, make-up artists, etc. In other words, to make anything of consistent quality needs a whole heck of a lot of people to create and support it.

The theme of support is what runs through a new Web series created by Dallas Comedy House (DCH) graduate and teacher Sarah Adams and Brandi Hollsten. Supporting Roles is described by them as the story of "two aspiring actresses helping emotionally support each other's ridiculous lives and ridiculous auditions. Loosely based on ridiculous real people."

The well-made series is off to a good start, and the cast and crew are ready to produce more content. That's where you come in, so we recently spoke with Adams to learn more about the series and how others can help support more episodes.

How did this project get started and what was the inspiration behind it?

Brandi and I first met when we were paired up together at a callback in Austin. I believe my first words to Brandi were, "Hey, don’t f*ck this up," she looked at me and laughed. We went in and crushed the callback AND wound up booking the spot together (here’s the magical spot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bz24swEhlRY). A few weeks later, we were back in Austin at another callback together. It was those chance meetings and auditions that stated the thought process of, "Hey, we like working together, we should do something about that." So we met up after an audition for lunch, like real friends, and took inspiration from our crazy life as women and actors. We loved the idea of women supporting women and placed in a world that doesn’t necessarily encourage that.

How long did it take to get from idea to completion of the first episode?

We had our first brainstorming meeting in August 2014. I believe we had the final draft done by end of December, secured our fantastic director, Travis Aitken, March-ish, shot the first episode end of April, and posted the first episode June 3. And now we are here, almost exactly a year later. Wow - I think this might be the first time I wrote out that timeline - that’s pretty incredible if I do say so myself.

What is the biggest challenge you and the crew face filming each episode?

Challenge? Oh man, if I’m being honest, filming the first three episodes was the easy part. We had a great director (Travis) a fantastic DP (Jake Wilganowski), and support from NameTag Films that made shooting a breeze. The real challenge came when we had to eat the barbecue sandwich over and over and over and over …. #actorproblemz

What advice do you offer for others seeking to produce a Web series?

Keeping with the honesty trend, this is hard. Like, really hard. The only reason we are able to do any of this is due to the support we’ve received along the way - there is no way we could do this alone. I’m pretty sure Brandi and I touch base/send dog videos at least three times a day. Then the support we’ve received from Travis, NameTag, Post Asylum, and Pure Evil Music & Sound Design to get this from script to screen has been beyond anything we ever expected. And the support we’ve received from the DCH community - from volunteering to be PAs on set (Joseph Delgado and  Isabel Lopez) to being on camera (Lindsay Goldapp, Alicia Sherrod, and Joseph) to now contributing to our Seed&Spark campaign … well, that just takes the cake. So my advice? You can’t do this alone, but you can do this with support …. dare I say a Supporting Role (see what I did there).

Finally, how can someone get involved with the production, whether that be as a actor, production crew, funding, etc.?

Right now, we would love for folks to share our series, support our Seed&Spark campaign, and like the Supporting Roles Facebook page. ALSO! We have a really cool Live Script Reading and Fundraising event on Saturday, August 8, at DCH. The event is 100 percent free to attend, starts at 3:30 p.m., and everyone who contributes financially to the campaign by 5 p.m. on the 8th is entered to win a walk-on role. RSVP via this super cool Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1484466171848056/.

Troupe Talk: LYLAS

LYLAS OMG. RTM. I mean, RTFM. Or just read Troupe Talk. This week. SITD??? SOL -- STBY! JK. LOL. RBTL, what I’m saying is LYLAS is up in Troupe Talk. You must be NUB, or something. NMP. DILLIGAS?? LMAO.

This week’s Troupe Talk is LYLAS. These GURLZ have a KAPOV that will make you ROTFLMAO. Enjoy, because IMHO, they're GR8!

SWAK, XOXO, B4N, BCNU!

OK LYLAS! For this interview, we are having a good old fashioned slumber party! What did you bring with you to my party and what classic sleepover trick are you going to play on the first girl who falls asleep? Lindsay:I brought the Ouija Board my parents won't let me use at home. I'll do that old classic trick where I summon an evil spirit with the Ouija Board and they murder someone in their sleep. So fun! lolrofl! Sarah A.:I brought chips and salsa - and probably Oreos and Twizzlers, because I need an excuse to eat them. And I don't play tricks, I TURN THEM. JKJKJKJKJKJK. Maggie:I brought sour gummy worms. I'm going to put whip cream on her hands and then tickle her nose so she slaps herself in the face lolz. Lauren: I brought Boone's Farm, and I'm gonna murder her. Tab: I brought Jurassic Park for everyone to watch. And I will freeze your bra. FREEZE IT. Lacey: I would have brought toilet paper -- so that we could sneak out of your house and toilet paper someone else's house, duh! As for the first girl who fell asleep? Probably prank-called her parents or boyfriend or something. I was an EXCELLENT prank caller. Averie: A roll of cookie dough. Trick: I'm going to eat the whole roll of cookie dough while watching everyone sleep.

Speaking of slumber parties, let’s go back in time. What is something that you would tell your sweet 16-year-old self? Lindsay: Sober up, bitch. No one's impressed. Sarah A.: Someday, it will all make since. Maggie: Posing for all photos with your tongue out is not flattering. Lauren: It gets better! Tab: That headgear is going to mess up your jaw forever, it's not worth it. Also be nicer to the boys you date, just because you know that it's unlikely you will be with the person you date in high school for the rest of your life doesn't mean they do. Lacey: Roll the windows down while you're hooking up with your high school boyfriend behind the middle school in your Toyota Celica. It's REALLY obvious what you're doing in there with the windows all steamed up. Averie: Eating raw cookie dough is dangerous.

What are you thoughts on the representation of women in the comedy world? Do you think women have equal opportunity? Lindsay: Women have busted some walls down in the last few years thanks to bad-asses like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and many others. Many years ago when I was auditioning for my first improv troupes, we had to be 10 times as funny as the dudes auditioning to be considered. Everyone was just looking for their "token female." Now the boys understand that girls came to play and the audience values our perspective. Lauren: Women have more obstacles to overcome, but people are becoming more aware of and sensitive to that and interested in representing our perspective. That isn't exclusive to comedy though, it's everywhere. Tab: I think right now is an amazing time to be a woman and a comedian. I have noticed that class ratios are starting to have more girls than boys. We have so many great role models to look up to right now, and the idea that women comics don't have a chance is dated.

I've also always thought it was strange to have the "women aren't funny" argument, because I grew up watching I Love Lucy. We watched it, our parents watched it, our grandparents watched it. The first episode aired in 1951, and the show was the most watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons and was the first to end its run at the top of the Nielsen ratings. It is often regarded as one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms in history. In 2012, it was voted the "Best TV Show of All Time" in a survey conducted by ABC News and People magazine.

All that, from so long ago, and you're telling me people still say women aren't funny? Lucille Ball is one of my heroes, and she was doing hilarious bits 64 years ago. Come on. Sorry to go on a rant. It's probably my period. Sarah A.: What Tab said. Maggie: Sure. Lacey: Almost all of my favorite comedians are women. Even though I've grown up loving female comics, I've definitely seen a change in representation and treatment in the last 30 years. However, if things were truly equal, Tina Fey wouldn't have had to make the joke on David Letterman's last show that "he finally proved that men are funny." Damn, that was a good joke though. Averie: The fact that we are still asking these questions is very telling.

Who is a funny lady you admire and why? Lindsay: OMG, every girl ever! My Grandma Helen (RIP), because she taught me how to bring that #realness and not give a WHAT. Kate Lambert and Erica Elam are some Chicago ladies who always inspired me, because creativity just pours of out them. And of course my LYLAS gals who blow me away all day errday. Sarah A.: Besides all the fine females in LYLAS?! I got a super mad crush on Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I want to be her. Maggie: My mother - Barb. Lauren: My mom's super funny and always on. I really look up to the chicks in this troupe, and honestly pretty much all the improvisers at the Dallas Comedy House, even some of the man ones. Tab: ALL OF THEM. Lacey: My memaw -- though I don't think she always means to be funny. She's at the age now where she says whatever she wants and doesn't give a shit because she's like, "I'm over 80 years old, whatareyougonnadoabout it?" I was visiting her a few weekends ago when she debated the merits of a walk-in bathtub and talked about how awesome it is that you don't have to shave your legs when you're a senior because you just stop growing hair...everywhere. Averie: Maria Bamford. She turns her pain into comedy gold.

Sing a line from a favorite hit song and pick someone to sing it to. Lindsay: "I'm just a girl in the world...cuz THAT'S ALL THAT YOU'LL LET ME BEEEEE" -- to all men, CUZ WE LIVE IN A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY!!!!!!!! Maggie: Ohhhh baby youuuuuuu... you got what I nee-eeeeed... and I would like to sing that to anyone who doubts themselves. BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF YOU. Lauren: "Who let the dogs out?" You know who you are. (You are the Baja Men.) Tab: "I am woman, hear me roar" sung by Maggie because THAT'S WHAT SHE WANTS. Sarah A.: Also, what Tab said. Lacey: I would absolutely sing "Friends in Low Places" to Garth Brooks. Averie: "Fuck da police!" Garrison Keillor.

LYLAS performs at the Dallas Comedy House on June 6 with Franzia and June 27 with .f.a.c.e.

Tori Oman is a Level Four student at DCH. She’s trained and performed with the Second City and iO in L.A. and Chicago. Favorite pastimes include being irrationally competitive at Monopoly, eating an apple in every country she’s traveled to, and being the sole person on this planet that thinks Necco Wafers are a delicious candy choice.

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)