Susan Messing

What We're Loving: Comeback Stories, Little Lord Legs, Michael McDonald Deep Cuts, DCF14

DCH_what we're loving_3_14_14Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Julia Cotton speaks to the self-loathing narcissist in us all, Ashley Bright needs tiny legs, David Allison makes a That's My Bush reference, and Ryan Callahan shamelessly plugs his own work. 369Dan Harmon is the genius that introduced me to the love of my life, Donald Glover, by creating an awesome show called Community. Around Season 2, I found myself listening to every interview he did and then consuming everything he’d ever created. I could tell that he was a person who absolutely cared about humanity, honesty, harmony, and 'Harmon’. He was clearly a narcissist while simultaneously being very self loathing. It’s a personality combination that can lead one to often feel very isolated, often be misunderstood, and often get fired.

When he was fired from Community, I was heartbroken. I’d become so dependent on his voice that I felt a little more lonely and weirdly… rejected. It was like whoever fired him had also fired me.

Luckily, he began the Harmontown podcast. It is premised as a town hall meeting to plan the founding of a colony of like minded misfits. The question is ‘What do we need to form a functional society?’ The podcast features some improv, made up songs, and freestyle raps (that are clearly performed by a white dude in his 40s that is NOT named Eminem). There are many special guests (Bobcat Goldthwait, Robin Williams, Jon Oliver, Mitchell Hurwitz, frequently Kumail Nanjiani). Around episode 6, it was decided that each show would culminate with a game of Dungeons and Dragons (see Community S2:14). In that episode we are introduced to Spencer Crittenden - an audience member randomly chosen to be Dungeon Master.

Harmontown went on the road and was filmed. It documents Dan’s journey which ultimately leads him right back into the arms of his lost love (Community season 5!). It also chronicles him and his girlfriend going through relationship woes and eventually becoming engaged. Harmon suggests that perhaps the most interesting story is that of Dungeon Master Spencer as he takes an unexpected journey into celebrity.

The documentary really highlights Dan Harmon’s effect on the people who call ourselves “Harmenians”. What we have in common is this feeling of never quite “fitting in” and often feeling misunderstood and rejected. Dan Harmon has shown us how to take those feelings, and fuse them into creativity.

You can check out the trailer here. - Julia Cotton

Nigel-Lindsay-as-Shrek-and-Nigel-Harman-as-Lord-Farquaad-in-Shrek-The-Musical.-Photo-by-Brinkhoff-MögenburgI've had one of those go-go-go weeks, where I didn't make adequate media absorption time for myself. I did watch the True Detective finale, but so did everyone else and their dog. Dogs love Rust Cohle. I watched some more Sopranos, but I dabbled on that topic last week. I did have a Gilmore Girls watching evening with Mr. Terry Catlett. No, I won't be sharing the joys of Stars Hollow with you. In fact, I'm going to use this forum to ask you to share something with me. Let me explain. You may not know this, but TC (Terry Catlett for some of this entry) is a big fan of musicals. After watching Rory move into her dorm at Yale, we watched Shrek on Broadway on Netflix. I can't lie; I didn't really dig it, although there were some very inspiring stage setups. Here's what I did love: TC was absolutely tickled by Lord Farquaad's tiny legs. I had a giggle fit just watching him have a giggle fit. I've tried searching for more big bodies with tiny leg gags, and I've come up with nothing except for some unfortunate real-life body disfigurement. I saw some stuff I can't unsee. So, first, I'm asking for any videos of a similar tiny leg gag so that we can all continue giggling. Be careful on your search; I'm telling you there is stuff out there that will burn onto your eyes. Second, and more importantly, can someone help me make some tiny legs for Terry? I can provide materials and I'll do the legwork (pun!), but I need some help figuring out how to make them functional with bending knees. I should note that I cannot sew. I'm not sure if that's important. - Ashley Bright south-park-the-movie-back-cover-98981I love alliteration! In celebration of that fact, I’m creating “Movie Soundtrack March” to showcase great comedy soundtracks that go underappreciated. The only rule for my weekly pick is that the soundtrack has to mostly be comprised of original music.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone are geniuses. You know that. The problem is that they’ve created so many amazing things (South Park, Team America: World Police, Cannibal, Orgazmo, BASEketball, Book of Mormon) people tend to lose track of things. Heck, just by attempting to create a list of their work, I’m sure that I’ll get critiqued because I forgot something random, like That’s my Bush. It happens when two people create such a consistent collection. Because of that, I’m going to highlight my favorite piece that they did, a soundtrack that they don’t get nearly enough respect for; South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.

The movie was the first time that South Park began to receive acclaim as something more than a show that gets by on the shock value of kids not acting like kids and the quality of each musical number was a big reason. For starters, you’ve got “La Resistance” and “Up There,” which are fantastic parodies of “Do you hear the people sing?” (Les Miserables) and “Part of your world” (Little Mermaid) respectively. Next, check out Big Gay Al’s one man show stopper “I’m super” and be reminded that people used to shop at Mervyn’s (And reference it in song!). Still not convinced? Well let me remind you that MICHAEL MCDONALD CREATED AN ORIGINAL SONG FOR THE ALBUM. Midway through the track, he just starts advertising his friend Keith’s car detailing business. Yes, not every track on the album is great, but there are so many gems that it is well worth revisiting. - David Allison

14517_10152631209974056_1575422524_nI'm loving many things the week: The Daniel Bryan angle on RAW Monday, learning that Night Hawk is a non-fictional producer of Salisbury steaks, watching my girlfriend watch Game of Thrones, (What!), but most of all I'm loving the anticipation for The Dallas Comedy Festival. This is my first festival and my first experience with the heightened intensity, the crackling energy in the air, the camaraderie as the DCH team hustles together to get ready. I'd call it the Super Bowl of Comedy, but that would probably get me sued, so I'll call it the SuperWrestlemaniaFinalsCup in Memory of David Von Erich of Comedy to be safe. Man, it really feels like the SuperWrestlemaniaFinalsCup in Memory of David Von Eric of COmedy around here this week! There's so much going on.

The Dallas Observer wrote about out "pretty killer" lineup, (quotes means you aren't bragging,) while the Dallas Voice was struck by the strong bonds formed at DCH.

Jason Hensel and I had the opportunity to speak with some of the talented men and women who will be performing at the festival. If you're a comedy nerd you'll appreciate the many discussions on craft and technique. If you're not a comedy nerd you are clearly in the wrong place and horribly confused. Take a deep breath and back away from your computer.

Comedy nerds, get to know some folks a little better:

- Executive Branch - Saffy Herndon - Gramt Redmond - Christian Hughes - Rob Christemsem - ZOOM! - Susan Messing - And more to come next week!

By the way, I'm still loving Rick Ross. Guys, it might be serious. - Ryan Callahan

DCF14: Susan Messing

Messing_S_293web-1Susan Messing will teach two workshops AND perform in the festival's closing show on Saturday, March 22nd. She's one of the top improvisational comedy teachers in the world and she's been improvising for over 25 years. There will be a lot to learn next week, but the teaching starts today. How did you get started in comedy? I was a theatre major at Northwestern University. I was a horrible actress. I started taking classes at ImprovOlympic after graduation and never had to butcher Chekov, Ibsen, and Shakespeare again.

How has comedy changed since then? The face of Comedy has evolved so much it is almost mind boggling to see where it was when we started. What was considered verboten then is banal now- improv forms from the past look static and crunchy and now it seems there is a freedom that I don't know that we thought even had the potential to exist. Thankfully I get to be in a position to evolve with the art and not sit and bemoan "the good ol days."

The evolution is so natural in this work that all of a sudden you look around and realize that improv reaches a certain level of performance sophistication that sky's the limit. It's been difficult to put improv on tv and make it look as effortless and exciting as it is live. That is a huge challenge- it still looks flat- but if that nut is cracked it'll open an entirely new can of worms of delight.

How has improv affected the rest of your life? Every fiber of my being wants to be a snotty "no but" person. Saying yes when I would have normally shot an idea down or being agreeable to something out of the box has led me to extraordinary places in my life. It helps me formulate creative ways to raise my kid that I might not have had otherwise, and we laugh a LOT. Being agreeable also led me to saying yes to the love of my life. I had known him for 25years and one day he sent me a text that said, "Stop farting around, Messing. Life is short. We should be together. And, you're perfect." So we got married a year to the day that he sent it- Uh, yes AND. By the way, men shouldn't feel bad about not coming up with that kind of line- he's an extremely good screenwriter.

Who influenced you when you were still a fan? Who inspires you now? When I first started, there was a team at ImprovOlympic (now iO) called Grime and Punishment with Dave Pasquesi, Rich Laible, Mick Napier, Tim Meadows, Dave Razowsky, and Madeline Long. Their team work and comic sensibilities blew me away. In particular, Mick Napier made me an instant fan of his work.

Everyone,and I mean EVERYONE, good, bad,and ugly, inspires me now and I have no idea how my observation of the human condition will affect my work, but it always seeps in there.

You'll be performing and teaching at the festival. What do you get out of teaching versus performing and vice versa? Teaching gives me the opportunity to share what I have learned in almost thirty years in terms of saving my students time- time that they could be pursuing joy instead of suffering trying to improvise "right." Performing gives me the opportunity to SLOW down and love exactly where I am with exactly who I'm with- I am nothing without my friends onstage and feel immensely fortunate to be able to play with them.

How did teaching become such an important part of your comedy career? I fell into teaching but once there I truly understood the mindset of the student because I distinctly remember being there. Plus, when I walk my talk I have more fun than anyone onstage and I win. When I don't, I am a hypocrite and can be as horrible as someone who fell down a mineshaft and landed on a stage. Teaching keeps me honest. I'm not going to rest on my petty laurels at this stage of the game. The day I stop growing is the day I start dying and I'm too young to die.

What is one lesson you wish every improviser could learn today? Improvisers can do anything and take the damn note. No, really. Shut up and take the note.

What makes festivals special? How important are they in the growth of a performer? Festivals are a celebration of our community. They are important because although our world is huge in comparison to what it was when I started, it is still tiny in many ways- our joy for this art brings us together and there is a celebration of trust and collaboration with improvisers that I have never seen anywhere else. It's kind of majorly beautiful and stupid and awesome.

What are you most excited about at this year's Dallas Comedy Festival? I am delighted to be invited and extremely excited to be in Dallas to soak up their enthusiasm for this art. I can't wait to play with my friend Kate Duffy, who now lives in L.A., and I miss very much. And I know I shouldn't mess with Texas, but after all, my show is called Messing With A Friend and NO sort of always means yes…

Take Susan's workshops during the festival.  See her perform with Kate Duffy at 10:30PM on Saturday, March 22nd.  Tickets available here.