TJ & Dave

DCF2015: Where'd Everybody Go?

DCH logo You may not know this, but Glenn Smith is fluent in Logo. In fact, he’s the last person alive who can speak Logo, and he’s done us a solid here by translating our own Dallas Comedy House (DCH) Logo’s memories of the Dallas Comedy Festival.

Hello? Anyone there? Kyle? Amanda? It’s me, the DCH logo backstage. I’ve got to tell you that your parents really know how to party. They bought me dozens of Jello shots Saturday night, and I got so wasted that I blacked out around 3 a.m. and I just woke up. Man, have I got some stories to tell about this year’s festival and trust me, none of this is made up.

First off, I was easily the most popular thing at the festival. So many people came to take pictures with me that I felt like Spiderman in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, except there was a little more crying here. Landon came to see me from California, and Madeleine came to visit from New York. I heard that Andre made it, too, but he was receiving too much love at the front of the house to venture on back. His loss! That’s OK, because I made other friends from out of state and they treated me famously.

That comedian, Preston Lacy, was so nice and down to earth. I can’t believe people kept saying something about him being a “Jackass.” TJ and Dave were so into me that that they allowed me to give them a suggestion to start their show Friday night. I gave them the word “me.” They must have misunderstood, however, because somehow their show ended up being about some drunk, obnoxious guy. Then, that Bangarang! troupe came by and they were totally fun. Of course, that was until that one girl started rubbing herself against me while the rest of them loudly shouted “Go, Hobo Joe, go!” over and over again. It was really weird, but I guess that’s how they all roll out in L.A.

Wow! It’s really odd that no one is here. Cesar? Maiella? Ashley? Dang, they are here like every day. Something’s up. You don’t think that Amanda was actually serious about that moving business? I thought she was just messing with me. That’s not fair! I have so many questions that I will never get answered now. Why is that word game called Electric Company when they say “Mahna Mahna” which is a Muppet thing? Czechoslovakia? If we’re going for antiquated geographical names, why not Constantinople? What is the deal with the hangers? My great grandfather was Joan Crawford’s closet and he would not have been amused in the slightest. Most of all, is Franzia really certifiably crazy?

OK, Amanda, I’m sorry for whatever I did. Please take me with you. I am going to miss the wonderful energy every day. I have always loved watching all of the people, some overcoming their stage fright, some making lifelong friends, some even getting engaged. I have seen so much, and I don’t want it to ever stop. I promise to be good. I’ll even give up Jello shots forever. OK, we know THAT will never happen, but I am willing to try. I want to be your logo and your friend forever.

Glenn Smith is a graduate of the DCH Training Program and performs regularly in the troupes Juan Direction and Shameless Pugs and is the host of QuizProv.

(Image: Michael Corbett) 

DCF2015: Troupes Are Groups of Friends

Cupcake I was Dallas Comedy House’s (DCH) backstage hospitality coordinator for the Dallas Comedy Festival on Friday night. My job was to make sure performers knew where to go, when to go there, and to make sure all of their performance and personal needs were met (performers gotta drink and eat chips too, y’all). For seven hours, I greeted a lot of people, ushered a lot of troupes through the training center rooms where they waited their turn to perform, and ate a lot of cold, backstage pizza.

I volunteered to be a hospitality coordinator because I wanted to meet new people and to help make people feel comfortable before their shows. For out-of-towners, I wanted them feel at home among a large group of performers that already feel at home at DCH. Something that is special about the Dallas Comedy Festival as opposed to others is that a large portion of the performers already feel completely at home in the performance space. Many troupes that strolled through the training center halls already knew the code into the center. They knew where the bathroom was and at what time they should start making their way toward the green room, just behind the stage, to be ready to perform. I wanted to make sure performers from out of town could navigate a script many of us already knew with the same ease. I wanted them to feel as at home at DCH as those who perform there several times per week and know where to move out of the way when someone yells “hanger up!” and starts tossing hangars at a ceiling.

But from what I could tell, I wasn’t an integral part of reaching that comfort level…at all. The troupes filled with faces that were unfamiliar to me didn’t need to feel at home between the DCH walls, because they already seemed at home with each other. Although everyone seemed appreciative of me telling them where to find bags of chips or where to wait to perform, they didn’t need to know that information to feel at ease. They just needed to be with their troupe.

Field Day

Field Day from Austin, Texas, seemed at home when a troupe member shouted “Crouch!” and everyone immediately popped their bodies into the same yoga position. The Night Rhymers from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, seemed most at ease when they were all warming up their vocal chords by singing some smooth, seamless melodies together. Toward the end of the night, when the final members of the UCB troupe Bangarang! from Los Angeles arrived at DCH, seemingly tired from a long journey to Dallas, the rest of the troupe was ready with warm greetings and offerings of beer and wine. That warmth was received with equal levels of gratification.

It was reminder that people that perform as a group formed together and stayed together largely because of personal connections to each other. Whether those friends form together to make a new troupe like Dallas’s Duck Duck Pants or Chicago’s veterans, TJ & Dave, these were just groups of friends who loved each other who and happened to channel that love into playing pretend on a stage. My stomach is a little larger from eating too much cold, backstage pizza, but my heart is a little warmer after seeing 12 different, little families of people show so much love for each other through support and laughter backstage. I hope none of you ever stop performing, but if you do, it’s comforting to know you still have your family to support you and laugh with you no matter what you’re doing.

Shannon?

Amanda Hahn is a DCH graduate and performer who regularly performs in the troupe Dairy Based.

(Images: Jason Hensel)

DCF2015: Wonderful People Being Wonderful Together

Since spring 2009, a neon sign on Commerce Street at the edge of Deep Ellum has lured passersby and regulars alike into the magical world of comedy. Sketch, improv, and stand-up acts fill the stage six days a week. The Dallas Comedy House (DCH) is not the only comedy club in the world. But sometimes it feels like it. DCH sign

Go to the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, iO and Second City in Chicago, or any of the number of venues in L.A., and you're guaranteed drinks and good laughs provided by hilarious people. Some of these places even offer classes—and plenty of celebrity talent—but not a single one of them can claim the Dallas Comedy Festival (DCF).

Every year since 2010, DCH has hosted the festival featuring acts from all around the U.S. This year, as a first-timer I was hoping to see some of my favorite teams, work on my improv problem spots in workshops with members of visiting troupe Bangarang!, take some pictures, and spend time with my teachers and fellow improv classmates.

Bangarang!

TJ and Dave

I got everything that I hoped for, but I discovered something I hadn't quite expected. Although DCF is, officially, a celebration of comedy, it is, at its core, a celebration of friendship, and the beautiful souls that frequent this Dallas stage. It is a showcase, yes, of talent and improvisational chops, but also of incredible heart and love.

Friends

I laughed a lot this weekend. But if I'm being honest, my favorite moments of DCF took place off stage: near-strangers taking Jello-shots, performers basking in a post-show glow, old and new friends laughing, hugging, and dancing together. Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was DCF. Maybe it was the nostalgia of moving to a new location, but more infectious than the laughter was the raw emotion of people who know there is nothing more important than being in the moment, loving what they are doing and who they are doing it with.

Friends

Friends

The Dallas Comedy House is not a location, it is a concept. And the Dallas Comedy Festival is not an event, it is an experience. I count myself lucky to have lived it and to be able to continue living it as long as I take the classes, watch the shows, or simply hang out at the bar.

I've been at 2645 Commerce Street for just six months, so I can only begin to imagine what it must feel like after being there for six years. But if I learned anything at this year's festival it's that as long as Amanda Austin, Sarah Adams, and all the other people who made the festival, taught the classes, and performed on that stage move over to (or, in the case of house manager Clifton Hall, visit) Main Street, it doesn't matter the number on the door, the spirit of the Dallas Comedy House will follow them wherever they go.

DCH door

I've sat in other theaters, and laughed at other teams, but at DCH, and, this week at DCF, I really did feel like I never need to leave Deep Ellum to see just how good and special comedy can be when it is not the cause, but the result of wonderful people being wonderful together.

The Dallas Comedy House is not the only comedy club in the world, but this week, it might as well have been.

Until next year.

Clifton and Amanda

Isabel Lopez is a Level 4 student at the DCH training center and a Wednesday night intern. She performed at a Block Party with Spanishprov once and hopes to do it again pronto.

(Images: Isabel Lopez)

DCF2015: Squid Salad and Hobo Joe

Betsy Sodaro Day 4 of the Dallas Comedy Festival was off the chain. This show had everything: cross-dressing, musical numbers, group jello shots, the moon.

Headlining the night were Chicago improv superstars TJ & Dave followed by L.A. improv superstars Bangarang!

Of course we have photos. Geez, who do you think we are, Luddites?

TJ and Dave

Bangarang!

Bad Example

Terry Catlett

Check out this page for more photos.

The festival ends tonight with shows starting at 5:30 p.m. and closes with two sold-out shows later in the evening.

Why Go Slow?

TJ & DaveI'd like to point you to a great article on Splitsider. It's called "Louis CK, TJ & Dave and the Power of Slow Comedy." The writer, Matt Shafeek, makes some great points about taking time to develop characters and discover situations, all the while not worrying about getting laughs.

TJ & Dave can often go long stretches of time without any big laughs, and this is where a lot of weaker improvisers often falter. A performer who fears he or she has lost the audience will panic and will resort to time-honored gimmicks – exaggerated physicality, ridiculous characters, and of course, going ‘blue’ (making a lewd/sexual reference or choice) in a desperate attempt to end the audience’s silence.  But TJ & Dave, as well as Louis CK, know that patience in comedy can lead to much bigger rewards.

In our current "get to the point" culture, these types of comedy acts would seem like they'd fail. But talk to any improviser about TJ & Dave, and she will talk like they're gods, worshiping anything they do. That's because they offer more than junk food (the quick, easy laughs). They offer a protein-rich meal based around characters' relationship to one another.

The people involved in these kinds of shows, on stage and off, see the value in slowing down, keeping the story grounded, and never, ever forcing any laughs. Sometimes this leads to hilarious discoveries. Other times, it leads somewhere less amusing, but still completely honest – to an interesting bit of theater, let’s say. And that’s great, because who says comedy only exists to make you laugh?

Go ahead, read the full article. I'll wait right here for you. And when you come back, please let us know in the comments how you feel about slow comedy. Is it a struggle for you? If so, why? If not, what helps you slow down?