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

We've loved many things this year - books, movies, tv shows, websites, people - but these things we loved the A-Number One Best. U-Talkin-U2-to-Me-HiIn 2014, my favorite thing in comedy was the Dallas Comedy House. No doubt about it. But since this blog belongs to them, it would make me feel like a total sell out if I just wrote about how much I love that place. AND I’M NOT A SELL OUT. I streamed a Dead Kennedy’s album this week!

What I’ve loved this year more than anything else has been the Earwolf podcast U Talkin’ U2 To Me? Somehow, I didn’t write about this show once in any of my fifty (I’m the Takashi Miike of What We’re Loving) entries into this blog in 2014. That changes today.

U Talkin’ U2 To Me? is a podcast with a simple premise; Scott (Aukerman of Comedy Bang Bang) and Scott (Adam Scott of Parks & Rec and Party Down) sit down to discuss the work of the band U2. Originally, they were going to record the show for a month or two in advance of the release of the 2014 U2 album, but when it was delayed for months they decided to keep recording. And they created some of my favorite audio I’ve ever heard.

The lesson that I’ve drawn from U Talkin’ U2 To Me? is something that I’m going to try and apply to my work even more in 2015. Their show is technically really bad. They don’t stay on point, they record in the middle of the night so they’re delusional, and with the work schedule that both of them have, they are usually exhausted. The thing that makes their show special is that you can tell they legitimately love what they’re doing. There are so many important elements to performance but they’re all pretty meaningless if you don’t have fun and enjoy it. This podcast reminded me of that and thus, was something that I truly loved this year. - David Allison

images2014 is almost over you guys! How excited are you to just end this mess and start fresh in 2015? Personally, this year has been crazy trying for me. Between family issues and life smacking the crap out of me; emotionally I am drained and January 1 cannot come fast enough. Despite it all though I’ve had some pretty fun experiences and learned some junk about myself.

So this post of “What We’re Loving in 2014” is completely about me. Yup! All me, me, me.

Growing up I was never much of talker. If I ever had to get serious about something I would just write it out in order to avoid the awkward conversation. Talking sucked. Back then writing came easy and that was my outlet. That was because I wasn't aware of the rules of writing. Honestly, I am still unaware of the rules of writing. I often joke around and ask real writers what an adverb or adjective is and I always get a good chuckle from it. But seriously, what are they? I have no clue. It is in my complete ignorance that I find myself most proud.

I didn’t start writing articles and blog pieces until this year because I was embarrassed by my lack of skill and knowledge. I just didn't want anyone to see me as not all that smart or funny. Mainly the latter. Don’t get me wrong, as a actor and a comic I’ve written plenty of things but they were and are more of a ramble than a structured piece. It wasn't until my friend DeAndre decided to start his own blog driven website that I considered writing. He asked all of my friend if we wanted to write and being the supportive person I am I said sure. Did I mention my lack of basic knowledge in the rules of writing? Well, after months of stalling and all my friends writing awesome pieces about various topics I bite the bullet and wrote a fun piece about Girl Meets World - that is sequel to Boy Meets World that follows Cory and Topanga’s daughter Riley. (By the way, the show is terrible. Save yourself and your childhood memories by not watching it) Needless to say I was extremely scared to submit that piece for fear of what the person editing my little article would say. In fact, below is the warning I placed at the beginnning of the article to absorb any potential judgement:

Hey so before you make this bleed with your red pen there are a couple things you should know. I am not a writer and I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m just a girl who is sometimes funny, hears voices in her head, and thinks it’d be interesting to write out the conversation they have. Please don’t jugde me too hard.

Yup. All that lovely insecurity came directly from me. Truth is I’m extremely insecure about everything. Why else would I want to be an actor? Submitting any sort of work for other to read or view is terrifying to me so the fact that I do this for a living is pretty scary. I don’t like talking to people after shows and I feel like I’m being a jerk imposing my thoughts and ideas on random strangers. In my heart of hearts and deep down in my cold cold heart I know that is not true but who listens to the voice of reason? Ultimately, I just want people to like me and the crazy things I have to say.

What I discovered that I love this year is my courage. Like I said, I’m terrified of everything and that one silly little article showed me that its okay actual try something and put yourself there. You see I don’t know what I’m doing and I okay with that. I think that is what makes this whole writing thing that much more fun. Since my Girl Meets World review, I’ve writing a bunch of stuff including some fun bloggy pieces for the world famous Dallas Comedy House. You may have heard of it. It’s important for me to mention a couple of things about my new found courage though

1) I will still never ride a rollercoaster. 2) Yes I’m still super insecure but at least now I can deal with it. 3) Make like Nike and Just Do it. You never know what you’re awesome at. 4) I still have no clue what an adjective is and I don’t care anymore either.

- Rachel Hall

20141125_RawGOTN_articleMy favorite thing about 2014 was Concessions Kane. I thought it was a funny idea and it made me laugh. - Mike Corbett





personalgrowthFor me, 2014 was a year of tremendous growth – of facing discomfort and stepping outside my comfort zone to grow as a person. There were plenty of tears, heartbreak, and misery in 2014 for me, as tends to the be case in life. However, there was even more laughter, joy and friendship throughout the year.

A lot of times we feel like growth has to come dramatically, from some stirring New Year's resolution to hit the gym for two  hours a day. We slink into feelings of failure when such grandiose dreams fail to come true. I’ve learned that it takes no such lofty ambitions to achieve great rewards. Seven years ago as a High School senior, I had to eat lunch in the bathroom because I was too terrified of people to actually sit in the Cafeteria. Even though I’ve come a long way, getting to know so many people at DCH was still a daunting task.

My growth came in small moments – sometimes doing something uncomfortable in improv and getting to know classmates and troupemates. More often, it came from deciding that I needed to hang around the bar at DCH and make myself talk to people, despite the utter discomfort and initial hours spent lurking in the corner trying to pretend I was texting someone on my phone. I would rather have gone home and played Assassin’s Creed from the comfort of my couch, but that wouldn’t help me grow as a person. So I stayed, endured the awkwardness, and somehow managed to not only feel comfortable around lots of people, but to make amazing friends and enjoy myself. I’m so thankful for the opportunities that were given to me, and I intend to make the most of them! I forced myself out there, and paid off! – Ryan Vicksell

american-music-pop-music-collage-2014In the year 2014, I became a year older. My legs, my arms, my lungs, my brains, etc. all became a year older. That is no surprise, of course, but the one thing that is really shocking is that my musical taste in 2014 became much younger. So, what happened? Well, if you are like me, then the music that you were loving in 2014 was fresh and alive and brimming with……youth!

This is the year that Lenny Kravitz released a CD that never charted in the US, Green Day put out a collection of “greatest hits” that no one wanted, and U2 gave every iTunes customer a free album, which we promptly complained about and deleted from our libraries. Instead we bowed at the throne of Lorde, tickled our “Fancy” with Iggy Azalea, and were “All About That Bass” with Meghan Trainor. I literally own sweatshirts older that all of them, yet they have somehow managed to craft music that is sticking with me far better than many of the heroes of my past these days. Heck, the band whose sound that I am crushing hard on right now are the “Cool Kids” of Echosmith…….and two of them are still in HIGH SCHOOL!

It took a little getting used to, especially when I attended The Neighborhood’s show this summer and realized that I could possibly be the oldest person in attendance not chaperoning a child. Slowly but surely this year’s catchy hooks infiltrate your brain, however, and eventually grab a hold of your heart. American Authors are there to make sure I have the “Best Day of My Life. “I Wanna Get Better” thanks to Bleachers and Fall Out Boy inspires me to rise like “The Phoenix” and aspire to be known for “Centuries”. Suddenly those old limbs seem revived and able to run longer when attached to an iPod full of 2014’s glorious earworms.

I don’t know what 2015 has in store, but if it sounds anything like 2014, then I am all ears. - Glen Smith

1505644_10152390427495350_581480141263445905_nReview on Comedy Central was the best TV show I saw all year, Guardians of the Galaxy was the best movie, and Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely was my favorite read of the year, but the one thing I love over and above everything else was the Dallas Comedy House. I'm not afraid to be a sell out.

I started taking classes here at DCH in October of last year. A year ago around this time I had my Level One Showcase with a little group known as Canadian Tuxedo. Never in my life has I felt such joy. I came to DCH expecting to find a whole bunch of comedy nerds who were bitter and judgmental and mocked me for being so sweaty. Instead I found a whole bunch of cool people who were creative and fun and welcoming. Over the past year I moved through the levels of improv and sketch, joined a few improv troupes, collaborated on some sketch shows, and made some of the best friends I've ever had. For the first time in a long time I found a place were I felt like I belonged. For the first time in a long time I found a place where I could be myself.

The past few months took me away from Dallas and way from the Comedy House. I miss it every day. Right now I'm working at what is essentially my dream job. There's no way I would be here if not for DCH. There's no way I get this job without saying "Yes, and" to life. There's no way I can even do this job without the ability to dive into writing a scene or a sketch and write improvisationally. My 2014 was spent largely at DCH. I was creatively transformed; rebuilt and made better, as a writer, as a performer, and as a person.

Thanks to everyone at DCH who made this past year so wonderful. I'd thank people by name, and highlight their awesomeness, but I'd inevitably leave someone out and Mike Maiella would get mad at me. (In this scenario, Mike is the one I leave out. And we all know how he gets when he's riled up.) But I really couldn't end this without saying to the assembled members of Canadian Tuxedo, Johnny Soso, H.A.M.F.I.S.T., Chili's to Go, our Level Five Class Whose Troupe Name I Forgot, Finale, Primary Colours, Duck Duck Pants, Awkward Silence, Neapolitan, Sketch One, Sketch Two, Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations, and the assembled cast and crew of The Investment, The Theft, and Boost!, I love you all and miss you all so much. - Ryan Callahan

Congratulations, Graduates!

It's graduation time here at the Dallas Comedy House, and we want to congratulate the students who completed all five levels. They worked hard to get here, so if you see these people, give them a high-five, a hearty handshake, a slap on the back, or a chest bump. Or maybe just buy them drinks. Congratulations, everyone! And remember, our new term starts this Sunday. Registration is still open.

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This term's graduates: Sunny Allison, J. Daniel Beluska, Carolyn Breznik, Destiny Corley, Jonathan Cronson, Vinnie Corrales, Trigg Edwards, Amanda Hernandez, Sophia Kwong, Clint Myers, Julie Schneider, Natalie Starnes, Claire Tiffey, Andrea Baum, Lauren Davis, Jessica Dorrell, Sebastian Goebev, Jason Hackett, Lucio Romero, Dan Sturdivant, Gregory White, Clarissa Cardenas, Kyle Cook, Brittany Crew, Kaari Gerber, Morgan Goetz, Jonathan Hyatt, Darragh McArdle, and Gretchen Young.

Q&A With Production Guru Kyle Austin

I'm sure you're aware that not all comedy happens in a live setting, yes? Good, then we can proceed with information about an opportunity to learn how to shoot and edit comedy videos. Kyle AustinOur Level 1 Production Class begins Monday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m., and it will be taught by one of DCH's most technically savvy and always funny people, Kyle Austin.

If you've been reading the previous Q&A's, I'm sure you know how this works. We talked with Kyle to find out more about the class and his background. That's how this works. Q&A, take it away.

What is your background in production work? How long have you been doing it?

I worked for Baylor University for a total of six(ish) years. Three in college, and three after I graduated. I started as a simple camera op, and when I left I was directing the football games, (and did one year of sound). Lots of fun, not a lot of pay. I then took a job at White's Chapel UMC as the director of media.  Six-to-eight full-time employees, 15-plus part-time employees and I run a media department. Experiences include everything from making short videos, to putting on large concerts...and everything in between. I've been doing this for 10 years.

Why is it important for a performer to learn production, and how important is it for a show?

It's important for a performer to learn the aspects of it, just as it is a tech person to know the journey of the improvisers. It helps with a group mind, the tech person is a part of the cast, and it can make the experience better.

It can be as simple or complex for a show that you want it to be. Does your show call for videos, different lighting, sound...For example, the NYE sketch show was very "production heavy" compared to what you normally see there.

What skills can performers learn from production that they can use in their stage or written work?

One thing that comes to mind is the idea of knowing when to move, jump, edit, whatever the scene needs. For example, in a video we have the capabilities to "cut to" things and "cut back" when we want to. Why can't we do that in improv? Oh wait, WE CAN. I think that understanding different ways that a story is told can open your mind to the different ways an improv show can be told. It can also help develop formats.

Can you expand more on what will take place in the class? For example, will students be filming shows? Their own skits? Etc.

We're learning the basics of how to make a video, how to run sound, and how to do basic lighting. All of these are entry level tasks, and the end of the class will result in using all three aspects to shoot and edit a short video.

Who are some of your production/directing/editing influences?

Some of my influences...Editing: Bryan Bray - my old boss at Baylor who taught me how to tell a story through video.

Directing: James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow

Producing: Tim Georgeff, Jerry Bruckheimer, Walt Disney

Thank you, Kyle, for taking the time to answer our questions. For those interested in filming their own skits and getting famous on Funny Or Die or YouTube, registration is still open. Hop to it!

Q&A With Comedy Writer Terry Catlett

From Aristophanes to Woody Allen, audiences have been drawn to comedy. Specifically, written comedy--staged, purposeful lines created to get people to laugh. It's the total opposite of improv, sure, but it is the one aspect of the craft that people think of most when they think of comedy. Terry CatlettWe here at the Dallas Comedy House embrace the written word, too. It's not all improv 100 percent of the time. Our goal is to get you to laugh, and one of our funniest performers, Terry Catlett, is also one of our best writers. He is teaching an Intro to Comedy Writing class, starting January 8.

Terry was kind enough answer some questions for us about the class and how he'll lead you by the pen into the world of comedy writing.

What is your background in comedy writing? How did you get involved in it?

I grew up watching shows like The Carol Burnett Show, Saturday Night Live, and the Kids in the Hall. Sketch comedy was a big part of my comedy education. I had never been much of a writer, but when I started taking improv classes at DCH, it seemed like a very natural progression to start writing. There was so much great material created in improv class, it just seemed like common sense to write some of it down. I was fortunate to get in a writing class with talented writers, and a teacher that was passionate about writing. It was easy to get hooked.

What are some of the difficulties with comedy writing? How do you overcome them? 

The biggest difficulty I face is finishing a script. Ideas are everywhere, but it takes real dicipline to sit down and really work through an idea. It took me a while to learn that sketch writing is a long process. It's very rare to have a perfect first draft. Sketches change so much during the creative process. I have found that it is best to get the idea down on paper in a simple form, and then collaborate with others. New perspectives and new ideas can really elevate the material.

What are some of the rewards of comedy writing? 

The most rewarding thing for me is seeing a script come to life. Watching people take the material and build off of it is fun for me. Seeing the finished product, and hearing people laugh gives me a good feeling.

What can improv performers learn from comedy writing that they can translate to their stage work?

I think writing sketches really puts you in touch with character dynamics. You learn how to work relationships in a comedic way. It also makes you focus on a character's point of view. The more you understand a character's point of view, the better the character. I have found that it has really helped my character work on stage.

Who are some comedy writers that you admire and why?

Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development) made one of the best series of all time. Great characters and episodes that are really dense with comedy. Tina Fey is setting the standard for writing now. I particularly enjoy her self depricating humor. Watching her assault on pop culture is a weekly highlight. Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous) always writes great stuff. The Brits know how to do comedy. I'll throw in John Cleese and Connie Booth in for giving us Fawlty Towers.

What do you hope people will walk away with after taking your class?

If I can create the environment that I had, and give people a new outlet for their creativity, I will think that I have done a good job as a teacher.

Thank you, Terry, for taking the time to answer our questions. Spaces are still open for the Intro to Comedy Writing course. Please check out the registration page for more info.