"How to Rise to Power in the Upcoming Dystopia" by Emily Ball

If you’re a concerned citizen, you’ve noticed that our nation is in troubling times. We are more divided than ever, turning on friends and family at the drop of a hat over any political disagreement. Our nation is ripe for a plunge into utter chaos, and that dystopian future will need a swamp king.

Here’s how to claw your way to the top, no matter how our democracy crumbles:

1) Nuclear War. Someone gets a little trigger happy, and nukes gut the topography of our planet like a gentle cleansing rain. Your first job here is to survive. You will need to immediately become comfortable with the idea of eating another human being, and couple that with the knowledge that the radiation poisoning experienced by your meal will eventually warp your mind. Run with it. Get as crazy as possible. Wear a bear’s head as a hat. Gnaw on human bones. Your personal brand needs to move from “Gentle yogi” to “Sweet Jesus, what is that thing” as quickly as possible. Start rumors that you murder for sport (or actually murder for sport, if you want to live authentically). Soon your reputation will be so formidable that those who once feared and despised you will now flock to you for safety and comfort. Congratulations, you’re the swamp king.

2) Militant State. Uh oh, we have a dictator now. DO NOT PANIC. Unfortunately, we live in a digital age, so you don’t have the “burn your political s**t” option that we did back in the good old days. The good news? Everyone loves a good #transformationTuesday. You need to start branding your Instagram hard, right now. Build out a 10-to-12 post storyline on your social media about how you’re slowly coming around to the ideals of the new regime. Tag your new leader. DM your new leader. Seduce your new leader. Marry your new leader. Murder your new leader. Become your new leader. Congratulations, you’re the swamp king.

3) Non-Human Overlords. Our computers/monkeys/vehicles (I see you, Disney/Pixar’s Cars) have finally outpaced us and realized that we are destroying the planet and each other at a truly horrifying rate. They have taken over for the sake of the planet, and humanity now plays second fiddle to creatures that were once subservient to us. You will now need to make yourself indispensable to your new overlords, whether that means managing the human labor force or knowing how to perform an oil change with your tiny human hands. You will eventually become a confidante of the current leader, despite the warnings of her allies, until you are determining her every move and political decision, a la Theoden and Grima. Congratulations, you’re the swamp king.

Hopefully these tips set you up for success in the coming age of anarchy and darkness! Obviously, you don’t want to see the world crumble amidst widespread catastrophe surrounded by the agonizing screams of the innocent, but someone has to step up and take charge, so why not you? Go get ‘em, girl.

Emily Ball is an improviser, bartender, and stand-up comedian based out of Dallas, Texas. In her free time, she likes to moderate arguments between her cat, Debbie, and her dog, Tucker.

"Comedy Debut: How to Get Started in the Funny Business" by Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa

So you want to try your hand at comedy, but don’t know where to start? Here are five steps to take to get you to the laughs.

1) Go see shows.To find the style of comedy that suits you the most—improv, stand-up, sketch, or a combination—you first have to see the varying types and styles. Fortunately for you, Dallas Comedy House (DCH) has all three types on rotation from Tuesday through Saturday each week. Check out the DCH monthly calendar to find something you’d like to see.

Bonus: Free shows happen weekly, too! Check out the free King of the Mountain show on Wednesday nights and the free Improv Playground on Thursday nights.

2) Go to a free Jam or Open Mic.Now that you’ve seen a few shows, you’re probably thinking, “Hey! I can do that! That looks easy and oh-so fun!” Well give it a go at a Tuesday night Jam. Improv Jams are come as you are, do as you do. They require no sign up and everyone can participate, from the passerby off the street to the seasoned performer. Open Mics require a bit more forethought: You must sign up by midnight the Sunday before and you must have three-to-five minutes of prepared material. Both are a great way to practice what you’ve got.

3) Take a free class.What, more free stuff? Yes! (We don’t want you to be held back from your dreams.) DCH offers a free improv class on the last Wednesday of each month. You don’t have to sign up, and you don’t have to know what you’re doing. You just have to show up and be willing to have fun.

4) Take more classes and learn to write your own material.After you’ve narrowed your focus to the style of comedy that you prefer, it’s time to get really focused and dedicate yourself to learning the craft. New courses begin monthly, including the upcoming Summer Improv Intensive for adults and Summer Camp for Kids. Classes meet weekly and culminate in a showcase of student work. Internships and scholarships are available to those who qualify. Courses include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

Improv: Learn how to get out of your head, think at the height of your intelligence, to listen, and to trust. Improv is a great way to improve your performance, your relationships, and your life.

Stand-up & Storytelling: Everyone has a story to tell. These classes will help you fine-tune your story in an easy-to-relay format fit for performance. Stand-up classes will help you write and polish a five-to-10 minute set, while storytelling helps you write and perform your personal narrative.

Sketch writing: These courses will show you how to take a character and build a story around them. Courses start with crafting for the stage and then, ultimately, for the screen. Prerequisites are required for all classes.

5) Perform, perform, perform! Each course culminates in a performance of some kind. These performances are gentle introductions in a safe environment to being on stage and putting your material out there. Take advantage of these opportunities to challenge yourself to be bolder each time you step out. Beyond the class showcases, DCH also offers several other opportunities to perform, from submitting a show to auditioning for King of the Mountain or being in an Ewing Troupe (DCH’s own improv method).

There are plenty of ways to hone your comedy skills, in and outside of the classroom. The very first step for all of them: Just show up.

Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa is a current student at DCH. She spends her days wrangling children, avoiding housework, and hustling for acting or writing gigs. One day she’ll make her life easier by changing her name to Shashana O’Shanahan.

(Top photo credit: David Allison. Bottom photo credit: Ryan Robins)

"Book Review: 'Bunny, Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort of Love Story' by Alan Zweibel" by Jamé McCraw

Bunny, Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort of Love Story written and illustrated by Alan Zweibel is a tender and very personal glimpse into the relationship between a writer and performer who meet in summer 1976 during the freshman year of Saturday Night Live. Zweibel is responsible for penning scripts to the sketches featuring outrageous and memorable original characters such as Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella for Radner.

A series of dialogues and simple line drawings tell the story of the duo’s delicate friendship. A friendship cut tragically short after 14 years when Radner passed away from complications with ovarian cancer on May 20, 1989.

Sparse vignettes recreate moments of tension, fear, and confrontation but do not feel overly voyeuristic. Zweibel lovingly paints himself as the “asshole” during times of conflict. Gilda is his champion and closest ally. The pair have a profound love for one another that endures during times of uncertainty.

When she is instructed by Zweibel to hold onto casino winnings he could use to pay credit card debt, Radner has hotel security escort him away from her hotel room door when he comes begging out of the arrangement. There is a playfulness to this gesture and her apology the day after the incident comes in the form of a letter, which is hidden in the lavatory of his aircraft during his flight home.

This secret is revealed to Zweibel by a stewardess who tells him: “I was so touched by how warm and funny and loving this person was that I felt like I knew her my whole life and would’ve done anything for her.”

Fame is inevitable for the beloved performer who is approached by strangers so fond of her that they feel she is a familiar friend and call her by name. It is at this point that she asks Alan to call her Gilbert.

A romantic affair between the two of them nearly causes a rift as things fizzle out and they begin to explore the possibility of other partners. The picture Zweibel paints during these passages are stark. Small-talk on elevators and in hallways is painful to witness after knowing how well they are able to communicate with one another. This period of estrangement is resolved when Gilbert tells him, “I need you in my life because I trust you more than anyone and I don’t want to lose that.”

When Radner discovers Zweibel is in the grips of cocaine addiction, she confronts him directly. She tells him what he is doing is not only dangerous, but especially unwise for someone as “naturally insecure and paranoid” as he is. She encourages sobriety. At this time, she encourages him to clean up his act if he is serious about pursuing a relationship with a woman named Robin Blankman. The advice from his champion, Gilbert, is taken to heart. Zweibel and Blankman were married in 1979.

Over the next 10 years, Zweibel and Radner’s conversations appear to be spaced further and further apart as their lives take new paths. They did, however, manage to fulfill the role of a touchstone for one another in instances ranging from hilariously mundane to life-altering.

I am thankful to be privy to moments from such a special friendship. I have read Bunny, Bunny at least a dozen times over the past 13 years. Every month, I think of Radner telling her dear friend Zweibel that saying “Bunny, Bunny” as soon as you wake up on the first day of the month would bring good fortune. It is a sweet fairy tale that I have incorporated into my life. That being said, June 1 is just a week away.

Bunny, Bunny.

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.

(Image: LIFE)

"Coworker Still Wearing Event Wristband from the Weekend" by Anthony Salerno

May 19, 2017 (Plano, TX)Nearly three whole days into the work week and your office coworker, Brian, is still wearing his “Over 21” paper wristband he presumably received over the weekend. As the self-named office “fun guy,” Brian has come to work on previous Mondays wearing wristbands and stamps from local bars and concerts, but these accessories are usually shed from his wardrobe by Tuesday. Brian appears to be making sure everyone in the office knows that he, indeed, went out and had a few drinks with his friends over the weekend.

According to Cheryl in Human Resources, Brian is “really struggling” with the fact that his days of Alpha Pi are slipping away. As a senior at Arizona State University (ASU), Brian was elected as Alpha Pi’s president and oversaw all the chapter’s campus events. He organized everything from the fraternity’s Naked Mile run to its Don’t Break the Seal party, affectionately known for free beer at a local pub if no one used the restrooms for the evening. Three years removed from his days at ASU, the entry-level temp position he holds is a harsh comparison to his glory days.

Many officemates are comparing Brian’s current wristband epic to Monica from Accounts Receivable hospital band saga. For two weeks last summer, Monica wore her hospital bracelet after going on an abrupt medical leave before Memorial Day weekend. Many assume this was her way of solidifying a made-up medical story to add an extra day off, but Monica is quick to point out that, “You’d want people to know if you had an emergency appendectomy, too, ass.”

When questioned about the wristband earlier this morning, Brian said, “Oh whoa, I didn’t even realize I still had it on! I’ve been pretty busy this week so I haven’t found time to take it off. Got back to the gym, had a few Tinder dates, and I’ve been practicing my new product pitch for Shark Tank. It’s called Frat Chat, for lonely fraternity dudes to know when another lonely bro wants to hang out. Hey now that you mention it, me and my buddies did go to a pretty chill Dave Matthews concert on Saturday. It was an acoustic set. Dave was playing guitar and whispering into the microphone. It was a special night, man.”

It’s unclear when Brian will remove this subtle reminder of his social life, but many in the office are inferring that it has begun to smell. It’s important to know that the wristband doesn’t just reflect on Brian’s life outside the office, it’s a cautionary tale for all Alpha Pis. When you burn too bright in college, the flame of life is harder to sustain. Also, if you’re burning in college, please see the campus physician and have that looked at.

Anthony Salerno is from Buffalo, New York. He is a current DCH student and performs with Ewing Troupe: Clementine. When he’s not working at Improv or his day job, he’s trying to talk himself out of buying Uncrustables at the grocery store.

(Image: L.A. the Blog)

"Rogue Tooth Fairy Menaces Small Town" by Jamé McCraw

Edna Waterson, 82, was the most recent victim of an unsettling crimewave that has menaced the small town of Smithfield, Iowa. Waterson woke on the morning of May 12 to find that her dentures were not in their usual place by the bathroom sink. What she found instead was a small stack of shiny quarters. Smithfield residents of all ages have been losing teeth and waking up to loose change. This is the first reported incident of someone losing a full set of false teeth.

Sheriff Donald Doppler has been leading the investigation of more than 38 reported incidents.

“At first, we thought it was a prank by some rough and tumble elementary school kids," Doppler said. "Everybody knows that when you lose a tooth, the tooth fairy is gonna come for that tooth. It seemed like the kids were setting traps to fall down intentionally. But then we got reports of teeth not just falling out, but being removed entirely.”

The incidents were spread out across town and afflicted children and adults alike. Kevin Sanford, 32, woke to find his incisor was missing. Like other incidents reported, the dental extraction was done with extreme care and precision and resulted in absolutely no pain.

“It doesn’t hurt a lick,” Sanford said. “I wish the culprit had taken the tooth that had been bothering me. I have a rotten tooth in the back that needs a root canal. But now I’m down one of the good teeth.”

A quarter was left beneath his pillow, as well as, but along with a very important, sparkling clue: glitter.

“I’ve known Kevin since he was a boy and there is no reason for glitter to be in the man’s house this far from the holidays. I think we are looking for a rogue tooth fairy,” Doppler said. “We are almost certain of the ideal trap to catch her.”’

The town of Smithfield will host its first "Smithfield Smiling Festival" on June 3 in the Town Square. There will be a mouth-rinse gargling contest, free toothbrushes for the kids, and plenty of plaque candy to go around. Admission is free and the festivities begin at 10 a.m. Sheriff Doppler would like to remind attendants that the “buddy system” is mandatory, as there may be a dangerous tooth fairy in the vicinity.

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.

"How to Survive that Wedding You Don’t Want to Go to" by Anthony Salerno

May 8, 2017 (Dallas, TX) – Spring – a season that brings revival to all things that have gone dormant from the fall through winter. The season when animals awake from their hibernation slumbers and venture out to find food, a new home, and possibly a mate. A time when life is renewed. Those joyous few months when it seems like everyone you’ve ever met has found someone to share their life with, but first the wedding.

Yes, spring may bring life to many things, but it is a deathblow to your savings fund and free weekends thanks in part to the barrage of wedding invitations stuffed in your mailbox. Like a 10-point buck traversing the forest during deer hunting season, you too can navigate the nuptial season safely, and here’s how:

Say No

Many people don’t realize that you can actually say no to attending a wedding. Sure, it’s an option on that impossibly tiny card you fill out, but you don’t want to be rude, right? Wrong. Couples expect declines, that’s why it’s an option. So, before you go checking off “attending” like you're swiping right on Bumble, recognize that this is an adult decision and you’ll have to put on pants. Before you start picturing yourself dancing around like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, take a moment and come back to reality and know it’s far more likely you’ll drink too much, take an expense Uber ride home alone, and exorcize that prime rib you were so excited for into your toilet.

Solve the +1 Mystery

Make up a name right now and it has probably been used as a detective on one of the number of CSI shows CBS surprisingly keeps making. The difference between you and that fictional character is that you’re not a detective; however, you may need to play the part when figuring out if you have a plus one to a wedding. Did the invitation say “[Your name] and Guest”? Well, then congratulations, you probably have the option for a date. Any other combination of invitation address, guest option on the RSVP, or just a “Number of Guests” slot and you’ll have to do some sleuthing. Oh really, you want me to bring my entire softball team to your wedding, Erica? Oh you, don’t? Seems like an option by this RSVP card.

The Ceremony Is Optional

Nothing says, “share our special day with us” like stuffing into an old, poorly air-conditioned church in the middle of summer. It’s by far the least eventful part of the wedding. Although, if we’re being honest, there’s that exciting moment when the crowd is asked if anyone objects to the union, and that’s always some thrilling seconds of silence. At the reception, if the bride brings up that she didn’t see you at the church, always say you were sitting in the back to the right talking to her aunt (or was it the groom’s cousin?). Whoever it was, they were nice and bawling like a baby with you. If she still presses you, bring out your trump card (no, don’t grab her there…), switch subjects, and tell her she looks beautiful. If the groom asks you where you were… well, he won’t.

Find the Photographer

Now you’re at the reception and dinner is over. You’ve suffered through a way too drunk/nervous best man speech and a rhyming maid of honor speech that barely passes as a fourth-grade English assignment. You hear the first songs of the night come on the dance floor and you decide it’s time to cut bait. And bravo to you. You’ve shown up, contributed a gift to the couple, and maybe even tried to hit on a bridesmaid/groomsman. It’s time that you’ve made your exit, but first go the extra mile and find that wedding photographer to show that not only were you there, but you also seemed to be the life of the party. Try and make it in every shot the photog takes for a minute, progressively loosening your tie or taking off your painful heels. No one looks their best at the end of the wedding, so do your best iguana imitation and try to become your surroundings. Once you know you’re in at least five pictures, you can make your move to the exit sign.

Live a Little

We get it, your boyfriend's third cousin is getting married and he dragged you to it. You’re not even sure they’ll last, heck you’re not even sure you’ll last. But, you are dressed up, out at a large social gathering, surrounded by free drinks (hopefully) and a mediocre-at-best dance party. Appreciate the moment, for better or worse you’re with this conglomerate of people in this stuffy banquet hall. You’re not at work, filling out loan deferment papers, or trying to work up the courage to watch 13 Reasons Why. Alcohol does wonders as a social lubricant. Have a drink, enjoy yourself, and remember this evening in the future as the reason why you decided to elope.

Anthony Salerno is from Buffalo, New York. He is a current DCH student and performs with Ewing Troupe: Clementine. When he’s not working at Improv or his day job, he’s trying to talk himself out of buying Uncrustables at the grocery store.

(Image: EliteReaders)