interning

The Many Benefits of Interning at DCH

interns We all gravitate to improv for different reasons. Some of us are “the funny one” in our friend group. Some of us need an alternative to Toastmasters. Some of us just like the positive atmosphere. Whatever your motivation for getting involved with improv, the sense of acceptance and community imbued in the art form encourages most people to continue.

I learned about long-form improvised comedy in college. I spectated for a couple years and eventually began performing myself. I loved the support and silliness that accompanied every show and hang out. Improv became a major part of my identity and the primary recipient of my time and effort.

When I moved to Dallas last summer, I was acquainted with exactly zero people. It was just my girlfriend and me. I had no job, no friends, and no vehicle. I couldn’t speak to my credit score, but I felt like the target audience for a used car radio commercial. Despite a lack of professional direction, I knew my tribe. I sought out an improv venue within the first two weeks of transplantation: Dallas Comedy House (DCH).

After attending a couple of jams and while awaiting the start of the next class term, I found myself asking, “How can I get more of this sweet, sweet juice?” A kindly instructor pointed me to the intern program. By working at the theater once a week, you can get your class tuition comped. As a then-practicing “stay at home dude,” I found that arrangement ideal. However, after starting the internship, I discovered the benefits extended well beyond monetary savings.

Interning requires you spend an additional night of the week at DCH. Finding availability in your schedule is difficult, sure, but if you love improv, giving your time to it is the best way to learn. As an intern, you’ll get to seat the theaters and watch veteran troupes put on a show as part of your job. You’ll get to know the performers, and they’ll get to know you. You may even meet future teammates and coaches while at work.

Plus — and this is going to sound corny — you develop a sense of ownership while working at the theater. I take pride in ensuring that the night runs smoothly. It’s part of my responsibility. That’s what makes DCH feel like a community and not just a comedy club. You know the owners. You know the performers. That’s rare. That’s cool.

I’m starting my third term as a night intern, and the first as a house manager. I’ve met so many awesome people as part of this program that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to know. I don’t claim that interning is all sunshine and lollipops. Yes, sometimes you have to clean a bathroom or tell someone to be quiet, but there’s also a Fight Club-y, blue collar, greaser sort of understanding among the interns. We didn’t just buy our way through classes, we worked.

Whether it’s the fraternity, the social benefits, or the free class, there are a host of reasons to intern at DCH. As a newcomer to Dallas, the program has helped me feel at home.

Internship Applications for Term 2 are due on Sunday, January 31, and can be found online at http://dchbackstage.com.

Danny Neely is currently a Level 3 student at DCH. He works part time at a bakery and another part of  the time as a freelance writer. You can see him at the theater as one-fifth of the troupe Coiffelganger or as one-oneth of the Wednesday night house manager.

Hanging Up My Intern Shirt

16717105767_0b3134fea1_z Someone recently asked me if I had already sent in my intern application for the next term. My gut reaction was, “Oh no, I need to write a reminder to do that.” And then the realization hit me like all the times I’ve walked into a wall—I don’t have another class to take next term; my seven-term intern streak is coming to an end soon.

I signed up to be a night intern for level two, one of those sweet, patient students that you see working the door, stocking the bar, seating you, and running around trying to figure things out. I started working Wednesday nights, which happened to be (at the time) King of the Mountain and then the Jam. I like to think that being an intern is a very special experience, but that being a Wednesday intern was an even more unique experience. I got to be involved on a night where veteran performers were going up against new troupes at King of the Mountain, and then for the Jam where they were all playing together, being weird and having fun.

Witnessing this collaboration from behind the scenes taught me so much about improv, performing, and friendship. As my time as an intern comes to an end, I wanted to share a microscopic slice of what I’ve learned during my tenure.

You’ll get to know the people you look up to. When I started interning, there were so many performers that I looked up to and never thought I’d be lucky enough to call friends. When you’re a new improviser, or when you’re me, it can be an intimidating thing; to remember that everybody has been a new improviser looking up to a veteran performer can be tricky. I’m so lucky that I can call so many people I looked up to (and still do) friends now.

The Jam is about support. The Jam is The Jam. Sometimes it can be hard to watch, but ultimately, it’s about unconditional support. I remember my very first Jam I participated in, I ended up on stage with a bunch of great performers and I was terrified, but they weren’t there to tell me my ideas were too weird or that I was doing anything wrong, they were there to have fun and support each other, providing that sigh of relief that everything was going to be OK. I watched countless Jam scenes while interning, some good, some bad, but always a little heartwarming because everybody has everybody’s back.

Seat from front to back. No really, just do it. It matters. Amanda is right.

We’ve all been brainwashed, Pavlov’s Dogs style. I’m not talking the troupe P Dogs (though maybe they had a part in this), but the actual psychological experiment where Pavlov conditioned a dog to salivate when it heard a bell. I remember one night I was working the door, talking to a performer, and waiting for a show to start when we heard the first 13 seconds of Blink 182’s “All the Small Things” and we both automatically thought the show was starting. I still can’t hear the first 13 seconds of that song without a tinge of panic that someone should be on stage by now introducing the first troupe.

Jump in. I will fully admit that it takes a while for me to warm up to new environments and feel like I’m in my element. A general feeling of anxiety and awkwardness may be to blame, which is one of the reasons I started improv in the first place. I had no idea what I was doing when I put on that red DCH Staff shirt the first time, I was anxious about doing the job correctly, but interning became about so much more than just the duties. It became about jumping in head first to the deep end of the pool when you only kind of know how to swim. It was about fully immersing myself in the DCH community, watching people perform, making friends that support each other, and watching people do endless bits at the bar.

Jessica Dorrell is a graduate of the DCH improv program, and is currently enrolled in the sketch writing program. Her one wish is that some day she can have a Mogwai as a pet. You can see her perform every Thursday at 9:30 p.m. in the current Ewing show.