Knowing Your Laughs

Top row: Houston Hardaway, Emily Gee, Cesar Villa. Bottom Row: Melanie Gotz, John Spriggs, Darcy Armstrong. All photos from Facebook. 

Top row: Houston Hardaway, Emily Gee, Cesar Villa. Bottom Row: Melanie Gotz, John Spriggs, Darcy Armstrong. All photos from Facebook. 

I was, as always, nervous before a sketch show, standing backstage in the P-Dogs theater. But then, I heard it. One very loud, “a-ha!” You see, I know that laugh. This laugh belonged to Houston Hardaway, my former improv classmate and troupemate. Hearing it immediately calmed my nerves.

That’s the weird thing about Dallas Comedy House. You get to know people’s laughs, which feels like a very intimate thing! You can hear Mike Ruckus chortle from the front row, Amanda’s laugh from the back, Jade laughing at a pun and saying “what.” It becomes a secret language across the theater, a warm blanket when you’re having a rough show or you’re trying a new thing.

So, I asked some of my favorite laughers around the theater about laughter. Melanie Gotz, warm laugh, the aforementioned Houston Hardaway, Emily Gee’s bubbling laugh, Cesar Villa’s truly tickled laugh, John Sprigg’s giggle.

What’s guaranteed to make you laugh in an improv show?

Houston Hardaway: Physical Comedy

Emily Gee:  When anyone just leaves a scene and slams the door (sorry door), it kills me. Raye Maddox once circled around the Tharp door, over and over again and I lost my shiz.

Cesar Villa: Because I'm so challenged by accents, when someone starts a scene with an accent and then realize they can't sustain it or get called out on it when it changes. "Wait, why are you Australian now?"

Melanie Gotz: When I get to see people out of character because they made a real life oopsie and had a real life reaction to their oopsie - it's usually when you get to see someone's true self and it's beautiful and I love it.

John Spriggs: Hands down, I laugh anytime it looks like they're having fun on stage. I love when I can tell teams have real love for each other. Also, whenever Mike Maiella suppresses a smile during a scene, it hits me deep in my soul and I can't help but laugh.

What’s guaranteed to make you laugh in regular life?

HH: People trying not to laugh and failing

EG: Anyone tripping, slipping or falling will always make me laugh. I️ know it’s not really the POLITE thing, but My mom tripped a lot when I️ was growing up on purpose and sometimes (mostly) accidentally just to make us laugh.

CV: When I trip or bump into something and I try to play it off like absolutely nothing happened I laugh at how ridiculous it is to hide it. Sometimes I'll laugh with whoever saw me and sometimes just at myself

MG: The work frick makes me laugh. Uhhh people dancing where there's not supposed to be dancing and then other people joining in.

JS: Probably something someone does unintentionally. For instance, I worked with a guy who would shake his foot anytime we drove around together. He would shake it so much it would build up momnetum and cause rhe whole truck to rock back and forth.

Do you have a favorite DCH laugh?

HH: If I had to name one, it would be Raye’s. So warm and full of personality.

EG: This is cliche, but I️ love Cody’s laugh. I’d recognize it in a stadium crowd.

CV: Chad Haught. If I here him laugh I automatically picture him standing in the back of the room elbowing the person next to him and motioning to the stage, "you see that?"

MG: Jade Smith and Danielle Seright's laughs always give me hope and joy

JS: My favorite DCH laugh is Tyler Simpson. It's so infectious. It reminds me of my Dad's laugh, actually. Make of that what you will.

Darcy Armstrong is a graduate of the Dallas Comedy House Improv and Sketch programs. You can find her performing with Walker Herschel, Serious Robots, and Glistlefoot, as well as the upcoming sketch show Stand by She. Otherwise you can find her at the DCH bar drinking Chardonnay and showing people pictures of her dog.

What We're Loving: Comedy Canons, Televison History, Self-Loathing Doctors, Classical Open Mics

image (3)Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison laughs in his cubicle, Ashley Bright runs for her notepad, Ryan Callahan sees a reflection of himself, and Amanda Hahn finds hidden treasure. Time_Bobby

It’s the best week of the year!  If you’re asking why, then you’re most likely not familiar with Comedy Bang Bang’s yearly triumph known as “Time Bobby.” AND THAT MAKES YOU DUMB.  Comedy Bang Bang is a free weekly podcast on which host Scott Aukerman invites guests both real and fake to join him in conversation.  Each installment of the show is different,  save for some recurring characters and, occasionally, recurring episodes.  Monday, May 12th saw the release of the third “Time Bobby,” a fan favorite episode which pits a Bobby Moynihan voiced orphan child named Fourvel (One less than Fievel) against Paul F. Tompkins’ Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber.  PFT appears often on Comedy Bang Bang because of his quick wit, character range, and phenomenal rapport with Aukerman.  But even though we get to enjoy about fifteen appearances a year of Tompkins on the broadcast, he’s always at his best when he’s paired with Saturday Night Live’s Bobby Moynihan.  Most of the time that PFT joins in on an episode, he and Aukerman are against each other, so it’s a blast to listen to them band together against the Moynihan’s orphan boy.

I’d recommend taking a listen if you enjoy any of the following:

  • Mnemonic Devices
  • Knives
  • STARLIGHT EXPRESS (Note: I bought a sweet Starlight Express poster this week.  Jealous?)
  • Holding back laughter as you listen to podcasts in cubicles

Please remember that there have been previous episodes of “Time Bobby,” so if you’ve been unaware of the franchise until today, YOU HAVEN’T EARNED THE RIGHT TO LISTEN TO EPISODE THREE, SO DON’T ACT LIKE YOU CAN JUST WALTZ INTO YOUR PODCAST APP AND LISTEN TO THE LATEST ITERATION LIKE YOU OWN THE PLACE.  You need to be aware of canon.  The original was released on 3/26/12 (Episode 150), followed by the second on 4/22/13 (Episode 215).  Also, there was an appearance of both characters on season two of the Comedy Bang Bang television show, but Fourvel and Andrew Lloyd Webber were not on the same episode so THE TV SHOW IS NOT CANON.  Listen to them all and you’ll know what to do the next time you’re with a group of people and someone yells K.N.I.F.E. G.R.A.B.! - David Allison

urlThis week I watched America in Primetime on Netflix, a four-part documentary that originally aired on PBS.  The show is broken up into four episodes based on different character archetypes of television: "Man of the House," "Independent Woman," "The Misfit,"and "The Crusader."  Show creators, writers, and actors are interviewed, and most have the opinion that television is the greatest medium because the audience truly gets to connect with the character. (Except for David Chase, who created The Sopranos, who has a particularly sassy and refreshing opinion that 2 hours is plenty of time to get to know a character.)

In the first episode, "Man of the House," Norman Lear, the creator of All in the Family, said something that made me hit pause and run for my notepad: "I take life seriously.  I see the comedy in it.  I see the foolishness of the human condition.  I delight in it and I've used it."  Full disclosure: I ran for my notebook because the closed captioning said "abused" and I loved that, but after reviewing the tape, he definitely says "used."  I still love the quote enough to tell you about it, but I may not have ran so quickly for "used."  Each writer and creator has a similar sort of take on their creation.  They were writing human beings, fully dimensional human beings.  Carl Reiner talks about unintentionally pushing boundaries with The Dick Van Dyke Show because he wrote a character who actually respected his wife.

I'm going to presume that if you reading this on the DCH website that you have some interest in comedy as an art form.  If so, I recommend watching this series.  It's a real peak inside the minds of some of the greatest storytellers of the last 50 years.  It's a testimonial to the fact that character is more important than plot, which you may have heard from time to time in your comedy journey.  Note: DO NOT watch "The Crusader" episode, if you haven't yet watched The Wire.  David Simon lays down some beautiful truth bombs, but there are spoilers galore. - Ashley Bright

house-md-1024x768Recently I resumed an old, bad habit from my college days: falling asleep to TV shows. Instead of reading a book, or letting the stillness of the night watch over me, I've been drowning out my constant inner monologue with the scripted television's aggressive noise. After burning through the first season of Brooklyn 99 and catching up on Parks and Rec and Community, I needed something new to sooth my soul, something comfortable, something familiar, something like House, MD.  I've always been a huge fan of procedurals. They satisfy my inherent need for structure and closure. I loved the show when it first began, ten years ago, but stopped watching somewhere around season four, either because life got in the way or the show's formula (House gets it wrong three times before discovering a secret the patient has kept from him and nailing the diagnosis on the fourth try) grew stale.

Having never watched the final seasons, and wondering how it all ended, I decided to pick the show back up. Naturally, because I have a terrible fear of not knowing things, I started from season one. It's been ten years since I've watched these episodes, ten eventful years in my life. House is still a compelling show, (in fact, so compelling that's costing me sleep. I can always watch one more episode) but compelling for different reasons. When I first watched, I thought House was the coolest character on TV, a total bad ass, the smartest guy in the room playing by his own rules, destroying people with withering  sarcasm while getting high the whole time. Now I see the sadness. The way he pushes people away. The way his selfish actions harm the people who love him most. The way he takes out his self-loathing on everyone who comes into his orbit. Where once I saw so much comedy, now I see tragedy. And I see an accurate portrayal of an addict. The sarcasm is still funny, thanks to Hugh Laurie's delivery and timing. There are times when I see him cut someone down, or deflect a question with a joke and I think, "I should act more like that." Then I remember I did act like that. And it was really lonely. - Ryan Callahan


dariusOn Tuesday night, I needed to find a place to work. With my eyelids getting heavier by the minute and my bed seeming closer and closer by the second, I knew staying home was hazardous to my productivity. Around 10:00 pm, I decided to head to BuzzBrews Kitchen on Lemmon Avenue. I was hoping to find friendly waiters, endless coffee, and plenty of room to spread out my work. What I found was even better. I found live classical music – totally free. Initially, when I entered BuzzBrews, the first thing I noticed was that it was surprisingly crowded. The second thing I noticed was that it wasn’t filled with college students studying for finals. This was an older crowd of people in their late thirties and early forties. Almost everyone was drinking wine. Many men were wearing sport coats and fedoras. There wasn’t a textbook or computer in sight. The third thing I noticed was that the music playing in the restaurant was very pleasant. Quickly after this realization, I noticed the fourth and most important thing: the beautiful piano piece I was listening to wasn’t a recording. It was live. I didn’t know this before, but every Tuesday night from 8:00 pm until 12:00 am, BuzzBrews hosts an open mic for classical musicians. I’m so happy that I found this that I’m downright angry that I didn’t know about this sooner. The casual atmosphere with a touch of class was exactly what I needed to focus on work but still be relaxed. The music throughout the night ranged from a cappella singers to fiddlers to pianists. Some acts were mediocre, but others were fantastic. These hidden talents of Dallas kept my head bobbing, toes tapping, and heart tranquil as I pounded out all the work I needed to finish. I know where I’ll start going every Tuesday night. But from now on, I hope to be accompanied by a glass of wine and a few friends, not my computer. - Amanda Hahn