musicals

Jason: A Campy Musical

Jason A Campy Musical(Fade in. A cool October evening in Deep Ellum, at the Dallas Comedy House's Training Center. A nervous young woman clutches her phone and a notepad, shifting in a rickety wheelie chair. Three men sit opposite her, equally nervous and shifty-eyed. Every creak of the building is exaggerated in the silence before the Jason: A Campy Musical interview.) Me: Could you guys talk a little bit so I can see where to put the mic?

Jason: Yes. Colten's man-spreading.

Colten: I have stopped man-spreading because now I'm self-conscious about it.

Daniel: Um, you're still man-spreading a bit.

Colten: Really?

Me: OK, there we go. You might just need to talk a little bit louder...

Colten: (Very quietly) I can do that.

Me: So, with me, I have Jason Hackett, Colten Winburn, and Daniel Matthews.

(David Allison could not be there, so I've inserted his responses where appropriate.)

Daniel: Just to clarify, Colten is spelled with an “E-N,” not an “O-N.” It's a common mistake.

Jason: And his middle name is “Man-Spread.” Just let the record indicate that the man lives up to the name.

Me: If possible, I'll draw a picture. (It was possible. See below. I felt bad that only Colten had a nickname so I took the liberty of giving one to everybody.)

Jason Musical

Me: First of all, congratulations. Opening night was awesome, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Would you guys like to start off talking about the show's inception, how you started getting everything together?

(Everyone looks at Daniel.)

Daniel: Uh...oh boy. Well, I got the idea last September, and it did not start out as me saying, “I want to write a musical.” It started out because there was nothing good on the radio during a drive, so I turned it off and started trying to make up lyrics to a song.

Me: Like you do.

Daniel: Haha, yeah, like you do. Colten and I work on improvising songs together from time to time, and we had been doing that, so I just started making up words. And, I got the line, “You can't make a horse drink when you lead him to water / You can't hand me a knife and expect me to slaughter.” And I really liked that line and thought, “What the hell kind of a song would that fit into?” And so, it was kind of just like, yeah, Jason Voorhees, if he didn't want to kill for some reason. And then, I talked with Colten, and we made it into a full song, got with David, learned our parts, separated the music out, and did a Block Party last October.

Jason: Which I hosted.

(Block Party, by the way, is a great little running program at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH), which is now hosted by Sallie Bowen. If you have 10 minutes worth of a show idea, submit to Block Party. It might even be picked for a longer running show. Anything goes!)

Daniel: We liked it so much that we did an encore performance of it on Halloween.

Colten: Was that after my thing?

Daniel: Yes, actually, it was part of Colten's Stage Fright sketch show last Halloween. And then, Amanda Austin said, “If you can make that into a full show, you can do it next year.” And it was just like, “Oh yeah. We're gonna do a musical...This is a very storied history. This is going on Twitter, right?

Me: Yes. I'll upload it piece by piece.

Daniel: Then David and I started working in earnest – I want to say in April or May. We started by watching the first three movies in the series, because honestly, I had never seen any one of them all the way through.

Me: Really?

Daniel: Really. I don't have a particular affinity for the franchise or the character. It all started because of, “Yeah, he might sing that line about the horse.” I also watched Jason Takes Manhattan because it had a ridiculous title.

Me: Doesn't he go to space at some point?

Daniel: Yes. That's Jason X. It's the 10th movie in the franchise and takes place 200 years in the future when a group of scientists decide to re-animate DNA, and it turns out to be Jason Voorhees.

(Colten laughs.)

Me: My brain hurts. So does my heart...Once you started writing seriously, was there a process to determine who would be suited for this musical? Did you just think of people you knew around DCH?

Daniel: The casting choices didn't come until much later in the process. We had the script almost finalized, and – well. The script was in a good place.

Jason: I mean, is it finalized yet?

Daniel: No. It's a living document. We had it in a good place, though, and Colten and I diddled out a few songs.

Colten: Most of the songs were diddled out.

Daniel: It's an industry term. Rogers and Hammerstein were proficient diddlers. But anyway – we didn't really have anyone in mind other than David and myself. We were going to play the main characters because we deserved it.

Me: Haha, fair enough.

Daniel: We just sat down and hammered out who we wanted to see. Who we knew around the club that might fit into each type of role. And David introduced the idea where – it was very important to him to include some of the performers who might not have as much experience. He didn't just want all the old dogs on stage, which I think is a wonderful choice because that's – we got Houston Hardaway, Darcy Armstrong, Emily Gee, those graduates – we wanted people who would be very excited to be in the show.

(There's a sudden jingling at the door. A face gazes in, stained with blood and wild-eyed – oh. Wait. It's just Wes Davis and the Saturday night intern crew, coming in clutch to clean the Training Center. Thanks ya'll! Don't worry, Daniel was nice and let them in.)

Jason: Around this time, they brought me into the process. Before this point, I wasn't involved at all. Hey Daniel, do you want to talk about bringing me into the process?

Daniel: I've talked enough. Let's hear your perspective.

Jason: Well – they asked me. That was my perspective. They asked if I wanted to direct it. I've never directed anything before. I was also unsure whether they knew that I very publicly dislike musicals, and of course, they were aware, and that did not seem to be an issue for them. So I was like, “I've never directed anything, I'll definitely give this a shot.” They brought me into the process. We started figuring out who to bring in for various roles. We auditioned people – that was the first time I'd ever been on that side of an audition table, so all in all it's been very interesting.

Me: Do you still dislike musicals?

Jason: Yes. I like this one. But you will not find me watching any musicals.

Jason Musical

Me: People don't usually think of horror and comedy together, so how did you work to combine the two?

Daniel: Oh yes they do. Scary Movie?

Jason: Yeah! I'd say they have a history. For me at least, I think there's a lot of similarity in the reactions people have. Laughter and fear are pretty closely tied in that they are uncontrollable experiences. I'll laugh if I've been startled.

Colten: (gazing off into the distance) All comedy is derived from fear.

(The lights flicker. Wes Davis drops his mop.)

Jason: Not to dismiss your initial premise.

Me: Oh no, I asked that question so you would say that. I already agree -

Daniel: Is this just a game to you?

Jason: Are you the Jigsaw in this...Saw...interview? I don't know where that bit was going.

Daniel: Well yeah. If you look at being scared and laughing, they both have this element of surprise to them, where laughter comes from the unexpected, and so does being startled. Both have a build up of tension and a release, a catharsis. But then, in terms of doing comedy from horror, it works so well because horror takes itself so seriously. If you've ever tried to parody something that's already funny, you can't because [the humor] is already there. But with horror, when everything is played so dramatically -

Me: Oh it's very pompous.

Daniel: Very pompous – but there's no intentional humor in the standard horror film. If you go back and watch the Friday the 13th  movies, they're pretty funny now because they're...campy, badum-ts. Joke. See title of show. But they're absurd just because they're bad.

Me: This is a very prop-heavy show. Were there any memorable workarounds, things you had to MacGyver to work right?

Colten: That's more David.

Jason: Yeah, David took charge of making all of those. When I read the script, particularly the [redacted] that gets pulled apart...well. I don't want to reveal anything. Oooh, wait, can this be redacted?

Me: The whole thing? Sure.

Daniel: Also, redact the part where I say [redacted].

Jason: I read that, and I thought, “Well, we'll have to get a whole [redacted],” but the next time we came in, “Oh...David did it.” I was very impressed.

David's response after the fact: "I just find props so fun to build. One of my favorite writing drills is, 'What can't we do on stage?' and then talking through how we can pull it off. Prop construction was really satisfying, and I'm very proud of how they turned out."

Me: Colten. You're very quiet. This next question's just for you...

Colten: Yay!

Jason: I'll take this one.

Daniel: Let me just say...

(All laugh.)

Me: When Daniel and David came to you with song ideas – what was the process there?

Colten: Daniel covered the lyric side. He'd come to me with song lyrics, sometimes melodies, usually both – and a lot of times, I'd say, “What do you want that melody to be?” And he'd sing it, and I'd try to pick it out, put chords to it, flesh it out...We'd brainstorm, once over Skype. Like, “'Flee' is a good word. How can we work it in?”...So yeah, very collaboratively with Daniel.

Daniel: One of the things that – I'm gonna compliment you right now, Colten -

Colten: Um, redacted.

Daniel: One of the things that Colten is so good at...If I didn't know the melody but knew the feeling I needed, I could explain that [feeling] to him in these weird terms... "I want it to be sad in a folksy way, like if Peter, Paul, and Mary wrote a dirge.” And Colten goes, “Hm...How's this?” and played exactly what I needed. That happened so many times...three seconds. And it was perfect.

Colten: Aw. Thanks!

Me: Dang! That was beautiful. Do y'all have a favorite memory from practicing?

Colten: I don't know...first time seeing Houston do his hosting song was really memorable.

Jason: Oh yeah! From the moment he came in, it was amazing.

Daniel: He did a great job of understanding that character and putting his on spin on it.

Jason: Mine would be my only contribution to the script, which would be Darcy's guitar solos. When I actually saw it in action, I was like, “Yeah. I made the right choice. I'm glad I added that.” That was the only thing I added out of whole cloth.

Me: I especially liked it because it gave a whole corniness to the whole thing...like a 90s sitcom.

Jason: Now that you say that, I want to add [redacted]...oh. Um, redact that.

Me: The whole thing?

Daniel: Yes. Let's just start over.

Colten: Second to that would be me playing "Ghostbusters" before the show. And then they asked me to play it again and again...

David's response after the fact: "Damn it, I was gonna say the first time Houston did the song! Um, maybe the time that the water pole fell out during a really emotional scene. The loud "THUD" juxtaposed against a tender moment in the middle of a stressed rehearsal was just so funny."

Me: Awesome. If there is a train going from Kansas City to Dallas at 60 miles per hour, who really killed Jason Voorhees?

Jason:...Those seem...unrelated.

Daniel: I want to hear what Colten says.

Jason: Yeah.

Colten: Hm...that throws everything off that I knew about Jason.

Daniel: Yeah, it only works if you're leaving from Dallas to Kansas.

Me: OK, then let's say that. What's your theory?

(Jason giggles.)

Jason: Is it a train or the band train?

Daniel: Oooh! How fast is it and/or they traveling?

All: Sixty miles an hour.

Colten: That's pretty slow for a train.

Daniel: I don't know... I mean, technically, the lake killed him.

Colten: But he's not dead.

Daniel: Yeah, so...nothing's killed him, though the lake did it temporarily...water.

Colten: The lake.

Me: Water or the lake?

Colten: The train.

Jason: Train water.

Me: That works. I'll accept that.

Daniel: That bit didn't go well. Redact it.

Colten: Just include my part about the band Train.

Me: Will do. Also, I think that's it...

Daniel: That's it?

Me: Unless you'd like to answer my other standard sketch question.

Jason: What is it?

Me: If this group was a vegetable, what would it be?

Colten: A pumpkin.

Daniel: 'Cause it's spooky.

(Jason laughs.)

Me: OooOOoohh! SpOOooky!

Colten: It's well carved.

Me: Is that a machete joke?

Colten: Um...yeah. Halloween, machete, it's anything you want it to be.

Daniel: It's a really gourd cast.

Me: Oh, [redacted] you.

Daniel: That can stay in.

Jason: Uh...pumpkins. They're not vegetables, are they?

Me: Oh, no. They're fruit. They have seeds.

Daniel: What's the most pumpkin-y fruit?

Colten: An eggplant!

(Why does everyone always want to be an eggplant? I'll never understand.)

Me: Oh, the FCC was already an eggplant. I apologize.

Colten: A carved eggplant?

Me: Doesn't count.

Jason: Um...Spaghetti squash.

Daniel: 'Cause it looks like brains?

Jason: Yeah, yeah!

Daniel: We're confident in our answer.

All: Spaghetti squash.

David's response after the fact: "That works for me because I love spaghetti squash and I love this show!"

(Fade out. A machete speared through a rubber chicken fades in. The credits roll:

Jason: A Campy Musical involves the talents of David Allison, Darcy Armstrong, Joseph Delgado, Emily Gee, Jason Hackett, Houston Hardaway, Daniel Matthews, Tyler Simpson, and the musical talents of Colten Winburn. The show is teched by Doug Caravella. If you'd like to see the show, it's running every Friday for the rest of October at the world famous Dallas Comedy House. Get your tickets while they're hot!)

A final comment from David: "[The cast and crew] were all a dream to work with. Seriously. Educated performers that have a detailed eye and are willing to speak up. And their work ethics!" 

(I'm sure they were, David. I'm sure they were.)

Jason Musical

Emily Baudot is a DCH graduate and sketch student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner.  Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.

(Poster: Houston Hardaway. Drawings: Emily Baudot. Photo: Jason Hensel)

Sketch Speak: "Trump’d: The Musical" - The Off-the-Record Interview

trumpd-posterI know you know it, but it has to be said: If art can send messages, comedy can scream them like your violently political uncle. But in the same way that not all political uncles are immature screamers, comedians can make effective points without embarking on diatribes. True to form, a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) sketch show has struck this balance in a fun, exciting way. They even put music to it! Trump’d: The Musical, directed by Kyle Austin, honestly portrays the show’s namesake and his recent…shenanigans. (Kind of a light word, shenanigans. Escapades isn’t right either…Crusade? Sure, that’s a nice, strong word with no historical significance whatsoever.) It stars the writing, acting, and vocal talents of Ashley Bright, Sallie Bowen, Josh Hensley, Cody Hofmockel, Andrew Plock, and Gabe Vasquez. Though they were not present for this interview, the show received invaluable help from Raye Maddox as show tech, Randy Austin as the show’s composer and live pianist, and Lauren Levine as assistant director. Despite their exhaustion (it’s no easy thing to do an hour-and-a-half long show), they very graciously accepted my request to interview them. The transcript follows. First of all, congratulations, that was a wonderful run. The advertisement that you put out, it’s just Trump’s wig and his name. A lot of people might think, just based off the look of the poster, that this is show driven by politics. Was your goal in writing this sketch to be political?

Cody: [quoting the show] Politics, politics, can be fun.

Josh: [quoting the show] Politics, politics, kill someone. I mean, yeah, wasn’t that basically the whole case? We came together, and we all wanted to do something that was important, and not all of us feel like this election year is really the greatest, and who hates anyone more than Trump, you know? I think it was all political in nature, if you had to look at it.

Ashley: We talked about the issues before we decided on Trump. I mean, we didn’t know we were doing a Trump show when we started writing.

Cody: I think it was on everyone’s mind.

Josh: I think there was so much material with Trump as the character he’s presenting – I don’t think we have a super political agenda, we just made fun of Trump.

Andrew: We did take little snippets of like, what we hate the most about the kind of things he’s spreading – hate against immigrants, hate against women, the weird things he does with his daughter, and all the weird stuff he’s about.

Ashley: And just, how did we get to now? You think in the ‘90s, like who Trump was then, and he’s seriously the Republican political candidate? Like, how did we get there?

Trump'd

And so, using comedy to make a more serious approach to how you feel?

[All laugh.]

Well, you know what I mean.

Cody: Well, once we started, once we decided, “Hey, this is a topic right now, and we can do this and people will respond.” I think we tried to be the least political – I mean, we tried to be as silly as possible. And not really try to push a huge political message. More like, “Hey, this is the show we’re going to do, but we’ll keep it true to the people that are writing it, and just be silly rather than political.”

That makes sense. When you were studying your… "artistic subject," – what kind of research did you do, for Andrew when you were getting into character to imitate him, and when the rest of you were writing about [Trump] for Andrew?

Andrew: I don’t know – for me it was just, I think we all shared a lot of articles about his worst quotes and things that he’s said, which a lot of material just presented itself. You don’t even have to change anything half the time. Everything he says is so ridiculous in the first place…but for me, I just watched him give some speeches, his hand motions, stuff like that.

Kyle: His little bitty hand motions?

Andrew: His ittle bitty hands…Oddly, it felt really easy to be Trump, I don’t know why.

[Author note: I would hazard a guess that it’s because he’s a walking caricature, but who am I to cast judgement upon such a towering, orange monolith?]

Andrew: It’s not a great Trump impression – it’s all body language. And that’s the main thing that I got from it, is that he uses his body a lot to talk…[under his breath] because he doesn’t have good words, probably…

Gabe: And even if you follow the news badly, you know about Trump. It writes itself, because everywhere you turn there is something.

Ashley: Which is why we didn’t go that way. You saw the show, we didn’t write about Trump himself – and when we picked periods of time to send him to, we thought, “What is this time period, and how does it mirror what Trump is about, like the sexism of the witch hunts. That was more what we were going for, with that.

Josh: And every week, people would come in like, “Did you hear this? Did you hear that?” And we had to have a cutoff date, we had to stop writing new stuff and just improvise the show after a certain point. We actually stopped writing at the Republican National Convention – like it says in the beginning of the show, we couldn’t keep up. But even after that, it was so funny to hear us all come together and say, “Did you hear this? Did you hear about this? How ridiculous.”

Trump'd

Is it different when you write sketch to accommodate songs?

[All laugh]

I mean, obviously it was. Could you talk a bit about the ways that you wrote and how those ideas came about?

Cody: Thank god for Randy.

[All agree.]

Andrew: That’s Randy Newman Austin.

[All laugh]

Gabe: That was the thing about it, though. We could write ideas of what we wanted a song to be like, or what to do, and then to come back the next week and he’d say, “I’ve got it! I’ve changed a little bit of it, but it’s the same thing,” and man, ‘cause none of us have that musical background needed to write a song. We can do lyrics, we can be funny about it, maybe, but not make the music like that. It was so hard to tackle, and I don’t think we could have done it without Randy.

Kyle: That’s for sure.

Cody: We would kind of – I guess, when we decided to write a musical, one of the first things Kyle made us do was have everyone go write a song. And so we’d write some lyrics and have a little tune in our head, and when we brought Randy in, we’d just be able to sing the tune we thought of and he would…just be able to play it, because he’s ridiculous. And we worked with him enough to where we got a cohesive song.

Did you have to do vocal training of any kind to –

[All laugh REALLY hard, like, I was killin’ em, guys.]

All: Yes, yes.

Cody: Um, yes.

Kyle: …When I asked these guys if they wanted to do a Trump show, they said, “YEAH!” I asked if they wanted to do a musical - “YEAH!” Can anybody sing? “…ehhhh…”

[All laugh.]

Kyle: I think what’s great about this is that the content is so rich, the songs are so catchy, that we didn’t bother with worrying about that. We knew it’d be fine. It’s a musical that we put together in two-and-a-half, three months. It should’ve taken six months to do. And the amount of time that people put into it is very obvious. When people come prepared and ready and know their stuff – you know how much time they’re putting into it, how many times they’re listening to that song in the car, or at work or whatever. Josh got caught working on Louis and Clark at work doing this [Kyle bobs up in down, in the style of the dance performed during the show].

[All laugh]

Tump'd

Was there a particular part of the show that ya’ll enjoyed the most? Performing, writing?

Andrew: I think everyone’s got their favorites, right?

Cody: My favorite line in the whole show is when Trump says, “I can pivot.”

[All agree.]

That’s a very good line.

Cody: I just think it encompasses the entire show.

Josh: I love Louis and Clark.

Cody: That’s my favorite one, too.

Sallie: Gets me every time.

Gabe: I like the now. We aren’t learning the show any more, and we can just have fun with it. And – oh my god, the preview was so stressful!

Really?

Gabe: I mean, it was our first time performing in front of an audience. And just, “[Redacted] do I remember this line, that line, do I remember where to step?” Now we’re past that point…it’s more second nature, and –

Cody: Now we’re changing stuff, improvising, [redacted] with each other.

Kyle: And, how many people was that their first time to sing in front of people?

[Half the group raises their hands.]

Ah, so that’s Ashley, Terry…

Kyle: Um. That’s Gabe.

[Cue me crapping my pants.]

Oh – what? Oh my god, Gabe, I’m so sorry.

[All laugh]

Andrew: Oh no, don’t worry. That’s what we call him, Gabriel Terry!

Kyle: Off the record, my favorite part is where [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted]. Off the record, of course.

Off the record, gotcha.

Andrew: Oh, and how [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted]. Off the record, too.

Trump'd

Haha, OK. And last question – this comes standard – if your group was a vegetable, what would it be?

Cody: [no hesitation] Corn.

[Author’s note: Please see my interview with the Look at Us show for reference.]

[Andrew laughs.]

Josh: Everybody’s corn…

Cody: [sadly] No, we’re not corn.

Ashley: Maybe we can be moldy corn.

Andrew: Yeah, we’re moldy niblets.

Kyle: What would Trump be?

Cody: An orange bell pepper?

Gabe: Or a carrot, maybe?

A taco bowl?

Sallie: That’s it. That’s what vegetable we are. A taco bowl.

Kyle: We would be Home Depot filled with taco bowls.

Josh: Yes. Agreed.

Gabe: Hm…Maybe an eggplant?

Ashley: I was thinking an eggplant, too!

[Everyone babbles excitedly]

No, The Wrong Party was an eggplant.

[Everyone awws dissapointedly. Go look at that interview, too.]

I’m sorry…I mean, ya’ll could be eggplants too…

Ashley: Maybe an orange eggplant…?

Cody: What’s a type of vegetable where they’ll be like, “Oh, wasn’t expecting that…”

Andrew: What’s a vegetable that has tiny hands?

Josh: Potatoes?

Kyle: We could do like, baby snap peas?

Oh, well, ginger, you call them “fingers of ginger.” That’s like, the technical cooking term or whatever.

Josh: Huh. That’s pretty good.

Gabe: Ginger is gross.

Kyle: What vegetable describes a bunch of random people that probably haven’t worked together a lot in other settings coming together and talking through it at the beginning (followed by yours truly) all pretending to know what they’re doing, and then faking it until we make it?

Ashley: [disgustedly] What vegetable is that?!

Cody: Yeah, what even is that?

[All laugh]

Gabe: Well, we just made that vegetable.

Cody: Wait, we brought a potato up…

Josh: Ooh! A sweet potato!

Ashley: A sweet potato, yes!

Sallie: A yam.

Cody: Once you peel it away…

Gabe: A potato is used in a lot of ways. Very versatile, you can use it in all three meals of the day, snacks…

Cody: Also very accessible to the masses.

All: Ahh, yeah…

Gabe: You could fry it, you could bake it, sauté it…

Kyle: The versatility, that’s worth throwing out there. True to Trump.

Cody: [to me] So, a potato. Sweet or unsweet.

Starchy and terrible for you.

Andrew: [in Trump’s voice] But oh so satisfying.

[All laugh]

Nice…I think that’s all the questions that I have.

Andrew: [In Trump’s voice] All I gotta say, is that if you see Derek Jeter, run. Don’t ask questions, protect your nuts, and turn the other way.

Trump'd

The Dallas Comedy House prides itself on being an open forum. Anyone with a show idea, script, or routine can submit to dchbackstage.com and it will be considered for a show slot. I bring it up because DCH did not ask for this show to be made. Rather, people moved by today’s political atmosphere came together and made it happen. This in itself says something about the passion they have for their subject, and if you can get yourself down to the House to see it in action, you certainly won’t be sorry. So go buy a ticket…and for God’s sake, go vote, too.

Emily Baudot is a DCH graduate and sketch student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner.  Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.

(Poster: Ashley Bright. Images: Jason Hensel)

What We're Loving: Narrow Genres, Gothic Impressions, Busting, Moving

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison forgets to cite Chuck &  Buck, Jonda Robinson admits bias, and Molly Jakkamsetti has children dance for her enjoyment. MV5BMTQ5NDQ5Nzg2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjI3MDc1MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_I think the most specific genre of film I enjoy is what I call “Movies about a crazy person that puts on an independant play.” Before you fly off the handle and talk about how that’s barely a genre, let me remind you of Waiting for Guffman and Hamlet 2. Both are great films and both belong in that ultra specific category. But because this subset is such a small slice of the movie pie, I don’t often get to enjoy new releases. That’s what made this week so cool! We’ve got a new one for the pantheon! Beep! Beep! Beep! I don’t know why I put those there. I checked out OJ: The Musical and since it’s part of my favorite genre, it’s what I’m loving this week!

OJ: The Musical, formerly known as Orenthal: The Musical, follows the struggle of Eugene (Jordan Kenneth Kamp) as he moves to California to put on a musical and reunite with friends from his past. The music is really fun and fits the wacky tone of a musical about OJ Simpson. What I really appreciated about this movie though, was the way it showcased the mental instability and insanity of many creative people. The movie has it’s flaws, but the performance by Kamp and the music make it well worth viewing. - David Allison

urlI’m afraid someone’s been stalking me. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but it’s the only way I can explain the most recent installment of The Dead Author’s Podcast that dropped this week. It’s like they made this one just for me, as this episode features one of my favorite funny ladies, Lennon Parham, playing the part of one of my favorite authors, Flannery O’Connor, to create a delightful hour of literary discussion. It’s one of those things that I didn’t even know I needed, but now I’m so glad I don’t have to live without.

In case you aren’t familiar with The Dead Author’s Podcast, it involves time-traveling literary legend H.G. Wells (played by Paul F. Tompkins) welcoming some of our greatest authors (played by some of your favorite funny people) to the present for a chat on their work and their life. In this installment you get to hear about everything from the effects of lupus on Flannery’s life (“three-legged races, no sir”), to her disdain for spending time with people (she’d rather just write them a letter), to her infatuation with birds (minus swans, as she claims they are “bitches”). If you haven’t checked out this podcast before, this is a great episode to start with. Or maybe it isn’t. I don’t really know, since I’m biased, because they clearly made this episode specifically for me.

If you listen to the podcast and want more Flannery in your life, I suggest you give “Good Country People” or “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” a read. To see more of Lennon’s work, go watch season one of the sitcom she created and stars in with her BFF Jessica St. Clair, Playing House, then join me in urging the USA Network to renew it for season two. - Jonda Robinson

When-THe-DJ-Drops-Ur-JamI am not a big meme follower. My favorites are LOLcats and anything with Condescending Willy Wonka. In fact, I am not even 100 percent sure what "meme" means. It’s like the title of something, right? Someone help me understand Internet terminology!

Well a meme is what I am loving this week. A co-worker showed me this one – it’s of a child, and the meme is “when the DJ drops your jam.” The child is at what has got to be at a church. There are adults in front who appear to be looking down at hymnals and singing. They are blissfully unaware that behind them, a future club kid is raving it up. (Do people actually rave anymore? Forgive my dated references. I haven’t hit ‘da club’ in many a year.)

The music that is playing over is I believe is what the millennials call “dub step.” It fits pretty well with the child as she flails her arms about. And her little face is so serious, as anyone would be when her jam is being dropped. Like “YEAH IT IS ABOUT TO GO DOWN,” and indeed it does, for 45 seconds. And that is all it is, but it is beautiful in its simplicity. Just an innocent toddler, being taken over by the power of BASS. Whatever the actual music was must have been extremely moving, because this child is working it (I told you my references were dated).

You can easily find it on Facebook or You Tube. I encourage you to use it as your inspiration for the next time you need to bust a move (still dated). - Molly Jakkamsetti

What We're Loving: Unpopular Opinions, Hidden Upsides, Deleted Context, Specialized Pitching

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison makes a bold statement, Jonda Robinson fails greatly, Amanda Hahn needs a mind break, and Ryan Callahan goes to the bullpen. imgresSometimes I really hate popular opinion. There’s a collective hive mind that we all participate in and often times cinema is significantly affected by it’s whims. You’ll hear about this amazing movie that “everyone” loves, set plans to see it opening night, and then realize within five minutes that Benjamin Button is terrible. But you can’t say anything about how much you hated it because it gets nominated for Oscars and stuff. The opposite happens too and it’s even more disappointing. There are so many movies that our pop culture group mind simply rejects and we’re not supposed to give them a chance. Then, like an idiot, I see one of these flicks, love it, and can’t talk about my adoration for it in fear of receiving palpable judgement in return. The current film I feel self conscious about really enjoying is something that was released on DVD this past week: Muppets Most Wanted. AND IT’S WHAT I’M LOVING THIS WEEK. There, I said it.

Where are you going?

Don’t run away yet!

Hear me out on this. Yes this commercial failure that you didn’t hear anything good about is not a great film. With that said, there are numerous factors that make it highly enjoyable to watch. First, you’ve got solid performances from Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell. See, that’s not so bad! You liked them in that other thing you liked, so that’s gotta count for something. Also, it’s basically a musical and contains about ten full length songs, most of which were written by Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords). Flight of the Conchords was your favorite show! Plus, McKenzie won an Oscar for the tunes he wrote for the previous Muppets film, so that helps. Oh and it’s the Muppets! You remember how much you loved them as a kid? You would’ve killed another child, straight up murdered a newborn, to go to Muppet Treasure Island with the gang.

So give this movie a shot. Even if it means sneaking it home in a pizza box and watching it under the cover of darkness so that your friends don’t judge you. - David Allison 9780345472328_p0_v2_s260x420

Lately I’ve been trying to look at the positive side of failing. For example, last week I was visiting a friend and we decided to go eat at a certain restaurant. We got a cab and made the trek across town during rush hour, only to find out that they were closed. Sigh. Trying to look on the bright side, I told her that it wasn’t a total waste because it was a mistake we’d learn from. She appropriately rolled her eyes at me.

In an effort to prepare for another year of teaching middle school, I’ve been learning more about the concept of learning through failure from the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck’s theory is that there are two kinds of mindsets that you can have: the fixed mindset, in which you believe that your intelligence and talents are fixed and do not change, and the growth mindset, in which you believe that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. For the fixed mindset, failure is a terrifying thing that says, “You’re not enough.” But for the growth mindset, failure is a perfect opportunity to learn and become better than you were before. According to Dweck, you get to choose which mindset you approach life with. If you’d like to see which mindset you currently lean toward, there’s a quiz for that! And if you’d like to attempt to change your mindset, there are steps for that!

Some of the most fun things I have done in the past year, from taking a sketch writing class to wakesurfing, were scary things that I at first said no to because I was afraid of failing. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to try, I highly suggest that you go for it, even if you’re afraid you’ll fail at it. It’ll help you become a cooler, better version of yourself. And if you need something to help you get motivated, check out Dweck’s book to give you that little push that you need. - Jonda Robinson

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The end of each semester is typically unusually busy. This summer’s semester has been no exception. Sometimes you just need a mind break from everything. I found the perfect one: Ads Without Context . The name is misleading because it’s more like “ads re-contextualized” than ads with no context. And thank goodness it is. This entire feed is just .gifs from infomercials with captions giving new context to the melodramatic ads. The mix of the silent overacting overlaid with the captions is endlessly silly and delightful.

Some are simple.

Some are gross.

Some make me laugh out loud.

Some are weirdly sad.

And many more are endlessly re-watchable.

So turn off the TV and tune into No Context Ads. The infomercials are way better on there. - Amanda Hahn

51fbRsn29aL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_You ever find a book and feel like it was written just for you? That's how I feel about The Setup Man: A Novel, the debut thriller by T.T. Monday. The book introduces Johnny Adcock, a 35-year-old lefty relief specialist for the fictional San Jose Bay Dogs. Johnny only pitches when the Bay Dogs have a lead, and only against left-handed hitters. He works about ten minutes a night. Most guys in his position would be content to chew on sunflower seeds and let the money roll in. Not Johnny Adcock. He's the restless sort. He needs something to fill the rest of the day. That's why he works as a private detective. Worried your wife is cheating on you with the pool boy? Someone from your time in the minors trying to blackmail you? Johnny Adcock is your man.

The Setup Man combines my two favorite things: Private detectives, and private detectives who are also other things. Private detectives are my favorite fictional characters. As a child I loved them all: Encyclopedia Brown, Thomas Magnum, Rick and A.J. Simon. The A-Team was essentially a private eye super team. In high schoool I discovered Humphrey Bogart's Phillip Marlowe, still the greatest onscreen P.I. ever. After college I devoured the Continental Op stories of Dashiell Hammett, such as Red Harvest, for my money the best P.I. novel ever. I've spent many an afternoon or evening binge watching reruns of Psych or Monk. Private detectives are the best.

But the private detective who is also something else is even better. How can something be better that the best? Here's how: What would be better than a private detective who investigates the paranormal? Oh, I don't know, maybe a  private detective who investigates the paranormal and has a day job as a lifeguard. What could be better than a private detective played by Andy Richter? A private detective / accountant played by Andy Richter! And what could be better than a private eye who investigates the seedy underbelly of Major League Baseball? A private eye who investigates that seedy underbelly while having to pitch to lefties every couple of days.

I started reading The Setup Man late Tuesday night and finished on Wednesday. Once I started, I had to keep reading. That's about the highest praise you can give a P.I. novel. I needed to know what happened next, and I wanted to see how Johnny Adcock would solve the case. The book isn't perfect. There are a couple thudding moments of authorial intrudsion that feel like an after-school special, and the book jacket inexplicably features a right-handed pitcher, but the plot moves, the tone is charming, there is a vivid cast of characters, and the details about day to day life in the majors seem authentic. I can't wait for Johnny Adcock's next adventure. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Comeback Stories, Little Lord Legs, Michael McDonald Deep Cuts, DCF14

DCH_what we're loving_3_14_14Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Julia Cotton speaks to the self-loathing narcissist in us all, Ashley Bright needs tiny legs, David Allison makes a That's My Bush reference, and Ryan Callahan shamelessly plugs his own work. 369Dan Harmon is the genius that introduced me to the love of my life, Donald Glover, by creating an awesome show called Community. Around Season 2, I found myself listening to every interview he did and then consuming everything he’d ever created. I could tell that he was a person who absolutely cared about humanity, honesty, harmony, and 'Harmon’. He was clearly a narcissist while simultaneously being very self loathing. It’s a personality combination that can lead one to often feel very isolated, often be misunderstood, and often get fired.

When he was fired from Community, I was heartbroken. I’d become so dependent on his voice that I felt a little more lonely and weirdly… rejected. It was like whoever fired him had also fired me.

Luckily, he began the Harmontown podcast. It is premised as a town hall meeting to plan the founding of a colony of like minded misfits. The question is ‘What do we need to form a functional society?’ The podcast features some improv, made up songs, and freestyle raps (that are clearly performed by a white dude in his 40s that is NOT named Eminem). There are many special guests (Bobcat Goldthwait, Robin Williams, Jon Oliver, Mitchell Hurwitz, frequently Kumail Nanjiani). Around episode 6, it was decided that each show would culminate with a game of Dungeons and Dragons (see Community S2:14). In that episode we are introduced to Spencer Crittenden - an audience member randomly chosen to be Dungeon Master.

Harmontown went on the road and was filmed. It documents Dan’s journey which ultimately leads him right back into the arms of his lost love (Community season 5!). It also chronicles him and his girlfriend going through relationship woes and eventually becoming engaged. Harmon suggests that perhaps the most interesting story is that of Dungeon Master Spencer as he takes an unexpected journey into celebrity.

The documentary really highlights Dan Harmon’s effect on the people who call ourselves “Harmenians”. What we have in common is this feeling of never quite “fitting in” and often feeling misunderstood and rejected. Dan Harmon has shown us how to take those feelings, and fuse them into creativity.

You can check out the trailer here. - Julia Cotton

Nigel-Lindsay-as-Shrek-and-Nigel-Harman-as-Lord-Farquaad-in-Shrek-The-Musical.-Photo-by-Brinkhoff-MögenburgI've had one of those go-go-go weeks, where I didn't make adequate media absorption time for myself. I did watch the True Detective finale, but so did everyone else and their dog. Dogs love Rust Cohle. I watched some more Sopranos, but I dabbled on that topic last week. I did have a Gilmore Girls watching evening with Mr. Terry Catlett. No, I won't be sharing the joys of Stars Hollow with you. In fact, I'm going to use this forum to ask you to share something with me. Let me explain. You may not know this, but TC (Terry Catlett for some of this entry) is a big fan of musicals. After watching Rory move into her dorm at Yale, we watched Shrek on Broadway on Netflix. I can't lie; I didn't really dig it, although there were some very inspiring stage setups. Here's what I did love: TC was absolutely tickled by Lord Farquaad's tiny legs. I had a giggle fit just watching him have a giggle fit. I've tried searching for more big bodies with tiny leg gags, and I've come up with nothing except for some unfortunate real-life body disfigurement. I saw some stuff I can't unsee. So, first, I'm asking for any videos of a similar tiny leg gag so that we can all continue giggling. Be careful on your search; I'm telling you there is stuff out there that will burn onto your eyes. Second, and more importantly, can someone help me make some tiny legs for Terry? I can provide materials and I'll do the legwork (pun!), but I need some help figuring out how to make them functional with bending knees. I should note that I cannot sew. I'm not sure if that's important. - Ashley Bright south-park-the-movie-back-cover-98981I love alliteration! In celebration of that fact, I’m creating “Movie Soundtrack March” to showcase great comedy soundtracks that go underappreciated. The only rule for my weekly pick is that the soundtrack has to mostly be comprised of original music.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone are geniuses. You know that. The problem is that they’ve created so many amazing things (South Park, Team America: World Police, Cannibal, Orgazmo, BASEketball, Book of Mormon) people tend to lose track of things. Heck, just by attempting to create a list of their work, I’m sure that I’ll get critiqued because I forgot something random, like That’s my Bush. It happens when two people create such a consistent collection. Because of that, I’m going to highlight my favorite piece that they did, a soundtrack that they don’t get nearly enough respect for; South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.

The movie was the first time that South Park began to receive acclaim as something more than a show that gets by on the shock value of kids not acting like kids and the quality of each musical number was a big reason. For starters, you’ve got “La Resistance” and “Up There,” which are fantastic parodies of “Do you hear the people sing?” (Les Miserables) and “Part of your world” (Little Mermaid) respectively. Next, check out Big Gay Al’s one man show stopper “I’m super” and be reminded that people used to shop at Mervyn’s (And reference it in song!). Still not convinced? Well let me remind you that MICHAEL MCDONALD CREATED AN ORIGINAL SONG FOR THE ALBUM. Midway through the track, he just starts advertising his friend Keith’s car detailing business. Yes, not every track on the album is great, but there are so many gems that it is well worth revisiting. - David Allison

14517_10152631209974056_1575422524_nI'm loving many things the week: The Daniel Bryan angle on RAW Monday, learning that Night Hawk is a non-fictional producer of Salisbury steaks, watching my girlfriend watch Game of Thrones, (What!), but most of all I'm loving the anticipation for The Dallas Comedy Festival. This is my first festival and my first experience with the heightened intensity, the crackling energy in the air, the camaraderie as the DCH team hustles together to get ready. I'd call it the Super Bowl of Comedy, but that would probably get me sued, so I'll call it the SuperWrestlemaniaFinalsCup in Memory of David Von Erich of Comedy to be safe. Man, it really feels like the SuperWrestlemaniaFinalsCup in Memory of David Von Eric of COmedy around here this week! There's so much going on.

The Dallas Observer wrote about out "pretty killer" lineup, (quotes means you aren't bragging,) while the Dallas Voice was struck by the strong bonds formed at DCH.

Jason Hensel and I had the opportunity to speak with some of the talented men and women who will be performing at the festival. If you're a comedy nerd you'll appreciate the many discussions on craft and technique. If you're not a comedy nerd you are clearly in the wrong place and horribly confused. Take a deep breath and back away from your computer.

Comedy nerds, get to know some folks a little better:

- Executive Branch - Saffy Herndon - Gramt Redmond - Christian Hughes - Rob Christemsem - ZOOM! - Susan Messing - And more to come next week!

By the way, I'm still loving Rick Ross. Guys, it might be serious. - Ryan Callahan