reading

A Dramatic Reading by Darek Tatum

Too busy to read to your kids (or to yourself)? Then listen in as Dallas Comedy House graduate and performer Darek Tatum does a dramatic reading of a series of children's bear books.

More dramatic readings are planned, so subscribe to his YouTube channel to stay updated.

Book Review: "A Bad Idea I’m About to Do: True Tales of Seriously Poor Judgement" by Chris Gethard

Chris GethardI’m going to try my best to avoid this post digressing into a love letter to Chris Gethard, but I can’t make any promises. I like weird people. More than that, I like people that help foster weirdness in others. I find an immense amount of comfort in someone that can help people see that they’re not alone in trying to accept themselves and then give those people a sense of belonging to something. This notion is how I stumbled upon Chris Gethard. Gethard is a veteran improviser with Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), a stand-up comedian, an author, and host of his own weird-as-hell late night show, The Chris Gethard Show (TCGS). Just a few things about TCGS: It started as a live UCB show, which then went to a public access TV channel in New York (and then most recently found a home for a season at Fusion Network), and it billed itself as “the most bizarre and often the saddest talk show in New York City.” If I had to use one word to describe the show, it would be “honest.” The show has a topic each week and has a celebrity, usually a comedian, on to help with weird segments and answer calls from viewers during the entire show. TCGS truly gives a voice to its fans and viewers, reinforcing that they belong to something wonderful and weird that anybody can be a part of.

I could go on for hours and hours about how perfect and unique his talk show is, but I’m here for a book review, so let’s talk about that. A Bad Idea I’m About to Do: True Tales of Seriously Poor Judgement is a collection of short, personal essays from Gethard, released in 2011 (yeah, I’m late, I know). I ordered the book after a recent nose-dive into the back catalog of TCGS episodes. Once the book arrived, I read it in under a week. Now, this might be a normal thing for normal people, but consider that I haven’t read a book in under a week in probably a decade and maybe this claim has more weight.

The collection of essays starts, quite literally, at his birth and spans up to Gethard’s present-day in 2011. Most of the essays are, at surface level, about growing up in New Jersey, moving to New York, breaking into comedy, and other typical “coming of age” tales you might expect to read from a comedian. That doesn’t mean the tales themselves are not gut-wrenchingly awkward and hilarious, but what stands out is how honest Gethard is about his struggle with mental illness and feeling lost because of it.

Gethard is brutally honest about a life-long struggle with anxiety and depression that always made him feel out of place in society. The book gives a voice to so many thoughts that I know I’ve personally had and deals with the question, “Am I going to be okay?” The overarching theme becomes his search for the answer to that particular question, and while the answer may not be black and white, the journey he takes you on to get there will leave you with a lot of hope.

Jessica Dorrell is a Dallas Comedy House graduate and performs in the troupes Wilma! and Summer Girls. You can see her in Stage Fright, a Halloween sketch show in October.

Get Ready to Share Your Most Mortifying Experiences

Mortified San Francisco at the DNA Lounge Sharing her weirdest adolescent secrets on stage in front of strangers turned out to be one of the most fun experiences Katie Moore ever had.

"It was heartwarming, cathartic, and hilarious," said Moore, who grew up in Plano and now lives in Austin, Texas.

The show Moore spoke of is Mortified Live, which is now opening a chapter in Dallas. Specifically, at the Dallas Comedy House. Even more specifically, the first shows will be Feb. 12-13, 2016. And to get deeper into the specifics, casting is starting soon, like on October 3rd soon.

"I'm thrilled Mortified has chosen Dallas Comedy House as its home," said Amanda Austin, owner of the world-famous venue. "We're continually working to offer a variety of unique and progressive comedy shows and Mortified fits that bill perfectly. It's a great concept with a loyal following, and I'm really excited to see it take off."

Mortified - Circle LogoMortified Live is celebrating its 14th year and has been featured on This American Life, All Things Considered, The Today Show, and more. If you've never experienced a live show, you can listen to its weekly podcast or watch the film, Mortified Nation.

"Being a part of Mortified changed my life. It doesn't matter if you were the football jock, drama queen, or band geek, we all can relate to the mortifying stories of you trying miserably to fumble your way through your feelings as a teen," said Anne Jensen-Smith, producer for the show. "Those feelings are universal, and their cringe-worthy stories are hilarious. This will be my ninth year producing Mortified, and I couldn't be happier to bring it to Dallas!

The Dallas chapter of Mortified Live will produce shows every three months for the first year and feature six-to-seven performers during each event.

Now is the time to dig out your most embarrassing teenage writings (e.g., diaries, poems, lyrics, fiction) and artwork and request to participate in the upcoming Dallas date.

"Mortified celebrates the fact that we all survived the most awkward years of our lives," Moore said. "It's universal - everyone can relate to something in the show."

Mortified

(Top image: Todd Hartman. Bottom image: Ashley West Leonard)

Book Review: “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” by David Foster Wallace

ASFTINDAIn 1995, Harper’s magazine sent David Foster Wallace on an all-expense-paid cruise in exchange for a piece to use in a future issue. Thus was borne “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” (originally titled “Shipping Out”). Anyone who has ever read Wallace or even knows of him can easily deduct that a cruise isn’t exactly up his alley, with the cheesy games and forced merriment and all. As you probably also guessed, dear reader, I was constantly laughing at Wallace’s take on what many people enjoy. (Full disclosure: I have been on a few cruises, and I must say that Disney cruises are awesome when you’re eight). I’m also sure that you’re wondering, why the heck is she writing about an essay that was published 20 years ago? Because it’s summer, and Wallace is hilarious. I think anyone who has ever been on a cruise, wants to go on one, or thinks they’re idiotic should read this essay. (Basically, if you’re apathetic toward cruises, then this isn’t the essay for you.) Also, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again" is an essay. It takes little time to read, so in the words of the ever-so-wise Shia LaBeouf, “DO IT! *FLEX* JUST DO IT!”

Wallace does not just talk about the various activities like ping pong tournaments and skeet shooting contests, but he also discusses things that should be boring in an impressively amusing way, like the wait to get on the ship. Whereas I would be bored in real life, Wallace points out the odd and funny things one can see during an annoyingly long wait. He also irrationally becomes a victim of ship envy. The way Wallace saw the funny and ridiculous in the world is refreshing, and if more people looked at it in a similar way, it would be an exponentially cooler place.

My favorite part of "A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again" is an experience in the ship’s game room. After noticing him playing alone, a nine-year-old girl challenges Wallace to a game of chess:

“Today, however, is the day I am mated in 23 moves by a nine-year-old girl…Deirdre seems like an OK type, though—I’ve played precocious kids before, and at least Deirdre doesn’t hoot or smirk. If anything, she seems a little sad that I don’t turn out to be more of a stretch for her.”

He recalls the game move by move and analyzes his own failure. What I love most about this particular situation is the fact that he is thwarted in the only truly Wallace-friendly activity on the ship.

And yes, I’m aware that this isn’t really a book review since I’m just suggesting one essay for you to read…And it isn’t really a review at all since the essay is so old. I guess all I really have to say is read it, it’s awesome, especially if you identify with Wallace’s point of view. So go look it up. There isn’t much summer left.

Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 4 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.

Book Review: "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Modern RomanceAziz Ansari’s book, Modern Romance, came out this past Tuesday—something I’ve been anticipating since watching a commercial for the book on YouTube two weeks ago (watch it here). “Hi, my name’s Mike, and if you’re sitting there watching this tape smoking your cigarette, well, hit the fast forward button ‘cause I don’t smoke and I don’t like people who do smoke.” Sold.

Anyway, as Aziz says in the commercial, Modern Romance is not a book of humor essays, but something “much deeper, much more engrossing.” And honestly, it was so gripping that I read most of it on my way to a wedding this past weekend (appropriate, I know). Aziz teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg of NYU to compile a huge body of research, gathering interviews, focus groups, and empirical data from other researchers to analyze love in this technological age. They explore romance in different areas of the world as well as online dating, texting, sexting, the paradox of choice, cheating via technology (shout out to Anthony Weiner!), and much more. Also, there are graphs! Lots of graphs!

Not only is Modern Romance incredibly well researched, as evidenced by the citations at the end of the book, but it is also hilarious. I could only read it in Aziz’s voice: “Unlike phone calls, which bind two people in real-time conversations that require at least some shared interpretation of the situation, communication by text has no predetermined temporal sequencing and lots of room for ambiguity. Did I just use the phrase “predetermined temporal sequencing”? Fuck yeah, I did.” There is room for both academic terminology and jest, which is seriously awesome and doesn’t make the book some droning research paper that no one wants to read.

Admittedly, I felt a bit self-conscious reading this book in public because of big bold letters of things like “ARE WE 'HANGING OUT' OR GOING OUT ON A DATE?” and “THE PROBLEMS WITH ONLINE DATING.” It was like a marquee screaming READ ME! I’m sure someone saw one of these section titles and thought, That poor girl is reading a self help book about romance. I hope she finds someone someday.

It never crossed my mind that I could read this book and it would give me some things to think about in my own dating life, as I was really just interested in the social science of it all, but Modern Romance has given me things to consider. I think so many people should read this book—fans of Aziz, fans of Klinenberg, anyone looking for a lover in this day and age (or just connection in general), pop scientists, Millennials, everyone. Not everyone actually, but still, I really want you to read this book.

Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 3 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.

Nick and Noa Wrote a Book and You Should Buy It

Imagine a world in which you have five days to save the universe. The only thing you have to do is buy a book. Easy-peasy. Nick NoaThat's right, at this very moment, on May 27, you have exactly five days to help fund a book that two Dallas Comedy House (DCH) performers have written. You may know them as Nick Scott and Noa Gavin, improvisers par excellence, and now you shall know them as Nick Scott and Noa Gavin, authors par excellence.

Their co-authored book, Practical Applications For Multiverse Theory, is currently listed on Inkshares, where it's going through funding in order to be published. If the book is in the top five sci-fi/fantasy pre-sales on Inkshares by Sunday, May 31, the book will be professionally edited, designed, and then published (sold on Amazon, Apple, Google, and shipped to independent bookstores and Barnes & Noble).

To help you know more about the book, I sat down with Nick and Noa in their Aspen, Colorado, writing cabin for a short interview.

Give me the elevator pitch. What's the book about in 30 words or less?

Nick: Two high school students who hate each other must stop all possible universes from converging on their high school and thus ending existence as we know it.  Was that 30 words or less? I’m too lazy to click on “Word Count.”

Noa: It was 41, Nick. You’re a failure.

What is this book's genesis?

Nick: That’s a good question. I think I was the one that approached Noa about writing something together. Writing is a lonely process, and I thought it would be fun to do something where I wasn’t alone. As far as all the ideas and whatnot, everything is so intertwined I don’t remember who came up with what or how the premise came about anymore.

Noa: Nick sat down with me on the brown couch in the old DCH lobby and said, “Would you...would you want to write a book with me?” And then he didn’t mention it again for six months.

Also, yeah, coming up with the plot and ideas, that was both of us. It all kind of snowballed.

How long did it take for you to write it and how many drafts did you go through before listing it on Inkshares?

Nick: Probably a lot longer than it should have. Our goal was to do a chapter a week. But we both went through break-ups and sketch shows and all kinds of stuff during the process, so it ended up taking like a year or two to actually get the first draft done. We only had the rough draft when we put it up on Inkshares. We’re in the process now of revising before (hopefully) submitting it to professional editors. So just one draft. Unless you’re counting the draft where Noa had to email and say, “Hey Nick, this isn’t a chapter, this is just you listing reasons you hate your ex-girlfriend” as a separate draft.

Noa: It was just a year, because at one point we just said, “SCREW IT JUST BURN THROUGH THESE LAST FEW CHAPTERS.” Stephen King was right: first draft is for the author, it’s about figuring out how the world works, so you include a lot of unnecessary details. We had a LOT of fun figuring out how the world worked, so we took forever. The first ¾ of chapters are really long, because we kept writing dumb jokes for the other one to find. Really dumb jokes, that we will most likely leave in, because we are not good people.

That was a real fun chapter, the Ex-Girlfriend list. Nick was not in a good place.

Since it's bi-authored, what kind of writing guidelines did y'all follow? For example, did one of you only write Scott's story line and the other Davey's?

Nick: Yeah, I wrote Scott’s chapters, and Noa wrote Davey’s.

Noa: No spoilers, BUT ALSO THERE’S A CO-WRITTEN CHAPTER WHERE THEY’RE BOTH IN IT. That was a spoiler. We also tried to be the most true to our character’s story. Sometimes the chapters are equal length, sometimes one is much longer or shorter than the other’s. Different people, different stories.

Nick Noa bookHow does improv influence your writing process?

Nick: Really, the whole process for this book was like a hyper version of the “Yes and” drill. We had a basic idea for a story, and the basic idea for the ending, but everything else was discovered on the fly. Noa would have no idea what I was going to be writing and send to her one week, and I would have no idea where Noa would take the story when she sent me her chapter the next week. Just like in an improv scene, if one of us said something or set up a rule for the universe in one of our chapters, it was immediately part of the reality. This was as close to improv that writing a book can be.

Noa: That’s really what made it so much fun to write. We had a really bare outline (we knew the school layout, we knew the three biggest characters, we knew the open and the close), and the rest was just us having as much fun as possible with our plot and our characters. It led to some really cool moments of group mind where we’d come up with the same thing, and just as many instances of, “Oh wow, that’s a really amazing scene/idea he came up with.” Now we have the fun ability to go back and look at a "scene" and then frame it into the best possible, most fun version of itself.

What have you learned about yourself by writing this book?

Nick: That I remember high school much too vividly. Also that I probably I find violence involving school supplies more hilarious than a normal, sane person would.

Noa: That I was much more angry in high school than I thought. That given the chance to fight or make a joke about it, Nick and I are vastly different in choice. I will always fight, preferably with the most Evil Dead-like weapon.

Nick: I think in real life I would probably fight as well, but the character I wrote in the book would definitely just make a joke and then run away as fast as possible.

You describe this as a sci-fi, horror, comedy young adult book. Who are some authors from those genres that influence your writing?

Nick: I think the most favorable comparison we’ve received is to that of David Wong, who wrote John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders. But all kinds of writers influence how I write: Stephen King, Christopher Moore, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Kevin Smith, John Scalzi, etc., etc. Oh also Kim Kardashian. That book of selfies she just released provided a lot of uhhh...inspiration.

Noa: I loved that comparison of David Wong because I think his works, JDATE (really unfortunate acronym there) and TBIFOS, are some vastly underrated books. They’re incredible, go read them right now. I’m also influenced by King, but add in a healthy dose of Joe Hill, Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, and Kelly Sue Deconnick. I preferred The Monster at the End of This Book to the selfie book. SLAM.

What kind of book would you like to write next?

Nick: Together? We have ideas for the two books to make this a Multiverse Trilogy. We also have another fun idea that we could write the same way and involves magic. Also a book of really sexy selfies.

Noa: The next two books get even weirder, so if this premise is too strange for you, STRAP THE FUCK IN. The magic book is going to be equally ridiculous, and we also have our own individual novels going (though those are much harder to finish). The sexy selfie book is the same format as The Monster at the End of This Book.

Remember, you have until Sunday, May 31, help fund this book. And as an incentive, every copy that you buy is an entry into a raffle drawing to get a character in the book named after you. Thank you for your support of Nick, Noa, books, and the universe.