shows

"The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Sketch Shows" by Chad Richards

It was the beginning of a new term and my six Sketch 3 classmates and I were waiting in the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) lobby for the class to start. There was a table with nametags out for us. On top of the bar were stacks of Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within with a sign indicating they were for sale. We were trying to figure out what was going to happen next when we heard a booming voice come over the P.A.

“ARE YOU READY TO SKETCH?!”

We were confused.

“ARE. YOU. READY?!” The voice repeated.

We heard movement above us. Suddenly, noted motivational speaker, business guru, and life coach Tony Robbins rappelled from the rafters and met us on the floor.

“ARE. YOU. READY?!” He exclaimed again. His headset microphone shook as he emphatically pointed at each one of us. We looked at each other, began a slow clap, and knew we were ready. We followed the spray-tanned genius into Tharp theater, where he presented us with a life-changing lesson: "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Sketch Shows." I am now humbled and honored to present these lessons on to you.

  • Take Things to Extremes

    • The smallest kernel of an idea can turn into the most delicious piece of sketch popcorn. In general, I’m a pretty reserved person. Pushing things to the extreme is something I struggle with in improv and when I’m writing. But when you can really commit to a sketch and get to those extremes, it’s magical. Push the people you’re writing with to get there.

  • Find Fun Takes on Common Things

    • Everyone wants their comedy and writing to be relatable. Everyone also wants to come up with the most original and creative idea ever put on stage. Let the latter come from the former. Relatable things are relatable because they happen every day. Relieve yourself of the pressure to come up with grand ideas by looking at the day-to-day from a new angle.

  • Be Positive

    • This is something you hear over and over from instructors and performers at DCH, but sketch is where this has really clicked for me. Our Level 2 and Level 3 sketch shows have started with a very rah-rah opener. That energy and enthusiasm carry over for the rest of our shows. I can see it in my cast mates’ performances, and I can feel it in my own.

  • Weird Works

    • When someone pitches an idea that’s a little strange, find the fun elements and run toward it with your arms wide open. It may very well turn into one of your favorite sketches if you embrace it with the right attitude.

  • Be Aware of Your Resources

    • DCH performers are more than just hilarious comedy brains. Sometimes, they have an intricate knowledge of a particular topic. Sometimes, they are prop masters. Sometimes, they’re willing to buy lots of wigs and costumes to help the jokes land. Use your full toolbox when you’re writing and planning your sketch show.

  • Have a Pudgy Guy Take His Shirt Off

    • No need to mess with a classic. A pudgy guy without his shirt on is vulnerable, yet whimsical. That’s really what good writing is all about.

  • Enjoy the Process

    • Putting on a sketch show is a lot of work. There has been lots of writing, rewriting, rehearsing, and memorizing. I have caught myself feeling the work weighing on me. Thankfully, my cast mates; Jonda, our teacher; and Cody, our TA; have been there for me to bring back the fun and silliness every step of the way.  

I’m not sure how Tony Robbins made some of those of points so personal to me, but I suppose that’s just part of his wonder. Thanks to Tony Robbins, and all of our teachers and TAs, for guiding my classmates and me through this program. We can’t wait to perform Frisky Business three more times. We would love for you to come see it.

Chad Richards is a graduate of the DCH improv program and is currently graduating from the sketch program. In his free time, he likes to tell people that he likes writing. He performs with Sunglow and The Big Short. Frisky Business runs July 12 at 7:30 p.m. and July 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.

(Photos by Jason Hensel)

What We're Loving: Robots, Vagaries, Wise Bloods, Pretentious Stabbings, Our Own Work

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison has his childrens' names picked out, Sarah Wyatt finds a book that's better than people, Jonda Robinson lowers the age mean, Brittany Smith sees white men finally get their due, and Ryan Callahan has a sketch show to plug.  Cleatus2_2012111112064234_600_400It’s football season, but who cares? I mean, who wants to watch a bunch of millionaire jocks hit each other until they’re concussed? Wait, cancel that rant, I love the NFL. With that said, the main thing that I’m excited for isn’t football, it’s the NFL on FOX intro.

The glory of the introduction animation for NFL football on the FOX network isn’t one specific thing; it’s two. First, the theme song. Think about the coolest you’ve ever felt in your life. Maybe you finally got that guy/gal to go out with you, picked up some cool new sunglasses, or were walking away from a giant burning building. Take that feeling, that emotion, add snare drums and an electronic orchestra and you’ve got the theme song.

The other half of the wonder of the NFL on FOX intro comes to us in the form of a dancing robot named Cleatus. Whoa, that’s a lot to breakdown. First of all, yes this means that FOX continues to love animated dancing after previous showing off it’s affection with the dancing baby on Ally McBeal. Second, yes the name of the robot is Cleatus and I would hope no one apologizes for it because the name makes me want to have an army of children, just so I can name them all Cleatus.

Whether you watch football or not, that’s your call. But taking in the NFL on FOX intro should be mandatory viewing every fall for every person on every planet. - David Allison

_panther booksI’ve been really bad about reading lately. I mean really bad. I’ve probably read, like, two books in the last year, which is especially awful because I used to work at a library and regularly knock out a book a week. I got back in the habit (Sister Act 2) this past week when I read Demian, by Herman Hesse. Woah, y'all. This book blew my mind a little.

It’s like an adult version of Catcher in the Rye. It’s full of universal feelings and moments of transcendence that, if we are lucky, we all feel at some point in our adolescence, young adult life, and beyond. Demian is the story of a young man, Sinclair, and his travels and experiences throughout his young life, always feeling pulled and pushed towards something bigger than himself.

To say that I enjoyed this book is putting it mildly. I loved this book. This book made me turn away from the internet, from socializing, and burrowed its way into myself and made me feel something truly special, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt absorbed. I gave myself wholly over to reading a book and imagining the world inside of it and it was awesome.

I’m writing in vagaries because I wish that each and every one of you who read this (thank you) comes to it as open as I did. It’s a short book and so worth your time. If you’ve been looking to get back into reading, if you’ve been looking to feel something, if you’ve been looking to have your mind blow, boy did you come to the right comedy blog post. - Sarah Wyatt

DIH_0This week I’d like to introduce you to a little place in Dallas that I enjoy, The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.  Because I live my life like I’m 67 instead of 27, I’ve spent way more time at this Uptown address on Routh Street than I have at any of the hip bars and restaurants that neighbor it.

The mission of The Dallas Institute is “to enrich and deepen the practical life of the city with the wisdom and imagination of the humanities.”  Here are some of my favorite things about it:

1. Dr. Louise Cowan is a Dallas treasure. This awesome 97-year-old lady helped found The Institute in 1980, and in 1991 she won the Frankel Prize (now known as the National Humanities Medal), which gives her something in common with Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, and Steven Spielberg.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak on any topic, I suggest you listen up.

2. It’s a great place to get your learn on. The Institute offers classes in which you can dive deeper into a piece of literature or learn about specific topics. (If you’re a teacher, you can get big discounts, and there is even a Summer Institute you can attend.)

3. The wine is always flowing, and the snacks are always delicious. If you attend a class at The Institute in the evening, you’ll get a side of wine and brownie bites to go with your studies.

4. It’s the perfect place to wear a blazer. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll take any opportunity I can find to wear a blazer and pretend I’m Liz Lemon.

5. You’ll most likely bring the average age of the group down substantially. And hey, you could probably learn a thing or two from your elders.

If you’re looking to learn a little and meet some interesting people, check out their upcoming classes and events. I would be taking their Flannery O’Connor class on Thursdays this month, but I am a part of a sketch show called Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations. running each Thursday in September at 8:00pm at Dallas Comedy House…*wink* - Jonda Robinson

FrankThis past weekend I saw Frank, the tale of a white guy who saw something cool and sought out to make it his. Not exactly uncharted waters, narrative-wise, (see National Treasure, 500 Days of Summer, the founding of the United States), but it makes for a charming two hours nevertheless.

Our protagonist, Jon (Domhnall [actual first name, not a collection of syllables] Gleeson), stumbles upon a band in crisis and fills in at keyboard when their band mate attempts to drown himself in the ocean. From there Jon and the audience are introduced to Frank (Michael Fassbender), the charismatic and paper-machè masked leader of the group. Jon is immediately taken with Frank and his world and wants to be a part of the fun.

This is a mistake I have certainly made on stage, you see your friends out there having a blast and you devise a way to insert yourself into the madness. And as anyone knows who has tried this, it rarely works. Jon learns this the hard way and comes out the other side a man much different than the one we met at the top of the film. The film also meditates on the origins of creative talent and the value of likeability, which I know all sounds quite pretentious, but it goes down easy with a fun cremation mix-up and stabbing scene. - Brittany Smith

10649706_754258354815_8449199643302227645_nThere's no subtle way to go about this, so I shall be frank. I'm plugging my own stuff this week. Specifically I'm plugging Charles Dicken's Great. Expectations., the all-new sketch revue that runs every Thursday night in September at 8PM. (Get your tickets now.)

Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations. is the first sketch revue written and performed entirely by students of the DCH sketch program. Previous shows that came out of the program featured a series of stand alone monologues, or a bunch of scenes, but this show ties all the elements together in one thematically whole show. And it features an excessive amount of needless punctuation in the title.

This is actually a dual plug. I'm plugging the show itself, which we have spent months working on, under the instruction and direction of Nick Scott, and which we are very proud of and hope you enjoy, AND I'm plugging the sketch program in general. If you have ever considered, even remotely, signing up for sketch class, I highly suggest you do it.

Sketch offers the opportunity to dig into a scene and create the best comedy possible. I appreciate the way the format allows me to hone my performance, to try different phrasing and cadence  to see what works the best. For a writer like myself, sketch offers the chance to tie things together in a way that I don't always get with improv. All those ideas I get on the drive home: "I should have shown emotion instead of talking about it," or "That scene would have killed if it had more references to one-term presidents from the 1920's,"are now in play. Sketch offers the chance to do it again, and get it right this time. In a way, it's like having a mini time machine, only without the fear of accidentally landing on Hitler and being forced to take his place as some sort of new Hitler. - Ryan Callahan

Prom is for Adults, Too...

By Mike Corbett In case you haven’t heard, it’s prom season, and this year those high school brats aren’t the only ones celebrating. This Saturday, May 31st, at 10:30pm, The Dallas Comedy House is throwing a prom of its own! Things will kick off with a special show featuring lovely ladies of LYLAS, and their dates for the evening, the dashing men of LYLAB. After that, everyone will dance the night away, create lifelong memories and make questionable decisions, just like a real prom!   Buy your tickets now, they’re going fast!

In honor of this momentous occasion, I’ve decided to take a look at some of the classic prom songs you’ll no doubt here when you hit the floor with your date for one of those special slow dances.

Heaven by Bryan Adams Our first number comes from Canada’s greatest export, Bryan Adams. This ballad was a smash hit back in 1985, when the prom dresses had more ruffles than a potato chip factory, Aquanet was just starting to burn a hole in the ozone layer, and people actually cared about Bryan Adams. The song was inspired by Journey’s “Faithfully” which Adams heard when touring with the band in the early 80’s. The video features Adams singing to stacks of televisions in an empty room. I imagine these days he does the same thing, but has each TV showing a crowd of screaming fans, his personal version of heaven.

Here’s to the Night by Eve 6

Once dismissed as one hit wonders, Eve 6 came roaring back in 2001 with Here’s to the Night, cementing their status as a two hit wonder. Here’s to the Night became an anthem for graduating classes in high schools and colleges that summer, and remained a popular prom song for several years afterwards. The video features a house party, all filmed via a hand held camera, because teens loved that kind of shit back then. It’s why this video looks like a mellow version of Can’t Hardly Wait or American Pie.

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day

Truly one of the most beautiful and poignant songs ever written.

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this article is no longer capable of being objective towards Green Day having been a huge fan for 20 years. It’s pretty bad, and may have at one point caused him to get an awful tattoo in honor of the band, which later had to be covered up. It’s also entirely possible that this was the only song he would dance to at his prom, a decision his date was not pleased with. Surprisingly, he is still without a date to DCH’s prom. But man, what a great song.)

 

More Than Words by Extreme

Before his incredibly successful run as the lead singer of Van Halen, Gary Cherone was the lead singer of Extreme, and produced one of the least extreme songs ever written. More Than Words was a huge hit in 1991, despite being about as exciting as elevator music. The video matches that intensity quite well. It’s black and white and features Cherone, looking like someone who produces elevator music, seemingly serenading his guitar player. All the while a few other people sit around, clearly confused about whether or not they should leave and give the pair some privacy.

 

All My Life by KC and JoJo

In 1997, KC and JoJo left the group Jodeci, put out this chart topping hit and promptly disappeared from popular culture. But what a gift they left us. This song was still being played at my prom in 2004, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it carried on after that. There’s not much to note in the video, just a standard performance intercut with some scenes of love and affection. It is worth noting that KC and JoJo are dressed like the much more fly cousins of Morpheus from The Matrix. We can all only hope to one day achieve a scarf game that strong.

I hope this look back has gotten you excited for the 2014 Dallas Comedy House Prom. This Saturday night, come on down, have some laughs, and make some memories, all without the fear of having to have an awkward conversation with a chaperone.

Mike Corbett is a Level 2 Sketch Writing Student at the DCH training center and an intern for the DCH blog. You can read more of his comedy stylings HERE.