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.
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.
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)