This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of watching The Wrong Party, a sketch production written and directed by the FCC. The FCC is an all-minority sketch group made of Dallas Comedy House (DCH) regulars: Julia Cotton, Jerrell Curry, Paulos Feerow, and Jade Smith. For those not in the know, the sketch production primarily focuses on issues of race and status. And guys? It’s one of the best sketch shows I’ve seen come out of DCH. The writing is strong and true, their performances were genuine, and the entire piece was a roller coaster of emotions. They candidly address horrible truths about our culture with grace and, incredibly, hilarity. They look their audience in the face and talk about what it’s like being at “The Wrong Party.” (See what I did there?) Reader, if you care about modern comedy, if you care about writing, you must see this show. It is non-negotiable. Go buy your ticket now.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Good. Your country thanks you.
The good people of the FCC hung around after their stellar performance to answer some of my questions:
Julia: All right, let’s do it!
Julia: Thank you for doing this, by the way.
Me: Oh, well thank you guys for letting me talk to you.
Julia: Yes. You’re allowed.
Me: Can you tell me a little bit about what FCC is?
Jade: It’s just kind of something we came up with. The way we wrote the show is, we met for – how many months?
All: Like four.
Julia: Yeah, they all talked about it, and then I showed up on one of the random days that you, where you just show up at DCH, and they said, “Hey, we’re thinking about doing a show! You should come do it too.” And I said, “Fine, I’m not doing anything, like raising my children. I’ll hang out with you guys once a week. So yeah."
Jerrell: We’d been kicking it around for a long, long time before we even – I actually think we almost had the same idea separately, like, “Oh yeah, we should do this.” And then – haha – maybe like a year and a half before we spoke to each other about it.
Julia: We’re all in very separate circles.
All: Yeah, yeah.
Me: Cool – since you all, sort of, came to the same idea – was it inspired by particular events you all experienced? I’m sure it was different from all of you.
Paulos: I’m not going to try to speak for everybody, but I’ve seen them play in improv or sketch, and they would make smart moves when race was brought up, or when being a woman was brought up. You know – smart moves that weren’t just the obvious joke. I wanted to write for them, or at least do something with it.
Julia: Yeah, at first it was very much “Let’s do something.”
All: Yeah. Yeah.
Paulos: The more that we wrote – and really, the more that we hung out, the more ideas we had that were really fleshed out.
Jade: I think the reason it happened is that we were experiencing a lot of the same things in our comedy careers. And not just here, but in general, from beginning to now, a lot of us were having the same experiences, and together we were able to flesh out some really fun ideas.
Jerrell: It’s been, like, the most cathartic five months.
All: Yeah! It has.
Me: I can imagine, yeah.
Jerrell: It was just, “Oh. I need this.”
Julia: I mean, on the real, we were able to say a lot of things out loud to each other that we’ve been thinking for a long time, but we needed the group to be able to let it loose. Being able to do that and put those things that we let loose into something as awesome as it is on stage – I think we all feel really good about that.
All: Yes, agreed.
Me: That’s really cool – and I was actually about to ask you – the links, the “behind the scenes” parts, did those come out of real conversations?
Julia: Very real.
Jerrell: A lot of those were verbatim, how the conversation went.
Julia: Especially the Cosby one.
All: Oh yeah!
Julia: Cause I tried a very horrible Cosby impression, and then we all went, one after the other.
Me (to Jerrell): I have to say, that part was somehow so fun, and your commitment to that was amazing.
Julia: I mean, that’s pretty much Jerrell’s role. It’s always silly, but we’ll be on one page about something, and then Jerrell will just take it somewhere completely far away.
Paulos: Yeah, he’ll just…(Whooshing noise)
Jerrell: You know, I did that impression, and I’ve never actually seen an episode of The Cosby Show.
Me: That’s so great…I’m sure that each of you brings something different to the table. If Jerrell takes it to a new and different place, is that true for each of you?
Jade: That’s a good question.
Jerrell: That’s a really good question.
Julia: I can say that Jade, to me – this is the second time we’ve written something together, and even back to that first time, she’s so smart. Like, she’s like a whiz kid if we were a family.
Jade: So I’m like, Tahj Mowry?
Julia: (Laughs) Yeah, ‘cause that first day when we were working on the Disney roast, she came in with a stack of jokes already ready. But she didn’t just rely on that. Quick-witted. Her brain works so fast, and it’s always funny. So that’s who I say Jade would be.
Jade: Heeyyy. OK, OK, all right.
Julia: Killed it. Killed it.
Paulos: Well, if we’re speaking for people…
Paulos: I think Julia is – I’ve never seen somebody hear an idea and just get the logistics of it down. And then know to just – “Let’s heighten it here, or let’s take things in this direction.” She’s really good at punching up your thing. And also, the “Hey Mr. DJ” sketch is probably my favorite, and I don’t think we even messed with that. It was good from the first time. She was able to help us get everything tight and better.
Jade: I would say that, ah, Paulos over here…
All: Oh shit! Ooooh!
Paulos: I’m the foreign one!
Julia: He’s not of this world.
Jade: Paulos has such a strong idea of what’s funny, and what comedy is. He’s able to pull it out of anything. Ideas that I would never have thought of in a million years, and we’ll do them on stage and [redacted] kill. And I just – oh. I don’t think I can say ‘[redacted]’.
Me: I mean, the last interview I did, they said [redacted] like eight times.
Julia: Oh! So that was the redacted thing!
Jade: (Laughs) Yeah, and so the last thing – Paulos has a really strong idea of how the audience will take something. I think it’s his stand-up background.
Jade: Sometimes I’m like, “How the [redacted] do you know that? HOW DO YOU KNOW?”...And, uh, that’s us.
Paulos: We are all beautiful.
Jerrell: (Singing) You are beautifu-ul…
Julia: We are all very attractive. Make sure that’s written in there.
Me: (Salutes) Yes ma’am.
Jerrell: Title the article that way, too.
((Done and done!))
Me: I have to commend you guys. I feel like you did a very wonderful job of presenting some particularly sensitive issues on stage, but still maintaining this…somehow, you managed to make it fun. And I don’t know how you pulled it off, and I just watched you do it.
Julia: I think that’s because everything we talk about on stage is very real to us. We just happen to have a really good time with each other, and, thankfully, we’re able to make sure that translates – it just comes off on stage, because the whole time, we’re having fun.
Paulos: The first couple of meetups that we had, I was like, “I don’t know if they’re gonna think I’m funny – “
Jerrell: Yeah, exactly.
Paulos: But then, it stopped being about being funny. We literally were just having fun. I feel like we wasted a month just talking.
Jerrell: This thing was really written in the last two-to-three weeks.
Julia: And it may have been just us sitting around, but that was so important, though. Because we don’t hang out every day, we’re all in different circles. So the first two-and-a-half, three months was us having deep conversations. And we were able to translate that into all of our sketches, I think.
Paulos: Yeah, for sure.
Me: Awesome guys – I have one last question. This comes standard. If your group was a vegetable, what would it be?
Julia: Oh, it’s gotta be like, a big-ass eggplant. Right?
Jade: Yeah, yeah…like an emoji.
Jerrell: Giant, giant eggplants.
Julia: The girthiest of eggplants.
Jerrell: None of that Whole Foods [redacted]. We’re Trader Joe’s.
Julia: Maybe even like, a Kroger one that’s been injected with a bunch of –
Jade: This is the eggplant that ate the other eggplants.
Jerrell: Boom. Yeah.
Julia: What’s that movie with the big plant?
Me: Little Shop of Horrors?
Julia: Yeah! Yes!
Jerrell: (Laughing) “That movie with the big plant…”
Julia: Yeah, like at the end of the movie, the plant’s like “Feed me, Seymour!” and the eggplant’s like, “[Redacted] you. Imma eat you.”
Jade: And Rick Moranis is still in it.
Jerrell: I thought you were going to say Rick Ross.
Me: I want to see that.
We hear a knocking.
Christie Wallace: Hey, Jerrell. Do you remember we have a show?
Jerrell: Oh! Yes, I’m coming!
Me: And I think that ends it.
Aren’t they lovely? I thought so.
And ya’ll know, I can’t leave anything alone without my two cents, so as a farewell note: Comics have such an interesting place in performance art. They can brighten a room, they can make an audience laugh, or cry, or gasp. They can speak honestly about things that hurt, and things that should change but can’t. I think every comic wants to be that kind of performer, the kind that can make a group nod, “So true, so true.” The kind of comic that can do it well, though – that’s something rare. It is easy to bandwagon or rant, but the comedian that can show you her perspective, and even convince you of her side, they are precious not only to fans but to an entire culture. I genuinely believe that FCC has four of them.
(I asked them what FCC stands for…Paulos said Fight Club Clips. Jade says [redacted] Calvin Coolidge. So the consensus is that they’re working on it.)
Emily Baudot is a Level Five improv 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.