"Comedy Debut: How to Get Started in the Funny Business" by Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa

So you want to try your hand at comedy, but don’t know where to start? Here are five steps to take to get you to the laughs.

1) Go see shows.To find the style of comedy that suits you the most—improv, stand-up, sketch, or a combination—you first have to see the varying types and styles. Fortunately for you, Dallas Comedy House (DCH) has all three types on rotation from Tuesday through Saturday each week. Check out the DCH monthly calendar to find something you’d like to see.

Bonus: Free shows happen weekly, too! Check out the free King of the Mountain show on Wednesday nights and the free Improv Playground on Thursday nights.

2) Go to a free Jam or Open Mic.Now that you’ve seen a few shows, you’re probably thinking, “Hey! I can do that! That looks easy and oh-so fun!” Well give it a go at a Tuesday night Jam. Improv Jams are come as you are, do as you do. They require no sign up and everyone can participate, from the passerby off the street to the seasoned performer. Open Mics require a bit more forethought: You must sign up by midnight the Sunday before and you must have three-to-five minutes of prepared material. Both are a great way to practice what you’ve got.

3) Take a free class.What, more free stuff? Yes! (We don’t want you to be held back from your dreams.) DCH offers a free improv class on the last Wednesday of each month. You don’t have to sign up, and you don’t have to know what you’re doing. You just have to show up and be willing to have fun.

4) Take more classes and learn to write your own material.After you’ve narrowed your focus to the style of comedy that you prefer, it’s time to get really focused and dedicate yourself to learning the craft. New courses begin monthly, including the upcoming Summer Improv Intensive for adults and Summer Camp for Kids. Classes meet weekly and culminate in a showcase of student work. Internships and scholarships are available to those who qualify. Courses include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

Improv: Learn how to get out of your head, think at the height of your intelligence, to listen, and to trust. Improv is a great way to improve your performance, your relationships, and your life.

Stand-up & Storytelling: Everyone has a story to tell. These classes will help you fine-tune your story in an easy-to-relay format fit for performance. Stand-up classes will help you write and polish a five-to-10 minute set, while storytelling helps you write and perform your personal narrative.

Sketch writing: These courses will show you how to take a character and build a story around them. Courses start with crafting for the stage and then, ultimately, for the screen. Prerequisites are required for all classes.

5) Perform, perform, perform! Each course culminates in a performance of some kind. These performances are gentle introductions in a safe environment to being on stage and putting your material out there. Take advantage of these opportunities to challenge yourself to be bolder each time you step out. Beyond the class showcases, DCH also offers several other opportunities to perform, from submitting a show to auditioning for King of the Mountain or being in an Ewing Troupe (DCH’s own improv method).

There are plenty of ways to hone your comedy skills, in and outside of the classroom. The very first step for all of them: Just show up.

Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa is a current student at DCH. She spends her days wrangling children, avoiding housework, and hustling for acting or writing gigs. One day she’ll make her life easier by changing her name to Shashana O’Shanahan.

(Top photo credit: David Allison. Bottom photo credit: Ryan Robins)

"DCH Snapshots Presents: 2017 Dallas Comedy Festival" by Shawn Mayer

DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017

DCH Snapshots is a webcomic where Shawn Mayer watches improv shows and then draws what he remembers. Please click the images to enlarge them.

DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017
DCH Snapshots DCF 2017

Shawn Mayer is a DCH graduate who performs with the troupes Wiki Tiki Tabby and Sunglow. He plays euphonium in a polka band, is an avid lover of Patrick McGoohan, and avoids social interaction by pretending to read notifications on his phone.

DCF2017: How to Prepare for the Dallas Comedy Festival

Dallas Comedy Festival
Dallas Comedy Festival

It’s Go Time! Dallas Comedy Festival 2017 is here. For those who have attended in the past, you know what this means: Jello shots, comedy from around the country, long-lost friends reconnect, every form of comedy known to man, and did I mention Jello shots!?!? For those who have never attended before and are thinking, “Wow, this looks incredible, where do I start?,” here are some tips to get you ready for #2017DCF

Make a plan. Improv comedy is always made up on the spot. At least that is what they tell me at the beginning of each show. But you will need a plan for what shows you are going to see this week. Grab a schedule and map out your week. Nerds rule at this type of festival. If you bring a highlighter and a loose leaf notebook, you will receive head nods and looks of admiration from fellow festival goers.

Always go support out-of-town performers. They drove to Dallas, or took a bus, or maybe a boat to get to the festival to show you their funny. Let them know we appreciate their effort and show them that Texans are known for three things – Hospitality, BBQ, and big cowboy hats. (Note to self: Open up a Texas BBQ place that strives to have the best hospitality and serves all of its food in plates shaped like cowboy hats. Big cowboy hats. If anyone steals that idea, please credit the Ghost Watcher.)

Add some variety to your night. One of the great things about the DCF is that it will showcase improv, stand-up, song, Shakespeare, and sketch comedy. To make any night complete, make sure and check out one of each. It is like eating the perfect meal with apps, main course, and desserts, but in a mix-and-match order. You will not be disappointed.

Three stages! You may be saying to yourself “What!?!? Three Stages?!?! How in the hell does that work? I thought there were only two stages.” The amazing crew at the Dallas Comedy House has built a new stage in the Training Center just to the west of the main entrance. It is not a secret entrance that requires a handshake with a wink-wink, tip the doorman type of Dallas thing. It is a regular, welcome to the funny, entrance. Did I mention it has a bar? Well, it does. I have heard from good authority that it will be serving the coldest beer in the history of the training center bar.

This is a special week, always one of my favorites. A week to just let loose and have fun. Enjoy the 2017 Dallas Comedy Festival and make sure you buy Jello shots for everyone. Even me.

Ghost Watcher is a regular, DCH audience member.

(Photo: Jason Hensel)

DCF2017: Matt Stofsky

Matt Stofsky
Matt Stofsky

Matt Stofsky is a Brooklyn-based writer and comedian as well as a Tufts graduate. Triple threat alert! Matt’s writing and sketch work have been featured on McSweeney's, College Humor, and MTVU. Some of Matt’s pieces include a look into what it’s like for a music critic to review his ex-wife’s new solo album and a reveal of the annoying questions Noah had to deal with before his Ark set sail.

How did you get your start in comedy?

I got my start in "comedy" giving my high school's graduation speech. I got some laughs and thought, like the delusional fool I am, "Hey, maybe I can make a career of this."

What qualities do other comedians have that you admire?

Qualities other comics have that I admire: Ability to adapt to a tough situation (e.g., a bad table/heckler) and also the ability to change your material on the fly.

How do you come up with new material?

To generate new material, sometimes I'll sit down with a pad and say, OK, today I am WRITING COMEDY, but mostly I just try to live with my eyes open and my brain on and process what's funny around me and to me.

What is your favorite event in history and why?

Favorite historical event: Big fan of the Battle of Hastings. 1066 seems like an interesting year.

Cake or pie?

Both if possible, but gun to my head, cake.

Are you looking forward to doing anything specific while you're in Dallas?

Big thing to do in Dallas: BBQ.

Matt asks himself an introspective question about life:

Why do I do this? Am I damaged? I don't THINK I'm damaged. I genuinely love making people laugh. There's no better feeling than helping someone get over a hard day by making them laugh. Also, I'm an only child.

Matt performs at the 2017 Dallas Comedy Festival on Wednesday, March 22, with Lily Callaway, Son Tran, Ashlee Voorsanger, and Cat Wagner; and Thursday, March 23, with Shahyan Jahani, Brandan Jordan, and Cat Wagner. 

Anthony Salerno is from Buffalo, New York. He is a current DCH student and performs with Ewing Troupe: Clementine. When he’s not working at Improv or his day job, he's trying to talk himself out of buying Uncrustables at the grocery store.

Sketch Speak: FCC, the Stylish and Beautiful, presents: The Wrong Party

The Wrong PartyThis 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 CurryPaulos 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!

All: Yeah!

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.

All laugh.

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?

All: Yes.

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.

Paulos: Nods.

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…

All laugh.

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!

All laugh.

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.

Julia: Yeah!

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.

All agree.

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.

All laugh.

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.

Meet David Allison, DCH's New Theater Director

David AllisonFrom student to performer to teacher, David Allison has been a stalwart of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) community since 2010. Now he's ready to contribute even more as he recently accepted the position of DCH's first ever theater director. His official start date is July 18; however, I was able to snag a quick campfire conversation with him on a Maldives beach to learn more about his thoughts on his new job. What drove you to apply for the theater director position?

David Allison: It's my dream job. It's exciting to be able to put 40 hours a week into the place that I love. I take my work very seriously, and I'm passionate about anything I do.

What are your top priorities for the job?

DA: The first priority is to learn the business and everything that makes this theater function. We've grown so much over the last couple of years, so to maintain that is important. In order to do that, I need to understand fully what lead to that growth and where we are right now.

My second priority is to be a resource for people to come to. People may have ideas that could potentially help the theater, and I can be there for any questions or concerns. I'm here to help.

How do other theaters across the country inspire you?

DA: I'm a gym rat when it comes to this sort of thing. I think it's important for anyone who creates in any capacity to be as aware of as many different things as you possibly can. I look at other theaters' shows and think, "Why isn't that addressed here in Dallas?" Now that I have a title behind me, I think that'll empower me to approach people and say, "This is a cool show, how are you doing it?" I look forward to forging new relationships with other theaters.

I also like just getting out and seeing shows. I've made it a priority to take the money I make from coaching and teaching and set some aside so I can take a yearly trip to see shows and be aware of what's working at other places. For example, I've gone to Chicago and this year I went to UCB in Los Angeles. Just to see the passion of those communities is inspiring.

David Allison hosting

What are positive qualities you look for in assessing acts?

DA: The show-watching committee will continue to view shows so it's not as if only my opinion of groups will be considered. With that said, when I'm watching acts, I look to see if they're having fun, if there is basic agreement among the players, and consistency, both within a show and show-to-show.

What kind of role will you have in partnerships with other area theaters?

DA: I think the biggest thing is communication and networking. It's something that Amanda [Austin, DCH owner] has made significant inroads in over the years. I want to put up good content, and if there's something that we can do to help another theater or get assistance from another theater, that would be fantastic.

Finally, what's your lowball bribe to get on the schedule?

DA: It's very low. Go with whatever you like. Surprise me.