A late night comedy show on a Thursday night in Deep Ellum is not likely to pull in the crowds. Indeed, wandering into the theater of the Dallas Comedy House, where the Dallas Comedy Festival is happening this week, there was one table full.
The lobby, on the other hand, was packed with improv comedians who are a gregarious bunch, animatedly swapping stories and comparing classes they're going to take at the fest. After the smattering of paying customers and press were situated, the doors were opened to the improv hordes and the next thing you know there was a party going on.
Improv sketches often begin with a one-word suggestion from the audience. Little Mr. Dallas was given "botulism" as a starter. Unlike most improv ensembles that launch right away into action, Little Mr. Dallas members instead swapped stories on botulism and related plagues to get a base for action. From that a story emerged. Using a technique called "The Amando," developed by Chicago's ImprovOlympic, they annotated the story with tangents and break-outs. Key directionals were shouted out by off-stage members like "You're now in a bar" and "You have lice" that accelerated the pace and helped (mostly) keep the non-improv audience from getting lost.
Twinprov from Oklahoma City rocked the place with hip-hop improv. Yes, hip-hop improv from OKC, by twins Clint and Buck Vrazel. Even their names are incongruous. But you sure could tell these guys have been doing make-believe with each other since toddlers. They were absolutely seamless. The one-word prompt was "physics" and off they went, scatting lyrics with plenty of science terminology gained from their years at Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, but even roping in "universal healthcare" and "pre-existing universes." Clint set up the fast hip-hop patter while Buck came in with most of the punchlines, with keyboard support from musician Kyle Gossett. By the end of the set, Buck was on a chair portraying an exploding star and prompting the audience to participate in a supernova singalong. Incredible! Don't miss them in Villain: The Musical on Friday at 7 p.m.
Having to follow that was a hard slot for The Outfit from Chicago, who tried to make up for it with high-volume histrionics. Having a petite female member that the large guys in the Outfit could tote around made for some great visual humor. But by that time it was near midnight and this late-middle-aged reviewer was out of steam.
Here's a video from Twinprov: