Many comedic themes are universal. Relationship problems, drunken escapades and adolescent anxiety afflict everyone regardless of race, color or creed. It’s the ability to mine those themes to find humor that separates stand up comedians from the funny guy cracking everyone up in the bar.
Wednesday night's slate of comedians at the Fourth annual Dallas Comedy Festival explored mommy and daddy issues with aplomb, recounted falling off roofs hilariously and described ethnical differences in America with great effect.
Justin Williams led off and related a tale of how he’s come to understand when it’s appropriate to punch a 65-year-old woman in the face in public—when she’s blocking the doors of the subway train. Growing up in Kansas City, Williams assumed it was a commonly held belief that it’s never cool to punch an old lady, but living in New York for a while taught him otherwise.
Batting second, Tom Devenport wittily summed up all the jokes the audience were about to hear in one sentence, but fell a little flat with an old, not really tried-and-true Lincoln joke. But he quickly redeemed himself with his “secret jokes” told in a whisper about how vegans don’t smile, long goodbyes are exacerbated when you have to poop, and how giving a bulimic a cheesecake is the ultimate gag gift.
With Texas roots, Devenport now lives outside San Francisco. Offstage after his set, he said the Dallas comedy scene is more of a meritocracy than some other cities and “the funny always finds a way to rise to the top” here.
“What Dallas has and what this festival shows is that if you’re willing to write, write, write and get out there battling…competing to get on stage at open mikes and your stuff is funny, you can carve out a little spot for yourself and start getting better gigs,” Devenport said. “Whereas it can seem like a bit of a closed shop in other cities.”
But in Deep Ellum on Wednesday the vibe was laid back and supportive.
The fish-out-of-water theme also proved funny for Jason Salmon, who acknowledged he’s getting a little hard-living in Manhattan after growing up Baptist in Texas, which entails a lot of judging people and eating casseroles.
Salmon, who labeled himself a "NASCAR American," was sporting a porn mustache with a button-down shirt made of sweatshirt fabric. He talked about how he’s learned a lot in New York, like when it’s OK to throw trash in a shared garbage can: after the person rummaging has left the container.
Salmon delivered what, I think, was the only Lance Armstrong joke of the night. He wasn’t bothered by the disgraced cyclist’s lying because Armstrong isn’t even in the top 10 douchiest cyclists Salmon runs into daily on the streets of the Big Apple. He also wondered if more people would support gay marriage if they attended one, as he recently did, because there’s all the food and dancing with no bride.
Rogin Kim, another NYC-based comic, was making his first visit to Texas and was surprised at how polite people are here, as it’s all, well, angry in New York. Kim riffed on the struggles he encountered while never knowing his mother and then finally meeting her and she brought her mother with her to one of the most stressful moments of one’s life, which is when you really need your mom. Other mom jokes included Chris Darden mentioning how it freaks him out when his mother signs texts “xxxmom,” and Veronica Elizabeth explaining to her mother that lesbians don’t really need to use condoms.
Sean Flannery, who presented his Blackout Diaries show at the opening night of the DCF, regaled the crowd with some of his 10 near-death experiences, which are the basis of his other popular Chicago show Never Been to Paris. (See more on Blackout Diaries in Amy Martin's recap, here.)
Flannery once fell off a three-story roof. He was so drunk that he didn’t make any attempt to adjust his positioning while descending 30-some feet. The doctor looking at the X-rays called other doctors in to show them Flannery’s broken back, saying something to the effect of “He walked right off the roof…I’m talking Daffy Duck style.”
Another hilarious bit involved one of Flannery’s friends locking himself in his trunk in a Taco Bell parking lot to get out of DUI because the cops would need a search warrant.
Paul Varghese closed the first part of the DCF show and talked about how white folks should embrace being white because nonwhite folks cannot flash mob or adopt outside their own race. Because, as an Indian, he would get strange looks walking around with “some towheaded kids” he’d adopted.
Varghese also performed in the second part of the show, called “On the Spot,” in which seven comedians did a short set of their own material and then looked at a list of topics to which they could attempt bringing hilarity.
It kinda worked. Some of the topics included: Tsunami Pick-Up Line, Skankrupt, and Haunted Hot Tub. Dallas comedians Dean Lewis and Dave Little got some big laughs, while Brian Moody and Landon Kirksey showed how much improv helps their stand-up.
But Varghese “won” the “competition” with a quick bit about a redneck spelling bee. After Lewis asked an audience member for a word that begins with the letter “R” and she said “tornado,” Varghese spun a yarn using one of those comedic themes which is universal—being drunk and stupid.
Expect more of the same tonight, as the festival moves into improv comedy with shows at 7, 9 and 10:30. Three troupes will perform at each show. Tonight’s shows are full of local talent, while Friday night’s comedy will include troupes from Chicago and Los Angeles, as well. There are four shows Saturday, starting at 5:30 p.m. and climaxing with a set from Maribeth Monroe and David Razowsky.
The remaining schedule, which can also be seen here, is:
Thursday, March 28, 2013
- 7pm Improv Comedy ($10)
- 9pm Improv Comedy ($10)
- 10:30pm Improv Comedy ($15)
Friday, March 28, 2013
- 7pm Improv Comedy ($10)
- 9pm Improv Comedy ($15)
- 10:30pm Improv Comedy ($25)
Saturday, March 29, 2013
- 5:30pm Improv Comedy ($10)
- 7pm Improv ($15)
- 9pm Sketch Comedy ($15)
- 10:30pm Improv Comedy ($20)