A number of in-house improv troupes took the stage Thursday and Friday at the fourth annual Dallas Comedy Festival.
Age-appropriate with Ben Pfeiffer and Mike Maiella kicked off the improv part of the festival early Thursday night. The graduates of the Dallas Comedy House training program used a chef’s last day on the job as the basis to make light of the East Coast’s inability to appreciate chili, as well grounds for exploring male infertility.
Pfeiffer often exudes a character in a perpetual state of anguish and scored big laughs with a line about being a cowboy who’s shooting blanks. Maiella’s secret for making chili, which included cutting a toad in half, finding a feral cat and a single strawberry-blonde hair from a child, dragged a bit but was worth the ride. (Disclosure: Maiella is an occasional writer for TheaterJones.)
Next up was Ballpark Theater Company from Oklahoma City. The eight-member troupe asked for audience suggestions and then performed a slasher flick, Saturday the 14th.
Kyle Gossett played keyboards, setting an oft-ominous tone for a tale of Sonic employees gone missing. Using quick edits, the ensemble moved through a number of scenes that revealed potential suspects—the reverend? goofball townie Bill? Ms. Nancy from vacation Bible school?—and possible motives for the disappearances (drinking grape soda? collecting half-hearted necklace charms?).
Closing out the early show Thursday was another DCH troupe, Franzia. The four graduates of the Deep Ellum training center strung together a few scenes based on a “pizza” suggestion from the audience.
Tommy Lee Brown kept tossing pizza dough with great hilarity, then Brown and Terry Catlett got a little carried away with some risqué food exhibitionism in the middle of Applebee’s.
Christie Wallace and Laurie Reaves Barnett, one of the first graduates of the DCH improv program, poured on some heavy Jersey accents to hilariously dish on marriage infidelity and the new pope.
Catlett said he’s been performing with members of Franzia since they met in class at DCH about three years ago. He now teaches those same classes, and somehow often seems to end up carrying a fellow performer, or at least, having one sit on him.
Friday night began with DCH stalwart Local Honey, which stars Amanda Austin and Nikki Gasparo. Christie Wallace joined them for the festival and helped with another scene set Applebee’s. Gasparo played a mom hopped up on goofballs as Austin implored her to keep it together in front of Wallace as they tried to draw her in to their group of displaced PTA mothers. The scene ended with huge laughs as the three traded barbs about celebrity doppelgangers.
Another Local Honey scene revolved around Wallace mistakenly giving Austin a Brazilian blowout, and, well, the jokes just kinda wrote themselves with that one. The crowd ate it up.
Chicago-based Belmont Transfer came next and used a little different format than many DCH troupes. The set started with a monologue from Peter Robards as a community college professor struggling to give a shit about his students outside of trying to sleep with them. The monologue raised some talking points other troupe members used as fodder.
Tina Jackson and Yvette Rebik quickly fell into roles as students, using their phones to tweet about each other as they carried on a conversation standing right next to each other. The troupe used quick edits to move through a number of scenes in the roughly half-hour set. Rebik rapped a funny speech about Tina and Roger at her sister’s wedding. And Dan Grimm hilariously showed how he uses different-colored glows of phone apps to accentuate his good looks while sitting alone at the bar.
The final early set Friday came from Shock T’s, a three-person comedy band. Tyler Paterson plays guitar and sings, as Tim Dunn and Sarah Shockey blend harmonies full of jokes and malaprops. They were extremely tight and easily likable. One ditty Paterson wrote after awakening from an Ambien-induced sleep was especially funny, with lyrics best left out of print.