Dallas — Brian Plumb was going to keep talking regardless. He wasn’t about to let a little awkward silence prevent him from finishing his jokes at the Seventh Annual Dallas Comedy Festival at the Dallas Comedy House.
The 23-year-old Massachusetts native mined a handful of drug-addled situations for some laughs during his stand-up sets Tuesday and Wednesday. But he never seemed to have the audience fully on his side either night and wondered if he was too angry for the South.
When one racially tinged joke fell particularly flat, he just kept talking. He was disappointed there wasn’t a saloon every three feet in Dallas as he’d envisioned, but he did come to understand the bliss that is a BBQ sandwich during his first trip to Texas.
Michele Benson was the first official act of DCF2016 Tuesday night, and the Richardson native adeptly related hilarious self-deprecating jokes about her less-than-fantastic love life as a 30-year-old living by herself for the first time. Oak Cliff’s own Linda Stogner shared some funny tales of a childhood that seemed to include a lot of talking animals.
The first improv acts to hit the stage were full of graduates of the DCH training center.
The 1995 Chicago Bulls are a six-man troupe employing a format known as the J.T.S. Brown. In addition to a few other in-scene techniques, this style of improv has the players changing scenes each time another person leaves or enters rather than via a sweeping edit. It’s different, and it took a few minutes to ascertain who was who in a few scenes, but once they got rolling, the players’ physicality increased until they were eventually riding each other across the stage.
Jua Holt conceived the troupe because the concept appealed to him, and he recruited some other DCH graduates that he wanted to perform with. The conceit also allows for big shows of sound and physical comedy, as well as the ability to return to a scene at any time for any reason. So one performer can revisit a scene another player may’ve hoped to forget, producing some uncomfortableness that, while funnier for the audience, may not be so much fun for the target on stage.
“I thought the built-in mechanism of messing with everyone else is a lot of fun,” according to Holt, a wrestling aficionado who cohosts a podcast on the sport with another DCH regular, Terry Catlett.
Cesar Villa concurred, saying the ability to build one scene on top of the other, knowing you could revisit a scene is appealing in many regards, but most importantly because it allows the friends on stage to really get after one another. And the momentum in their scene Tuesday night did build and build and build until Holt was riding another member to and fro, as Villa “returned” after digging all the way to China.
Cell Block Tango doesn’t edit at all. The three-man troupe carves out a monoscene, if you will, and there is something about the understated delivery of Colten Winburn and Ryan Goldsberry that is truly funny. It’s witty and smart. Daniel Matthews uses a wide variety of scene setting techniques that bring a sense of space to the stage, allowing the three men to delve deep into mundane situations to find comedic gold.
The Midnight Society is another troupe full of DCH graduates. They spun a really funny story outta thin air about one man’s thirst to fulfill his thirst in a dry town that included a summoning of the spirits through a séance, some retail hijinks at the Goodwill and a large man in a tutu, which is never not funny.
» You can see a complete DCF schedule here
» Read our feature on the festival here
» Look for reports from other nights at DCF coming on TheaterJones