Dallas — Another edition of the Dallas Comedy Festival is over, and I’m already bummed to be going back to real life. The status quo, as rewarding as it is comedically, lacks the holiday spirit of a festival.
On this last night, I first took in a trio of improv acts in the Regal Room at The Independent Bar and Kitchen. The first was the San Francisco duo Jackson Soup. Half of that troupe, Pamela Hawley, showed a great deal of range and vivacity. Dave Collins played mostly a straight man for Pamela to bounce off.
Then came local troupe Pavlov’s Dogs, together for 19 years. They describe their format as “chaos,” but I’m pleased to report that it’s controlled chaos. Uncontrolled chaos in improv isn’t as fun as it sounds. It was a great set and at this point it’s hard to expect any less than great from them.
The capper was another boy/girl duo, Chicagoans Danny & Arnold, featuring manic pixie dream girl Jenny Holden and larger-than-life Chip Nash. Here, the halves of the duo had an equal amount of energy and panache, and made stealing the show look easy.
Then it was over to Dallas Comedy House to take in the co-headliners, Chicago’s 3Peat. They were opened by local troupe Ballast Point, that features several teachers one will learn from going through the Dallas Comedy House improv program. It was illuminating watching them practice what they preach, and their performance was a master class.
3Peat followed, and it’s easy to see why they got top billing. They employed the Armando format, and did so with such polish, with no dead spots or weak points, that my estimate is that they’ve been working together for about 125 years.
Their set began with one 3Peater relaying a story about feeling isolated in college and getting in heavy with a group that played a ton of spades — so much so that they named themselves “Spade Phi Spade.”
This story was called back during a scene hypothesizing an actual Spade Phi Spade fraternity. I’ll pause here to note that 3Peat is an all-black troupe that, the story goes, got tired of being the black one in otherwise all-white troupes, so they banded together.
They could’ve “whitened” their show for a mostly white DCH audience, but I’m pleased to say they didn’t. The Spade Phi Spade skit was strongly based on the black fraternity experience, or at least how that experience is portrayed in movies like School Daze and Drumline (which are my only entrées into that world).
It was such a gut-bustingly funny set that it seemed over in a heartbeat. I will only ding them for making fun of Ohio, which breaks the golden comedy rule: Don’t Make Fun of My Home State. Other states, sure.
The last show of the festival was a return to the stage for Sasheer Zamata and Lauren Davis, this time with local comic Katy Evans, turntablist DJ Donwill, and still another duo, Cristela Carrizales and Kendon Lacy from Oklahoma .
It didn’t reach the hazy highs of Friday night — what could’ve? — but it was still a great show, with a solid set from Evans and with Zamata and Davis peppering in additional material with last night’s set.
Davis had the ignominy of doing most of her set with her fly down, which she was alerted to by her sister while doing crowd work. She made up for it, (although really, why should she be ashamed in the first place?) by telling the perfect Texas joke to Zamata (that might’ve gone over her head).
This was during an interactive portion of what Zamata described a variety show, where she asked the other comics and the audience if they have developed any phobias as adults. Davis replied she had become afraid of possums.
“Do you have a lot of possums in Texas?” asked Zamata.
Davis: “We have a whole kingdom of them!”
The variety show was closed out by Carrizales and Lacy (with the terrific Colten Winburn on keyboards/accompaniment) doing a bit of musical improv that was probably heavier on the music than on the improv, but that’s as it should be, ‘cause man, they had some pipes. But their witty improv acumen was abundant as well, don’t get me wrong.
In the other DCH theater, a karaoke party took us deeper into Sunday, with members of 3Peat front and center. I was proud to see our out-of-town guests soaking in the experience, and I was proud to see all of this go down in a particularly bustling, vibrant Deep Ellum, demonstrating how alive and cosmopolitan Dallas can be.
Right now, however, more than proud, I feel a pull to play spades.
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