Dallas — 2005 was a long dang time ago. How long? *Obama* wasn’t even president yet.
You would expect most comedy troupes formed in 2005 to be long dead and buried, and when it comes to Dallas improv legends Queertown, you’d be right. Mostly. Like a shooting star, their flame was bright and brief, from 2005 to 2006, where they were a staple at the erstwhile West End Comedy Theater and the comedy festival circuit.
But their brightness was remembered by its members (and fans) well enough that, 12 years on, they will rise like Lazarus for two more shows at Stomping Ground Comedy Theater, on the next two Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 15.
Why are they so fondly remembered? Founding member Kevin Howard explains.
“When we sprang on the scene in 2005, we stood for an important and unrepresented part of the population who were often the target of but rarely the ones delivering the laughs in improv and sketch comedy. We wanted to tackle issues in the LGBTQ community and have fun doing it.”
“It really blew up,” he adds. “People within the community and our allies—who we called our ‘straight friends’ back then—took to it right away. The thirst for irreverent comedy, the ability to laugh with our friends until tears fall, is timeless. That’s why we ‘brought the band back together.’ It’s a different world now. Our comedy is as bold as it was before, but in a 2018 sense.”
The band today is not the exact same outfit that it was in 2005. Two of the original members, Cristela Alonzo and Allison Tolman, hit national fame—Alonzo had a the short-lived sitcom Cristela, and Tolman was Emmy-nomited for the firset season of FX’s Fargo—and couldn’t make it back to town, but most of the originals—Howard, Paul J. Williams, Kristin McCollum, Todd Upchurch, Chad Cline, and Jim Kuenzer—and have augmented their ranks with Stomping Ground big kahuna Rachel Farmer.
Howard and fellow founding member Chad Cline took the time to answer some of TheaterJones’ questions.
TheaterJones: A 12-year hiatus is long! I assume it's exciting to get back together, but how easy has it been? Are you having to learn how to work with each other again, or is it more like putting on an old comfy pair of slippers?
Kevin Howard: It is a long time. I think we all were a bit concerned about what it would be like to get the band back together again. But after our first meeting, it was pretty clear that it was all going to be alright. Personally, I am extremely young and relevant, so the others have a high bar to aim for as far as work ethic and vitality. We all have stayed active performers so it just took a little while to get our group groove back. And we like each other. Well, mostly.
Chad Cline: Was never concerned! It was just excited to get us all in the same room again. We picked up right where we left off. Having fun and laughing together. Kevin is the youngest and most relevant and it will remain that way until he takes me off payroll.
In what ways is activism still needed, and progress still to be made, for the LGBTQIA+ community in society in general, and in the comedy scene in particular?
K.H.: As long as any community is marginalized, activism will always be needed. Today, especially, our Transgender brothers and sisters are subject to much hatred and discrimination. As long as any human is not respected for who they are, we all have to stand up and refuse to let them be marginalized. Comedy allows us to open the dialogue and let everyone know that it is now okay to talk about it, because if we can laugh, we can understand.
How would you describe this show, and the role it plays in advancing LGBTQIA+ comedy and causes?
K.H.: Well, it's freaking hilarious!! We take on stereotypes, current LGBTQIA+ events, and it's XMAS!! I don't think there is another show like it in our area. I think one of the best things about our show is its humanity. Hopefully, our audiences can relate to something in the show whether they are straight, gay, young, old, pretty or ugly.
In the press material Lindsay Goldapp sent me, you talk about retooling your show for 2018 vs 2005. I know there's some obvious differences between 2005 and 2018, but nonetheless, can you elaborate?
K.H.: A lot has happened in the LGBTQIA+ world in 12 years. A LOT. We actually have a sketch that addresses this. If you slipped into a gay coma 12 years ago and woke up today, what would you learn? And everyone except me has aged 12 years, so we had to address that.
Dallas sort of takes a back seat to Austin regionally and several cities nationally when it comes to comedy. As you've both worked elsewhere, what's refreshing, different, or better about doing comedy in Dallas?
K.H.: Who said that Dallas comedy takes a back seat to Austin? WHO? I'll be over here at Stomping Ground laughing my ass off while I wait for your answer.
C.C.: Hmmmm...I've been a part of L.A., Austin, and Dallas communities and all are FANTASTIC. I'm looking forward to Dallas's improv community becoming even more of a community! One goal for all, laugh and love. Okay, two goals for all!