Dallas — One thing that makes Dallas Comedy Festival a uniquely great experience is that the producers find and employ themes within the festival. Lesser festivals might slap acts together without much thought and call it a day, but DCF does things like put together a “Women of Texas” standup show within the festival.
It was at that show that I started my evening, at Independent Bar and Kitchen, and what a tremendous show it was. The opener was Lily Callaway. She wants you to know that is indeed her name in spite of being a Muslim from Iranian stock (and looks it), so I reckon her spirit animal is Tom Haverford. She had an infectious slice-of-life approach to her material which included the phrase “f**king Marriott Courtyard!” which I am adding to my lexicography.
(On the way out, I saw her at the bar taking receipt of a tasty-looking corn-based dish, her face alight with approval. You’re not going to get that sort of gritty behind-the-scenes reporting anywhere else).
Act 2 was Kim Wadsworth, whose best joke made reference to her moose knuckle, as opposed to camel toe. I loved her slow burn, drawn-out style.
Then came Jazmyn W, fresh in from LA back home in Dallas. She earned the biggest laughs of the night by some margin. She’s a comedian and actress, and her acting resume includes “acting white at work.” She would LOVE to see your ski vacation photos! She also hilariously riffed on her Dad, a newly proud African thanks to 23andMe.
After Jazmyn was Caryn Carson, who gets bonus points for having a healthy chunk of new material from when I saw her just a few weeks ago. Her main strength is her delivery, with lots of pregnant pauses and animated emphases. Her best joke is about having hair that is always “state funeral ready.”
Julia Sykora was my favorite comedian of the night, but the hardest to describe. Her opener was a deadpan “Hello. Yee ha.” She tapped into a strong Andy Kaufman sensibility. Go see her if you notice her name on a flyer.
Following Sykora was Hannah Vaughn, who I often see as a headliner, and for good reason. She also got right to the point: “Hello, I’m dating a married guy.” Irreverence is her shtick, with lots of material about her dead mother. My mother is also deceased, and when someone asks me how my Mom is, I say, “still dead.” I get Hannah Vaughn.
The penultimate comedian was Katy Evans, who trades ably in self-deprecation. She had the best ad-lib of the night, declaring a motorcycle loudly revving outside as God judging her.
The headliner was the matriarch of Dallas Comedy, Linda Stogner. She killed. She’s silly. She talks about being silly. You can’t make a joke about a protractor being a “professional tractor” unless you’re silly. She did crowdwork. She made jokes only Texans would get. She’s the best.
Then it was over to Dallas Comedy House for another all-Texan show (intentionally or not), with the improv teams of Scuba Pudding Junior, Encyclopedia Moronica, and Sunglow.
Scuba Pudding Junior is made up of Sally Bowen, Mike Maiella, and Danny Neely. Between them, they have several hundred years (estimate) of improv performing and teaching, and it shows. They did what’s known as a “mono scene,” where the whole show took place in one location with no jumps in time. It was so dizzingly funny that their 20 minutes felt like five. It’s a privilege watching them play.
Encyclopedia Moronica has one of the most novel and entertaining improv formats you are ever likely to see. They come up onstage with an encyclopedic history book, ask the audience for a page number, and base their set around whatever historical event is discussed on that page.
Just talking about their format isn’t really doing them justice, however, because they do clever things like incarnating not just historical figures, but entire countries (for example) doing human endeavors such as dating.
Rounding out the improv set was Sunglow. Whereas Scuba Pudding Junior does one scene, Sunglow does so very many in a fast-paced show. I don’t understand how they can throw out so many scenes and have every last one of them hit and create gales of laughter, but they do. I’m sure they’d tell me they’ve had bad shows and bad scenes, but I’ve seen them 3 or 4 times and I have yet to see a solitary dud. It’s all the more remarkable considering they started not as friends who already knew they had great comedic chemistry, but as a house troupe chosen by audition.
Later in the week, instead seeing two shows back-to-back, I’ll be seeing three, four, five shows consecutively. I was worried that such a task at some point will turn exhausting and arduous. After Tuesday night, I’m not worried about that anymore.
» Tickets and schedules are available at the Festival website. Look for periodic reports of the festival on TheaterJones.com.