Conan Does Dallas
Conan O'Brien, the late night host on TBS, is taping a week of episodes at the Majestic Theater from March 31 to April 3. It’s timed to coincide with the NCAA Division 1 Men's Final Four Championship at Cowboys Stadium. Guests include Adam Sandler and Tig Notaro on Monday, Seth Rogen and Philip Phillips on Tuesday, Simon Helberg of The Big Bang Theory and the Eli Young Band on Wednesday, and basketball ace Charles Barkley on Thursday. All shows are sold out. Sigh.
But the big news is that by Laurie Kilmartin and other comedy writers for Conan are also in town. At least three opportunities to catch them doing stand-up:
- March 28 and 29 at Backdoor Comedy Club in North Dallas.
- March 31 at Wits End in Deep Ellum.
- April 1 at Dallas Comedy House in Deep Ellum.
The big news this spring for comedy fans is festivals.
Moontower Comedy & Oddity Fest on April 23 to 26 is a mere three years old, but pulls in a dozen national standup comedy headliners plus a plethora of regional ones for a grand total of over 100 comics. It’s centered on Austin’s famed Paramount Theater, but includes multiple venues. Look for advance coverage of Moontower coming on TheaterJones, plus reporting from the festival.
The 2nd annual East Texas Comedy Festival is on June 13 and 14 at Liberty Hall in downtown Tyler. Multiple stand up and improv acts over two days, plus classes and best of region competition. They’ve expanded this year into national headliners with Jimmy Pardo for standup and Susan Messing and Frank Caeti for improv and sketch. Love these scrappy folks who are swiftly building an audience for comedy in the boonies. Tour the East Texas piney wood loveliness during the day and enjoy comedy at night; sounds like a nice weekend. It’s sponsored in part by the city of Tyler. (Dallas, you listening?) Keep up with fest news at their Facebook page. Purchase tickets at www.LibertyTyler.com.
The Big Sexy Weekend of Improv, a production of the Alternative Comedy Theater, is back on July 11 and 12. It was an off year in 2013 when the group’s performance base, the funky Dyer Street Pub, was sold and yuppified, relegating them to the 11:15 pm weekend slots at the Pocket Sandwich Theater. This year is a significant upgrade to the Margo Jones Theater in Fair Park. It’s a Full Moon weekend—could be wild!
The granddaddy of Texas comedy festivals, Out of Bounds Comedy Festival, is seeking acts. Deadline to apply is April 30. Now in their 13th year in Austin, the emphasis is improv, but includes sketch, stand-up, and variety acts. Over 500 performers are featured in 120 shows held in the seven days leading up to Labor Day. The writers for Key & Peele on Comedy Central will be doing talks and workshops. Other acts to be announced. Out of Bounds is partly sponsored by the City of Austin, which is simply grand.
Fests in the Rear-View Mirror
Dallas Comedy Festival ran from March 18 to 22 at the Dallas Comedy House. The festival expanded into including a stand-up headliner, Rory Scovel. See our coverage of the fifth day of the festival, which links to the other days, here.
South by Southwest Comedy ran from March 8 to 11 in Austin, concurrent with SXSW Film and Interactive conferences. It’s existed since 2008, but really picked up steam in the last few years. With its emphasis on the business of comedy, SXSW Comedy hosted podcasts by Todd Barry and Comedy Bang! Bang!, a live version of The Green Room with Paul Provenza, and panels on The Pete Holmes Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Portlandia. Shows included Fred Armisen, Hannibal Buress, Bill Cosby and Upright Citizens Brigade. Just might be worth enduring the SXSW crowds next year.
At the Improv
The Improv in Addison continues to bring variety and heart to the cookie-cutter world of comedy clubs, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The art of improv has returned with Locked OUT Comedy’s Humor Games comedy competitions in late March and their improv classes begin in April.
Oh joy, Comedy From The Dorkside has returned! The occasional Karen's Treehouse of Comedy features local and regional comedians. Benefits have included AIDS prevention education in Kenya.
The Improvs are only places to regularly get magic shows—some with snakes!—held on Sunday afternoons. A recent installment of Comedy Circus, held on occasional Sunday evenings, featured a magician, mentalist, juggler, nerd comic, and musical comedian.
Musically demented Fourth Wall Comedy returns to Ozona on Upper Greenville on March 29.
Improv and corporate comedy masters Four Day Weekend has been holding down their Sundance Square spot in Fort Worth for 17 years. They achieved the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Small Business of the Year award. The troupe released their first book, The Art of ImproviZEN, in 2013. In addition to their famed weekend shows, house ensembles from the Four Day Weekend Training Center perform every Tuesday at FDW’s Encore Theater. It’s rather top-notch stuff. More about them at 4U Improv.
Alternative Comedy Theater presented Bad McIntire’s 4th annual Monologue Jam on March 22 at Café Bohemia in Plano. Sign up for the challenge of taking one word and using it to create a three-minute monologue on the spot. Winner gets a jar of, you guessed it, jam. ACT is holding auditions in April for their May show.
Pocket Sandwich Theater continues to host The Victims, plus unusual improv groups such as That's What She Said. But you have to stay up late for these 11:15 pm shows.
Hyena’s Dallas features local guys done good, Nick Guerra and Justin Foster in a special show on March 30. Comics who perform regularly at the club did a lovely thing for a young bullied boy who wants to be a comic; read here.
Dustin Ybarra, who started in Dallas and went on to multiple film and televisions gigs in California, headlines at Hyena’s Fort Worth on April 11 and 12, with a free show on the 10th. Nick Guerra pulls in the following week.
Dallas Comedy House in Deep Ellum club made a nifty score with Chelsea Peretti of Brooklyn Nine-Nine for two shows on March 29... Paying to watch free podcasts tape is a growing trend. Funny or Die’s podcast & web series Throwing Shade set up shop in mid March.
Backdoor Comedy Club in North Dallas continues to sell out weekend shows on local standup talent alone.
For comedy that blurs the line with theater, check out the late night offerings at Pocket Sandwich Theater near SMU. Vaudeville and variety is also on the bill.
The ultimate portable entertainment, comedy pops up in fun places not generally known for it.
Wits End in Deep Ellum continues to do comedy events on second and fourth Thursdays, featuring comics outside the usual stand-up circles. They scored an appearance by Laurie Kilmartin, writer for Conan and featured on Last Comic Standing on March 31.
The Mason Bar café in Uptown has shifted comedy to weekends with occasional Saturday Night Laughs. A recent Ladies Who Kill comedy showcase did very well. Shows are held in the beatniky brick downstairs room.
A bit of a hitch for the Amsterdam Stand Up Comedy Revolt at the Amsterdam Bar near Fair Park when their festival fell during the January ice storm. But they carried on and their monthly shows continue to draw big crowds. Amsterdam's a great venue.