Some notes about the local comedy scene:
Jamie Lee of Girl Code returns home to headline
Some comics hailing from North Texas who make it big lingered here a while and bonded with the comedy community. Cristela Alonzo, for instance. Others, such as Iliza Shlesinger, pretty much split right after graduating high school.
Jamie Lee knew early on she wanted to be a comedian and quickly left for New York. Show biz is in her blood. Her dad is Mark Lee, who was an integral part of 462 Productions, a seminal rock promotion outfit in North Texas.
Named by Huffington Post as one of the "Top 18 Women You Should Be Following On Twitter," with 210,000 followers, Lee headlines for the first time in her hometown at Hyena’s Dallas from March 5 to 7.
“Her performance here is much anticipated by friends and family,” said Mark Lee, noting that he watches her so often on the MTV series Girl Code that it’s like she never left.
A semi-finalist on NBC's Last Comic Standing, Lee was a writer/performer for The Pete Holmes Show on TBS and a panelist on E!'s Chelsea Lately. She most recently nabbed a lead role in the YouTube young-love series Love's a Bitch.
Dallas Comedy Festival doubles the improv fun
Dallas Comedy Festival comes around for its sixth year on March 24 to 28 in its new location on Main near Hall. The five-day festival covers sketch, stand up, and short film, but the emphasis as always is on improv. This year brings a double headliner treat that spans the country: Chicago legends TJ and Dave (TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi), and Bangarang!, a UCB LA ensemble featuring Lauren Lapkus of Orange is the New Black.
A duo since 2002, TJ and Dave specialize in long-form improvisation that essentially creates one-act plays on the spot. They were subjects of the documentary Trust Us, This is All Made Up. Jagodowski is familiar as one half of the Sonic Drive-In commercial duo (with fellow improviser Peter Grosz). Pasquesi is a genuine legend at Second City for his mainstage revues with Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, and Bob Odenkirk.
On the stand-up side of the fest, Preston Lacy of the Jackass franchise is the headliner for two shows on Thursday. Aaron Aryanpur, Dave Little, and Paul Varghese top the line-up for three prime-time stand-up shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a mixed bill for a Thursday late-night set.
As usual, most of the improv groups hail from the Dallas Comedy House. Nothing local featured from the Alternative Comedy Theater ensembles, or from ComedySportz (formerly Locked Out Comedy), Frisco Improv Players, Improv Dallas, Motley Players, or Unicorn Clearance, Texas’ only underage improv troupe.
But the DCH troupes can give mighty good show. Old timers include movie-based APB, imaginative immersive F.A.C.E., funky Franzia, funny females Local Honey, intense duos David & Terry and Manick, stellar Roadside Couch, and ever silly Samurai Drunk. Clearance Shelf, a newer duo with Kyle Austin and Clifton Hall, holds great promise.
A great local grab was Cell Block Tango out of University of North Texas in Denton. The trio won the College Improv Tournament Southwest Regional. Pavlov’s Dogs, which straddles a few improv scenes, is one of the longest-running troupes in Dallas and imparts dependable greatness.
Troupes from OKC Improv of the Oklahoma City improv scene are DCF stalwarts. This year ZOOM!, a silent physical improv comedy troupe, and Night Rhymers, a riotous music theater ensemble, return, and Heel Turn makes its first appearance.
The New Movement, an improv theater out of Austin, contributes Field Day and Good Fight, along with Bad Example, their main sketch comedy troupe. The Hustle Show, a popular monthly sketch show out of Austin’s Coldtowne Theater, also performs.
Entrance to the DCF is by all-access pass and individual show tickets. Purchase online at www.DallasComedyFestival.com/passes-and-tickets.html. Headliners will also be offering workshops; some are already sold out.
Nick Guerra: Little comic breaking big
McAllen native Nick Guerra got his foot in the stand-up door in Dallas by working the tagline “the little long-haired comic.” Solid but petite, his physique helps him stand out, and no doubt aided in getting on season 8 of NBC’s Last Comic Standing.
But he’s been making big strides of late with his Latino heritage. Scoring big on Central’s Gabriel Iglesias Stand Up Revolution and Nuvo TV’s Stand Up & Deliver, Guerra pulled down multi-roles as actor, writer, and assistant director on Pitbull’s La Esquina.
Guerra’s latest score is being the latest winner of StandUp for Diversity, an annual comedy showcase that highlights comedians of ethnic and immigrant backgrounds. He scored a one-year talent holding deal with NBCU and a place on the StandUp NBC College Tour.
Guerra told Deadline Hollywood, “There are two things every comedian needs for his career to stay alive – recognition of talent and car repair money,” said Guerra. “I’d like to thank NBC for continuing to show me support and for the new transmission.”
Tenacious and intelligent, with a break-it-down-and-figure-it-out mind, Guerra’s nonetheless a friendly, decent guy. Pair that with influences like John Leguizamo and George Carlin, you’ve got a guy whose ambition is a lot greater than starring in a sit-com.
Alternative Comedy Theater: Spring greening
Ramping up for the annual Big Sexy Weekend of Comedy this summer, Alternative Comedy Theater is stepping out again. New improvisers have joined the clan. Some of the ACT ensembles — The Victims, with The Band Wreckers and The Mash ‘em Ups — will be featured at the Out Of The Loop Festival.
The Victims have several upcoming gigs at the Pocket Sandwich Theater celebrating their seventh birthday. Improv Mechanics, ACT’s improv class series, starts up at the Margo Jones Theater on March 30.
Stand Out Stand-Ups
Linda Stogner won the Funniest Comic in Texas competition last December at the Addison Improv. Stogner is one fourth of Four Funny Females — along with Laura Bartlett, Jodi Hadsell, Sherry Sandifer Elbow — which kicked off their 9th season with four shows at the McKinney Performing Arts Center.
Did you know there was a Denton comedy scene? I know! Now it has it’s own documentary The Bottom Rung by Ron Lechler. It was featured at this year’s Thin Line Festival. If you’re looking for punk rock comedy, you can find it in Denton at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio.
Mac Blake from Austin will perform in Dallas at the Twilite Lounge on Wednesday, April 1. Do not miss this show. Already one of the top comics in Texas, it’s a real treat to catch him in a place this small. He’s promoting his album Bird Drugs.