Dallas — Improv is all about saying yes and supporting your partners on stage. But comedy is often found in the contrasts. The seasoned improviser somehow manages to straddle the fence between moving the scene forward by agreeing to whatever is put forth and forming an individual opinion in relation to what’s happening.
There were plenty of skilled, well-trained improvisers making things up for our enjoyment Thursday at the third night of the Dallas Comedy Festival.
TheaterJones will have coverage from every night of the #DCF2015 with standup, improv and sketch shows on the bill all week, highlighted by sets from TJ and Dave and Bangarang! late Friday and Saturday.
The Dallas Comedy House takes average Joes, schools them and then throws them to the wolves, and more often than not, it works.
Dairy Based, one of the roughly 30 troupes performing regularly at DCH, kicked off the improv portion of DCF2015 with some strong scenes around the one-word suggestion of “pajamas.” The diverse ensemble —two really tall dudes, a few normal sized folks and couple really short ladies—filled their environment with a trashcan, some Bic pens and an old Teddy Ruxpin doll. Then they crafted scenes around Jesus, flatulence and skydiving (and landing on your neck) to big laughs.
One of the funniest acts of the night followed, as Chris George performed his one-man act “I am the Show.” A movie screen appeared on stage, then George allowed the audience to choose a film from the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus, and he set about narrating the movie.
Ugetsu is a tale of 16th century Japan ensnared in a civil war from master director Kenji Mizoguchi. George watched the film on a computer offstage and hilariously improvised all dialogue and sound effects, as he’d never seen the film either. It was really witty and funny.
George is the assistant artistic director of Finest City Improv in San Diego, where he teaches and performs. So, if you’re ever in Southern California carve out some time to see this show, it’s kind of like the Mystery Science Theater 3000, but not a total recreation of the ’90s cult-classic television show “ya know, for copyright reasons,” George said.
Cupcake, another DCH troupe consisting of some of Dallas’ best improvisers, got back to making scenes up on stage by using an audience member’s text message for inspiration.
“We have the right to judge. We’re the longtimers here,” evolved into Nick Scott’s character constantly talking about how things were done at his old job and how the rest of the troupe was over it. Over him. Over his prior employer. Over his gesticulations. Over being over it.
The troupe used well-timed edits to jump back and forth between rollicking scenes at a Chili’s with a server who needed to up his “guns” game and at a bakery with a confused interior designer who misinterpreted the owner’s suggestions regarding a logo and motif for the shop. The players adeptly walked that line between providing support for each other and forming an individual identity within the scene to great effect, scoring big laughs.
A different approach came from Zoom!, a troupe from Oklahoma City that wears all black with white gloves while performing a wordless set. The players did well to create an environment for the audience, and the scenes often turned bizarre. But it worked overall once the performers began subtly working off each other in contrast, including a funny bit about doing shots and throwing the shot glasses wherein one actor’s glasses broke in splendor while the other’s didn’t shatter at all.
At the opposite of subtle is Samurai Drunk. This all-dude troupe bounds across the stage yelling, screaming and carrying on. Taking cues from an audience-suggested “sushi,” four of the seven samurai, if you will, began rolling rice and fish into edibles, as one customer indistinguishably ordered in “Japanese” in an effort to impress his special lady friend. The funniest lines came from Colten Winburn and Tommy Lee Brown, both of whom remained calm amid the rip-roaring dudeness constantly swirling around them.
LYLAS, an all-female troupe, quickly and adeptly took its audience suggestion of “stitch bitch,” which is apparently a thing, and ran with it sitting semi-circle and kvetching about this and that while two members began knitting.
The veteran DCH performers scored many times with bits on plastic surgery and how Memaw was proud of her granddaughter for deciding to fly the coop, although all the child really wanted was her grandmother to implore her to stay. Again that contrast between teamwork and individualism worked.
And anyone’s intuition would immediately scream “no” if someone trying to act as your mom asks: “Do you want to tell me what this white powder is that I found in your bedroom?”
No. Everyone would reply with a no in that situation. And the discussion ends there. Good when you’re a teenager. Bad when you’re on stage during an improv scene.
But after initially replying with a no to that query, Lindsay Goldapp artfully handled what could’ve been a non-scene meet with crickets from the audience into a cute little improv scene, ending in a hug.
“Don’t ask questions. Make statements. Be my mother and ground me,” Goldapp implored her partner as they embraced. And it worked. The scene didn’t die a slow death. Goldapp was able to salvage it by flipping the script and eventually telling her “mom” that she was the one who was grounded.
In short, just another moment of comedy and levity at the Dallas Comedy Festival.
There’s a boat load of sketch and improv on tap again Friday with shows at 6, 7:30, 9, 10:30 and 11:30. The final shows of the night are sold out as many area improvisers eagerly await sets from TJ and Dave and Bangarang!
TheaterJones will have coverage from every night of the Dallas Comedy Festival. Below are links to previous reviews:
The DCF continues through Saturday with following schedule:
Friday, March 27, 2015
- 6pm— Improv & Sketch
- 7:30pm— Improv & Sketch
- 9pm — Improv
- 10:30pm — Improv
- 11:30pm — Improv
Saturday, March 28, 2015
- 5:30pm — Improv
- 7pm — Improv & Sketch
- 8:30pm — Improv
- 10pm — Improv
- 11:30pm — Improv