Dallas Comedy Festival 2013 reviews

March 28-31, 2013

Blacking Out, on the Spot

Amy Martin writes about Tuesday and Wednesday happenings in the Dallas Comedy Festival, including Sean Flannery’s The Blackout Diaries.

published Thursday, March 28, 2013


The theme of the Tuesday opening night of the Dallas Comedy Festival seemed to be how we were all 24 once and it wasn’t pretty. The other was the after-midnight munchies-fueled comedian pilgrimages to Taco Bell, where evidently the action in the parking lot can get pretty dicey.

Sample showcases of comedians tend to run the gamut of ages, but this night skewed young except for the two headliners, Aaron Aryanpur and Linda Stogner. It offered a fascinating comparison of 20-something comics with skills and skewed perspectives—but a definite lack of life experiences—with comedians having a decade or more under their belt and the ability to draw on more than party stories.

Grant Redmond was a good example: confident delivery and honest self-depreciation, but the more you listened the more you weren’t sure that the exaltation of deeply reprobate behavior was all that appealing. On the other end was the gentler Clint “Paco” Werth, of the long-haired and bushy 4:20 style of cannabis comedians. In a short set, without losing his laconic delivery, he smoothly took the audience from a space-cadet rumination opening to a surprisingly punchy end. Good set construction is the mark of an advancing comedian and Werth pulled down Best Comedian in the 2012 Dallas Observer poll.

Then there’s Aaron Aryanpur, Funniest Comic in Texas for 2012. He has a solidity and quiet intensity that draws you in like gravity. He enhances and improves old material like an artist, constantly pruning and modifying, shifting and inverting. Seen the fellow perform many times and have never heard the same routine the exact same way twice. Except the coconut shrimp bit, about how his wife cajoles him into ordering dishes she, not him, wants to try, because it’s just too true to mess with.


The Blackout Diaries

Then again, with the second show of the opening night being The Blackout Diaries, maybe there was no way escaping the theme of comedians run amok. A presentation of professional party animal and “death escape artist” Sean Flannery, the hard-drinking Chicago comedian and actor started by sharing a few of his own tales of inebriation before ushering in other stand-ups who regaled with their adventures in alcoholand.

The gist: You can be old enough to drink, but not old enough to think. But hey, we’ve all been there.

Flannery’s infamous flop apartment/halfway house in Chicago, with its sleeping hierarchy of floor > couch > mattress filled with an array of lost-soul comedians, generated quite a few stories, since emcee Landon Kirksey was once a denizen. Dave Little chose a gentle tale of teenage cruising and a mild police chase, which was odd since his days at Bowley & Wilson, a wanton Greenville Avenue college dive, should of generated some doozey blackouts. Then again, SMU frat boys have been known to bribe.

Flannery kept it funny, offering each comedian up to the audience for cross examination afterward and interspersing it with vintage clips of beer commercials and other oddities, at least when the technology worked. The surprising end was a video look at mortality rates of DUI versus WUI. Turns out it’s much safer to be Driving Under the Influence of alcohol rather than Walking Under the Influence, though neither is safe. Careful out there, ramblers, and stay away from those freeways—bridges are your friends.


Wednesday Night — On the Spot

Hoped for more from Wednesday night’s second show, On the Spot, hosted by Dean Lewis. Six comedians and Lewis were given 15 seconds to look at a list of topics and create an instant coherent set. But instead of being like Chopped, no tasty coherent sets were created. But then again, the nonsensical mostly two-word suggestions were exceedingly hard. Try working “party Bible,” “tsunami pick-up lines,” “skankrupt” and “haunted hot tub“ into a conversation.

Most of the comedians took an episodic approach, trying to make each phrase into a joke, rather than create a storyline or routine. Paul Varghese was relatively solid, though he’s strong at just about any stage task. Landon Kirksey and Brian Moody came closest to stellar, with Kirskey almost creating a plot arc from his material. Their experience in improvisational ensembles really set them ahead of the rest.

But the surprise was Dave Little’s redeeming set. He took the suggestions, which were especially difficult, and continued their non-sequitur arc. The myriad of ideas running through his head played across his face. Selecting this and not that, he skipped a few steps to come to a quirky and obtuse conclusion that left you puzzling — and chuckling — for quite some time.

The Dallas Comedy Festival continues through Saturday at the the Dallas Comedy House at 2645 Commerce St. in Deep Ellum. Remaining nights focus on improvisational duos and groups. Highlights include:



  • Radio! Radio! — musical theater
  • Manick — seamless comedy duo
  • The Seven Eight Sevens — Austinlandia
  • Samurai Drunk — versatile and punchy
  • Off Book: The Musical — campy Oklahoma City humor 


  • Shock T’s — Chicago songsmiths
  • Kyle & Drew — exceptionally deft flights of fantasy
  • The 313 — Keegan-Michael Key and friends 


Original post at: http://www.theaterjones.com/ntx/dallascomedyfestival2013/20130328141209/2013-03-28/Blacking-Out-on-the-Spot


Off Book, and Still Funny

Amy Martin recaps Thursday night at the Dallas Comedy Festival.

published Friday, March 29, 2013

Jazz and improv comedy are much alike—they both require close listening. But at least at a jazz show your don’t lose track of comically convoluted plots if you get up to use the restroom. Note to self: Don’t drink coffee before an improv show.

Never figured out what the players of Radio! Radio! were going on about on Thursday night at the Dallas Comedy Festival, except that it had to do with adoption. Indignity upon indignity was piled upon the adoptee, who managed to make wailing rather amusing. The recurring device of awarding and taking away Scout badges was pretty fun. Many a teenager could have aced the badge for being pathetic. But the plot, who knows?

Two of the Thursday ensembles were duos, a fine comedy tradition that brings relationships to the forefront.

Amanda Austin and Nick Scott, who comprise Manick, craft intense “down the rabbit hole” dramas of entangled psyches, often with characters who just aren’t right in the head. No matter how dark, there were always verbal zingers to keep the chuckles up.

The duo David & Terry Talk to Strangers, David Allison and Terry Catlett, went for broad humor and quirky plots, driven on this night by Catlett’s hammy playfulness and inability to keep a straight face. The audience suggestion of “selling a Corvette” stimulated a series of quick-paced vignettes that were well woven together.

The 787s base their improv suggestions on Austin landmarks. The set probably would have been quite funny if many of us had some idea what Cathedral of Junk and Hula Huts were. The third suggestion of swimming with dolphins provoked some cute physical humor, but mostly went nowhere.

Samurai Drunk, a sprawling group of seven men enthusiastic with playing make believe, was so deep into play that you half expected Peter Pan to swoop in and take them away to the Lost Forest. The epic plotline seemed to revolve, sometimes literally, around a wormhole, but coffee called again mid-set so it was mostly WTF?

Only the most diehard of an improv fan stays past 11 on a weeknight, but those who did were rewarded with Off Book, a new, looser, format for the Villian: The Musical brainiacs from Oklahoma City. As always, they brought the house down. The huge lift of energy after over three hours of improv was greatly appreciated by this old timer. What’s not to like about comic topicality relayed with the gregariously sung refrain “And it’s all shit from here.”

The Dallas Comedy Festival continues through Saturday at the the Dallas Comedy House at 2645 Commerce St. in Deep Ellum. Remaining nights focus on improvisational duos and groups. Highlights include:


  • Shock T’s — Chicago songsmiths
  • Kyle & Drew — exceptionally deft flights of fantasy
  • The 313 — Keegan-Michael Key and friends


Original post at:


Room to Improv

Amy Martin recaps Friday night at the Dallas Comedy Festival, highlighted by The 313 improv troupe and several Chicago guests.

published Saturday, March 30, 2013

After intensely listening to more than eight hours of improv comedy in two days, one can feel inundated by words, millions of spoken words. Improv fatigue is a reality. Then something like The 313 comes on stage, with vaginas that speak in sign language, and it all gets fresh again.


The 313: Big Dogs on the Block

Comedy fests like the Dallas Comedy Festival serve as comedian conferences, replete with networking, but the learning comes from watching what’s on stage. So the audience tends to be stacked with comics more than willing to play along. Watching a first timer at the DCF, she was often puzzled at what these folks were laughing at on stage.

But with the 313, you didn’t have to work at it or be an insider. You just laughed. It was like watching dogs at play. You can’t watch dogs romp and not laugh because their fun is so sincere, transparent and in the moment. The fluidity with which the performers interacted was almost acrobatic.

David Razowsky, a Chicago-bred, California-based comedy improv guru, called them “Transcendent. What I like about them is that there is never an argument scene. You can tell they love each other.” Local improv pro Von Daniel of Locked OUT Comedy concurred: “They were having so much fun. You could tell they really enjoy each other.”

Such are the benefits of performing with each other for a couple decades, with many of them going back to The Second City Detroit, but now being so individually successful that they don’t perform together enough. It creates a reunion atmosphere that member Keegan-Michael Key extolled as “So festive!”

While each member was strong, female members Jaime Moyer and Maribeth Monroe were fearless, even ferocious. The petite Monroe performs with the energy of a small dog that has no idea it’s a small dog, concocting broad, chewy characters that the word dame was meant for. Best was when Moyer and Monroe launched into cascades of character riffing off each other.

An intense sense of physicality pervaded beyond stage romping. There never a sense of self-consciously mimicking, fidgeting or busy work so as not simply be standing around talking, as you see in so many improv troupes. No matter how weird, The 313 embodied characters 100 percent—voice, facial expression, movement and energetic expression—slipping in and out like ciphers.


Local Yokels

Of course, each member of The 313 has a couple decades experience in improv to set them apart. But most of local and regional acts have years of training and experience in order to fill their 25-minute slot and not fall flat. They do indeed make it look easy. To compare and contrast shows clearly that if they stick together some of these troupes will be certifiably amazing someday.

Local Honey, a female trio, excelled with an improv that used a wine-fueled conversation of some daffy privileged moms about a PTA bake sale to launch into a nightclub-roaming bit about an underground railroad for PTA reject-refugees on the lam from the head Gestapo mom. Rounding out the set was a bit about confusion between the two Brazilians—blowouts and waxes—that did leave some indelible imagery.

Kyle & Drew went past the character comedy-dramas most duos favor into hyper- kinetic romps featuring great use of act-outs and unusual voices and faces. The six-member Roadside Couch, featuring Dallas Comedy House owners and improv instructors, set up The 313 headliner with a vigorous set.

Ensembles from the Dallas Comedy House dominate the festival, so the Chicago block featuring Belmont Transfer, Winter Formal and the Shock T’s was greatly needed, and the Shock T’s song-comedy break was equally appreciated. They are such vivid performers that it’s hard to remember what came before or after. The good set featured a couple of T classics, and new songs on the pretense of liking Shakespeare and the bizarre waking dreams caused by Ambien.

The Dallas Comedy Festival continues through Saturday at the Dallas Comedy House at 2645 Commerce St. in Deep Ellum. The final night features a one-woman sketch show, plus improvisational duos and groups. Highlights include:


original post: http://www.theaterjones.com/ntx/dallascomedyfestival2013/20130330142552/2013-03-30/Room-to-Improv