Dallas Comedy House provides comedic opportunity for students
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 23:02
Standing innocently but boldly on one side of Commerce Street in Deep Ellum of Dallas is a burgundy brick building. White window panes rimmed in Old-Hollywood-style vanity lights create the face of the place, shining as stars on the Saturday-night street.
Black-on-white posters fill the glass, blocking the view of the inside, but nonetheless bring the eye to focus on what might
The brightly lit sign above points directly to the red door below, beckoning loudly in neon, just as audible as the loudspeaker painted on the door, to passers-by to enter.
Stowed away inside the seemingly serious, flat-faced building is an atmosphere that is anything but flat. A bar buzzes with conversation over brews, and just beyond sits a room of black. Emerging from the black are bursts of laughter. The stage up front illuminates a troupe performing between two red curtains.
The Dallas Comedy House is home to both troupes and solo comedians of improv, sketch and stand up comedy. It offers courses and a training program, consisting of five levels.
Amanda Austin, the owner and a performer at the Dallas Comedy House, explains the basics of what improv comedy is: “[It’s] saying ‘yes’ to what’s going on.”
As Austin also notes, “It’s a sort of cross-training.” Not only in comedy, but in any field of hobby or profession, cross-training is necessary, according to Austin.
Classes like those provided by the Dallas Comedy House allow for participants to learn the basics of improv comedy and build upon those skills to further their comedic experience as well as in other aspects of their life. Stage fright, fear of public speaking, or whatever it may be, is not uncommon.
“A lot of it is just getting over your fear,” SMU student Pooja Alloju said. Alloju is an improv comedian at the DCH.
Alloju completed all five levels of improv courses within a span of nine months, recently finishing the program this past December. She has already found success in her hobby, landing a spot in a Febreeze commercial.
“Even though I don’t have an agent, I’m still getting things,” Alloju said. “[DCH] is a great place to start.”
Whether working to become a fellow comedian in the collection, or simply looking for something to do on a Saturday night, Dallas Comedy House offers trial runs for newcomers.
Every Wednesday night beginning at 8 p.m., all-level comedy students are free to get on stage and perform, as are audience members; it’s free time for all. Additionally, on the last Wednesday of every month from 7:30-8:30 p.m., a free improv class is available to anyone.
The doors are open, the stage is open, and as Alloju puts it, “It’s extremely accessible.”
Although this past Saturday night was not one of these “Free Jam Sessions,” as the DCH refers to it, there was nonetheless audience involvement.
Both comedy troupes that performed, Local Honey and Atlantic Pacific Billy, asked for a starting point to get the performance going. First, Local Honey requested a word and received “postage,” incorporating a post office into a scene.
Atlantic Pacific Billy performed afterward, this time, requesting a movie title, to which they received “Dazed and Confused,” and then went on to perform their interpretation of the film.
Thanks to the audience, “It’s a different show every night,” Austin said. Further, Austin said that improv also teaches the “art of listening.”
Listening and interpreting, along with drawing comparisons and contrasts, are all things in which an academic university aims to teach.
Audience member and SMU graduate Kevin Dawe proves just this. Dawe said he spent his weekend night “comparing New York improv comedy with Dallas improv.”
A northern native, Dawe mentioned the well-known Tina Fey, a comedian who got her start at The Second City improv theatre of Chicago.
Enterprises like Dallas Comedy House and others across the nation provide the possibility for people to create and grow on stage and in public, as an individual and whatever else they may hope to be in the world. All it takes is a step off the street and in the door.