It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve returned from the 2012 Dallas Comedy Festival and after processing and assimilating everything I saw and did, I can safely say this is a festival not to be missed any time it comes around.
The festival brought in superstar acts from around the country, including Los Angeles titans FrankenMatt and Dasariski, but featured a healthy dose of homegrown talent to send the message that Dallas is a breeding ground for great comedy.
Due to a rampant illness that struck the Dallas Comedy House the week before the festival, the organizers had to be quick on their feet to fill canceled slots in each night. From my vantage point, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it forced them to fill the stage with the hungrier talent they have at their disposal and truly represent the broad variety that improv and sketch allows.
My favorite show of the festival remains DCH’s fledgling puppet improv troupe Commerce Street. Filling the roster with improvisers of every experience level, each a newcomer to puppets, Commerce Street mastermind Sarah Nolen has created a solid show that I can easily see touring the country to great success. A seduction scene involving a human male and a horned purple puppet in a hoodie had me rolling when I suddenly realized the puppet had somehow succeeded in gazing at the human with bedroom eyes.
The touring acts were pretty enjoyable as well. I have spent the majority of this past week rocking out to the songs of the Shock T’s, a Chicago three-person acoustic rock act full of brutally hilarious honesty. Their song “Dude, Come On,” in which they lament the closeted lifestyle of one of their friends, is the coming out anthem of century.
Aforementioned headliners FrankenMatt and Dasariski were quite possibly the best combination of acts I’ve seen in traveling festivals. The benefit of these festivals, in my mind, is the opportunity to learn from seeing how others practice the craft. I don’t think I’ve benefitted more from seeing two shows than I have from seeing these acts. Each one was a clinic in yes and, slow play, trust and fun.
With the benefit of these tours came the opportunity for workshops. The writing workshop I took with Matt Craig was a huge piece in the puzzle of sketch comedy for me, speaking to the principles of my own writing background and getting me thinking along the lines of what clicks for my sense of humor. The initiations workshop I took with Kyle Austin and Chad Haught was a wonderful refresher on one of the most important basics of improvisation.
Not to lag in other departments, comedy veteran Landon Kirksey succeeded in assembling two nights of top shelf stand-up to start the festival off in great fashion. Witty and enjoyable acts like Shane Estep, Paul Varghese and Michele Benson were well balanced with explosive characters like Fonzo Crow, Brad LaCour and Nic Pozderac. According to Kirksey, the majority of the lineup was comprised of comics that regularly attend DCH’s weekly open mic, which goes to show the kind of talent that Dallas is currently working with.
An unpretentious event, the Dallas Comedy Festival holds its own with some of the better festivals I’ve seen so far. It was a friendly atmosphere that drew healthy and supportive crowds every evening and epitomized all that improv, sketch and stand-up can be. In the words of Craig Cackowski during Sunday’s Q&A panel, “If we’re ever going back to any six letter city starting with D, it’s Dallas.”