The first leg of the 2012 Megaphone Marathons took place July 13-14 at the Frenetic Theater in Houston, TX. The importance of this weekend is not to be understated. Houston is the newest member of the New Movement flag, which has already established themselves in Austin and New Orleans. In arguably the biggest improv festival that Houston has ever seen up to this point, Houston impressed with an array of performers looking to take their comedy to the next level. 28 troupes from all three cities. Two days. Ten hours of improv. Totally worth it. Here is my recap of day one of the marathons, which was anything but unlucky for taking place on Friday the 13th (no jokes were made about this, thank you.)To start off the night was the troupe Heroes of Milkton (Houston), which happened to be the first graduating class of TNM Houston. They started off with eight different monologues to gain information to form scenes with1. It definitely was a smart way to open a show broadcasting Houston talent. The scenes ranged from people trying to buy balls at Walmart early in the morning and Ripley himself re-thinking his “believe it or not” campaign.
Next to step it up early in the night were the Sticky Boys (Austin), who put on a montage while also trying to bring in information from the previous scene to the next. Scenes included dueling dinosaur exhibits heightened to a Live Nudes exhibit and a jump rope competition gone seriously wrong. Jump roping evolved to ribbon twirling and then to stick and hoop games. Towards the end of the show Andy DeVoe was calling Rob Gagnon from in jail. Kevin Jacobson yelled in a voice that could have been Rob’s mom, but Andy claimed it as one of the people in jail waiting to use the phone. Eventually, the voice became synonymous for both people which made for a delightful scene.
Laser Heart (Austin) had a super absurd set talking about sherbert, while also playing characters with brand names like “North Face” as their actual names. The ending scene featured two split scenes of awkward exchanges, leaving Reagan Ward to play two characters having a profoundly awkward conversation with a former sex hookup.
Rogue (Houston) did a speed Harold, which is a type of Harold more accessible to a general audience. It went smoothly with scenes about cowboys hitting on each other and Antoine trying to abduct people, which seems to be a theme recently.
Chris and Tami (New Orleans) are the dang founders of The New Movement so their shows are always a must-watch. Chris started off as an abusive grandfather that only gave his granddaughter goldfish crackers in water (eww) to eat and had a video of grandma and him doing it ready to show at any moment. The next scene was a daycare sequence where the kids sent letters cut and pasted from magazines (like serial killers do) to a wife being cheated on by a dental-obsessed person. Various love scenes occurred, the backwards N in the Nine Inch Nails was referenced. This show was definitely more fulfilling than beating Mario 2.
Up to bat next was the TNM Training Camp (Houston) and they had some solid scenes after working extremely hard on their crafts the past few days. Highlights included running dog obstacles for humans, Jim Meyers purposely mixing up “I like Predator, too” with “I like Predator 2″ (horrible movie), and Evan O’Neil wishing he wasn’t awkward or ugly just so that aliens would abduct him.
One half of Disco Box (Austin), Ariel Greenspoon and Christina Parrish, injected the crowd with a shot of adrenaline with their opener; they affected an air of badassness in front of the audience and called their other two troupe members ‘pussies’ for not showing up to the Houston marathons. These two rising stars out of TNM Austin started off with a very serious crime scene and every scene elevated leading to a lab scene chock full of sexual tension while trying to deal with evidence.
Veteran performers Handbomb (Austin) brought the craziness with an opening scene about collecting diabetes and synesthesia, so you could catch them all?? Cool. Eating coconuts and bananas? Check. There was also something about a kitten god? Got it. Oh and there was a pretty sweet good cop bad cop scene in there somewhere.
Wolf Cry (Houston) started off with a ‘Would You Rather’ game to start the scene, which is a really fun way to do it. This was actually the (soon to be) 2nd graduating class of Houston and there was a lot of energy and tumbling around during a circus scene these guys really put their body on the line for their craft.
Fematoma (Houston) was the first team to win a Main Event in Houston. Lisa Friedrich was a child medium that drew very creepy pictures that were all true. There was also the most disgusting scene I’ve seen that has taken place at a catering business. I’ve worked in catering before, so this hit lose to home. Awesome all-girl troupe.
Spirit Desire (Austin) is on their last month farewell tour after being one of Austin’s premiere troupes for years. These guys just have fun on stage. The opening took place all over the stage and space available in the theater. This set included: shadow puppets, penguin slides, ninja turtles slides and ninja turtle weapon use. Being one step past meta about scenes and actually entering the audience at one point, Spirit Desire continues to push the envelope of what improv can be every time you see them.
Three groups at the end had about 10 minutes each closed out the night.
Tin Hats (Houston) opened their scenes with musical sequences, which I found amazing. Great set.
Dress (Houston, Austin) dressed their scenes, calling out the environment before starting, every scene. Matt Graham was using some fancy words in odd ways and Brady James chimed in with the best line of the night: “Did you get that from the word of the day calendar you got at the Denny’s Christmas party?”
Jousting Bieber (Houston) closed out the night2 in fashion wearing fancy jackets and hats and talking in British accents. I had no idea what was going on at this point of the night, but it really worked.
Overall, it was about as solid as of a night as you could have had to start the 3rd annual Megaphone Marathons.
The 2012 Dallas Comedy Festival kicked things off with a bang Tuesday night, performing top rate stand-up comedy to a sold out and responsive crowd at the Dallas Comedy House in Deep Ellum.
The event featured a host of some of the best talent that the Dallas stand-up scene has to offer along with a few out-of-towners with Dallas roots.
“Most of the guys you’ve seen tonight are here every Tuesday at our free open mic,” host Landon Kirksey told the crowd, “so it’s actually kind of stupid that you paid for this.”
[pullquote_right]They didn’t seem to mind paying, though. At times they were a live laugh track, steadily giggling to things that weren’t even meant to be jokes. It was clear that they’re here to be entertained and were going to be. Luckily, the comics were happy to oblige.[/pullquote_right]
Justin Williams kicked things off nicely with an intelligent set that played off of his black intellectual persona to big laughs. He covered the bases of family and social dynamics, shared some strange experiences about living in New York and finished with a bit of local humor.
Fonzo Crow followed in direct contrast with a high energy set that got the crowd ready to rock and roll.
Jason Salmon had the audience hooked with his fish out of water stories of a Dallas man adjusting to life in New York.
One of my personal favorites of the evening was Michele Benson. Her deadpan delivery and wordplay proved that she is a master of misdirection and innuendo. I often found myself laughing a beat behind as it slowly dawned on me what she was saying.
The audience became almost unruly at the entrance of Freddy Vasquez, the persona of local comedian Lane Ingram. Ingram’s Vasquez is a gregarious, excitable comic that I heard someone describe as a “Mexican Chris Farley.” He spoke only Spanish and had the crowd rolling with a bit about his “estupida” wife, impersonations of celebrities and his chant “Mexicanos! Mexicanos! Mexicanos!”
Shane Estep was high on wit and parody, pulling an audience member up for a reenactment of Ice-T’s acting prowess in Law and Order: SVU to big laughs.
[pullquote_left] Jason James channeled a Lewis Black style of irascibility at the mundane inconveniences of everyday life. My favorite moment was a bit about a car with a Jesus Fish decal that cut off a long line of traffic on the freeway. James became unintelligible before screaming, “Your Jesus Fish privileges are revoked!”[/pullquote_left]
Aaron Araynpour had a regular guy sensibility as he discussed the struggles of being a husband and father. The comparison to Louis C.K. is inevitable.
The night closed with big local name Paul Varghese, whose sardonic but down-to-earth humor was a nice closer to a night of great laughs.
Overall, Tuesday’s starter to the Dallas Comedy Festival was a runaway success. Tonight starts off with a short film festival followed by another full bill of stand-up before switching to improv and sketch on Thursday. For more info, check out www.dallascomedyfestival.com and follow @ImprovWins on Twitter for live updates each night. If you’re in the Dallas area, this festival is not to be missed.