Dallas Comedy Festival 2012: Day Two

Wednesday night was a subdued and relaxed affair as a mix of younger stand-up comedians and older guys trying out new material packed the stage of the Dallas Comedy House to a healthy crowd at the 2012 Dallas Comedy Festival.

The audience was quieter than Tuesday night’s sold out room of exuberant guests. Momentum was hard to come by as the comics hustled to earn their laughs, a trial by fire that separated the experienced from the inexperienced.

If I was to name the theme of Wednesday’s subject matter, it would be marriage. Almost every comic seemed to have a bit about marriage or long term relationships. [pullquote_right] Josh Johnson in particular had an interesting take, tackling the unique perspective of being a 22 year old divorcee and launching into a rant about nitpicking that was one of my favorites of the night.[/pullquote_right]

Andrew Hamer kicked the night off nicely with a warm and enjoyable set that had the relaxed group cheering. Nic Pozderac followed and won me over quickly as a representative of absurdist humor, heavy on puns and playing up a wacky lumberjack persona. If I had to name someone in Dallas I’d want to hang out at a bar with the most, it would be this guy.

The raunchier comics had a bit more trouble getting the audience on their side but powered through nicely and earned their share of appreciation. Brad LaCour compared Match.com to “shopping on the clearance aisle of life.” Chris Darden, after losing the crowd with a muddled and confusing masturbation innuendo, deftly won them back when he mournfully intoned that he was “sick of J-Date.”[pullquote_left] Linda Stogner was an interesting departure from the general lineup of jaded young people with a decidedly traditional routine that showcased her decades in comedy. Her quaint naiveté and “gosh darn” delivery made me think of what would happen if Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire had a goofy niece. [/pullquote_left]

Tom Devenport, a Dallas native currently living in California, had a strong set that played on cultural differences and practical world outlooks that I enjoyed watching.

Chelsea Hood keenly keyed into the core of her personality to create a likeable set that felt like hanging out with your funniest high school friends.

The headliner of the evening, Dave Little, was a bit of a disappointment. At the beginning of the night, I was told by host Landon Kirksey and many others that Little is one of the funniest people in the Dallas comedy scene. However, he chose to fill his set with new material that had not been workshopped, leading to a mediocre performance that he sardonically called out, lightly harassing the audience for “dropping the ball.” I have seen this sheepish acknowledgment of one’s own failure on stage countless times, but Little was unable to handle it gracefully and it made me slightly uncomfortable.

Veronica Elizabeth, the only true out-of-towner on the night’s lineup, was my personal overall favorite. Like most of the night’s comics, her set dedicated a huge portion to the idiosyncrasies of her love life, but she pulled it off with such a delightfully quirky style that I found myself smiling the whole time.

Though Wednesday night was not as strong as Tuesday’s kick-off, the Dallas Comedy Festival continued to bring laughs that were well worth the money spent. The week now turns to sketch and improv and shows no chance of slowing down the laugh rollercoaster. Be sure to follow @ImprovWins on Twitter for live updates as the festival continues, check back here for daily recaps and interviews and for scheduling and info visit www.dallascomedyfestival.com.

(NOTE: Yesterday’s article contained a slight error. The short film festival is being held on Saturday evening at 7:30pm before shows begin. Visit www.dallascomedyfestival.com for more info.)

Dallas Comedy Festival 2012: Day One

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.

The Weekly Format: The Stand-Up Opening

NAME: The Stand-Up Opening

Any improviser who has tried their hand at/come from the world of stand-up comedy knows how hard it is to perform at a bad open mic. The crowd is a mix of drunkards who aren’t paying attention and/or heckling the comic (who is up there just trying to make them have a good time) and judgmental “colleagues” who feel the need to critique every small movement in your set. Or is that just me?
Three stand-up comics, through a mishap in scheduling, have been booked for the same time slot on the same night at the same venue. Rather than be polite to each other and try to make the best of the error, they undermine each other to win the spot from an unreceptive audience. Each one takes the mic in turn to try their set, but the other two begin loudly showing their disapproval and critique the performance. When each comic has had their turn, break to the sides and begin an improv set based on the information gathered.
It’s acceptable to use pre-written material in the stand-up opening, but I recommend completely improvising the stand-up routines to make sure the show is 100% different each time. Also, the comics are supposed to be bombing at an unforgivably terrible open mic venue, so if the routines are lame it adds to the atmosphere.