I hate repeating myself and I hate the idea that someone has to hear me tell the same story twice without me acknowledging that I know they have heard it but the person next to them hasn’t and absolutely must hear it – because, of course, it is HILARIOUS and insightful and hilarious, and you know, hilarious.
Such is my ego.
But I don’t want to be a bore either because I don’t want to inspire eye rolls that often, right?
Well, one of my “John’s banging his drum again” subjects is making “discoveries.” Usually talking about filmmakers here, as I frequently have since this most recent Sundance Film Festival, the subject of finding some true filmmaking discoveries is very much on my mind and something that I sincerely believe regional festivals, like the one starting this week – the Dallas International Film Festival are – more and more – going to lead the charge now (as opposed to Sundance or SXSW) when it comes to uncovering the new and cool filmmakers for the rest of us to enjoy.
Well, this past weekend, I made another kind of discovery, right here in Dallas:
The Dallas Comedy Festival (and by extension, the Dallas Comedy House).
Now, let’s be clear as to my relationship with the Dallas Comedy Festival: I became their publicist this year. So, yes – I better damn well like what they do, or at least be able to convince you that I do, otherwise I suck as a publicist. However, if you know me for even a second, or if you read just a few things that I have written here or elsewhere, then you know that I am transparent as hell, I only get behind stuff that I’m a “true believer” in, and I don’t do the lying thing. I just don’t.
But I am their publicist, so take this with the largest grains of salt if you need to. I don’t care. This festival and the place it calls home – both of them need to be talked about. Both deserve to have some banners waved in their honor. So there.
Now, I may just be the rare idiot that DOESN’T know that Dallas has a healthy comedy scene, with boatloads of talent AND a fan base happy to come out to show after show after show, and weekend after weekend. But I sampled shows over three days of the fest, and took note of the energy in the lobby, by the bar, in the audiences of the shows, on the sidewalk outside the entrance, etc., and as they say – I think Amanda Austin, the Owner, Founder, and Artistic Director of the Dallas Comedy House, and Maggie Rieth Austin, the Executive Producer of the Dallas Comedy Festival are on to something. There is a build happening and they’ve got the goods to continue to grow this thing. It helps that both have performance chops themselves. I actually watched Amanda perform a couple of times, and Maggie currently has a short she starred in making the film festival rounds – so they obviously know the funny, and not just in a munching popcorn or having multiple cocktails while laughing at punchlines kind of way, but if you can deliver the funny, then you can also pick it out of the crowd or pluck it from a lonely audition stage way.
They’ve got it. And they have a good idea of what they’ve got as well.
What that is – is the potential to steer and nurture the Dallas Comedy festival into a place where it can be a major stop on the comedy map, a must see, and a “must be seen at” event that will inspire people – both garden variety fans, savvy fans, and industry scouts – to circle dates on the calendar and either get in the car, or a plane, to get there.
So, here’s some quick hit thoughts on the talent I saw:
KATY EVANS – I started off with a bang. Katy has got a viewpoint on her place in the world and, unless you have had the most privileged life ever – it is likely you will be laughing right along. There’s not comfortable in your own skin, and then there is a constant re-assessment of just how everything measures up to the outside world. She nails that.
SON TRAN – Solid commentary on our ethnic perceptions both in and out of the house. Especially in a land beset with Trumpsters.
DAMN GINA! – An all-female African American improv trio that has a great cohesive voice. It feels like they just start coming up with shit in your living room to make you laugh. Casual cool.
LOCAL HONEY – Another all-female trio. Just solid, smart stuff.
BITSING – Music improv. Kyle Gossett is the musical leader as well as coming in like a 9th-inninhg closer to help the group nail a joke. Inspired, all the way around.
JULIAN FERNANDEZ – He’s Mexican. But he’s not. Or at least you’d never know. Okay, best to let him explain, because he’s funny when he does.
SAFFRON HERNDON – 12 years old. And maybe smarter than you already. You know those annoying pre-fab Disney Channel and Nickelodeon kids? She’s the opposite of that.
AARON ARYANPUR – One of Aaron’s themes running through this set was the idea that he’s got A LOT of free time on his hands because no one is hiring him. And if that is that case, then there are a lot of idiots like me that haven’t discovered the comedy motherload in this guy in particular (as well as the entire roster of talent at DCF and DCH). Like the funniest guy at the party that simply recounts what happened to him that day or daily – and has you spitting up your drink happily because that shit – and his take on it – are priceless. REALLY thought he was great.
DENVER – Smart, heady, knowing comedy with a great talent for building themes, scoring with call backs, and doing enough mind bending without leaving the audience confused and abandoned as they rapid fire-style create scenario after scenario of weirdness.
MANICK – Again, with the Amanda Austin. This time teaming with Nick Scott. And NAILING the male-female relationship tics and cross-examination and backpedaling and every other awkward moment EVERYONE that has been in any kind of coupledom can relate to. In fact, the genius is that we all relate to it too much – and these two don’t give an easy out. No one is going to walk out the door without one more last word. And then another…
So that was just a sampling that did not include a single “headliner” and There. Was. Not. A. Single. Bad. Act. Not one dud, or yawner, or “slow child” in the bunch. And I’m a comedy snob. I will laugh heartily if I love something, but I can’t hide it if I don’t. No poker face at all. But this stuff was smart and creative. No lowest common denominator crap. No low hanging fruit was picked in my presence.
In fact, it made me recall an anecdote from years ago that Rob Reiner once said about he and Albert Brooks calling each other and musing as to whether the “Comedy Union” or some organization they made up, could somehow prevent Carrot Top from doing his act any longer because it wasn’t right, it shouldn’t be allowed.
Well, in that spirit of comedians and funny people policing each other, the Dallas Comedy Festival would have one of those ceremonies where some higher up suit or authority figure would put a ribbon with a medal on it around Maggie’s and Amanda’s necks to much hoopla and fanfare. Bringing the funny – the legit funny – is hard as hell to do. And on this scale – near impossible. But they did it. Two women – OWNING the funny in many, many, ways. If you have not checked out the Dallas Comedy House yet, then you should. And I would mind that calendar around this time next year because..mark my words…the Dallas Comedy Festival…
It’s going to get even bigger.