Comedy For The Human Spirit by Evey McKellar

In improv class we begin with a few warm-ups. They get the blood flowing, they help lower our defenses and embrace the playfulness of the environment, they get us engaged. They help us practice saying yes, being present, and supporting one another. 

One warm-up involves everyone standing in a circle, with one person in the middle. The middle person starts singing a song, and the rest of us are tasked with singing along as quickly as we are able. They begin, we join in. Then, the task of the exercise is for someone else to tap them on the shoulder and replace them as the person in the middle, singing. 

The first time I experienced this warm-up, I stood the entire time on the outside of the circle. It was a big enough group, and the exercise finished before I leapt out there to begin a song. I kept holding back; I wanted to play, but I was unable to think of a song in the midst of all the commotion. 

Instead, I thought about the 2012 movie Pitch Perfect. A late night a cappella battle finds someone beginning a song, with another jumping in to sing a new song based on a word that overlaps.

I never jumped in to our improv singing circle, because I could never land on a song to contribute.

I spent the entire exercise not playing along, because I thought the point of the game was to get out there and have a song…

I was trying to be fully prepared. 

I was trying to be ready. 

I was trying to be really good at it. (I was trying to be impressive.)

Later, in another class, we played the game again. This time, I was paying better attention. I heard the teacher explain that the intention was to support the person in the middle. Even if we make up the song, the point is to relieve the middle person as quickly as possible. 

The point is to practice jumping to support. It did not matter what song, if any song, came to mind. 

The point was to send our bodies out into the middle of the circle, lead with our feet, and ask our voices to follow. 

The point was to show up.

The point was to support our partner, rather than wait to be ready to offer that support. 

Before, I spent so much time preparing that I never participated. 

This time, I managed to leap out in the middle of that singing circle, and tap out in support of my peer. Not once, but twice, I showed up, opened my mouth, and made up a song. 

This time, I not only participated, but I co-created the game we shared. Perhaps no one else would have thought of the songs that popped into my head as I leapt into the middle. 

There have been times in life that I have felt unprepared, afraid, and certain that I cannot contribute without having more ready to go. 

And yet, whether professional or personal, when I have managed to follow my feet and show up, the contribution of my creativity, insight, and personhood has still been an asset.

Often, much of the good work is done in the togetherness and co-creation. 

I am learning that I am capable of showing up, even if I am not ready. And I am learning that I need to show up, because what I bring and the way I see the world is uniquely valuable to the world around me. And what I gain from encountering others is uniquely valuable to the world and me. 

I am better for having shown up. 

We are better when you show up. 

Ready or not…

Evey McKellar is a Level 3 Improv student, a writer and UMC clergy. She works for a nonprofit, lives in Dallas, and loves Cane Rosso. 

Chris Beasley - A Warm Welcome

DCH Remix is blog series will explores the diversity of Dallas Comedy House. It will consist of interviews of students and performers who identifies as a person of color to learn about their creative journey here at DCH.

At last week's improv jam, I introduced myself to Chris Beasley and we had lovely chat in the PDogs green room. He is a new face to the DCH Improv Program even though he has been seeing shows here for the past 5 years. He is a Dallas native, Texas A&M alumni, Eagles Scout, and a history teacher.

 Chris Beasley 

Chris Beasley 

Tyla Gibson: What drew you here to DCH?

Chris Beasley: What drew me here ironically: About 5 years ago, I worked for CBS Radio and the guys I worked with were the K&C Masterpiece, Kevin and Corey, and they were just hilarious and so funny. They asked to me to step into a role on their show but I turned it down because I didn’t think I was funny enough to vibe with them. Fast forward to a month ago, I tore my Achilles and I had surgery on it. After the surgery, I ended up with blood clots in my lungs and had to be hospitalized. Every doctor told me that I could have easily died so it was good that I was in there. When something traumatic happens, you look back and think what have I been doing? Where am I at? I looked back to when I turned down that position. I decided that I was going to start over. I’m going to get funny. I’m going to do what I need to do to feel confident about my delivery or whatever it is. Now I’m going to try to go back to CBS and see they have a role for me and grow myself in that world. That’s why I’m here and I’m not wasting anytime.

TG: That’s really dope! I’m really proud of you being able to make that first jump. I guess it is true when you go through something traumatic, you gain a whole new perspective on life.

CB: Exactly!!

TG: So what level are you right now?

CB: Level 1 Improv. I started on Sunday!

TG: Oh so you just started. Oh you’re a baby!

CB: I know but I've got to get saturated. I figured I start coming to shows right away and not waste anytime.

TG: What shows have you seen so far and what have you’ve like about them?

CB: I’ve been to several improv shows. I don’t know the troupe's name, but we’ve talk about this in class. The funniest thing that I see is when they harp on the realities of the world and repeatedly go at the same joke. Like you become a part of the troupe when you sitting there watching them do it and it just becomes hilarious. Just seeing the community vibe and the audience being a part of the show. It's like you get a family feeling when watching shows, so that’s what I’m looking forward to being apart of.

TG: Ok! Have you played at the jam or is this your first time?

CB: This is my first time. So with the injury, I’m a little hesitant of getting on stage until I can walk really well. But once I can do that, then I’m hopping in for sure.

TG: Do you feel like you’re included here at DCH and how do you like the vibe here?

CB: You know what’s empowering about meeting people here is that you realize there’s a little bit of diversity with every person here. As far as interacting with people thus far, I’ve met people from all walks of life. My improv instructor, Scriven Bernard, is a member of the LGBT community and he wouldn't hesitate to be himself here, which promotes the same kind of message to someone that you can be yourself here. So that’s what I’ve felt so far especially being a minority in this world. You learn that some places you don't need to be yourself because it will draw too much attention to yourself and get you in a hairy situation. But that’s not the case here from what I noticed so far and that’s amazing. The Trayvon Martin incident happened a few years ago and that was the first thing that shook my world of what it means to be black in America. It shook me pretty hard because this kid was really killed and no one seemed to bat an eye. I produced a video called Black Does Not Equal Fear. It did fairly well. In a 2 or 3 days, it had 50 thousand views on YouTube. I went to the Katie Couric Show because of it and I meet lot of people including Trayvon’s parents. It was a wake-up call to me. There are still some issues because you think when you’re young “No, we live in a post Civil Rights era and things has been taking care of. The people before us handled all that.” You learn that's not the case. Now it’s definitely out there that people of color had been killed multiple times if its by a civilian or a police officer or whatever that might be. I’ve learned that people don’t like talking about it.

TG: Right! And how would you bring that awareness and conversation here on stage?

CB:  I would love to learn how to skillfully bring a little humor around a sensitive subject without making too much light of it, but to make people comfortable and get them ready to have that conversation. I’ve been having it straight out and it's like hitting someone with a brick. They’re not ready!

TG: Right! I think that’s an advantage that stand-up comics have. They can be able to tell their truth but make it easy for the audience to swallow the pill. Have you thought of branching out to stand-up or are you just going one step at a time?

CB: My plan is to be very focused. I’ve learned that I need to put myself out there because if I stay comfortable then I won't go anywhere. Gotta make yourself uncomfortable but like you said stand-up is an outlet to be very real in a more comfortable way for the audience. I can be blunt but if no one is listening to you then you’re not getting anywhere and we need people listening to our voices.

Tyla Gibson is a student and performer at DCH. She performs with the all-women improv group Sapphire to keep herself sane from being yell at by soccer moms all day.

An Interview with Coach Dale of Texas. High School. Football.

Texas. High School. Football. is the latest sketch comedy show at the Dallas Comedy House, playing Saturdays at 8:00 pm. The show features hilarious characters inspired by the obsession that many Texans have for high school football, but there is one character in particular that I wanted to know a bit better. I sat down with Coach Dale to ask the tough questions and find out everything about this legendary figure.

Bits & Bites: Dot's Hop House

I maintain that the best way to prepare for stage time or improv class, is to just sit together, share a meal, and shoot the breeze. 

A few short years ago, Dallas Comedy House was not where it stands now. In fact, it used to be off of Commerce St, across the street from The Bomb Factory. Alas, in 2015, DCH packed up and moved to the current digs on Main street. After DCH's exit, a new place was opened in the space where it once stood, Dot's Hop House.