"Pow! Zap! Blam! Batman!" by Anthony Salerno

June 16, 2017 (Pearly Gates, Heaven) - When we last left you Bat-friends, trouble was brewing behind the pearly gates. Gotham’s finest criminals, Penguin, Riddler, and the Joker, had been dormant for years until this week when they hatched a plot to break into Heaven’s bank. With God and Jesus on their yearly father-son trip to Reno, the Kingdom was left unguarded and the Bat-phone was quick to ring for backup.

Batman was returning to Gotham late Sunday night after apprehending Two-Face in small-town Rhode Island. Batman received a tip that the once feared villain was running a fraudulent bed & breakfast and price gouging couples. After an extensive investigation and over-the-top fight scene, Batman returned to his Bat-cave a tired and injured vigilante. Unfortunately for the Dark Knight, his help would soon be called on once again. Alfred Pennyworth, billionaire Bruce Wayne’s butler, was in the room with the Cape Crusader and Wayne when Batman received the urgent call.

“Batman had just gotten in from hunting down that poor excuse of a host, Two-Face,” Pennyworth said. “He had some broken ribs and deep lacerations on his back. As I was stitching him up, Jesus called, which is not an odd occurrence. He checks in frequently to ask if Batman needs a sidekick or has any spare Bat-gadgets. Batman hung up the phone and relayed the news to me, I mean us. Myself and Master Bruce. We were both there. Anyways, he quickly jumped into the Bat-plane and took off. I wasn’t even done stitching him up.”

Batman had been tracking Two-Face in the small city of Quahog, an hour north of Gotham. The Dark Knight had been doing recon work on Two-Face’s crooked B&B for weeks and worked with the local government to track the syndicate down. Quahog’s Mayor, Adam West [below], was delighted with Batman’s presence in the city, and the pair even forged a special bond.

“I called Batman a month ago, and he was so pleasant to deal with,” Mayor West said. “I saw a horrible future for Quahog in my crystal ball, involving a man-sized chicken terrorizing the streets and wanted to protect the city I love. Batman’s been here since, working tirelessly. His presence has kept the city safe, kept the criminals off the streets, but most importantly has kept that annoying Noid out of my office.”

As Batman heads to the great beyond to halt the wretched minds of the felonious triumphant, many questions remain. Can Batman apprehend the criminal cohort before Heaven’s bank is depleted of its funds? Will Gotham be safe during the Cape Crusaders absence? Will God and Jesus strike it rich in Reno? For those answers and many more, tune in next week. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Anthony Salerno is from Buffalo, New York. He is a current DCH student and performs with Ewing Troupe: Clementine. When he’s not working at Improv or his day job, he’s trying to talk himself out of buying Uncrustables at the grocery store.

"What I’ve Learned from Taking Improv Classes—An Almost-Graduate’s Tale" By Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa

Sometimes in life you have to stretch yourself; photo courtesy of DCH.

Sometimes in life you have to stretch yourself; photo courtesy of DCH.

It took me two years to go to a show at Dallas Comedy House (DCH). Another two before I enrolled in improv classes. This week, nearly a year after I first walked through the doors of the DCH Training Center, I’m set to graduate from funny school. I’ll get my diploma (a diploma!) and will be officially allowed to lord my superior knowledge of comedic timing and improvisation over the heads of my unstudied peers. I’ll be able to look back over the course of my study and see how things have changed—how I have changed—along the way. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

Trust yourself. Seriously, all the gifts, all the talents, all the tools you’ll ever need lie within you. Every gift you have to give to the world is tucked away inside. It’s your job to act as excavator. But, I know this can seem daunting. We convince ourselves that what we have to offer couldn’t possibly be as good, as beneficial, as moving as what others have to offer, so why even try? But it’s in the trying that we begin to carve out our true selves. Showing up is the first thing; stepping out is the second. Trust your instincts. They usually are not wrong. (Note to self: learn to apply this to parenting!)

Become an intern. I did not intern the first three levels at DCH. I’m not sure why. Time commitment, I guess. But, it was the single-most important investment I made into building community. Before I became a night intern, I only knew my classmates, and we were having a difficult time getting the bulk of us together outside of class for hang time. Once I became an intern, I started meeting people and getting to know the roster of stellar DCH performers. I got to better know some of my classmates who interned the same night as me, and I got a better understanding of the way the club works. Not to mention, interning really broke down the intimidation factor of the theater and performing in a big way. Seeing the club before patrons arrive and after the lights come up gives it a realness and approachability that didn’t exist before.

Keep going. Listen, life is busy. Things get hard. Or boring. Or they aren’t what you imagine they’ll be. But, if you keep pushing yourself, if you keep showing up and being present, if you keep giving of yourself every class and showcase, if you keep supporting those who are traveling this journey with you, you will reap the rewards. They might not come in the form that you expect, but they may just be beyond your expectations. I’ve formed friendships with some people that I hope will continue well after graduation. I’ve been able to support new friends as they audition for roles, pursue new careers, and start new businesses. And I felt the strength of their support in my own endeavors. I’ve met people who are also pursuing this dastardly artistic life, making my own quest just a little less lonely and a little better lit, so that I fall into fewer pitfalls along the way. The encouragement is what we sensitive artists types need most of anyway.

Have fun. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the joy that brought you here in the first place. Sometimes, when we are striving to get so far out of our comfort zone, striving to meet new people and be vulnerable, striving to be something we only imagined we could be, we can get overwhelmed. Sometimes, when we’re working to remember all of the rules of improv, we forget the most fundamental rule—to have fun. This is not an option. Improv is meant to be play. You are meant to experience joy and pass the gift of joy on to others, whether they are in the audience or in the scene with you. Lighten up and enjoy your time here. Because time is the one thing we cannot change. No matter how we try, it keeps slipping away, so we might as well embrace it, take it out to dinner, get it a little drunk and laugh a little—at yourself and at others. Laughter is medicine, and who doesn’t need a little healing once in a while?

Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa is a soon-to-be graduate of DCH’s improv program. She spends her days wrangling children, avoiding housework, and hustling for acting or writing gigs. Hire her—please!

"Review: 'Sanctuary in Endless Poetry'" by Jamé McCraw

Alejandro Jodoworsky’s Endless Poetry is the second installment of the Chilean director’s autobiographical trilogy. It continues where The Dance of Reality (2013) leaves off, in Santiago, Chile, exploring the artist’s years as a young adult. Although Endless Poetry is the first film I have seen by this well-known filmmaker, I found it to be an incredibly accessible introduction to a body of work that began nearly five decades ago.
 
In act of open rebellion, the crestfallen and irate young Alejandro Jodorowsky fells a family tree after being ridiculed for his dreams of being a poet by his father and comically cruel and deceitful extended family. His cousin, who is never shown without his beloved dog in his arms, is his only ally after the event. He leads Alejandro to his new home and family where he lives in the company of artists and dancers, including a ballerina who is in perched in toe shoes for the duration of the film.
 
His mother, portrayed by Pamela Flores, is also at odds with the extended family. She aims to please to no avail. Every line she speaks is sung in a billowy soprano but this characterization, unique only to her, seems to tie the young poet to his mother under the umbrella of art. She is suppressed and constrained in her life, figuratively and literally, by the tight corset she wears. Her young son does not wish to live such a suppressed life.
 
To portray the push-and-pull dichotomy the filmmaker had with his father, Jodorowsky symbolically cast his own sons in the roles. His oldest son, Brontis Jodorowsky, plays his father, and his youngest son, Adan, plays himself. The director bends the scope of time by inserting himself, an older man at this point, into scenes throughout the movie. He offers advice to the ghost of himself, as if to offer peace and consolation, influencing the course of events to a different outcome.
 
While under the care and guidance of his new family of misfit artists, young Alejandro flourishes. He improvises poetic verse on the spot to a captive audience. He is directed to a nearby bar to find a muse to further influence his pursuit of beauty, poetry, and life. He meets the voluptuous and bold Stella Diaz with shocking long vibrant red hair and her body painted. Her mannerisms are comically bold. She pounds booze, brawls with brutish strength, and laughs loudly with disdain. Pamela Flores, the same actress who plays Alejandro’s demure songbird mother plays Stella. She is hardly recognizable. In a moment of emasculating chaos, Alejandro distances himself from this overwhelming influence of Stella.
 
He eventually finds a faithful friend and accomplice in performance and poetic pursuits in Enrique Lihn (played by Leandro Taub). In one memorable scene, the two attempt to prove they need not break stride for obstacles and continue walking a straight path through town by bounding over a produce truck and politely passing through the home of a stranger.
 
Endless Poetry features many comical moments of rebellion. It is endearing to see the cast of characters “yes-and” one another’s impulses in organic moments, be they energetic bursts or more organized settings.

Even when there is discord or pain, a celebration can be found in the act of reconciliation or while processing grief. There was much care put into this film, and the tenderness is evident in each beautiful moment. Jodorowsky celebrating his life in this way is very touching and an inspirational reminder to any artist with a dream. And whether or not you have found your tribe of misfits, rest assured you will feel welcome into the loving group of friends portrayed in this movie.

*Endless Poetry will be playing at Texas Theatre with multiple showings Friday, July 21 - Friday, July 28.

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.

"Blue Apron Reveals New 'Hell’s Apron' Subscription Package" by Anthony Salerno

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June 9, 2017 (New York, NY) - Meal delivery services have put the fun back into cooking while eliminating much of the hassle. No other company has capitalized on dinner illiterate families more than Blue Apron. The New York-based meal kit service has grown rapidly in its six years of service. With all its successes, Blue Apron still sees ways to expand its customer base and has been experimenting with a variety of different subscription types. Enter the companies’ new Hell’s Apron offering that pairs the delivery of gourmet recipes and ingredients with the perpetually livid chef Gordon Ramsay.
 
Coming off his seventh season of aggressively restraining himself to not yell at pre-teen cooks on Fox’s Master Chef Junior, Ramsay has been keeping a low profile. Still feeling the need to criticize the preparation of food, he has reached out to his Twitter followers to send him pictures of their meals so he could comment on them negatively (see below picture). After a month of critically scrolling through his social media page, Ramsay was ready to put the apron back on.

“I’m was just tired of dealing with children,” Ramsay said. “It’s like you want to tell them to go piss off because they made crap food, but you can’t because they’re ‘vulnerable’. So, I figured I’d dive back into helping grown Americans learn how to cook. Bunch of fat, ungrateful slobs eating ill-prepared food. If you’re going to be that rotund, do so by eating culinary masterpieces, not animal slop.”
 
Despite the fun Ramsay says he’s been having, many complaints have been filed to Blue Apron denoting that the easily triggered chef is a little “too real." Recently a help note, left in of one of the Hell’s Apron reviews, was discovered telling an all-to-frequent tale of Ramsay coming unhinged. In the review, Jeff and Mary Sanderson of Bloomington, Indiana, claim that Ramsay berated them for hours after a failed meal and may have even forced the family from their home.
 
“We were so excited to have Gordon come to our home,” Jeff said. “Everything was going well, just a few quips about me not being able to slice onions like a ‘grown man who’s fathered children.’ Then we took the finished tomato-saffron risotto out of the oven and served it to Chef. He went ballistic and asked us to take off our aprons and leave his kitchen. Mary and I were so terrified, we did. We left the whole house. We tried to get back in, but he locked the doors. Now he just disappointingly stares at us with his arms crossed from our front window. It’s been two days. We just want to go home.”
 
Despite the Sanderson’s story, Blue Apron has publicized that their innovative Hell’s Apron package has been a huge success with their subscribers. Ramsay’s appearances are currently booked out two years in advance and counting. One Blue Apron official noted that wait time will likely decrease once the company can “remove” the irate chef from the Sanderson’s home.

Anthony Salerno is from Buffalo, New York. He is a current DCH student and performs with Ewing Troupe: Clementine. When he’s not working at Improv or his day job, he’s trying to talk himself out of buying Uncrustables at the grocery store.

(Top image: Photo Ashley Kline/NBCUniversal. Middle image: Twitter)

"Fringe Benefits" by Jamé McCraw

One Saturday this past spring, four Channing University students went to a garage sale across town in search of odds and ends for their shared, four-bedroom home, and above all, a new couch. What the roommates discovered on this outing was more than they could have dreamed of.

"We usually just pick something up from the curb and swap it out for new pieces when we find something better," Jen Crawford said. "But this last time, the loveseat my boyfriend, David, brought home was infested with fleas. We had to convince the landlord to fumigate the place.” 

David Mankin tells a different story.

“Whether it was the couch or not that brought in the fleas is up for debate," Mankin said. "Our roommate, Jefferson, is always finding kittens. It’s like, dude, stop bringing home strays!”

Jefferson Pendleton had this to say. 

“What can I say? I love little furballs and they love me. I have only actually found two kittens since I moved into this house. Neither of them had fleas," Pendleton said. "I do not want to get in the middle of a lover’s dispute, but I absolutely think the loveseat brought the fleas in. He found it on Avenue G. I lived in an apartment on Avenue G when I was a freshman. The rent was like $300 a month. You pay for what you get. I got bedbugs. I’m surprised the loveseat didn't have roaches as well.”

The fourth roommate, Sara Conor, was in the kitchen rolling out dough on a floured surface.

“I’m making a 'peace' pie," Conor said. "There has been so much tension in the house.”

The petite, ethnomusicology major took a moment to show off her garden where Pendleton’s two cats, Piccolo and Diamante, were chasing butterflies. She was wearing a suede leather jacket with fringes along the sleeves and two tiers of fringes across the back.

“So, you’ve seen the jacket, now,” Mankin said as he entered the garden.

He is about a foot taller than Conor and has broad shoulders and thick arms. Conor removed the jacket.

“Check this crap out,” Mankin said.

He puts the jacket on and it somehow fits over his proportions and is just as flattering as it is on the waifish gardener.

I had heard of magical shared garments before from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, but I always took it to be fiction. When these four friends walked up the driveway on Sycamore Street they found what Pendleton referred to as “a halfway decent macaroni pot” and a lumpy beige and emerald floral print couch large enough for the four of them to sit on during “epic evenings of Mario Kart.”

Conor and Crawford dug around through piles of clothing lain across a large crinkled blue tarp on the lawn. As they ladies tell it, the homeowners had no memory of ever owning the jacket and only charged three dollars for it. It was found beneath a stack of neatly folded vacation t-shirts in child and adult sizes.

“I like garage sales for this reason,” Crawford said. “You can tell so much about a family. They must have gone to St. Pete beach in Florida at least three different times. You can tell by the different fads featured in the designs. A few of the shirts feature little smiley faces and reference the Macarena.”

“Jen is a totally excellent detective of humanity," Conor said. "She is the most intuitive person I know.”

It is at this point, Conor is serving up the “peace pie” to her roommates. Pendleton is now wearing the jacket. He is lanky and well over six feet tall. The jacket is still flattering, and I am absolutely baffled. I ask them if any other items they scored that spring Saturday have had any mystical properties.

“I’ll tell you what, that pot cooks the best damn macaroni. But it could also be the switch from store-brand to Kraft,” Pendleton said. “Terminator over here had a successful cuddle session on a date recently. They fell asleep watching Kundun on the new couch. She had the jacket on that night.”

“He calls me Terminator. Like Sarah Connor,” Conor said. “ I keep telling him ‘One n. No h.’ He never listens.”

She goes on to explain that the 1997 film Kundun about the young Dalai Lama is her litmus test for a potential life partner.

“Everyone falls asleep during this movie for some reason, which is OK," Conor said. "I’m game for a platonic snuggle now and again. But I truly believe my soul mate will stay awake until the end.”

Mankin is washing the dishes while Crawford dries. Pendleton has his Diamante on his lap, batting at the fringes of the suede jacket. The mood in the room after Conor’s “peace pie” is calm and contemplative. It seems the magic is not so much in article of clothing with a complementary fit for the diverse friend group, but in the bonds of the companions themselves sharing a home cooked treat and being thankful for each other. 

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.

"Fall in Love with 'A Brief, Endless Love—a Sketch Comedy Revue' by Matt Lyle" By Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa

I almost didn’t make it to Dallas Comedy House for opening night of A Brief, Endless Love, the latest work by award-winning playwright, Matt Lyle. The Texas sky had opened, dumping several inches of summer rain across the city, but I decided to buck up and venture out anyway.

During my 15-minute commute, I saw at least four accidents, even more emergency vehicles en route to other accidents, and—inexplicably—a man standing on the side of the street dressed only in a zipped-up, hip-length raincoat and wellies while holding an umbrella. That is to say, the man was not wearing any pants. I wondered if this was an omen; thought maybe this was a sign for the oddities of things to come, concerned that this would be the highlight of the night. But, I am pleased to report that it was not. In fact, the night only got better from there—much better.

A Brief, Endless Love fires on all cylinders. Its touching real-life perspective creates poetry in comedy, and leaves you laughing until you cry.

“I grew up basically an only child. It was just me and my dad,” said writer Matt Lyle, who also wrote Hello, Human Female and The Boxer to much acclaim. “I’m married now, and I have a child, and life is full of love, but nothing can pull at me like the search for love. I’ve always looked at everything I’ve written from that very real human place.”

That essence of humanity is embodied in his ensemble cast of seasoned performers, most of whom Matt has known and worked with for years—he’s even married to one of them. Steph Garrett, Kim Lyle, Jeff Swearingen, and Jeremy Whiteker bring to life the joy found in every dark corner and depict the loneliness found in each scene with a lightness of life that makes them instantly endearing.

From the mad scientist answering an ad on Match.com to parents questioning their preteen’s professions of love by describing—in very real terms—what goes into real love to the Stanley Sisters, which features Dot (my favorite character of the bunch, artfully portrayed by Steph Garrett), I could not imagine better players in these role or better performances by these players. And that’s for good cause. While a cast typically writes its own sketch shows, Matt Lyle already had much of the material for A Brief, Endless Love and then cast and honed that material to the strengths of the performers. What results is a cohesive, hilarious ensemble that will keep you on the edge of your seat and laughing from your belly.

Fortunately for us, belly laughs will not be in short supply. Matt Lyle likes to write—a lot. Writing is his creative outlet, which juxtaposes nicely against his IT job at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. He imbues his characters with such refined and unexpected comedic relief that it inspires performers and writers alike to embrace their own humanity and push themselves farther. With luck, we’ll have many more opportunities to see his take on the human condition.

“Always start with the most recognizable, true-to-life thing and go from there,” he said.

And fortunately for us, that is something Matt Lyle is damn good at it.

A Brief, Endless Love runs at the Dallas Comedy House every Friday & Saturday night at 9 p.m. now through June 24. You should go—like me—come hell or high water.

Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa is a current student at DCH. She spends her days wrangling children, avoiding housework, and hustling for acting or writing gigs. One day she’ll make her life easier by changing her name to Shashana O’Shanahan.

(Top image: Matt Lyle. Middle image: Shashana Pearson-Hormillosa)