By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The recent attention given to Nettles' other charges, however, has lent her evidence a new luster. "When the state takes on gambling, they should be more honest and transparent than a local bookie," he says. The statute of limitations could prove to be a problem in recovering any damages from the lottery, but Verney says his group is looking into whether the typical two years would apply in the winners' case. Even if a lawsuit isn't viable, however, Judicial Watch will henceforth be keeping an eye on the Texas Lottery. "Legal versus illegal is not the right standard to go by," Verney says. "Right versus wrong should be the standard."
Chalk up another convert to the Nettles gospel. She says congratulatory messages are pouring in from her fans, including many current and former lottery employees. "Let me tell you, the employees think I've hung the moon," Nettles says. --Rick Kennedy
The guys of the Section 8 improv comedy troupe are packed into a booth, pounding down respectable male drinks like Budweisers and whiskeys. They're jostling each other, constantly cracking jokes at anyone's expense. They had a pretty good show over at Ozona, and now they're out chasing a little bit of tail at the Regal Beagle on Lovers Lane. It's not so hard, either. They're funny guys. They're confident. One or two of them are even reasonably attractive. They can do whatever they damned well please. Except answer a simple question.
Who are the funniest girls in Dallas?
A collective look of confusion wafts over their faces. Most of them are happy enough to blow off the question in favor of another game of pool. One just chuckles. Another says the answer is too easy: "Girls aren't funny."
But we Dallas Observer reporters are not so easily deterred. After a few more drinks and a little poking, prodding and perhaps a little flirtation, there is a name.
"Kristin McCollum," says one of the black-shirted comedians. "She's pretty good."
It's a grudging admission, but it's also encouraging. It means that the Dallas comedy scene is finally starting to show some signs of life after a period of dormancy, say those who have watched it rise and fall in recent years. With the opening of the West End Comedy Theater in 2004 and the success of the first annual Dallas Comedy Festival at the end of July, the funny business is starting to pay off. Some of the biggest beneficiaries are women, an anomaly in the boys' club of comedy. From scoring traveling gigs with Carlos Mencia to selling out weekends at their own comedy clubs, local women are closing the gender gap.
"It's a funny thing when you're a woman and you say you do comedy," McCollum says, blushing when told that hers is the name to drop when it comes to female comedians in North Texas. "People look at you differently."
McCollum, with a full head of curly, red hair and bright, glittering eyes, is deceptively funny. She looks more like a Miss Sweet Potato pageant contestant than a dirty-joke cracking member of sketch comedy troupe Middle Management. But even Fort Worth's Four Day Weekend, arguably the best improv show in the area, has given her their blessing. She fills in whenever a regular can't make a show, occasionally raising eyebrows.
"When I first walked on stage with Four Day," McCollum says, "there was a collective silent gasp. Like, 'Why is there a woman in this group?'"
But she can win an audience over with a song, McCollum says. Musical numbers allow her to show the audience exactly how unpredictable she can be. McCollum refuses to bow to any of the conventions normally assumed by women performing comedy.
"You'll have women that make jokes about PMS or being a bad driver," McCollum says. "Unless I'm in a scene where we're making fun of stereotypes, I won't do it."
This problem of subject matter is a major one for female comedians. The good ones say they tend to steer clear of jokes about sex or relationships because they'll be branded "girl comics." Gendered humor doesn't go over well when it's coming from the mouth of a woman, says stand-up comic Cristela Alonzo, an Addison Improv regular whose philosophy is similar to McCollum's.
"When I first started, I made a rule," says Alonzo, who just got picked up for a tour with the notoriously obnoxious Latino comedian Carlos Mencia. "No jokes about being a woman or about being Hispanic."
Alonzo says she's the first woman Mencia has ever invited to open for him on the road, and she'll also be joining the writing team for his show on Comedy Central. Speaking at the Improv prior to one of her last shows in Dallas before she makes the move to Los Angeles, she says many female comedians lean too hard on the "chick schtick."
"I just want to tell them, 'That's not all you are!'" Alonzo says. "'There's more to you! You're not just a wife or a mother!'"
Everybody has a theory as to why the best female comedians can't--or won't--crack jokes about being women. But Dallas comedy legend, filmmaker and co-owner of the Back Door Comedy Club, Linda Stogner, says the difficulty really lies in finding a unique voice no matter which public bathroom you use.