In 2010, a small building in Deep Ellum known as Dallas Comedy House hosted the first Dallas Comedy Festival. This week, DCH, now one of the neighborhoods’ longest-running establishments, is welcoming performers from all over the country for its ninth year of the festival, which is expanding to two locations.
The annual Dallas Comedy Festival is a five-day showcase of stand-up comedians, improvisers and sketch groups. Additionally, those looking to learn more about comedy — whether it be the business of it or simply performing it — can take part in workshops.
The continued success of the festival is representative of the growth of DCH, as well as the overall expansion of the comedy scene in Dallas. Once limited to comedians waiting their turn at stand-up comedy clubs or bars looking to fill a slow night, Dallas comedy has grown into a community of performers and artists meeting weekly at DCH’s training center to challenge themselves and one another.
When DCH formed, it hosted a monthly improv class with fewer than 10 attendees in the back room of Ozona’s. Within a year, word spread, and the influx of students eager to learn led DCH to leave its rented room and open its first black box theater on 2645 Commerce St. in Deep Ellum. In its first three months, the Dallas Comedy Festival premiered.
The first festival had fewer than 30 acts, and improv performers Jill Bernard and Joe Billwas headlined the event. Each year, the festival has grown larger with more impressive reach. This year has more than 70 acts. Chicago-based improv troupe 3Peat and former Saturday Night Live cast member Sasheer Zamata will headline.
“This year, the event has grown so much that we’ve added an additional location for our performers, which will include some Dallas Comedy Festival favorites, as well as some exciting new acts for Dallas audiences to see,” says Amanda Austin, owner and founder of DCH.
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DCH has moved to a larger space at 3025 Main St. in Deep Ellum, adding a second stage and a larger bar area. But the festival has already outgrown the building. For the first year, the Dallas Comedy Festival will be in two locations. The second is Independent Bar & Kitchen, 2712 Main St.
Maggie Rieth Austin, executive producer of the Dallas Comedy Festival, says this year's event will include local talent, along with comedians from Canada, New Orleans, New York, South Carolina, L.A. and Seattle.
"In a year of with so much focus on inclusion, we can’t wait to see and hear the funny from our female acts, POC and LGBTQ entertainers," she says. "The performers at the Dallas Comedy Festival have long demonstrated that comedy comes from all walks of life and countless perspectives — and this year it seems as if we’ll be offering nearly all of them. It is going to be a ridiculously silly and wonderful year for the Dallas Comedy Festival.”
Dallas Comedy Festival begins Tuesday.