As far as titles go, Craig Cackowski and Lucas Neff could certainly do worse than The Better Half, the name of the show they're performing at Dallas Comedy House this weekend.
"I think we're a good contrast in styles," Cackowski said by email. "Lucas is boundlessly energetic and physical. He's the young buck who's just discovering himself as an improvisor. I'm calm, still, terse. Basically I'm old and don't like to move around as much."
"And yeah, I'm a bit spastic," Neff admitted. "Our other name for the show was Calmy and the Spazz."
So ... good choice on the name then.
It's not surprising that Cackowski would be the calmer half of the duo. He has more than 20 years experience as a comedy improv actor and director while Neff is a relative newcomer.
Neff, the star of Fox's Raising Hope, and Cackowski, a familiar face from Community, Arrested Development, Workaholics and the new Comedy Central series Drunk History, bring their respective halves to the DCH for a weekend of workshops and two shows at 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The first time that Neff and Cackowski started improvising together was also one of Neff's first time improvising on a stage. He had done some improvisational training in Chicago with places such as the Steppenwolf Theater and The Second City, which is why Cackowski invited him to jump onstage with him. The show was originally called First Time with Cacky in which noted comedy names with little to no improv training would have to learn how to say "Yes and..." on the spot.
"Originally, it came from a desire just to play with new people," Cackowski said. "There are so many talented improvisors in Los Angeles that I never get to play with. Sometimes they would be veterans that I had never played with, sometimes they were newbies that I thought would be promising. Eventually, I expanded it to include comedian friends like Paul F. Tompkins that were very funny but had not necessarily trained in improv. And the reason it makes for a good show is the unknown, the danger."
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That was over a year ago. Now, Neff has racked up a considerable amount of improvisation experience as one-half of The Better Half, thanks to his partner, he said.
"Craig...is a unique mind," Neff said. "He has this encyclopedic cornucopia of an imagination and it's a joy to be invited to his manifold universe."
Neff and Cackowski said each show offers a different mix of raw emotion and energy but Neff noted they are usually "generally compassionate."
"We've had shows that were fast, where we played dozens of characters, to shows that were slow where we just did one long scene with two characters," Cackowski said. "So the format is different every time depending on the suggestion, our mood, and the audience. The best thing that's come out of it is getting to be friends with Lucas, and as we get tighter offstage, we get tighter onstage."