Have you heard the one about helping little old ladies across the street? No, of course, you haven't. That's because comedy and kindness rarely go hand in hand. There are no funny jokes about spending Christmas serving mashed potatoes at a soup kitchen. "Altruism" and "philanthropy" are words that would be ignored by any improv group looking for scene suggestions. Mother Teresa was no Gilda Radner. But one of the reasons the West End Comedy Theatre exists today is because of comedic compassion. Comedy writer/composer/director Doug Ewart wanted to give local comedians a place to play. "The reason why I opened this facility is because so many of these companies had some really great material that had the possibilities of entertaining lots and lots of people," he says. "They just did not have venues to perform that on a regular basis. A lot of the comedy venues in Dallas might only book a comedy troupe in for one night a month. And it's always been my feeling that in order to really develop a following and develop press and bring attention to what you're doing, you need to perform on a regular basis on the same night of the week."
But this sort of charity act isn't the only thing Ewart hopes will set West End Comedy Theatre apart. He and co-owner Rob Poyner have the goals to showcase more than just their house performers, to not censor their stand-up comedians and troupes, to give stand-ups more performing time and to be a home to both clean and, well, not clean comedy. And, so far, this generous attitude hasn't been a hindrance. And neither has the once-declining West End entertainment district. In fact, Ewart says, many of the Friday and Saturday shows have been selling out, especially since the theater got its liquor license two months ago.
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The king of clean is Dallas Comedy-Sportz, a family-friendly interactive improv troupe that performs at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. As the night goes on, the comedy gets darker. The 9 p.m. slots on Fridays and Saturdays belong to Pavlov's Dogs and Section 8, both of which perform improv, sketch and musical comedy and neither of which calls West End its permanent home. In fact, house troupe Voodoo Mechanic will take Section 8's place in October with a new show that's in production now. The final performance of each night is The Eleven O'Clock Rush, a stand-up showcase that features five to six comedians given 15 to 20 minutes each. Many of the performers are comics based in Dallas, including Neil Edwards (a writer for That '70s Show) and Jerry Rocha (a featured stand-up from Latino Laugh Festival), who perform through August. Wednesday's open-mike night is for stand-up comedians, writers, performance artists and musicians to have their two minutes of fame. And Kidney Punch performs "The Harold," an old-school long-form structured improvisation, each Thursday. Ewart promises something for everyone--be it clean and straightforward improv or dark and dirty sketch comedy. That's mighty kind of him.