When comedian Ithamar Enriquez walks on to a stage, his presence commands an audience's attention. He doesn't capture it by yelling obscenities into a microphone to punctuate his jokes or screaming like a banshee to exorcise the deep-seated emotional pain that brings some comics to a stage.
Enriquez never says a word. He doesn't have to, he says.
“[Silence] definitely demands more of your attention," Enriquez says. "We’re so used to noise and sounds that if it drops off all of a sudden, people stop what they’re doing and look up to see what’s going on. That being said, people are also afraid of silence. People get very uncomfortable with silence in daily conversation or with the show. They don’t know what to do with themselves. So it puts people in a different position.”
Enriquez's one-man show Ithamar Has Nothing to Say is a series of sketches driven by characters, music and the occasional prop, all delivered by Enriquez's signature style that uses real emotion to create characters and imagination as a cerebral pair of 3D glasses to fill in the gaps. Enriquez will perform his show at the Dallas Comedy House at 10:30 p.m. Friday as part of the theater's annual Dallas Comedy Festival.
"It’s almost as if you can’t hear something clearly and you sort of bend forward to get what’s happening," he says. "I feel like that’s what this show does to audiences."
Enriquez says he first got the bug to do a more physical form of comedy while watching some of his comedy heroes as a boy in El Paso, Texas.
"When I describe the show, I say it's not really a mime show and it's not really a clown show," he says. "It's just I'm sort of self taught and what all those physical comedians before me did, I just patterned after them by watching people like [Charlie] Chaplin, Rowan Atkinson and Steve Martin. I just learned by doing.”
Enriquez made his way up to Chicago after college to train under the famed Second City comedy theater where he watched some other future stars of comedy get their start on stage. He says he remembers the silent scenes they would do in their showcases before making it a part of his own repertoire.
"In a standard Second City style. There's always one or two scenes that are done without dialogue and those were always the ones I loved watching when I was a student," he says. "The guys who were on stage when I was a student were guys like Jack McBrayer and Keegan-Michael Key. Both are very physical performers and I used to love watching them and learned so much so that by the time I got up there, those were the kinds of scenes I was bringing to the table and they were always my favorite to do."
He developed his one-man show with fellow Second City alum Frank Caeti, who is also in town for the DCF and will perform an improvised show with Enriquez at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. He also developed scenes for a six-episode web series of the same name for Maker.tv. Enriquez presents a series of scenes starring multiple characters in different scripted situations set to a song to guide the story and situations he's trying to show.
"The music plays a huge part," he says. "Once I set out to do this show, I would start jotting down notes of funny, physical bits and I would find the perfect song to accompany that bit or vice versa. I would hear a great song that I loved and find a way to do a sketch."
The limited scenery also gives Enriquez more freedom to construct the setting and the characters he needs for his sketches, he says.
"When I was doing improv and sketch in Chicago, it's a very Second City sort of philosophy to use very minimal sets and props," he says. "So the focus is on the relationship and as improvisors. As we're still trying to figure out the material, we're not giving ourselves too many boundaries. Without props and sets, we can do whatever we want and be whoever we want."
This gives Enriquez a lot of freedom to explore his space and present a style of comedy that seems almost forgotten in the age of high definition sound and screens that are designed to grab eyeballs by screaming at the skulls connected to them.
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"It makes people mentally and physically crowd in a little closer to get what's going on," Enriquez says. "It becomes this wonderful shared experience rather than it being super big and flashy. Don't get me wrong, there's some really good moments in the scenes and some really outrageous moments, but I think the essence of the show really welcomes audiences to really pay attention and notice what's on the stage."
Enriquez says for him personally, it gives him the opportunity to do a style of comedy he loves that's genuine, heartfelt and very physical.
"When I do the show, that's my workout for the week," he says with a laugh. "So for my own health, that's what I'm able to accomplish. I don't have to worry about getting on the treadmill."
Ithamar Enriquez will perform his one-man show Ithamar Has Nothing to Say at the Dallas Comedy House at 10:30 p.m. Friday, and his improvised show Ithamar & Frank with Frank Caeti at 10:30 p.m. Saturday at the Dallas Comedy House, 3025 Main St. Tickets are available at dallascomedyfestival.com.