On any given night, on any given stage, a local comedian is taking his or her first steps to becoming the next big comedy star. Dallas has long been overshadowed by the reputation of Austin’s comedy scene, but over the last decade, Dallas has produced some of the most recognizable names working in comedy today.
You might not even realize that some of your favorite funny people on stage and screen once sipped bad beer while waiting their turn at a Dallas open mic night. Check out the list below of successful comedians who got their start in Dallas before moving on, and a few of the projects you can see them in now. If you weren’t a fan of them before, you definitely will be after seeing them perform. Warning: videos are NSFW.
Before Cristela Alonzo was breaking barriers for Latina representation on TV and in film, she was a Dallas comedian opening up for the headlining acts making stops in DFW. It didn’t take long for her to be invited on the road, performing throughout the country to share her inimitable point of view.
Alonzo later went on to create and star in the ABC sitcom Cristela, but your little ones probably know her best as the voice of Cruz Ramirez, the plucky trainer to Lightning McQueen in Cars 3. Between humanitarian work and touring, Alonzo has also started a new podcast, To Be Continued, which mixes sketch and commentary through the filter of her comedic mind. Keep an eye out for her future return dates to Dallas, but in the meantime you can view her Netflix special, Lower Classy, to see this unique and original comedy voice.
Tone Bell went from a favorite in Dallas to a favorite in Hollywood so quick that he made it look bafflingly easy. Cool and even-paced, never rushing a beat in his story so as to milk every laugh from the situation, Tone is a consummate performer. His Showtime stand-up special, Can’t Cancel This, debuted this year, marking another benchmark in Bell’s meteoric rise to prominence.
Bell has been a cast member on numerous TV shows such as Netflix’s Disjointed, NBC’s Whitney and NBC’s Bad Judge, and is now starring on CBS’ Fam opposite Nina Dobrev. Bell also has many films in the works.
Watching Dustin Ybarra onstage is like catching up with a best friend you haven’t seen in years. Immediately relatable and conversational, Ybarra breaks down the wall between audience and performer to establish a connection genuine enough that it seems like he’s talking directly to you.
If Ybarra’s cheshire cat grin looks familiar, it’s because he’s been all over your TV and movie screen. From working with acclaimed directors like Cameron Crowe in We Bought a Zoo, to Jordan Peele in Us, Ybarra has established a presence with his natural charisma. His TV work includes roles in ABC’s Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Fox’s Batman prequel series, Gotham, and ABC sitcom The Goldbergs.
Anyone fortunate enough to watch comedian Nick Guerra in his early Dallas years would've been witness to boundless energy, punchlines that hit with rapid-fire precision and a stage presence that made a 10-person room feel like 100 and a packed comedy club bristle like AT&T Stadium. The natural skills inherent in his act were honed on stages around the country, inevitably leading him to be a featured competitor on NBC’s Last Comic Standing and appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Guerra’s debut special, Love Me At My Worst, is set to be released in the upcoming fall, but you can listen to him now on his podcast True Scary Stories with Edi. The weekly podcast finds Guerra and comedian Edi Gibson reading “true” scary stories from around the world and dissecting them for your entertainment. Guerra makes a point to visit Dallas on his touring schedule, happy to perform at the clubs that allowed him the opportunities to grow. The next time he makes a return trip, make sure you’re in the front row.
Whenever Jerry Rocha returns to a Dallas open mic, popping in for a quick few minutes onstage before he headlines a Hyena’s Comedy Club, every cigarette is put out, drinks orders are postponed and everyone rushes into the showroom to watch. They do it because Rocha’s comedy is an explosive tour de force of unflinching social commentary and profanity-laden expert-level comedy writing.
Rocha went on to appear on Conan, and his first hourlong special, The Gentleman Jerry Rocha, aired on Netflix. If you weren’t familiar with Rocha up to this point, you’ve been missing out, but the good news is you now have plenty of material to go through. His third album, Ay Girl, is available to purchase on iTunes, and his podcast, The Ramble, is a weekly dose of Rocha’s irreverent brand of humor with co-host Eddie Pence.
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Not all heroes wear capes, and not every showbiz success story happens in front of the camera. Mark Agee was long considered one of the comedy doctors of Dallas, able to hear a joke once or twice before knowing exactly the wording that would fix it to be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. It was this same ear for funny that he used in his own act at Dallas clubs like the Improv and Hyenas, with an understated delivery of barbed wit and intelligence.
Unsurprisingly these same skills led him to be a sought-after writer for comedy shows. Having written for such programs as Comedy Central’s The Jeselnik Offensive, TruTV’s Comedy Knockout and Netflix’s The Patriot Act, Agee has become an invaluable member of writer rooms from Los Angeles to New York. The next time you’re laughing at your favorite show, don’t be surprised when you see Agee’s name pop up in the credits.