There's a widely held belief that comedians are socially awkward and insanely jealous when their fellows find success. All you have to do is hang out at a bar after a show in Dallas to learn neither is true; at least not here.
In comedy hubs such as New York or Los Angeles, the lack of affordable rent could understandably turn the comedy community into a wasteland of joke thieves and sycophant entourages. But here, where the comedy scene is just budding, performers don't have to sweat the same kind of stakes.
Dallas comedians build each other up on and off the stage, acknowledging each other's successes rather than being bitter they didn't think of a joke first. To prove it, we asked 11 of our city's biggest comedians about their favorite joke by another Dallas comic. They spared the punchlines so you can seek out the comics and experience the jokes for the first time properly, but shared analysis of what makes the jokes work.
1. Dan Danzy on Josh Johnson's "Best Buy Job Interview" Joke
Comedians often have to work crappy jobs on the side to support themselves, and it's tempting to milk those experiences for material. However, this habit can be a crutch at best, and a violation of the employee handbook at worst. But Danzy says Johnson aces his story about applying for a job at Best Buy, which speaks to anyone who has endured an awkward job interview.
"I like it because knowing Josh, I can see all of it actually taking place," Danzy says. "It works because it's an accurate look at the obscurity of the whole hiring process and the cheesiness of having to answer weird and unusual questions just for a job to sell speakers and computers.”
The bit works because Johnson is simply being himself in a situation that would make anyone squirm, Danzy says. “The setup is him waiting to get interviewed and him having a white enough name to get interviewed in the first place," Danzy says. "Then he gets to the interview and they tell him 'I'm from the 1800s, sell me a cell phone.' And then Josh's humor does the rest. It isn't a long bit, but when it's done, you'll feel like you've laughed 20 minutes.”
2. Josh Johnson on Chris Darden's "Butterfly Exhibit" Joke
Observational comedy can be tricky to master; done poorly, it's just a person spouting the obvious. But Darden's take on the Botanical Garden's butterfly exhibit is creative and cerebral, Josh Johnson says.
"I love it because it forces your brain to realize things you should've already known about a display like that," Johnson says. "He does a great job of accurately depicting the uncomfortableness of the people who work there, and the line where he calls dead butterflies 'princess tears' makes me fall out of my chair every single time I hear it.”
Johnson is impressed by Darden's ability to commit to a very surreal bit with his writing and delivery. "Very few people get to my humor center like Darden," Johnson says. "He thinks outside the box and his delivery is insanely unique and
3. Chris Darden on Angel Rosales' "Es Mi Abuela" Joke
The best comedians can sell a story to any audience, even one that speaks a different language.
"He has to be in certain mood to tell it, but it's amazing when he does," Darden says of one of Angel Rosales' jokes. "It's all in Spanish but you don't have to speak Spanish to get it. He just sells the damn joke by getting so into these descriptions, and then hits you with this over-the-top, almost Steve Harvey-like reaction. It's a sight to see. Genius writing.”
The joke requires a vivacious stage presence to pull it off, Darden says. “It's definitely the way he sells it to an English-speaking audience," Darden says. "He'll set up several 'stories' that have an either scary or sexual vibe to them. Then the punch line is always 'Es mi
4. Katy Evans on Justin James' "Aliens" Joke
Evans appreciates that while it's a simple bit, it works on multiple levels. "It's really silly and it's fun to watch Justin do a ridiculous act out of an alien," she says. "It's just one of those smart dumb jokes that
5. Grant Redmond on Christian Hughes' "Civil War" joke
Even comedians who are duking it out for stage time will run bits by each other to see if they work. It's a perfect litmus test: If you can make a comedian laugh, you can make anyone laugh.
Redmond says his friend Christian Hughes tested out a joke on him about the uselessness of instrument-playing, regimental bands in Civil War squadrons before he told it on stage for the first time.
"Part of the reason why I love this joke so much might be because he and I run new jokes by each other all the time, so I got to see this one in its infancy and watch it develop," Redmond says. "Christian is a history buff and loves talking about the Civil War."
Redmond says that Hughes' knowledge of the source material really helps him sell it on a stage. "He has a great act out that he really takes his time with," Redmond says. "I won't spoil the ending for you because it has a great turn and everyone should see it for themselves. Watching that joke develop from just a one-sentence pitch to the full joke it is now has been a lot of fun."
Good writing can go a long way in comedy and
The joke can also be a bit of a tongue-twister and
7. Clint Werth on Mitchell Clemons' "Christian Rock Concert" Joke
The greatest comic minds are always coming up with new ways to surprise an audience. Clint Werth says Mitchell Clemons is great at this. For one joke, he simply asks the crowd, "What's the best part about a Christian rock concert?" We won't spoil the punchline except that Werth describes it as "a perfectly executed misdirection."
"There's kind of a fake out and then he completely changes his tone for the punchline," Werth says. "It's hard to explain it without giving away the joke, and I don't even know if it would translate in print if I did it, but it's the perfect misdirection joke and it's the first joke I saw him do that made me say, 'Hey, this guy is really funny.'"
8. Paul Varghese on Chuck Cason's "Ball Job" Joke
Cason was one of Dallas' first big, breakout comedians when the local comedy scene started developing back in the early 2000s. Cason helped build Dallas' comedy scene when it only had two clubs and later moved to Los Angeles to pursue his comedy career on stages and television. He passed away on June 18 at the age of 60.
Cason's comedy inspired a lot of today's most successful joke-tellers to pursue their own careers; that includes Varghese, who picked Cason's bit about a certain part of the male anatomy as his favorite.
"Cason had a great bit about strip clubs and how disgusted his female friends were that he went there," Varghese says. "'I can't believe men pay to see women's breasts. Women would never pay to see a man's testicles.' Chuck replied, 'I'm pretty sure if breasts looked like testicles, men wouldn't go either. Check out the balls on that chick. Ball job, you think?'"
Varghese says what made Cason great was his efficiency with words.
"He was one of the first comics I saw when I started doing stand-up, and that joke is a microcosm of his act," Varghese adds. "Quick, concise, no words wasted and proved a point to an argument that I've easily had before in conversation."
9. Linda Stogner on
One of the keys to delivering a joke is making it work with your stage persona.
"I really like
Stogner says the bit can go to some dark places, but Lester's
"The way she delivers it makes it work, and the writing is just simple storytelling, but it is not what you expect," Stogner says. "Her personality is dark, but she is so likable on stage so she pulls it off."
10. Aaron Aryanpur on Jason James' "Food Truck" Bit
Food is another familiar topic for comedians and for that
A good act out in a comedy bit requires an awareness of when the joke needs to be taken further and when it's time to pull back and let the bit work on its own, the foundation of physical comedy, Aryanpur says.
"He acts out the exasperated food truck guy, dealing with someone who can't make up their mind and is asking all sorts of digestive questions," Aryanpur says. "It's just him leaning on a stool, but he really paints the picture of him squeezing himself out and then back into a food truck. He's getting agitated with the imaginary customer and also coming back into check with the other food truck guy. The more words I use, the less funny it is. He just sets a pretty amazing scene."
11. Tara Brown on Monna's "Childbirth" Joke
Brown loves Monna's joke about her disdain for people who give birth without modern medicine and pain-killing drugs because "I love sarcastic and demented one-liners."
"I've heard a ton of jokes about childbirth and it seems like people usually either approach the topic way too safe or they go uncomfortably too far and lose the audience," Brown says. "Monna's description of wanting a heavily drug-induced birth has the perfect tone of screwed up but super relatable, and it kills every time."
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