Dallas Comedy House doesn't have a new location ready for visitors, so that won't stop them from bringing comedy to you. While they work on renovating their third location, DCH is putting together pop-up comedy shows at different venues around their new address in Deep Ellum.
When DCH closed the doors to their second location in March, following the latest incarnation of the annual Dallas Comedy Festival, the locale's regulars — just like owner Amanda Austin herself — were clueless as to when the house's next comedy show would take place. But the laughter resumed sooner than later when it was announced that their weekly lineup of would continue, by finding temporary lodging in surrounding Deep Ellum venues such as RBC and Life in Deep Ellum.
“Deep Ellum is so great and wonderful to us, and other people too, so it makes it really easy,” Austin says. “We actually tried to do more, but then we decided that because we have such a destination location, or we have in the past, it can be tricky just for the muscle memory. Even myself when I’m driving to work.”
For Austin, the key to creating the pop-up shows was to re-create the consistency and quality of the experience audiences had at DCH’s previous location. DCH's comedy classes have continued without interruption, and Austin is pleased to see shows featuring the efforts of her teachings: storytelling, improv, stand-up and sketch comedy, through her participating students, who are scheduled for future shows.
The pop-up business plan is an approach Dallas artist and UNT professor Arthur Pena is familiar with. His traveling show, Vice Palace, ran for multiple years in the DFW area, adapting different musical acts and artistic expressions to changing venues, allowing Dallasites a taste of a Warhol-infused night of entertainment. Pena’s newest project, One Night Only, continues the DIY spirit by inviting artists to showcase their work in a private Dallas residence that becomes an exclusive art gallery for an evening.
“Dallas is the kind of place that really rewards an entrepreneurial spirit, because Dallas is built on that,” Pena says. “It very much has this pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality, which is part stubborn and just part Dallas as a business city.”
Pena was the mastermind behind every aspect of Vice Palace, and he remembers the many different loose ends that would need to be tied up to make sure the show ran smoothly. Confirming the PA was secured and operational, ensuring the space was up to code and obtaining security for the safety of the attendees were just a few of the spinning plates that Pena juggled before the show could even begin.
Even with all the potential for mishaps that come with the territory of producing a live show (such as the building losing power at the worst time), Pena found the process relatively simple, as long as the show's purpose was clear in its intent and while he followed the basic rules governing any business, which essentially translate to minding one's diplomacy and keeping integrity.
“The rules of any business, No. 1 (is to) be nice, No. 2, do what you say you’re going to do, and No. 3, be nice — that applies in any sort of context,” Pena says. “And especially when you’re trying to pull together something like Vice Palace or One Night Only. It’s just a matter of doing what you say you’re going to do and making sure that people are taken care of.”
Even with the DCH performances taking place in rotating or different venues, Austin feels her approach to the Deep Ellum shows strays from the way pop-up shows are widely perceived.
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“Our culture, generally speaking, when you hear a pop-up show like a pop-up restaurant, it’s happening — boom — that night,” Austin says. “And it’s a surprise and there’s this element of a rush and I have to get there. We’re actually not doing that, so I guess pop-up is a fun way for us to say temporary, like our temporary location, because we have to work really, really hard to make sure everybody knows exactly where it is.”
Much like the improv comedy that DCH is known for, the pop-up shows are creating their best organized effort out of the uncertain. Austin says the various pop-up performances will continue up to the moment the new location’s paint is done drying and the doors ready to open. There is no date set for the opening of DCH’s third location, but with the game plan Austin is adhering to, fans of the long-running Deep Ellum institution will not be forgetting the company's name anytime soon.
“This has really been to keep the momentum and have a place where people can keep that creativity going,” Austin says. “When you step away from something like this and you take a little bit of a break, it’s great and it re-energizes you, but if you take too long of a break you feel really rusty and we can’t be rusty when we move into this literally brand-spanking-new building.”
For more information on future shows: https://www.dallascomedyhouse.com/shows