DFW Music News

How An Improvised Comedy Scene Became an Actual Song: Listen

Just ask any of the regular performers at the Dallas Comedy House or any long-form improv comedy center and they'll tell you that scenes come and go in their head as fast as the last night traffic on the U.S. 75 overpass that runs over Commerce Street (during non-rush hour traffic and assuming there haven't been any accidents, of course).

When they work, these scenes take place so deep in the moment that they are almost immediately wiped clean from their memory, either so they can refocus their attention on the next scene or come down from the adrenaline that has been furiously pumping into their bloodstream for 45 or more straight minutes.

Of course, the beauty of improvised comedy is that no one scene or single moment can ever be replicated and the best you can do to preserve the moment is record it for posterity. Musician and DCH student Sean McEwan found one of the most interesting ways to record one of those improvised moment by turning part of a sketch into an actual song.

Improviser Nick Scott performs with Dallas Comedy House founder Amanda Austin in a group called Manick in which they take a suggestion from the audience and explore the reason for that suggestion in order to turn it into a scene. Last Saturday, the group's magic word was "toe," a word that came to an audience member's mind because "it's something we could all relate to because we all have a toe," Scott said.

That led to Nick and Amanda to pretend to be two songwriters in a long-form improvised scene struggling to come up with that next big hit. By the end of the scene, the two actually construct the lyrics to a song called "Love Pillows" inspired by Amanda's character in which she struggled to overcome a horrible accident in which her breasts were damaged in a boxing match.

"The whole show was leading up to us writing the song," Scott said. "We even talked about what kind of chords we would use and the progression and all the beats and that kind of stuff."

McEwan, a Level 5 student in the DCH's improv training class that Scott instructs each week, was in the crowd that night. Not long after that, a melody jumped into his head. After a few takes and a quick recording, he turned the lyrics to "Love Pillows" into an actual song.

"Amanda and Nick did most of the work on it," McEwan said. "They gave me the words and the first chord of the song. When I was walking my dog that night and going over the words in my head and came up with the melody for it, they already had the structure for a real song so I just kind of molded all that."

Scott gives McEwan more credit for molding the song into something more musical.

"It's probably the coolest thing anyone's ever done based off an improv show I've been in," Scott said. "It sounds pretty much exactly how it was in my head. We never made any musical noise on stage. We only wrote the lyrics and how the chords would work and stuff. He nailed it."