Dallas has not always been known for stand-up comedy. The reason is more infrastructure than quality: we could benefit from having more stages.
There are only a handful of comedy clubs in Dallas-Fort Worth. Hyena’s has locations in Mockingbird Station and Fort Worth. There’s the Addison Improv and the Arlington Improv. There are other smaller spots known for open mics, such as Backdoor Comedy Club in Richardson. Elsewhere, you can find comedy in non-traditional venues like the Texas Theatre.
The (sort of) new kid on the block is Dallas Comedy Club, which took the place of Dallas Comedy House after it permanently shut its doors during the COVID-19 shutdown. Rosie and Ian Caruth decided Dallas couldn’t lose another space for comedy. They opened DCC in Deep Ellum with a goal of providing community for performers in the city’s most popular entertainment district.
“I loved comedy from an early age, but when I was growing up in Dallas that creative path seemed so impossibly distant from me,” said Rosie Caruth. “There wasn’t even a place where I could go to see live comedy. I didn’t have a community where I could find examples, role models, or even like-minded people. That’s what was missing: the community.”
To give ourselves a little credit, Dallas has grown in this aspect over the years. There are more entertainers, a lot more public appreciation for comedy, and clubs like DCC strengthen the scene and help make Dallas a funnier city.
You would think Dallas would be the perfect Petri dish in which the fun, joyous bacteria that is comedy can flourish. (A healthy bacteria, of course. Maybe like a probiotic. This metaphor really got away from me, but you get it). But it’s still not quite flourishing, and there are probably many things we can blame.
Comedian Nick Thune performed at DCC last month. He’s a regular on late-night TV shows and has a special on Comedy Central. Thune says what makes a great comedy community is trust and the consistency of performers booked by the clubs.
“Audiences need to trust the clubs and who they bring in, to where they can say ‘Oh, if they’re playing there, then they must be good,’” Thune said. “And with consistency, there are all these little things that matter, like starting shows on time, and all these things that create an environment where if people come, they know what they’re going to get.”
So, clubs need to gain trust. It makes sense, but they also need to be given a chance to earn it. The more people who go see shows, the better chance the clubs have. Thune killed at DCC. Also a musician, he started off with hard-hitting one-liners as he riffed on his guitar, then went into his set of stories and witty, deadpanned jokes.
He played to an intimate yet full room where laughs were frequent and everyone seemed excited to be there. There was good food and plenty of drinks. It was a great way to spend a Saturday night.
Along with people attending shows, a better comedy scene also starts with what it offers performers, according to local standup Paul Varghese.
“I think a great comedy scene is based on the number of stages and amount of stage time you can get around different audiences, with different cultures and ages and generations,” Varghese said. “It allows your set to be multi-faceted and have a wider appeal. Dallas has always offered that.”
Now with DCC, along with the other local clubs here, Dallas is seeing a few new home bases for homegrown comics and performers. On New Year’s Eve, another club opened in Addison. TK’s, started by husband and wife comics, included a full-service restaurant separate from the comedy stage. It’s another concept, another place for comedy. That should lead to more quality shows for audiences.
“Whatever you like — standup, sketch, storytelling, improv, weirder stuff — you can see legitimately great live performances right here in Dallas, every week,” said Ian Caruth. “And even better, you can get up onstage and try it yourself, and take classes. You might be an amazing performer and not even know it yet. How do you make a stronger comedy scene? You come and be a part of it.”
Varghese sees the same thing happening. He has been a working comic in North Texas for more than two decades. Now, he says, locals are taking more risks stylistically. He’s seeing more representation in gender and ethnicity.
“I do like that diversity is starting to find its place within the scene because I was such an anomaly doing it 20 years ago,” Varghese said. “It’s encouraging to see comedy scenes become more eclectic than years past.”
Great things are happening in Dallas’ comedy scene— amateurs are gaining recognition, comics from other cities are coming here to perform, and DCC is hosting the 2022 Texas Comedy Festival in March. All these things are happening right here in our city, and it’s exciting. I think we may want to laugh about it. And make sure we keep laughing.