If you could jump in your "comedy time machine" (a time machine that can only be used for the purposes of viewing important moments in comedy groups' histories and therefore can't be used to go back and...I don't know... stop Hitler) to view the history of Locked Out Comedy and set the dial to seven years ago, you'd see them clearing out their stuff from a West End venue around the same time that the rest of the place was slowly turning into a graveyard.
"We pondered a name for 40 minutes to an hour," said founder and performer Von Daniel. "Then somebody threw out Locked Out and we went with that. The original owner said, 'I'm no longer going to do this so if you have personal belongings in the theater, get it now or you will be locked out.'"
Now the group not only holds regular shows at the Addison Improv and the Life Central Church's theater in Plano but they also do the bulk of their shows for corporate and private audiences that hear about them solely through word of mouth with no traditional marketing whatsoever other than a website and a Facebook page. They've also earned back the ComedySportz designation they thought Dallas would never have again seven years ago when the old owner closed up the shop.
"We all met at the bar afterwards and said let's just continue doing what we do," Von Daniel says.
This Saturday marks another chapter in their barreling quest to "just continue doing what we do" when Locked Out Comedy becomes incorporated into ComedySportz, the national league of short form improvised comedy, making them ComedySportz Dallas just like they were when they performed in the West End. They kick off their new affiliation with their first show as ComedySportz Dallas at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Life Central Church's theater at 2301 Premier Dr. in Plano.
The name is the only major change from the audience's POV. Two teams of improvisational comedians play games that will be familiar to any regular viewer of Whose Line Is It Anyway? except the points do matter and one team actually goes home a winner. The group also performs a monthly show at the Addison Improv called The Humor Games in which the competition is whittled down by individuals rather than teams and the humor can be more adult in nature than their other shows.
"Everything you do that evening is fresh and brand new and has never been done before and you'll probably never do it again. That was more of the appeal for me than spending late nights with drunks at a club and everybody wanted to hear profanity and very blue material," says Daniel, who used to perform stand-up before being drawn to short form improv. "That was the big draw for me, the fact that you can do new material every single day and it's clean and everyone can enjoy it."
In the past few years, the Dallas comedy scene has continued to grow, but Locked Out manages to find a way to fit in to their own mold. They are not only doing short-form improv but they also do something that could attract a family to a comedy club, not just a group of beered-up guys hoping for an endless stream of dick jokes.
"The audiences out there are not aware of the different opportunities there are," says Jared Berger, a performer and senior manager of ComedySportz Dallas. "We can check off the box for comedy that you can take entire family to. We can check off the box for short form game comedy. We can check off the box for you don't have to drive all the way downtown and look for parking."
The group also prides itself on the relationships they create on stage as well as the relationships they create with an audience. Mano Galaviz, a recent addition to the group who also performs long form improv at the Dallas Comedy House, recalled the professionalism he witnessed within this goofy goof troupe before he even auditioned.
"One of the things I was really impressed with was seeing Locked Out when I was an audience member," he says. "Once it was done, they went upstairs and did notes and went through each scene and game and what impressed me is that they were still building on the who, what, when and where and building on the long form aspects of their scenes."
Locked Out Comedy members are a more than just a close knit bunch. They consider each other a second family.
"Locked Out is more than a troupe," says Patrick Murphy, another recent addition to the group. "It's a family and when you're part of that family, you have people who absolutely love you and support you whatever you do no matter what it is. I've never been with a more supportive group of individuals. I attribute it to Von and his attitude and the way he incorporates people. He is legitimately concerned about every single member of the troupe."
"These guys really they do a lot of things together outside of the show," Galaviz says. "There's even a couple of people who got married in the troupe. They work the relationships outside of ComedySportz/Locked Out and I like getting to know new people, so it's getting to become a good group of people to be in.
"It's also fun and I enjoy being on stage and being an attention whore," he added.
See ComedySportz Dallas at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Life Central Church's theater at 2301 Premier Dr. in Plano. Tickets are $15.