Samurai Drunk with Power: The Dallas Comedy House Improv Group Shoots Their First Sketch Comedy Pilot
Courtesy of Samurai Drunk Dallas Comedy House's Samurai Drunk includes members (from left to right) Colten Winburn, Tim Yager, Anthony Foreman, Brian Moody, Derek Hopf, Nathan Larison and Chris Henson.
Founding member Brian Moody said they would spend two or more hours drinking endless cups of free-refill coffee and talking about the sketch show they would do if money, equipment and time weren't obstacles. Since then, they've filled up quite a few notebooks and cocktail napkins with ideas.
The crowd-funding site Kickstarter gave them a chance to overcome those obstacles. Kickstarter can't promise to change the laws of time and space but it could at least give the the troupe a chance to raise enough money to hire a crew and shoot their first episode.
"We were under the impression that we may have to scrounge at the last minute to try and get the last couple hundred dollars," Moody said. "We had no inclination that we would hit it in 48 hours."
Samurai Drunk raised the $2,000 they needed in just two days and garnered more than $3,000 in donations before the 30-day deadline. Last week, they used the money to shoot their pilot episode at Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop on Commerce Street.
Plans for the show started when member Tim Yager, a performer from Chicago who worked with ImprovOlympic and the Annoyance Theatre, joined Samurai Drunk and suggested during one of their Cafe Brazil get-togethers that they should make the jump to video. Moody said they planned to raise whatever money they could through Kickstarter and shoot a pitch video in a single day that looked as slick and professional as the pilot episode they wanted to produce.
"Once we had it all written down and had the first draft of our scripts, we said, 'Hey, this is something that's real and funny and we want it to be seen by as many people as possible' and the way to do that is to have an actual budget rather than have a bunch of people shooting on an iPhone, which tends to be the case around Dallas for sketches," Moody said. "We wanted to take it up a notch and treat it as if it were something real and professional."
The episodes take place in the same setting that serve to link together different characters and sketches much like the HBO sketch show Mr. Show with Bob and David. It's also an ode to the improvisation format called "Close Quarters," a show with several scenes that take place inside one location. Moody said some of the scenes from the first episode will include a pair of Russian mobsters trying to get a "nerdy, pensive brother-in-law" into the business, a foppish, vaudevillian villain called "The Gentleman Robber" and a pair of trophy wives paired with "two good, ol' boy rednecks" who become "the absolute worst customers possible."
"Several of us have worked in the service industry," Moody said, "so that certainly rings true for us."
They plan to post their pilot on the web once its done being polished in post-production and even hope to shop it around to some networks now that media outlets such as Hulu and Netflix have opened new opportunities for productions to get off the ground without bowing to the whims of stuffy TV executives. Moody said they've already mapped outlines for five more episodes and scripts to shoot at least two more if they can get them financed as well as their pilot episode.
"Maybe they're visions of grandeur, but we would love to keep this going," Moody said. "If we could find somebody to actually pick it up and find a way to get more than just this pilot made ... just so we can take this to somebody and say, 'Hey, look what we did with a bare-bones budget and all of us having full time jobs and if you like this, we can do a lot more with time and more money.'"