Making Waves: How the Comedy Scene is Cresting in Denton

A year ago, the only place a Dentonite could see a comedy show would be to travel to a club in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington. But that's only if you weren't paying attention. Over the last few months, there has been a boom in comedy bookings and open mic nights. Comedy hosts such as Joe Coffee, Taylor Higginbotham, Stu Hollowell, and Shane Silagi are largely responsible for the boom.

Poster designed by Taylor Higginbotham

Hollowell and Silagi were recently featured in a Denton Does: Community video where they reflect on the difficulty of starting comedy and their non-profit called Language of Laughter (also known as LOL for a Cause). Hollowell says "getting anything started sucks. But when you know what you want to do and how you want to do it, then all it takes is the energy and the motivation." It certainly takes a certain kind of crazy person willing to stand up in front of a crowd and hope to draw a laugh.

Every single comedian goes through an experience where they bomb. UNT RTVF student Tony Casillas has been feverishly performing stand-up over the last four months, after going through several years where a bad experience made him reluctant to take the stage. In his hometown of Scherz, Texas (Scherz is coincidentally German for 'joke'), Casillas' comedy routine took second place at his high school's talent show. Taking that same routine to a comedy club in San Antonio completely deflated his aspirations on becoming a comedian.

Casillas leaned towards giving it another try after speaking with the comedian Chris D'elia at a club in LA. D'elia advised, "Just get out there and do it." It took a year for Casillas to follow through on that advice, but he's taken full advantage of Denton's open mic nights to work on his craft. Now he is a featured performer on the upcoming Language of Laughter showcase on November 14th.

The Denton comedy wave is cresting, but it didn't come out of nowhere. In years past, several other comics such as Ron Lechler have organized shows in Denton, but the scene sputters out as talented funny folks sought opportunities in other cities. Thanks to the efforts of Joe Coffee and Taylor Higginbotham with hosting open mics and booking shows at the E Third house venue, there seems to be a feeling this scene can sustain itself.

6 months ago, few people had any idea there was a comedy scene in Denton. People like to give 2016 a bad rap but the current collective has busted their asses to put together hallmark events such as Denton Comedy Festival (organized by Richard Joseph) and Joketopia (where local comedians got to perform in Campus Theatre instead of a tiny space).

The responsibilities of booking and promoting make it tough for organizers such as Coffee and Higginbotham to focus on being a comedian. Coffee started doing it because there were no shows to perform at. "I had to create my own opportunities so that I could get on stage and be a comedian," says Coffee. He's wary of Jeff Garlin's saying, “if you show me a comedian that’s a good marketer then I’ll show you someone that’s not a very funny comedian.”

What could happen next? Perhaps in 2017 there will be more promoters and talent buyers willing to book comedy acts. Local venues should note how well comedy and music can actually mix together. Even Dallas comedians such as Carey Cool Tripp are making the trip to perform in Denton, perhaps because of the safe vibe this community has. Why is this community ready to support local comedians? “Shit sucks right now, that’s why right?" Coffee says. "Shit sucks but it also doesn’t suck enough that we can’t laugh at it."