This Had Better Be Funny (No Refunds):

429666_162901707198693_991204602_nLocal Comedian and Host of this Friday’s “Home Grown Comedy” series in Fort Smith (June 12th, 8pm @ Lost Beach), Brenden Dahle takes us on his journey to (eventual) comedy super-stardom (hopefully).

It’s taken me a long time to admit this, but I might as well make it public and accept that certain realities can’t be changed regardless of how sincere my attempts at revisionist history may be. So let’s just get it out of the way and be done with it:

Six year old Brenden Dahle had a fairly limited comedic range.

There. I said it. It’s out there. Enjoy ripping my memories to shreds, Interweb. But it’s the truth. And while my abilities may not have been fully rounded out at that stage in my career (and I’d like to hope they still aren’t), I do at least retain some pride in the amount of effort that my seedling form put into his craft.

As a six year old, I would gather my family and make them sit together in a line. (Pro Tip: I learned later in my career that this social structure is widely known as an “audience.” At the time, my only concern was getting them in the same room so that I didn’t have to do each performance multiple times; my formative years relied heavily on baseline efficiency and stout analytics.) Once they were situated, I would exit the room and then re-enter. But not as the same miniature gentleman that had previously stood before them, the boy they had known and loved. Oh no, not at all. Now I was someone else entirely. Now, the impressions had begun.

Night Court. Cheers. Married With Children. Do you remember those shows? Because I did. Categorically. I would go down the list of each character I could think of, doing (what I assume to be stellar) impressions of each, one by one, exiting and re-entering the room each time so as not to break the mysterious illusion of how one devilishly handsome boy could possibly transform himself into all of these other forms with such glaring ease and devilish handsomeness (I was devilishly handsome).

This went on regularly in my home until I made a startling discovery: my elementary school had “plays.” These “plays” took place in “auditoriums” that held lots of “people-lines” (again, “audiences” to some) stacked one after the other, all clapping hands and smiling faces and flashing cameras.

I pounced.

I worked my way up from “Christmas Bell #2” to “Emcee/Host/Main Christmas Bell” in just a few short years and stardom was mere inches from my grasp. I learned that standing on a stage and making people laugh made most kids/humans/well-adjusted adults feel terrified; It made me feel alive.

That, and my Aladdin travel cup with the straw that popped out of the lid. Those two things made me feel alive. (I had a really, really strong Aladdin phase.)

But then I got a little older. The teen years hit. Girls, music, limbs that were clearly too long for my body; I fell victim to the standard trials and tribulations of youth that wrestle your attention away from what previously seemed important (See: Aladdin). I stopped doing plays. I “grew up.” I went to college. I was doing fine, but I realized that I always had the same dream in the back of my mind: to be someone who entertains people, and to do that as my “job.” Why couldn’t it be my job? Could it? I was embarrassed to admit it, because it wasn’t a “real” job. But I knew. I knew what I wanted.

 If there is any merit to the expression “follow your bliss,” and I believe there is quite a great deal of merit to that expression, then I didn’t need to search for something to follow; I had already found it, when I was six years old, doing my best rendition of Bull from Night Court. (If I can recall, it consisted almost exclusively of me pretending to shoot myself in the foot. So much foreshadowing, but we won’t focus on that. The important part? Bliss: found.)

So at one point during college, I randomly went with some friends to the Fort Smith Little Theatre on their last night of auditions for a Halloween-themed show called “A Murder of Scarecrows.” I read a script in front of people-lines again. I was sweaty, I was nervous, and I was convinced that I had done terribly; after receiving a phone call later that night, however, I was informed that only two of those things had been accurate. I had gotten the lead role. A Murder of Scarecrows at the FSLT might not be Broadway, but in that moment the distinction seemed paper-thin.

That was in 2008. In the years  since, I’ve done at least ten other productions at the FSLT, am a founding member of Arkansas’ premiere improv comedy troupe ( and am now knee deep in my own fledgling standup comedy career. I have nothing but dreams and goals in front of me, but what’s important is that I’ve proven to myself that I’m capable of doing what I previously worried was impossible. I didn’t let fear get in the way of my goals. That victory alone has been worth the time and effort, and I have been forever changed by it.

But the secret here is that, for me, not much has changed from when I was six. I’m still just lining people up and trying to make them laugh. To some that might sound unimportant, to some that might sound terrifying. They’re probably both right.

But to me? It sounds now the same way it sounded when I was a kid, receiving those first smatterings of applause from the three other people who shared my home.

Absolutely blissful. 

-Brenden Dahle