Let’s all quit our jobs and start a comedy troupe!
Yes, and even though we usually perform in Dallas, let’s take our show to Fort Worth!
Yes, and, let’s rent a space downtown to perform, even if we spend our last dime!
Even though it was a risk, decisions like these are what led to Four Day Weekend, “the longest-running comedy troupe in the Southwest,” according to the group. After performing for decades in downtown Fort Worth, Four Day brought its unique brand of entertainment to East Dallas when they opened a theater on Lower Greenville earlier this year.
“Yes, and” is the improvisational comedy mantra that has players saying “yes” to their partners’ ideas, creating something new and hilarious while supporting the choices that are made on stage.
But for East Dallas residents Frank Ford and Dave Wilk, “Yes, and” became more than just a method for creating ridiculous scenes on stage. It is a philosophy that changed their life. “It was how we started to approach everything in life,” Ford says.
It led to more than 6,000 shows over 21 years, a keynote address in front of Congress, a meeting with former President Barack Obama and an onstage moment with former President George W. Bush. “The world is but a stage, and we are merely improvisers,” Ford says.
Ford was in the middle of a successful career as a design engineer at Texas Instruments while performing comedy as a hobby, but Wilk had grander plans for their comedic careers. He approached Ford, who thought he had his whole life mapped out.
“If we keep doing this as a hobby,” Wilk said, “we are going to get hobby results.” He asked Ford to jump into comedy full-time. Of the three founding members, Ford had the most to lose. His 401(k), great paycheck and promising career in technology made the decision difficult. But like a good improv comedian, he said, “Yes.”
“We did it and never looked back,” Ford says. “It was one of the best decisions of my life.”
The three comedy friends, Wilk, Ford and Troy Grant, pooled together $2,100 to rent a space in downtown Fort Worth. The amount had nothing to do with rent. It was merely the most money that all three members could contribute. The fourth founding member, David Ahearn (who wrote the book “Happy Accidents” with Wilk and Ford), learned he was part of the troupe hours before their first big show.
Wilk and Ford studied at Second City’s Conservatory Program in Chicago, the mecca for improv comedy. They overlapped with future stars such as Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch. Wilk made it to Chicago on weekends by flying in a cargo plane full of canceled checks through the night, which was his father’s industry.
The men started slowly, performing for just nine people the first day in Fort Worth. They weren’t picky about booking gigs, even following a stripper’s 2 a.m. performance for the staff of a haunted house.
But they kept saying yes, and the act caught on. The guys eventually moved to a theater in Sundance Square downtown, establishing comedy classes and booking corporate comedy gigs throughout the year.
When a congresswoman read a story about them in a Southwest Airlines’ inflight magazine, she rallied to have them perform for Congress. Later, they were asked to speak at a 9-11 anniversary with Bush. They also performed for the troops overseas in Germany, Kosovo and Holland. “All from ‘Yes, and,’ ” Wilk says.
After 21 years of laughter in Fort Worth, Four Day Weekend opened its first Dallas theater near Lower Greenville this year, in an old church. The interior’s gilded chairs, comfy red couches, balcony seats and stained glass are a long way from the back room of a haunted house. The actors don wigs, sing, dance, work the crowd and take audience suggestions to create an original and unrehearsed show every week.
Wilk and Ford have had numerous chances to move to Hollywood, including selling a pilot and being featured in national commercial spots, TV shows and movies. However, they decided to say, “yes!” to building something great right here in North Texas.
Four Day Weekend’s name came from a scene in “The Simpsons,” when Homer is threatened to be fired and misinterprets it as an offer for a long weekend. But today, Four Day Weekend offers sketch, improv and stand-up classes in addition to performances and corporate gigs nearly every day of the week. Like the improvisers they are, they don’t regret it one bit.
“We want to perform, be proud of the work, build a legacy and do something we enjoy,” Wilk says.
Four Day Weekend has shows Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m. at 5601 Sears St. For tickets, information about classes and corporate booking, visit fourdayweekend.com.
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