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by Joyce Gabiola
Photo by Blase DiStefano
With troupes that span the nation and spill over into the U.K., ComedySportz is one of the oldest improvisational comedy shows. In fact, the troupe in Houston (owned by founder Dianah Dulany) is planning a benefit performance for The Rose on November 13, to celebrate ComedySportz’s 20th year of spreading laughter to the unsuspecting citizens of our fair city.
The Rose is the nonprofit breast cancer organization that provides screening, diagnosis, access to treatment, and support to all women, regardless of their financial condition. The anniversary fundraiser event will feature players from the local troupe, as well as players from other cities. ComedySportz promises a night of fun for a great cause, complete with champagne, dessert, and a silent auction.
Contrary to popular assumption, ComedySportz is not a comedy show focused on sports. It has been compared to ABC TV’s Whose Line Is It Anyway?, hosted by comedian Drew Carey several years back. Two teams go head-to-head in the challenge by flexing their comedic prowess with sparkly-clean humor. Each team’s fate is partially in the audience’s hands as audience members reach into a bucket to draw names of games that the teams must perform. Hilarity ensues.
The player roster has a lineup of rookies and veterans. Some are professional comedians, others are aspiring. Also on the playing field, for instance, are actors, teachers, directors, and even an architect, all who simply love to perform comedy.
One notable local player is Heather “Deep Sea” Fisher, 22, who first became involved in ComedySportz while still in high school. Her ComedySportz website bio reads: “Think of that beautifully talented and lovely girl that every high school had to have. Heather was often the goofy gal right next to her.” Fisher reveals that she is notorious for not being funny on stage. In fact, she managed to take home the Silent Girl Award one year. Silence? Not funny on stage? How does ›
that work well in a comedy show? Well, she’s doing something right because she’s now in her fifth year with ComedySportz.
During her senior year at Katy High School, Fisher was the captain of her ComedySportz high school league. A handful of Houston-area high schools host leagues that are coached by ComedySportz veterans. “It’s kind of like a football game,” says Fisher. “It’s pretty competitive.”
Like so many young people, Fisher was not out for the majority of her high school years. Regardless, other students assumed that she was a lesbian and harassed her on a daily basis. “It didn’t occur to me then that I was in a conservative high school.” In response to the ongoing harassment, Fisher threw herself into art, journaling, creative writing, performing slam poetry, and theater. She also found solace in the healing power of comedy. “Comedy is just another way of spreading love and joy, as cheesy as that sounds. I think that if you’re laughing, it’s a great way to just experience life.”
Fisher, who believes schools would benefit from tolerance and diversity education programs, eventually came out to her closest friends in her senior year, and then to her family while in her freshman year at the University of Houston. She reflects, “I would rather have verbal and physical harassment than be ashamed.”
As a college student in pursuit of an undergraduate degree in psychology, Fisher is also an intern with VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and is responsible for implementing the PeaceJam Foundation’s curriculum in parts of Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. According to the website, PeaceJam’s mission is “to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities, and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody.”
So which came first, the lesbian or the comedienne? Fisher answers with a grin so wide that even her freckles glow: “Comedienne.”
As one of her homemade T-shirts reads: Come on, lezbi honest. What’s life without humor? Just remember—if you attend the ComedySportz fundraiser and end up busting a gut, they are not liable.
What: ComedySportz 20th Anniversary Fundraiser Event
When: Saturday, November 13, at 8 p.m.
Where: The ComedySportz Arena, 901 Town & Country Blvd.
Net proceeds from the Silent Auction benefit The Rose.
Joyce Gabiola is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.