Improv Cults, Groupthink, and The Death of Catfish....

“There are no facts, only interpretations.” Nietzche

Ya know, I never really was all that fond of Improv if Im telling the truth…? It just never came natural to me. Felt like a lie, where standup to me always felt like straight truth. The way I go about it anyhow, with my storytelling. But I sure as Hell liked watching it. I was inherently un-goofy and NOT free spirited my whole life until the point I found Improv. It came by way of being the heaviest person in the room, 412lbs at my highest. You see, you don’t want to attract extra attention when your big like that. You learn to be cool, be funny in the creases, recess into the back of places and pick your spots. You’re never like, “LOOK AT ME! IM A BEAUTIFUL GIRAFFE AT COACHELLA EATING PASTA!” It just wasn’t in my wheel-house to do that. Which made it extremely interesting to watch. My wife and myself found TNM about 5 years ago, right after my weight loss. It was alive, vibrant, full of young interesting people. I knew I wanted to do standup at this point but hadn’t went up yet, but this was comedy and I was around it at least. This place, the people in it, this was it! I was from North Florida growing up and we had ZERO comedy outlets of any type. This was the first time I had seen it organized, “organized comedy”. What a concept…I would later find that the very thing that attracted me to such a place, the “community organization” as it were, would also be my undoing, and kill my life’s work just a few more years down the road.

The first time I decided to really get involved after about a year of just being a paying customer at TNM was HYF2015 I think..? I had volunteered for the first time In hopes of getting to know some people better. All I know is it was AMAZING. Some of my favorite comics were here in town, I was going to shows, working the doors. Speaking of that, that brings us to my former best bud Devin Howard. I met him working the door for a HYF show at HiHo Lounge. He was hosting a standup show, and I was already a huge fan of his improv work. He seemed cool, it seemed effortless for him. I intro’d myself and my wife and we chatted some but instantly we had a connection. It was bizarre how well we could communicate even in those short interactions that night, I knew i had to be this dude’s bud for life…The end of the night came and with all the confusion and fuckery that Trew ran around his business. The door at this club, during his festival, would be no exception. The square broke, people were pouring through the door without wristbands saying they knew whoever. We had no change for high bills, etc. We got overwhelmed and my wife pitched in and got us organized again. In the process of all that, at the end of the night we came up $60 dollars short. On my watch…Devin said “don’t worry about it man.” But I didn’t want to upset these people I so desperately wanted to be a part of. I wanted them to know when I say ill do a job, that I take the responsibility seriously. Even if it comes at my own personal loss to get the job done. So i did something stupid. I took that $60 out of my own wallet and put it in the till to make the venue square. It was the first of many thankless transactions I would do in the name of IMPROV and COMMUNITY, and mistakes Ill never make again.

I found Devin again on the following weeks at TNM watching shows. Our conversations getting longer, deeper, funnier. This guy was my YANG. He knew it too. We’d talk about how it was crazy how we liked the same shit, and we loved the same shows, THE FLASH was huge for us. We’d just gab on like two sweet old ladies.We talked more and more until one day we were at TNM mentioning going to Colorado for a vacay. I just asked him to come. Barely knew him, but I knew him. Ya know? He gleefully accepted the offer and off we went about a week later. MAGICAL VACATION, maybe the best I’ll ever take. We did it all, we stayed in weird BnB’s, ate good food, My wife paid for us all to stay and eat at the Stanley Hotel. UNREAL EXPERIENCE. And not one fight. We were inseparable, the three of us bonded so solidly that week. And that was also the beginning of Catfish Comedy. On that trip myself and Devin would do these characters. They’d later come to be Tucker & Deedar. We just did it to make my wife laugh. She has such a magical laugh that you wanna make it happen as much as possible. And me and Ol’ Devs couldn’t get enough of her cackle-battin. Devin being a very experienced improvisor started saying I should get involved. That it would make my standup better and help with my stage nerves. I agreed, I wanted to be a free spirit like him. Flying all over the stage, prat falling, going nuts, making everyone howl. Sign me up. If you say it’s good I trust you. And I did. I went hard. 5 back to back levels. One year. Learned a ton of bullshit…Knew after the second level that I was being ripped off from then on. Was about to give up entirely because I was driving an hour twice a week to do something that made me miserable. I didn’t like all the school imposed, “comedy rules” that was suppose to make anyone funny if applied... Still don’t… Shit didn’t work that way for me. I always looked at Improv theaters as a gym. Like Planet Fitness or some shit. Like a place to go sharpen your tools, but never a place to hang them and set up shop. I never wanted to be the best at practicing, Im a doer. I always intended to learn and move on and use the skillset as another tool in my comedy belt for my later productions. But there was this other side of it that people were clamoring to be a part of behind the scenes. The whispers wars, cliques, leadership struggles, show booking disparities, favoritism, TREW and his batch of weird shit and negligence. And he was using me for anything he could think of during this time. I was shooting all over town for him. I filmed him at Pelicans Training Day and edited a video for a better part of a week for him. Drove myself on my own dime and lodging to Austin to film his wrestling bullshit, etc. All because I wanted to be a team player. Now I wish I’d have never even played the game at all…

I went to Devin and told him I was quitting Improv in the middle of classes. I couldn’t do it anymore. He encouraged me to finish what I started, and gave me a reason to hang on. “Why don’t we do those guys on the stage from our vacation?” he said. Now for me this was NOT the kinda thing I did in public. Talking “Southern” and doing CATFISH was in my opinion too personal for me. The character I play, Deedar, is an homage to my older brother, Donovan. I wouldn’t do it if we were making fun of my people by punching down. If we did this we did it with heart, no misogyny, no edgy bullshit. Just a couple of good hearted liberal, country, party animal, trailer trash gentleman, trying to make their way through this crazy life. Dev signed us up for a show called KNOCK-OUT at TNM where new troops perform for chance to have a monthly show, over the course of a few weeks, judged by the audience after each round. Full disclosure, I used to get very drunk to do this character on stage. I had too. To me doing this character was the most exposed Id ever made my soft underbelly to the world. My southern “red clay” upbringing was now on display, for yall’s pleasure, and I knew if I didn’t do right by the character, I wouldn’t be doing right by the people that raised me. Plus you may not know this but I was trying to use it as a way of reaching my people and pulling them away from the FOX NEWS bullshit they consume in heavy doses that makes them afraid of the world. I thought I could use CATFISH as a way to win some hearts and minds back to a more worthy cause. And maybe even away from their fear and hate by way of making them laugh at how stupid it all is. The name itself was meant to be a double entendre. Like a secret Easter egg in the fact that we weren’t the characters you think you were going to get when you see us at face value. You were going to think right, and we quite literally were going to turn you to the left. Slowly, with laughter, fun, and good times. Not with hatred and fear. With these parameters established we forged on and eventually ended up winning all 3 or 4 rounds of our draw and earned our first monthly show at TNM! Maybe improv wasn’t so bad!? Maybe I was good at this? I had found a pretty good foot-hole for myself playing a straight-man. I enjoyed the moniker when people would put it on me. All my comedy heroes are straight-men. Batemen, Dean Martin, Sudeikis, Glenn Howerton, etc. I could do that…It’s what I was thinking in my head already, “Why are you doing that?”, “Whats’s going on in here!?”, etc. I had finally figured out my place in this world of misfit toys. As I got better at improv people began becoming more friendly to me in the community. I was no longer just the “Stand-up” that hung out all the time to watch shows. I was becoming one of them. It was intoxicating, but short lived…There was a shit storm a brewing, and little did I know, it was about to wash everything we had built away in very slow and drawn out fashion. A real “Butterfly Effect of Fuckery”, if you will, was nipping at our heels now. And we didn’t even see it coming until it was too late…

I met Devin Mullin as a member of my improv class. We went through every level together. Towards the end I think i was just showing up to holla at him few times a week. He is hilarious, affable, and a great human being. Being around him made me feel goofy, which as we spoke of before, I don’t do much. His comedy is WILD, UNTETHERED, AND RAW. He is a great impressionist and would never stop surprising me with what he could add to any conversation. If you know him, you love him. And I did, dearly…He was beginning to be let down that the “community” only wanted him to be the stupid jock in every scene, or the BRO, or the BAD BOYFRIEND. He did these things artfully, and I’m sure nothing was meant by it other than it was always amazing, but he was beginning to stir. He wanted to stretch and do more. He was desperate to find his place in the scene that I was already one foot out the door of. I had grown tired of Chris at this point and his bullshit. He would rope me into these terrible shows then disappear for weeks on end leaving me to run them. Once after doing the show for free and driving an hour away to host it for a few weeks straight, and paying $10 for Quarter parking each time, a nice lady handed me an envelope. Inside was $50. Chris was late to the gig that night. She said, “This is for Chris per usual”. This whole time he was getting paid for this, while half the time not even being here?! My dissent grew stronger. I wanted to say something.. But we had our monthly show, and the theater was so important to Devin Howard, and the last thing I wanted to do was blow up his spot, UPSET THE HEARD, get him in trouble. So i bit it off…

I eventually brought up Devin M. for Catfish. He was perfect. I had worked with him already, he wanted to stretch his comedy wings, he carries a crowd of fans, deservedly so, and he had a good heart. That was that. Me and Dev H. decided then and there he’d be the third and final missing piece to our puzzle. CATFISH COMEDY was whole. We had our wildcard on stage, and a great guy off it. I was the straight-man, Devin H. Jack of all trades, Devin Mullin the wildcard! Look out world here we come! But not so fast…

Remember that monthly show we won? Yea, about that…It turned more into two sold out events spread over the course of about 4 months. We asked what gives? Everyone else that had won the competition got their monthly? Why was this happening? We were told they didn’t really know what to do with us. We were putting asses in seats and making people laugh, so if you ask me, you give us what we earned? But they didn’t see it that way. At our last SOLD OUT show we had there we had asked Chris to come in and do a lil bit at the very end. Like we weren’t suppose to be there in the theatre and he was busting us taking over the the place as CATFISH. He legit refused to do this little thing to make our show funnier. Said he’d have to be in character to go on stage, or no go… After me hosting all this shit for free, recording all his shit for free, editing for free, this dude couldn’t give us a 2 min stage walk on as himself?! FUCK HIM… I was fed up. I remember driving home with my wife that night saying I wanted to try to take CATFISH out of there away from his bullshit and the theater’s. I said to her, “Shit ya never know babe, that place me go under soon?” And then shortly after that, something terrible happened…

After a 7 hour town-hall meeting that I was too disgusted to even join at that point, all the other “truths” came to the surface at TNM. I wasn’t the only person that was being used…I met many others with my story about being used for free labor, not to mention the unspeakable horror of the much worse events that were taking place that I and others didn’t even have any idea about. I had a feeling something bad was about to happen for months. The mood had changed. Months before I had met with Brock at one point to see if there was something I could do to help. I remember feeling heartbroken for him as he told me the realities of his routine day dealing with all the shit TNM was creating for itself. We had to leave, I had to get us out. I was right to be weary of this bearded walking fraud, and his church. “SOME GUY I KNOW” had finally crossed the mother-fucking line…

When the anti TNM facebook page popped up I was upset, needed a place to vent, and I fucking did yall. I ROASTED that prick on there multiple times. I felt betrayed, again, by bad leadership. I had seen so many examples of bad leaders since I got here through production jobs and projects I would undertake. I was PISSED, and this would be the last time I gave myself whole heartedly to any kind of fuckery institution like this again…[<—This will be important later.] Id go to the FB group daily and get my dose of who was bashing this prick now. Feel good about myself for making the decision to leave that hell hole, then id make comedy with CATFISH. The boys were LOST. They didn’t really know what to do. We all knew we wanted to keep CATFISH going, but in light of what just happened, we didn’t have a home anymore. We were despondent and pissed off. We knew there was something special about CATFISH. We had all talked about how we’d never been in anything like it. People really responded to it. I seen it as a pretty original thing we were doing. I couldn’t find another Southern group like us. I remember one time Nicky Naps asking me how I felt about CATFISH after our win at KNOCKOUT. I told him, “I feel like we have the keys to a very fast car, but I don’t quite know how to drive it yet?”. He agreed. There was flashes of greatness all around it, but as a producer I had to figure out a way to harness it. During this time the only reason most of us would gather was to talk shit about TNM. What the new news was of the day on the FB group. It was shamefully addictive and I found it getting in the way of our creative process. It seemed to be ALL ANYONE wanted to talk about and it was getting in the way of our work. We all agreed we’d stop talking about it, and going on the FB page, and we’d worry about what was important. Building our brand. Id remove myself from the negativity, including that FB group, no matter how justified it was. Learning how to drive the fast car that was CATFISH would be my new obsession, not fitting into a “community” anymore. And Buddy, in no time we were doing doughnuts around comedy in that car.

I had figured the best approach to keep us working was to start a podcast. I know…Another podcast with three dudes running their mouth? I thought the same thing. But its the only platform that was available for us at that moment. I had the skillset to produce any digital media. But a podcast would allow us to get our product out with the lowest amount of cost and work. Or so I thought… We were living our dream, getting hammered, making a podcast, doing our comedy, but we were not drawing much heat. We were flatlining as podcast go the first 2 months. I think we avg’d around 20-50dls a month to start. It was tiny but we loved it. People were listening and we looked at it like a room we just filled with that amount of seats. I had set a goal for ourselves that we would hit 10k downloads in our first year. The boys agreed this was attainable and for about 6 months that’s all we focused on. We’d go out, drink, think of bits, characters would emerge in conversation, wed drink some more, etc. Bar none best times of my life. My job was to grab hold of these lil characters that would slip out of the boys, then build a universe of lore around them and find their places in the Catfish world. We found some of my favorite characters on the planet doing this. Willy the Pestman, Christmas Marty, Uncle Terry, Tedward Murphy, The BROS, Monsanto Ezporone The Baby-Boomer Vampire, and others. Mine were never good, I always played the straight-man to the boy’s crazy talents. It was a pleasure getting to watch them find new characters, and even more exciting that for the first time In my life I had drinkin buddies that I could share my dream with. So we drank, dreamed, and recorded. And numbers started to grow. First 100, then 300, then 500, then 1000, and by the end of our run we were doing around 2000+ a month. From nothing…

People were listening! We had super-fans, ANDY, and HILLYBILLY DAN! They were from all over the country! We needed a stage at this point and Dev Mullins had a connection and used it at Bank’s St Bar booking us a monthly residency there. We were all so surprised they were going to let us do this. So excited to get a stage back, proud that we earned it on our hard work, but clueless on how to use it to capture what we did on the podcast. By this point we had a whole universe of characters built, a real life little world of weirdos. But we couldn’t bring a lot of them on stage because of the costuming factors. Budget wouldn’t allow it. I had started investing my own money pretty heavily at this point. By the time it was done I ended up spending about $5600 dollars out of my own pocket last year. I think it was a sound investment though. I wanted the boys to see this as a business, so I made and ordered t-shirts, banners, etc. The boys would make buttons, and buy koozies. Anything we could do to start a line of merch, and get in the habit of monetizing the brand. Even at a loss we’d be learning. Be damned if it sold, it was preparation for later in my mind. Unfortunately for me the stress had increased with this added money, merch, and doing full time editing on the podcast. We had went to 2x a week at this point trying to bring our numbers up and stay fresh on people’s feeds. I had also started recording and post editing in fully immersive soundscapes into the improv on the show to the tune of a minimum of about 20 hours a week. Most times, because of schedules, I would drive over twice a week to get the shows. Packing up the equipment, unpacking it, setting it up, recording, packing back up, driving back home an hour, editing, then posting, and promoting. I was exhausted. Rinse and repeat for a year. But we were trying to hit that 10k mark. I had made a promise to the boys that we’d get it. And we did…We beat it by 1k downloads one year to the day…Meeting that goal is one of my proudest moments of my career as a producer. It showed me for the first time that we could accomplish anything we wanted if we kept our head down and stayed focused. It was working…

I had always broke things down in phases to the boys. Phase one was starting the podcast, and the brand. Phase two was going over 10k , monetizing our brand, and getting our stage back. Phase 3 would be to strengthen the brand, open up to guests on the show, evolve the stage show for travel, record an album, and finally at some point maybe I could get us in a place where their schedule would be our schedule. I had always promised I would buy their freedom at some point from jobs they were less than enthusiastic about at the time, to say the least. Each time we met about it, I went over in detail what the next phase would entail. No one was forced, we all agreed together to move forward each time, for each phase. At this point for the first time in my life, alcohol became a problem for me and I believe for us. I was always a social drinker but drinking to get on stage with CATFISH, because the afore mentioned issues I had with playing Deedar, was reaching a breaking point. The stress wasn’t helping either… We were all drinking too much. At times one of us would fail the show because we pushed too far with the drinking. Sometimes Id have to pump the boys up from hangovers before we’d record. We would leave the room to vomit from the night before during recordings. It was out of control and as a leader I should have stopped it. But at the time I needed the release. We all did. I couldn’t be a Hypocrite, and we were succeeding for once. The problem was we had no fucking idea on how to handle it. I always wanted CATFISH to be ANTI IMPROV. So no rules. Drink all you want. Do what ya wanna! The NOLA WAY. But it wasn’t sustainable...It never has been. Cracks began to appear. Work began to wain, some of us found better jobs, and got even more complex schedules. Promotion started to lessen, and the energy was harder to gather up for each episode. I’d panic because we had worked so hard to get here, and it was working, but now we were starting to come apart. Id try to motivate the boys with pep talks more reminiscent of a locker-room speech. It’s what I grew up with. I was playing the consummate big brother role. I was also editing, recording, stage producing, illustrating posters, booking guest, assisting my friend through his first marriage, counseling the boys on hanging in through their day jobs for the goal of something bigger on the horizon. Promising I’d get us there no matter what it cost me emotionally, physically, or financially. And I meant every goddamn word of it. I would have laid down my life for those boys, no questions asked. They were the closest thing I ever had to family, outside my family. And at times last year they were my family. Mine had let me down, we were fighting, they were adding their own stresses to my already crazy life. I was tunneling. And then one night a message appeared on my computer from a new “improv theater” opening in town. A self described “SAFE PLACE FOR COMEDY” And for me, just by questioning it’s existence and intentions, I sealed the fate of Catfish, and my brothers left in tow…I was now COMPLICIT. In what? Im not sure I’ll ever know..?

One of the first contacts I had with this “new theatre” was right after the FB page popped up in protest to the movement. A lady that founded that FB page and this new “theatre” was reaching out to me and other standup comedians that were in the group interested to see if we wanted to maybe sit on some “stand-up comedy committee.” I said NO very fast. Stand-up doesn’t need management, or a committee? The audience IS the committee… What was the goal here? To tell who, where, and what comics could talk about or where’d they’d perform? Seemed off to me? I said FUCK THAT. From my understanding so did every other stand-up comedian she asked as well. It was a bizarre request. I followed the FB group she ran for as long as I could stomach it, but it was becoming a shit storm of garbage that was doing more to tear the community apart than it was rebuilding it in my opinion. Friendships were being severed because some people questioned others total commitment to the TNM boycott. Friends of more than 5-10 years were suppose to be cut off. No questions. They were “COMPLICIT”. This BUZZWORD would tear through our community like a hot knife due to this FB group. I watched it mow down very good people who have given EVERYTHING to this community. To this group if you even talked to ANYONE at TNM you were COMPLICIT and deserved the same level of vitriol that Trew should get. I chose to abstain. Not my problem, or people. I had my group. But I found the whole thing distasteful. No one that has only lived in this town for a little more than a year should lead a movement to force friends of 10 or more years , through family tragedies, good times and bad, to separate. And it boggles my mind they were actually able to pull it off…There are many of you reading this right now in this town that cant talk to friends you used to because your afraid of being hit with that COMPLICIT stamp. Stop being afraid. You’re a grown up and these people have no real power over you. Call them. Tell them your sorry. It’s time to heal now guys…But I digress. They had largely ignored CATFISH, because they weren’t really interested in what we did. Until we started making waves. Then this lady started popping back up in my life again…

We had worked with another beautifully talented lady many times as Catfish grew. I wont name names here, but she is a fantastic baker, with a magnetic personality and smile, and she has loads of character. The good kind. She’s always been selfless, and kind, and supportive. I love her very much. Her name is C to the M babeeey! You figure it out! Anyways, she had always been a part of what we did. And she was making her own awesome podcast now, that i believe may have been a little inspired by her favorite 3 man trailer trash comedy team? I LOVED IT. It was another example of great improv being captured in podcast form. No “theatre” was needed. No power structure, or hierarchy, just pure comedy. I had mentioned to the boys that with our numbers maybe we should think about networking with like minded shows like her’s. We could share our numbers with them, help give them a boost. I could assist them if they wanted help with their promotion, PR, videos, etc. I knew if we could get both our shows and a few more to our numbers locally, we could start doing small local ad runs. I could co-op a pod company that would allow us to be paid, independent of the bullshit that a theatre brings, we’d be in control of our own comedy destinies. No pay to play bullshit. Then it happened….That word came up. COMPLICIT…And this time it was cast on to someone I knew and trusted. Someone I knew didn’t deserve the same vitriol that was reserved for TREW. I was “WARNED” by “outside sources”(people in her FB Army) that maybe having CM on or around my shows could cause others to never want to be on them IN PROTEST.. This seemed like a veiled threat, and to me a funny one. Who was saying this, where is this coming from? Ya’ll seriously this mad at CM?! This is our friend. Remember? But I would continue to be warned. I was working too hard to investigate why, but I knew it was unwarranted. To this level anyways. The punishment wasn’t matching up to the crime here. People were taking out all kind of hate on her like she was the perpetrator of the entire downfall of TNM. IT was silly, and as a 40 year old man that was focused on nothing but making good art, treating people around me with respect, and recapping my emotional and monetary investment, I was having NO FUCKIN PART IN IT. Ya heard?

The minute it started to creep into my production, and only then, did I go on attack. Rightfully so if you ask me? I was putting more than 30 hours of work a week in on our dream and production. Why was I being threatened with shadow bans by this group of people born from a shitty FB group? What did I do but work hard to deserve their ire? How do you have the right to tell me who to book when you’ve never even booked that many shows here to begin with? My resume here in this town speaks for itself… From all I could tell, all these people were making was other people sad, and not a damn bit of comedy was coming from them. Aside from one weekly sign up show, where a piece of paper did the job of their booking. According to them anyhow. Signup only. They never invited groups to do their show. Thats why CATFISH was never invited or even on their radar. I had never spoke to these people, been invited on their shows or productions, but I was being told by their people that I didnt have the right to use my own judgement in booking my own guest? Judgement that has served me right through booking MANY shows in this here town over the last five years, while gaining the respect of each and every person that EVER performed on a stage i fronted. Seemed like a gargantuan over reach on their behalf. I paid my comics too. It wasnt “pay to play” improv bullshit… I didnt recharge them to take the same bullshit classes over again THE RIGHT WAY. I understand some improvisors have been green lighted on these fee’s at this new “theatre”. But in true Chris and Tami form, its only for who they deem worthy. Reserved only for influencers in the “community” I guess? The rest of us need to go grab our credit cards though and retake the same shit we already had beat down our throats at TNM? Because this time its SAFE GUYS! And you know it is because we’ve known these two people for SO LONG, and they have such a HUGE RECORD of doing HUGE THINGS in our community? Cause one is from Chicago and the other has a theatre management degree? And also because, “someone has to open a theater…?” That wasn’t good enough for me. Sounded like the same shit that happened after Katrina. Where everyone moved in from all over the fucking country and capitalized on the cities tragedy to set up cottage businesses. I seen it as that. I felt it distasteful that this place was trying to rise from the ashes of our pain at TNM when they were nowhere near as invested and rooted in there as we were. **Correction for accuracy** {The LADY was a very recent graduate of TNM a class or so behind me, and was being “groomed” by Tami for a teaching roll ASAP. I stand corrected on not being enrolled at the time of the TownHall as was formally written. I still stand behind the fact she wasnt as rooted in, like 90% of us there. The “lifers” had done shit over the years like painting the walls there, and gave thousands of dollars helping build it through kickstarter garbage, donations, buying tickets, etc... But I was wrong to spread misinformation on that one fact. Ive corrected it.} She literally just piled on with us during our tragedy, and we were so angry we thought she was in it with us. But she really wasnt IN IT like we all were. Those of us who lost their shows, friends, JOBS, etc... Best I can tell the other one was constantly in the corner talking to Tami all the time before the Townhall. Matter of fact they were both being groomed by TNM, and they sure as fuck looked like they were happy with that arrangement. Until it was no longer advantageous. I was very prominent in that theatre, but neither of them ever crossed paths with me but maybe once. Weird….? Im a pretty good guy? We had a popular group..? Wonder what the issue was? Who knows? But between those two things I damn sure wasn’t going to let these out of town “carpetbaggers” end what we were trying to build with CATFISH. They didn’t even listen to us, or come to our shows. WTF should I care what they thought of my booking? But I wasn’t the only member of CATFISH…And my resistance to their resistance made the boys uncomfortable. This lady had now become friends with someone very close to the inside of our group. We instantly started getting pressure through that relationship. More threats creeped in about CM, and others were now being added to this list everyday. Devin Howard started saying shit like he was “tired of being caught in the middle”. It was terrifying the boys. We would talk about it in length. What if we crossed them? What would happen? We would soon find out... Because the weekend of our last show, the shit finally came to a head…

The week of our last Bank’s St live Christmas Chaos show was crazy for me. I had been undergoing very deep psycho therapy over being abused my whole life by my step-dad and other bullies because my weight over the months leading up to this weekend. It had made me angry, and at this particular time in my therapy, my therapist was trying to get me to own my anger, not repress it. Anger comes from fear, and he knew I was just scared and insecure inside, so he wanted me to gain my footing, stand my ground, stand up to my bullies. So i did just that in hopes that the fear would subside, and my anger with it. But at that moment folks, in that week, I was a fucking LIVEWIRE. I was handing out “fuck you’s” like mardi gras beads to steal a line from a bit I do on stage. I was drinking heavy, scared to upset the scene, but still trying to do my job and keep us in the good graces of everyone while maintaining our numbers. I was trying to make EVERYONE happy, and that’s always a recipe for disaster.

The day had started with a conversation that I would later be told was bad info by Dev Howard. Im not sure if that’s true or not, or where he got the “bad info”? I think mostly he was afraid to step on any toes and was trying to calm me down by telling me he was wrong. But the info was this. That “this lady” had directly told our close friend that if we worked with CM and had her on our podcast, or on our network, that she wouldn’t do our shows. Now this was strange because I never asked her to be on ANY of my shows because the above mentioned shit. When I heard this the first time it was about 3 hours before our show that night. I was LIVID. Why am I dealing with this? Im not into these kinda politics around my art! They’re reaching sooo fuckin hard to make us COMPLICIT. WHY? That word was being used like a weapon now. It was suppressing creativity, tearing life long friends apart, and giving way to censorship. Dev Mullins changed an instagram post on our page a few weeks before this because I used the word “pussy” in a sentence. Because he thought it was a bad look to say the P word. He may have been even right? I don’t think that’s an unspeakable word honestly. But im a comedian with a sense of humor, so sue me. And some may actually try! I knew he didn’t feel that way, and I woke up to him apologizing he did it, but I felt censored. For whom? How are they infecting my dream with this groupthink bullshit? The writing was on the wall, I was getting frustrated how people that never gave us the time of day were now constantly in our heads around every decision we made. In our writing rooms everyday, our podcast planning sessions, our very words being measured so as not to upset people that didn’t even listen to our product or give a fuck about our group. Part of the plan after CATFISH took off was I wanted to bring in Dev Howard’s wife Megan. She is a great improvisor and comedian and always excelled when she was a guest on our show. I wanted her to have a LADY CATFISH podcast that we would help produce and we could play pranks on one another, and swap in and out of each other’s show. A real CATFISH FAMILY was what I was envisioning. With lil CATFISH nieces and nephews one day. Picnics and shit. The whole ball of wax. She chose one of my favorite improvisors in the area to play Deedar’s sister and LADY CATFISH was off and running. The premise of the show was to find a new best friend. I believe they still do it, and Im sure it’s great. Check it out. But at the time it was in the CATFISH universe. I had suggested CM again to more resistance. Fine FUCK IT. I let it go. We had a show to do in 2 hours.

We were set to premiere LADY CATFISH that night. We had sat aside 10-15 minutes of our live show for them to get on stage that night, promote LADY CATFISH, and give em a lil sneak peak of their hilarious chemistry. The girls had another engagement that night with their improv troop, a group that now “this lady” also belonged to, earlier in the evening. It was showtime now, I was still steaming from “The bad info” I had gotten from Devin Howard. Then right before showtime the girls showed up. They were pretty drunk… I am not throwing anyone under the bus, but even “the lady” would tell me face to face that the girls were in fact “TRASHED” that night while at our meeting a week later. I was pissed. I had set aside 15 min of stage-time and set up this podcast for them and they show up pretty much too trashed to perform. I never seen this behavior at TNM… Why was I getting it when I was suppose to be family to these people? Did they respect Chris’s stage more than our own? I was boiling over. I was told then that “the lady” from “The New Buddies Improv Theatre” would now be filling in on stage for one of the girls from LADY CATFISH because one was literally too drunk to get on stage…After all the shit I had been getting under the rule of “this lady’s” FB page built army, I wasn’t having it. Was she going to use our business now to promote her new improv “theatre”? The stage we worked so hard for with our blood, sweat, tears, and hustle? Nah. Not tonight. I shut it down. “The lady” would later tell me that she had no idea she was suppose to go on stage. That the girls pushed that on her when she arrived to watch our show. I dont know the details of that, or who was telling the truth, but it was all FUCKED, either way…Not being OK that “this lady” get on our stage made certain tipsy people mad. It devolved into a shouting match outside the bar with people too drunk to perform their spot on a show that we booked them on that night. At one point one of the girls screamed the word COMPLICIT so loud in my face while outside that I had to retreat to my vehicle to remove myself from the attack, and to stop from going into a flat rage before my show. It was at best the rudest I’ve ever been treated by a friend that I had cared for, and at worst a total and utter disrespect for how hard we all work to make CATFISH great. and totally disrespectful of our stage. Showing up too hammered to perform, on a show you’re booked on, should give you NO LEVERAGE in a negotiation when you’re trying to pop in a surprise guest in your drunken stead. Especially those that I had just heard a terrible story about, and someone who i was hearing was trying to ban people from working with us and tearing friendships apart. WTF do these assholes think I am? That night was awful, but we got through the show because I got blackout drunk. Then I cried to Mullin’s Dad about how good of a family they have. How lucky Devin Mullin was to have good supportive family. It was Christmas, and I wasn’t talking to my family. All I had was my work, my friends, and the bottle. I left that night weeping. People were confused as I left. But I was crying because I knew it was over. The heartbeat stopped that night for CATFISH. It died right up on that stage that night. In a drunken fucking mess. By all of us. Not just me…Were all responsible for this…

The next morning I woke up to a text message. It was from Devin Howard and it read, “don’t be mad.” I inquired as to what was happening? The girls were set to record the first episode of LADY CATFISH but their first guest would maybe upset me? It was “the lady” again….Very next day. Popping up again. Like a bad penny. I was mad, but I didn’t want to control their content, I found the whole situation provocative though. It seemed intentional. And I felt I didn’t deserve the gut check again so soon out from the mistakes from the night before by the same people. Especially without at-least a “sorry for last night”. But I got no apology, and again, I let it go… I was alone at my house that week working on our stuff, if I wasn’t with them. They still maintained a healthy social life. I however had given that up for our dream. I was feeling isolated, and overworked on something I obviously had lost control over. All the sudden what I said didn’t matter anymore. The hardest worker was being told to stay quiet and keep churning. I felt like a lil fat kid again. Worthless, and undervalued. Used even. But I kept working. “It will get better once I deliver phase 3”, I would say to myself. “You can do this. Don’t let them down...” So I’d brush it off and get back to work. People weren’t talking to me now as much. Everything had changed. I knew the revolt was coming. We were about to bust up, I was about to lose my dream to this cult like, groupthink nightmare. People that barely produce any comedy content at all was about to tear down a 2 year body of our, MY work. 1000s of hours of my time, missed vacations, missed date nights with my wife, etc . Because that word. COMPLICIT…

That night around 8pm “The New Buddies” dropped their SAFE IMPROV message to the masses in our community by way of FB. I didn’t see a goddamn thing safe about how they were operating. Seemed to be the same ol’ improv bullshit. Wasn’t about comedy at all, it was about the social structure of having a theater. Some do comedy, and some try to own it. Im a doer, I don’t want to make money off your backs as comedians. I want to help you develop or showcase your art by leading by example of my own hard work and friendly mentorship. For free! Because i love art and artist! Not by telling you who to talk to or what you should say or else. No theater built on the backbone of such a vitriolic FB group with habits like that will EVER SUCCED in my opinion. When I seen that message of their new business venture, built over the chasm of our former tragedy, for profit, I fuckin’ said something about it. Couldn’t help myself. I would later apologize to them in person for doing so, but Im taking it back now. Im proud I had the balls to stand up to yall. Ill hang my goddamn hat on it for the rest of my life. And especially when yall crash and burn under the weight of the bullshit youve put out already in this community that I so dearly loved…

They reached out to me wanting to hear my concerns. I explained that they themselves have members that fraternize with TNM alum. Way more so than CATFISH ever did. I seen that it was all up to them who was clear, and who was “COMPLICIT”. Sound familiar? Kinda sounds like TNM all over again right? Be careful your not so thirsty that you drink a glass of sand, even if it is poured into a beautiful wine glass. When they reached out I think they thought I wouldn’t show up to this meeting. But if you know me, Im a man of honor and my word. And even though i was harsh to them online, I was going to go meet them face to face, say my side, and take my medicine if needed.

I basically went there to that meeting with my beating heart in hand. I was worried about the blowback on my boys. I capitulated to every thing they said and basically just told them what I was going through personally. My wife accompanied me that day, and if you know her, you know she’s a sweetheart. She talked with them too about what I was going through. I cried…Like a-lot…In public. I could tell it made them uncomfortable. They were there to make one thing and one thing only happen. They needed me to shut-up. I was bad for “business”. The confused stares, and blank faces told me all I needed to know about their compassion for my actual situation. We hadn’t talked a-lot about the COMPLICIT shit because I was too busy throwing myself under the bus for my bros. At the end they asked if there WAS ANYTHING they could do for me?Something that would make me feel better? I simply asked them to put a public statement out about being a healing force in the community, and try to bring people together instead of pushing them apart. They both looked me dead in my tear filled eyes and said, “That shouldnt be a problem, we can do that…” I felt good about the meeting when I left. Better about these would be enemies at the time. Maybe it was all just a misunderstanding…I was making amends, like I was told to do by the team of professionals helping me. It was helping. Maybe it was just me….?

As of today I heard from one of them approximately one time about a week after the meeting. It was not “the lady”…As far as Im aware they never posted anything like they said they would, per my request. It meant a lot to me that this guy was checking on me though a few days after the meeting. I embarrassingly pledged my undying support to their theatre for his concern for me right then and there. I texted him at length about my one man show, how I wanted to use it to heal the problems that I had caused. Asked if hed meet me for coffee and maybe get to know me better and I could take some suggestions from him for my show. He agreed. This was GREAT! I WAS WRONG! Maybe this was salvageable after all? Maybe after I got my head right I could get my friends and life back. My brothers….We’d all join forces again and this time there’d be no stopping us. We’d go on to do festivals, write and animate cartoons, and live happily ever after….But this aint no goddamn fairytale. Dreams dont come true in the real world. Rarely the way you envision them anyways…

As I sit here finishing this after two days of writing it, I can tell you Im truly alone professionally. I never heard from my brothers or the above mentioned guy ever again after that. I was ghosted…As of right now I have probably sent more than 20 text and emails to the boys. They’ve invited me to things by mistake and then texted my wife to tell her it was a not a good idea i come in private. Breaking my fucking heart and setting my recovery back by weeks. Ive been ghosted by a man that had me as his best man at his wedding just a year ago. Brothers in the truest form of every sense, now divided. One of the last phone conversations I had with my best friend was him drunkenly calling me and saying, “WHAT DID YOU DO TO US?!” after I called out “The New Buddies” improv theatre. He was terrified and angry at me for crossing them. Said I had thrown him and Devin Mullin under the bus. I was told I ruined everything because I spoke out against “The New Buddies” improv theatre. And that was that for them. Last I heard they are going all over town telling everyone I abused them and crazy shaming me…If youre so hungover you cant get through a podcast then I may tell you to pull your goddamn head out of your ass. Especially if im killing myself for our dreams to the tune of 30 hour work weeks for free, and youre like my lil brother. If he was just an improv troop member I would have just kindly walked away. But at times someone had to snap the whip. And they elected me to do so. I didnt want it. But someone had to be the bad guy. Now it seems to be the narrative they preach about me all over town…It breaks my heart when people come and tell me they arent being nearly as supportive of me as I am to them at the moment. I still tell them Im proud of the work they are doing and I only want to be in their lives again but I get no response... But the storm that this FB group started about a year ago had arrived already, and washed the foundation of my friendships and life’s work away. CATFISH wont be the first to fall to this kinda environment either. There will be many more casualties in the name of this “NEW CHURCH” We were just the first on the way to this new DEATHSTAR being built right now by out of town contractors, that will eventually let you all down again when one of them moves and gets tired of our city. If youre listening to me pull your head out of your asses and call your friends. DONT GHOST PEOPLE YOU CALLED FAMILY AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE, FOR SPEAKING OUT. SPEAKING OUT and ASKING QUESTIONS shouldnt get you blackballed. If you think so have fun getting your lives and trust destroyed again by charlatans that feign concern while plotting behind your back to take over the comedy scene that we built with our goddamn bare hands. Good luck to you all. Now Ill be busy making a name for myself with my current productions, and standup. Yall can keep fighting over the scraps of which morally corrupt theater will reign supreme at the end of the day. I cant worry about that. I got this whole “making my dream come true” thing to get back to now. FUCK YOU IMPROV. KISS MY ASS IMPROV. SEE YA NEVER IMPROV. Call your goddamn friends….Tell them you love them. Life is too short. Were going to get sick, hurt, die… Youre wasting time. Do it now.

Thank you for listening. I love all that continue to support me and build me up. I love you Millie Rollo. You’re all I need baby. We been together 15 years now. They dont know shit about making it work that long baby. I love you more now than I did then. Youre my only family and best friend. HOMETEAM baby-girl. Deedar loves ya. All of ya. Now get! GO! GETONNYAH! SHOO!

ONE LOVE XOXOXO

D. Rollo