Four Day Weekend
312 Houston Street
Fort Worth 76102
What a long, strange, 18-year Four Day Weekend it has been.
Along with providing downtown patrons with belly laughs, good times and a glass of wine or two, the Fort Worth-based improvisational comedy troupe has managed to win a Small Business of the Year award, perform for two U.S. presidents and deliver a keynote address to the United States Congress.
Four Day Weekend’s long, strange trip got even stranger recently when the group toured Europe at the invitation of Armed Forces Entertainment and performed at nine different military installations.
“I think as comedians, we’d all grown up with that image of entertainers going over to entertain the troops, like Bob Hope and such, so this was an opportunity to do it, to live that,” said Frank Ford, a group founder.
“For us, it worked great, because it doesn’t matter where you are, where you perform, and the show is about them,” he said. “Improv has an incredible you-had-to-be-there feel to it, so it really works well on the road. Every show is different. They would suggest things and sometimes it would be a reminder of being back home, or maybe some situation on their base. It always seemed to work.”
The official date of the group’s 18th anniversary occurred during the tour, so what did Four Day Weekend do?
“So this was the line, we sent out a press release that said, ‘Four Day Weekend turns 18 and joins the military.’ It was perfect,” said Ford.
Because the venues in Europe were often larger than its 212-seat theater at 312 Houston St. in Sundance Square, the group leaned on its music improvs more than usual. The ability to adapt, Ford noted, is critical for improv troupes as well as entrepreneurs.
“You have to work in whatever space you’ve been given,” said Ford. “If you find yourself in a 5,000-seat theater, you’ve going to have to fill that space and quiet improv scenes probably won’t work there. Time for some Broadway improv.”
Ford said the group’s members felt like they got to a part of Europe most tourists don’t see, starting on Feb. 24 at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo and ending March 7 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
For all the comedy and laughs, there were some other nice moments with the soldiers, he said.
“One of those great, small-world moments that proved Walt Disney was right was in Kosovo,” Ford said.
He met a soldier who said he loved the show and noted that the group had worked with former President George W. Bush a couple of times. The soldier’s name was George W. Bush. “The soldier said he always thought it would be cool to get an autographed photo of the former president, signed to George W. Bush, from George W. Bush,” said Ford.
When Four Day Weekend returned home, they got hold of Bush’s chief of staff, explained the situation and gave him the soldier’s email address.
Just recently, Four Day Weekend received an email from the soldier saying he had received the autographed photo from the former president.
“It was a nice email, saying that he’d never heard of an act reaching back out the way you guys did. What I really liked was that he said, ‘You guys are doing this for all the right reasons.’ That was great,” he said.
Ford ascribes a lot of the troupe’s success in making people laugh and also in running a successful business to the “Yes and…” philosophy. The “Yes and…” principle on stage calls for an actor to accept whatever a fellow actor says or does, but then add to it.
The “Yes and…” idea works on an organizational level by creating a culture in which anyone can come up with an idea and it will lead to more collaboration, he said.
“If we weren’t ‘Yes and…’ kind of people we probably wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Four Day Weekend started with $700 and a Fort Worth gig that was supposed to last six weeks in a 100-seat theater.
First, Ford noted, all their friends told them comedy might not work in Fort Worth. And downtown Fort Worth? Forget about it.
“A few years earlier and they might have been right, but we came to downtown Fort Worth at the right time. It’s been great and we’ve really been embraced by the city. I can’t say it enough how much we appreciate it,” he said.
As that initial gig at Casa on the Square was winding down, one Four Day Weekend co-founder, David Wilk, was having his wedding reception on the roof of the then-Caravan of Dreams. It got rained out so they moved the reception to the floor where the theater is now.
“We took a leap of faith and got our own space, even though we had been told ‘Nothing worked well there.’ I mean every sign said ‘Don’t’ but we’re ‘Yes and…’ kind of people, so we did,” Ford said.
For the group, it was a dream. “We call it ‘happy accidents,’ that happened to us, because of that ‘Yes and…’ philosophy,” Ford said.
Ford recalled the time a CEO came up and asked them if they would consider doing corporate shows. They answered, “Yes and we’d like to start with yours.”
“That’s worked for us for 18 years,” Ford said.
According to the group, more than 550,000 people having seen the troupe perform in its Houston Street venue. In addition to four weekly public shows, Four Day Weekend has launched its own four-level improvisation training center, taken on corporate appearances for organizations such as Frito-Lay, Canon, Pfizer and Office Depot, branched out into film and television projects both individually and collectively, and is in the process of completing its first hardback book, Happy Accidents, recounting the troupe’s path to success and sharing how the tenets of improvisation can be used in everyday life.
And how did that come about?
“Our agency presented the idea to us and, well, we said yes,” Ford said.