Laughing all the way: Improv troupe marks 20 years of comedy

Four Day Weekend

Four Day Weekend

20th Anniversary Show

7:30 p.m., March 9

Tickets: $33 to $55

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Two decades of work doesn’t seem so tough when you’re always enjoying a Four Day Weekend.

The Fort Worth comedy institution Four Day Weekend will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a special show at Bass Hall March 9 at 7:30 p.m.

The show will feature some of the most memorable moments in the comedy troupe’s history, along with some special stories and memories. It will also include cameo appearances by some recognizable characters from their earlier years.

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The evening will be highlighted by large-scale props and special effects.

Fort Worth Weekend bills itself as the longest-running comedy show in the southwest. More than 550,000 people have seen its performances in its 212-seat theater in Sundance Square.

“We started out as a limited six-week run in a small, 99-seat theater in downtown Fort Worth,” said the troupe’s co-founder, David Wilk. “Now we are going to hold our very own show at Bass Performance Hall. It’s incredible.”

Wilk was referencing the troupe’s beginnings at a temporary downtown Casa Manana where three members put up $700 each to finance the run.

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“We were thinking ‘let’s see if we can not lose this $2,100,’ but people were coming to the show, so we just kept going and growing,” he said.

The original troupe had six performers, four of whom are still members.

Wilk said the troupe got its name from a legendary TV show.

“The name is a tip of the hat to The Simpsons,” he said. “I was watching an episode where Homer doesn’t go to work on a Thursday. Marge comes in and tells him, ‘Your boss called and said if you don’t come in to work tomorrow, don’t bother coming in Monday.’ Homer, not being smart enough to get it, shouts out, ‘Woo-hoo! Four-day weekend!'”

While it is not the troupe’s first time to perform at Ball Hall, it will be the first time they have been the headliners in their own show.

Serious business

Four Day Weekend has four weekly public shows, with its own brand of improvisational comedy. It has branched out beyond the standard yucks, audience participation and parody songs of similar groups.

But seriously folks, the members have launched their own four-level improvisational training center and have taken on corporate gigs for some high-profile organizations, including Frito-Lay, Canon, Pfizer and Home Depot. Local organizations have taken advantage of the group’s corporate-level education and training sessions.

“We’ve actually gone to Four Day Weekend twice. Each year the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth hosts a training exercise for our staff and board,” said Jennifer Johns, CEO of Ronald McDonald House. “In January 2016 we went to Four Day Weekend to participate in their team building seminar. Frank Ford was our trainer and did an amazing job.

“The session was a very interactive, hands-on experience where he taught the tenets of improvisation (listening skills, teamwork, accepting others’ ideas, etc.) and how those skills could be applied for success in everyday life.”

Johns said the troupe’s famous “Yes and …” routine was particularly enlightening and one they try to emulate at Ronald McDonald House. This is the philosophy – key to improvisational comedy – in which, when working together as a team, the word “no” is stricken from the vocabulary and there are no wrong answers, only higher and lower percentage choices. For businesses, the “Yes and …” philosophy spurs participants to identify opportunities, inspire creativity, create positive outcomes, build on ideas and nurture innovation.

“Frank worked with our team through a number of fun exercises to illustrate the importance of inclusion and the sharing of ideas,” Johns said.

Johns said her team returned due to popular demand.

“Most people have participated in team-building before, but I can assure you that nothing compares to the overall feeling you have after participating in Four Day Weekend’s. It’s fun to laugh while learning, and to see your coworkers and/or board members in a new light is an extra-special delight.”

Ellen Haag, vice president of brand sales and dispensing services for Dallas-based eye care company Essilor of America, said Four Day Weekend has become a vital business partner for her team.

“They have played a key role in our national sales meetings for the past several years, going initially from an emcee role to becoming a strategic business partner over the last three or four years, helping us to deliver challenging messages, define key communications, facilitate executive panels and even create and produce extensive videos on a plethora of situations, challenges and otherwise seemingly impossible circumstances,” she said.

“I have engaged their expertise to conduct communications workshops for my leadership team based on their ‘Yes and…’ approach as a team-building exercise, and also to improve communication, which has had a dramatic impact on my leadership team to better communicate and accept individual styles and unique skills sets, strengths and weaknesses.

“Whenever I have a sensitive, difficult message to deliver, they are my go-to strategic partner to find a unique, creative way to deliver these messages to my team.”

Four Day Weekend’s members have also taken their rapid-fire banter and humor back to school, becoming a Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business entrepreneur-in-residence in 2016.

But the humor was anything but sophomoric, said Brad Hancock, director of the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center and Davis Family Entrepreneur-in-Residence at TCU.

“Imagine how creative and productive you can be if you know that every idea you bring to the table won’t be brought down but will be built upon with ‘Yes, and … ,’” said Hancock. “This is where improvisation, education and entrepreneurial thinking go hand in hand. It is a philosophy of innovation and creativity. ‘Yes’ creates while ‘no’ stops progress. That’s an important lesson for any business and especially important for business students to practice as they advance in their careers.”

The troupe has also branched out into film and TV and is publishing its first hardback book, Happy Accidents. The book recounts their success story and shows how improvisation can help readers fulfill their own dreams.

Four Day Weekend also has traveled overseas to perform for U.S. military personnel and has entertained two U.S. presidents.

Among its many honors and awards, the troupe has been named a Small Business of the Year by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and received the key to the City of Fort Worth. Woo-hoo, indeed.