Empty Inside is one of Dallas Comedy House’s very own troupes, and a troupe unlike any other. With a little help from their furry puppet friends, Empty Inside mixes the art of puppeteering and improv together. Empty Inside creates a magical realm where anything is possible. Ever want to see an owl argue with a turtle over rent money? What about a horse telling a bedtime monster to get out of its nightmares? Well, now you can. Let’s get to know Empty Inside with troupe member and performer Daniel Matthews.
The group performs with puppets. How did this lovely idea come to be?
I took a puppetry workshop in 2013 called the Beyond the Sock Workshop and at the time I was already a performer at DCH, so throughout the entire workshop, I was immediately thinking how I wanted to do a puppet improv show. Over the years, I tried to get puppeteers to start taking improv classes but was unsuccessful. I decided to teach improvisers how to puppeteer.
How long has the group performed together, and what was the first Empty Inside show like?
Empty Inside has been together for just about a year now. I don’t think any of us know the exact date because we’re all bad at that stuff. The first show was a lot of fun and included more bits about the puppets being puppets or gags about the reality/constraints of the puppets (turning a puppet inside out and stuff like that). These days, we generally just treat the puppets as additional improvisers.
Describe how improvising with a puppet is different than normal.
Well for one, you’ve got a puppet on your hand. But legitimately, object work and pantomime are a bit tougher, but not impossible, to do with puppets. You have to be even more aware of your surroundings so that you don’t ignore a puppet that’s behind you.
What was a memorable scene that Empty Inside performed?
I think my favorite scene was in one of our early shows. We’ve got these two identical turtle puppets, but one of them has a white wig and glasses to make it look sort of like an old lady. The normal turtle puppet was in a job interview and got rejected, and later on in the scene, the wig and glasses turtle puppet came in, and it was like the turtle puppet had put on a disguise. It was super goofy, and I barely held it together through the scene.
Does each member of Empty Inside bring different puppeteering skills?
Some of the other members had a bit of puppetry experience before the troupe was formed, but for the most part, they went into the troupe with a similar level of skill and we’ve all grown in our abilities together.
I believe the group makes their own puppets. Who’s the best puppet maker?
Me. I am. But only because nobody else in the group makes puppets yet. We’re moving toward having a couple of sewing workshops, but for the time being, I’m the only one who has made any of the puppets that we use. Some of the puppets are bought, some were given to me, but I made some of them by hand.
Any other tidbits you’d like to add for the bio?
KC will probably kick your ass at any Muppet/Labyrinth Trivia.
Anthony Salerno is from Buffalo, New York. He is a current DCH student and performs with Ewing Troupe: Clementine. When he’s not working at Improv or his day job, he’s trying to talk himself out of buying Uncrustables at the grocery store.