Comic relief: Improv gig lets attorney, audiences, laugh at life

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Dave Fuller is an attorney by trade but takes a lighter look at life through his comedy routine.
Dave Fuller is an attorney by trade but takes a lighter look at life through his comedy routine.

By M.V. Moorhead

A trial attorney must speak publicly. A trial attorney must think on his or her feet. And now and then, presumably, a trial attorney must try to convince people of something deeply improbable.

So, how much has being an attorney helped Dave Fuller in his new pursuit, that of improv comedy actor?

“Probably less than you’d imagine,” says Fuller.

But then he reflects, “I’ve often heard that public speaking is the worst fear, even over death. That’s kind of funny—you’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.”

Being a lawyer has, at least, relieved Fuller of that particular fear.

“I really like comedy,” says the West Chandler resident, who oversees 80 or 90 contract attorneys for the Public Defender’s office of the city of Phoenix. “I took a beginners’ improv class and then an intermediate class and then an advanced class.”

Said classes were with ImprovMANIA, the sketch-comedy group which performs Friday and Saturday evenings in downtown Chandler at 7 and 9 p.m. (“7 o’clock is PG; 9 o’clock is PG-13”). The teacher was ImprovMANIA co-founder Dave Specht.

“The guy’s hilarious, and a really great guy,” says Fuller. Apparently Specht must have seen something he liked in Fuller’s classwork, because, “He invited me to do the mainstage show. [ImprovMANIA] is kind of growing, so he wants to develop a Thursday night troupe.”

Fuller hopes to be part of that troupe, and he wouldn’t mind being invited to participate in the mainstage show again, either.

Fuller grew up on the south side of Chicago, attending Northern Illinois University and DePaul Law School, but he knew from the start that he wanted to practice law here in Arizona. “I took the Arizona Bar first,” he admits, “because I knew I wanted to be out here…The sky is bluer, the clouds are whiter; it’s like living in an episode of The Simpsons.”

After working for five years with the public defender’s office, however, “I got lured back to Illinois,” says Fuller, for a lucrative job opportunity. Soon after his return, the difference in climate was forcefully driven home to him.

“I moved back close to Christmastime. One day at work there was an announcement: ‘If anyone lives up the hill, you have to leave now, there’s an icy rain coming.’”

Informed that he did, indeed, live up the hill, Fuller went to his Jeep, only to have the door handle snap off in his hand.

“I literally looked at the sky and said ‘Lord, what did I do?’”

Though the few years that he spent back in Illinois were not without value—it was there that he met his wife—he returned to Arizona as soon as opportunity allowed. While he had participated, back in Illinois, in Legal Follies—“kind of a skit variety show, for charity”—it’s the pace of his life here in Arizona that has allowed him to seriously explore his interest in comedy.

“It was partly because I took this job rather than having my own firm that I was able to do [Improv],” he notes. “That, and the kids being older.”

So, what have his classes and his initial performances taught him about the art that he didn’t know before?

“Don’t try to be clever or funny,” he says without hesitation. “Once you’ve established your reality, don’t try to squeeze in a witty line.”

The characters that Fuller creates range from familiar to preposterous:

“Sometimes I’ll do a Southside Chicago priest. I did the mother of a teenage girl. I don’t know what I’m doing until the audience makes the suggestion. Once I was a panda bear.”

Go to improvmania.net for details on Improvmania performances and classes.

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