Oliver Tull, one of the hosts of the DFW-based offbeat morning show Eye Opener, and Justin Allen, the nationally broadcast show’s executive producer, were on such similar wavelengths that neither remembers exactly who came up with the idea for “ That Show” first.
But Tull, who’s also a member of Fort Worth improv group Four Day Weekend, was definitely in charge of rounding up the talent for “That Show” -- a comedy-variety extravaganza at 7 p.m. Thursday (June 20) at the Four Day Weekend Theater in downtown Fort Worth. All proceeds from the $22.50-a-ticket show will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
“I don’t remember who threw it out, but we’d both been thinking about doing a live show over the last few months,” Allen says. “I wanted to do this a year ago, but Eye Opener wasn’t in a place where I could divert attention from it to a live comedy-music show.”
Then came the fertilizer-plant explosion in West, and the tornadoes in North Texas and Oklahoma, and the timing was right for “That Show.”
“I said, ‘We should do something’ ” Tull says. “I said, ‘I can round up a couple of my friends who do stand-up, and some other people who sing,’ and [Justin] said, ‘No -- I think we can do more than that.’ ”
The result, as Tull has put it during Eye Opener, is an attempt to do a four-hour variety show -- in about an hour-and-a-half. Sean Dowling and Holly Morgan, Tull’s Eye Opener co-hosts, will also appear, in what is somewhat a hybrid of Tull’s TV and improv-comedy worlds, although there’ll also be magicians and musicians -- including a singing puppet.
“I was beyond busy already, but I didn’t realize what I was stepping into” says Tull, who hasn’t stepped away from his hosting duties on Eye Opener, which airs from 5 to 8 a.m. weekdays on KDAF/Channel 33. “But it’s a good kind of work, so I can’t complain.”
Allen, who is co-producing “That Show” with Tull, says that their days have included working 3 to 8 a.m. at the station, then 11 a.m. to late afternoon putting the live show together. He adds that Tull has taken the lead in producing the live show.
“It’s kind of a funny thing for one comedy producer to say to another comedy producer, ‘You’re gonna have to trust me,’ ” Allen says. “But that’s the key with regards to the live show. I’m just gonna put it in his court and say, ‘OK, we have a specific tone that we are going for, but you are the one who does this for a living.’ ”
Comedian/actor Grayson Howe, who contributes to Eye Opener, is in the “That Show” lineup, which also includes comedians Dean Lewis and Michele Benson, movie critic Cornelius Watkins, magician Ash Adams, and a short film by MAT & DeWun Music, who will also perform live.
“Since I’m an improviser, I haven’t put too many restrictions on the show,” Tull says. “It can kinda be what it becomes. ... It’s a little bit of everything. Plus I’ve basically been grabbing everything that’s not nailed down and saying that I’m gonna give it away to the crowd at the show.”
As also befits an improviser -- and some of Tull’s Four Day Weekend colleagues will appear as well -- he’s sorta making this up as he goes along.
“I think we function best when we don’t plan too much, because we like to be surprised, just like the audience does,” he says. “I’m hoping that translates, and I think it will.”
Eye Opener launched in 2011 -- first in the basement of the Tribune Building in Chicago, then relocating to DFW. Dowling has been with the show from the beginning; Tull and news anchor Nerissa Knight joined shortly before the show moved to Texas. Morgan joined the show in October 2012, replacing Danielle Vollmar, who had signed on just after the show launched in Dallas.
With all the changes, and with the show finding its voice, Allen had to concentrate on his TV-producer role before realizing his dream of doing a live variation.
“With a show like Eye Opener, we’ve been going through this evolution where we’re trying to find the right mix of staff and hosts and approach,” Allen says. “I think within the last six to eight months, we’ve found it. And it’s allowed us to have a little bit of breathing room. Now we want people to see it and be able to relate to it.”