A pirate-themed restaurant. A scandal-laden mega church. A bankrupt community college. A small-town slaughter house. A pornographer's bratwurst festival.
Postwar Berlin. Post-Godzilla Tokyo. Post-Trump New York.
These are all places that Flirt Reynolds has been. This month.
“Sometimes, improv is scary. Sometimes, it’s weird or fun. We do a pretty good job figuring how all the funny things we create piece back together.” That’s how improviser Brendon Duran describes his three-man comedy group Flirt Reynolds, which is headlining four Fridays of funny at Queensbury Theatre, presented by CSz Houston.
The Flirt Reynolds core, which consists of Duran, Max Holkan and Vic Shuttee (me), has been making comedy together for the past five years. “We met in college,” says Duran, who majored in acting at the University of Houston. “We were all in theater, cross-training in all these creative fields and influencing each other nonstop. [Improv] basically requires you to write and act in your [own] show, in real time.”
For Holkan, what began as a “forced friendship” ultimately blossomed into a creative partnership. “It’s a bond that’s wrought in the brotherly love of camaraderie,” he says. Or, to put it simply: “It’s three great friends that love to get silly.”
Holkan, the youngest member of Flirt Reynolds, says stand-up comedy was his gateway drug to improvising. “My uncle introduced me to Mitch Hedberg at a tender age, long ago. His style [spoke] to me.” But for the 22-year-old, the thrill of unscripted comedy remains his passion. “The fear of uncertainty can really propel you into the unknown, but there’s always a sense of security when you’ve got your best friends beside you. Improv exists for the moment you watch it…then it’s gone forever, into the ether. That’s exceptionally special ’cause [the audience] needs to jump in to experience the moment.”
Having individually trained with Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade, iO and ComedySportz, Duran says each member of Flirt Reynolds has “performed across the city, state and country” in everything from theaters and comedy clubs to “punk venues, coffee dens and abandoned dress shops.” While Flirt Reynolds has become a frequent mainstay at local clubs including Station Theater and BETA, Holkan, Shuttee and Duran also improvise separately as members of The Dinner Detective Murder Mystery Company, and ComedySportz.
Last spring, Flirt Reynolds was invited to perform at California-based improv festival FRACAS! According to Duran, the group raised travel funds by booking a Texas tour and taking their shows outside Houston to Dallas, Denton, San Antonio and Brownsville. “The fact that we made a trip to L.A. happen with our craft, by our craft to go do our craft halfway across the country, that opened a major door [for us],” Holkan says.
Getting to perform at the state-of-the-art Queensbury Theatre (formally Country Playhouse) has been one of those doors. Duran credits Benji Cooksey and Chad Minchew, the new co-owners of CSz Houston, an organization that produces ComedySportz, among other local series. “[Minchew and Cooksey] produce Houston’s longest-running comedy show, with 25 years under its belt,” Duran boasts. “To be widening their late-night lineup is thrilling and just what [Flirt] needed.”
In Holkan’s mind, the Queensbury’s grandeur alone is indicative of something more substantial. “It’s a brand-new space, not even two years old,” he says. “It’s pristine, it’s modern. To have ComedySportz there, and now Flirt Reynolds, it’s a great stepping-stone to [respecting] the improv arts, [letting it stand] alongside the more traditional theatrical arts. That space is legitimizing.”
Performances are scheduled for 10:30 p.m. on May 6, 13, 20, and 27 at Queensbury Theatre. 12777 Queensbury . For information, call 713-467-4497 or visit queensburytheatre.org. $12.