Posts Tagged ‘TJ & Dave’
Seasoned improviser and actor, MIRIAM TOLAN, talks with us about her days at Second City, theatricality in improv, and chasing the high that comes from long-form. Growing up outside of Chicago, Miriam was almost fell into becoming an improver and she continues to perform and teach today after doing stints in Chi-town, New York, and LA. Recently, she’s back in NYC and agreed to sit down with us to talk about her journey!
Miriam has been improvising for decades now, and Louis kicks off the episode by taking it all the way back to the beginning. Hear about the influence of SCTV as a gateway drug into comedy and how Miriam caught the improv bug. She tells us about starting at Second City while in college and how serendipitous it was that she happened to be from Chicago. Miriam says she loved every minute of her Second City experience and, to prove it, provides us with an inside view as to why. Louis recalls that she was a member of the “tall cast.” Hear Miriam all about a month-long tour experience in Texas and goofing around while on traveling with her TourCo cast.
With so much experience performing for audiences of all kinds, Louis wants to know Miriam’s gauge on crossing the line with an audience in terms of placating them versus antagonizing them. She answers with examples from Second City’s storied cast members and how different people have handled that balance. Speaking of Second City, Louis inquires about how it was coming into SC’s historically political sensibility, having been raised in a time of more character-based comedy? This leads down a delightful rabbit hole talking about ED and Jazz Freddy, two groundbreaking long-form shows in Chicago. Miriam and Louis discuss how the theatrical quality of these shows changed the improv landscape and paved the way for current acts like TJ & Dave and Stolen House. Acting and improv were two very different worlds before the formation of these groups, she says. Louis wonders if actors are looking for something different in a scene besides the laugh and while Miriam can’t answer for them all, she answers saying that she is always looking for connection.
Moving forward to today, our illustrious duo talk about making adjustments in their own shows after “going to church” by seeing an act like TJ & Dave. “How can you not overcompensate?” they ask. Louis claims that when you’re doing an impression of someone you admire, you’re doing the opposite of what makes them who they are. Miriam and Louis talk about tapping into a sense of not knowing why something works and chasing that invisible high. Miriam describes trying to find a similar sense of magic in scripted work and the challenge of such a task. At this phase, Louis wants to know, what keeps Miriam excited about this improv stuff? He also recalls his love of The Tiny Spectacular, Magnet’s one-time, uber-stacked, Saturday night show.
They end the episode discussing how Miriam approaches teaching and how long-form has a way of finding its way back to short-form. Finally, the question is answered: What’s the ulterior motive to a hug?
At an early point in an improviser’s development, the names of TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi will be mentioned by a teacher, a coach, or a fellow comedy nerd friend. “You gotta go see TJ & Dave.” You will be told that they are the best of the best. You will be advised that their approach towards improvisation is worth incorporating into your own philosophy and growth as a performer.
And you might wonder: why?
Based in Chicago, TJ & Dave are revered as two of the best improvisers in the country. TJ Jagodowski is most recognizable from the long-running series of improvised Sonic Drive-In commercials featuring himself and Peter Grosz. In addition to performing in “TJ & Dave,” TJ performs regularly with other seasoned improv groups on stages across Chicago. Dave Pasquesi has performed in dramatic plays (Glengarry Glen Ross, God of Carnage), appeared on television (Strangers With Candy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep) and in movies, and is also a voiceover actor. As a duo, they have performed together for over a decade. TJ & Dave perform regularly at the iO Theater on Wednesday nights. They also perform multiple times during the year in New York City, at the Barrow Street Theatre.
TJ & Dave create one-act plays through the art of slow comedy, taking time to develop characters and relationships, and discover situations together. They don’t go for the easy laugh. As a result, the comedy that emerges from their patience is moving, grounded, and honest. The Magnet’s own Matt Shafeek wrote this Splitsider article on TJ & Dave and the power of slow comedy:
TJ & Dave can often go long stretches of time without any big laughs, and this is where a lot of weaker improvisers often falter. A performer who fears he or she has lost the audience will panic and will resort to time-honored gimmicks – exaggerated physicality, ridiculous characters, and of course, going ‘blue’ (making a lewd/sexual reference or choice) in a desperate attempt to end the audience’s silence. But TJ & Dave, as well as Louis CK, know that patience in comedy can lead to much bigger rewards.
The mainstream world has caught onto the awesomeness that is TJ & Dave. A rave review in the theater section of the New York Times, written last year by accomplished composer and lyricist David Yazbek, has skyrocketed the popularity of their New York City appearances. Tickets are often sold out well before the beginning of each run. A Radiolab podcast feature earlier this year introduced TJ & Dave to hip intelligentsia who might not otherwise be interested in the improv comedy scene.
Psyched to check out a TJ & Dave show? You’re in luck! They will be performing in New York City at Town Hall this Friday, October 11th, at 8pm. This performance is extra-special for a lot of reasons. For the first time in New York, TJ & Dave will be performing with Chicago musician, Ike Reilly, in a joint appearance. If you’ve ever been to a TJ & Dave show, you’ve heard Ike Reilly’s songs at the beginning and end of the show. Their NY anthem is Commie Drives A Nova. This is also the first time that TJ & Dave will be performing at Town Hall, a venue that seats over 1000 people. This is the largest venue they have ever played in New York City, and possibly anywhere else. This show is one night only! TJ & Dave would love to see the NYC improv community in the audience, so please come and support!
Full price tickets are $42, but follow the instructions for various options below to get them for $27. The asterisks indicate preferred options, to avoid service fees:
For all options, use the code BST. You will need to tell the box office the code in order to get the discounted $27 tickets.
1) Show up in person at TOWN HALL BOX OFFICE*
(no service fees)
123 West 43rd Street, NY
12pm – 6pm, M-SAT
2) In Person: LIMITED tix available at BARROW STREET THEATRE BOX OFFICE*
(no service fees, CASH ONLY)
27 Barrow Street, on the corner of 7th Ave.
Open at 1pm Daily
3) Online: At ticketmaster.com with code BST
(service fees will apply)
Still unconvinced? Let’s go down the TJ & Dave rabbit hole, shall we?
In 2009, Alex Karpovsky made Trust Us, This Is All Made Up, a documentary about TJ & Dave, which includes an entire show that was recorded at the Barrow Street Theatre. It had its world premiere at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival. The DVD is available for purchase. Check it out!
Pam Victor shares her interviews with the country’s improv greats on her blog series, Geeking Out With …. She interviewed TJ and David extensively. All three are in the process of co-writing a book on improv. Stay tuned!
Jimmy Carrane, veteran Chicago improviser and co-author of the book, Improvising Better: A Guide to the Working Improviser, interviewed TJ and David for his Improv Nerd podcast.
What are you waiting for? Go buy your discounted tickets now. See you at Town Hall on Friday!