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Posts tagged David Pasquesi

David Pasquesi is an actor/improviser and Second City alumnus. He’s both lauded and loved by everyone who’s anyone in the improv community, and is the Dave half of legendary improv duo, TJ and Dave. His film and television credits include Groundhog Day, Strangers With Candy, Angels and Demons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Veep.

Photo © Eleonora Briscoe

Photo © Eleonora Briscoe

When did you first know you wanted to do improv/comedy/acting for a living?

For a living? I didn’t know it was even possible. First class was with Judy Morgan around 1981. And I loved it from the start. I had found something I enjoyed that was not illegal and that I was not terrible at.

Who has had the greatest influence on your career, and why?

There are many people who have helped me immeasurably all along, but the single person? I would have to say Del Close. He is the person who I had the most contact with. He was a generous man with his knowledge and experience.

What was your first paid improv-related job?

My first paid job in the umbrella of entertainment was stand up. I was the M.C. at The Chicago Comedy Showcase as I was studying improvisation with Del.

Do you see improv as a means to doing other work, or an end in itself?

Both.

When you hear the words “working improviser,” what comes to mind?

Waiter.

Describe a typical day in your life.

Jesus. No typical day. Lately it’s been trying to run this fucking theater with TJ.

A lot of folks come to improv classes and get stars in their eyes. What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue improv for a living?  

If you are pursuing improvisation for the money…you are a fool. Do it because it isn’t a choice. You have to. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then maybe that’s your answer.

Improv has been steadily infiltrating corporate and popular culture. With all of the interest in improvisation, why is it still so difficult to get bums on seats at shows? (Or is it, in your experience?)

I think because it is viewed as something everyone can do, there isn’t a need for me to pay to come see you do something I can do, too. So why should I pay to see you do it? Also, there are so many shows there isn’t enough audience to go around.

What’s the best, worst, or weirdest improv gig you’ve done?

Trying to do a Harold outdoors with no stage in the summer in a park on grass and dirt between stands of trees at Taste of Chicago as tourists ambled past on their way to ribs and cheesecake. And also, no one in the world knew what a Harold was.

Best for me is TJ and Dave, some highlights were doing TJ and Dave at Town hall in New York City. Also a European tour doing TJ and Dave. Factory, a TV show improvised with other guys from iO. Mitch Rouse’s show with me, Jay Leggett and Mike Coleman. All of us friends, we had a bunch of our friends come do stuff with us. And of course, the beginning with Del and just starting the Harold. That was very exciting.

Do you think it’s easier to make a living as an improviser today than it was when you were starting out?

God yes. There was no way to make money as an improviser. The only paying job was Second City. And that was not to improvise.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?  

I don’t.

“What do we do to prepare? Observing people and people’s idiosyncracies. We practice. We practice paying attention.” – David Pasquesi

TJ and Dave make improv look easy.

In theory it could be, maybe even should be. But as anyone who’s spent more than five minutes doing it knows, there’s a whole lot that can get in the way.

All those rules you learned (don’t ask questions, don’t talk about people who aren’t in the scene, don’t turn your back to the audience)?

TJ and Dave break them all, and they have a great time doing it.

There’s a reason these guys have attained cult-like status. Besides being masters of their craft, their style is unlike the fast-paced, frenetic improv most of us are used to. But their scenes, their characters, and the audience are all richer for it.

The set-up is deceptively simple: just two guys playing a handful of characters over 50 or so minutes. They don’t even get a suggestion from the audience.

It’s what they do in those 50-plus minutes that defies description. The stories they weave and the people they play are so funny, so utterly believable, it’s no wonder some folks think they planned it beforehand.

Filmed at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York, Trust Us… features one complete performance, plus a glimpse of the two pre- and post-show. Thanks to multiple cameras and skilful editing, Director Alex Karpovsky captures the essence of their relationship, both on and off-stage, beautifully.

Improv may not be easy, but TJ and Dave prove it can be hilarious, truthful and – that rarest of things in this ethereal art form – memorable. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them in person, this is the next best thing. Trust me, you’ll be a fan.

You can buy the DVD here.


Photo © Sharilyn Johnson

Tom Vest has been improvising in Toronto since 1997. As one of the admins of the TJ & Dave fan page, he has been dubbed the “Official Overlord of the Electronic TJ & Dave Empire” by TJ. (www.facebook.com/tjandave)

I’ve been a fan of TJ & Dave for a few years now, and yet for the life of me I can’t remember when and how I first heard about them. It must’ve been around 2004 on the “yesAND…” forum boards. The discussion was probably something like “Best Improviser(s) in the City.”

In those days I was even more dedicated to unravelling the mystery of improv and all its secrets than I am now, so when I came across the comments on why they were so good, I was intrigued. It wasn’t long after that I went to their Myspace page (yes, 2004 seems about right) and purchased a few of their shows on DVD. They were everything people had said they were.

When they came to Toronto for a workshop and show, I was asked to pick them up at the airport. Some people thought I did it so I could ask them a bunch of improv questions, but the opposite was true. I picked them up so they wouldn’t have to talk about improv at all. I can’t imagine anything worse than having to travel to another city, only to get trapped in a car, answering questions about improv the whole way.

Instead, we talked about the details of what was right in front of us: the outdated decor of the waiting lounge, the parking lot and its confusing enter/exit lanes, various sights on the way in to Toronto. David admired the wind turbine at Exhibition Place and was very outgoing, while TJ was more quiet. They were both pretty laid back and fun to talk with.

When it was time for them to leave a few days later, I drove them back to the airport. This time the conversation went all over the place. It felt a bit like doing a three-person set, only no one was watching.

Last summer I performed with my group The Seedlings at the Del Close Marathon. On my last day in New York, I was walking down Fifth Avenue towards the Flat Iron when I spotted David about to enter a coffee shop. My mother and brother were with me, and they continued walking as I stepped over to say Hi. When I called his name he turned around and recognised me right away, to my relief. It’s always fun to run into people, but he seemed genuinely pleased to see me in a way you don’t encounter often.

We talked briefly before I mentioned I was on my way to the airport, and had come to the city with my mother and brother. Immediately David wanted to meet them, so we went over and I introduced everybody. We’d gone to see him perform with TJ the night before at the Barrow Street Theatre, and it was probably the best 50 minutes of improv I have ever seen. My mother and brother both liked it, and had fun talking about their favourite moments after the show.

Without doubt, David has a unique way of paying attention that makes you feel like you are really being listened to. It’s a really genuine way of relating to another person, and something that’s very rare. To take time to meet my mother and brother wasn’t something he had to do, but he has a way of making you feel like he has all the time in the world for you.

I came away from the encounter wanting to have that kind of “availabilty.” To be more open, genuine and considerate. It’s qualities like these that help to make a TJ and Dave show what it is, and I don’t think they could do it on stage if they weren’t like that in real life.

When they returned to Toronto for a show at Second City, they both spotted me in the line-up and came over to talk. After the show TJ invited me out with him and David, and we went to a local bar where we talked about a variety of things. For such funny guys, I really like how there is no “ON” button. The conversation may be funny, but nothing is ever forced and the easiest thing I found was just to “go with.” (TJ also paid for my 7Up before I even knew the bartender had asked. You’ve got to be alert with these guys!)

Before the night was over, we got a picture of the three of us, and while there may be a story behind it, that’s one I’ll keep to myself. : )

Tom James Vest

TJ, “TJ” and Dave

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