Thursday, March 12, 2015

Writing The TJ & Dave Book (#2): In Which They Said "Yes And ..."

by Pam Victor

["Writing The TJ & Dave Book" is the series plucked from the journal I kept while writing "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ & Dave Book" with TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. You should buy the book here. (I mean, if you want to.) 
You can see the whole behind-the-book blog series here for free.]

When last we left off, there were only two people on earth who weren’t wondering how the hell I ended up writing a book with TJ and Dave. And they were TJ and Dave. Actually, to be perfectly honest, even they were (are?) probably wondering too …

I won't be coy. I'll just come right out and say it. The answer is: I asked.

One of the great many blessings of being a woman of a certain age and an experienced improviser is that I’ve stop giving so much of a shit about risking spectacular and glorious failure - or even just being told no. 

“No” was what I heard the first time I tried to see TJ & Dave in person on April 13, 2012, which happened to be about six months before that conversation with Cute SNL Dude. Through some happenstance of luck and fate (plus the fact that TJ grew up thirty minutes south of where I live in the wilds of Western Mass.), I found out that TJ and Dave were doing a fundraiser show nearby for an organization TJ’s mom was involved in. My improv heroes were going to be playing in my backyard! But the barely-publicized show sold out - mostly to TJ’s family and family-friends - before I even knew the tickets were on sale. I was devastated, but determined. So I set off for the show, sans ticket, wholly prepared to beg, borrow, or steal my way in. (My back-up plan was to scale a wall and shimmy in the bathroom window.) 

Fortunately, all I had to do was whine a little. “You don’t understand,” I told the poor lady at the door. “I love improvisation soooo much, and these guys are my absolute favorite. This is like seeing The Beatles for me. The Beatles.” A kind soul standing by the door took pity on me
Yes, I'm that dork who keeps her tickets.
No, this isn't a vision board.
(Ok, maybe it is a little bit of a vision board.)
and my sad excuse for a life, and sold me her extra ticket. A little over an hour later, the lights came back up and I was a goner with an unflagging improv-boner for TJ & Dave.

After the show, I followed the crowd as it snaked by TJ and Dave themselves (OMG!!!) who stood near the door of the club. TJ, the hometown boy made good, was mobbed by fans and family. But Dave was a little more available. He happened to look up as I walked by. We made eye contact. He didn’t seem like he would chop me up into little pieces and feed them to his goldfish, so I screwed up my courage and approached him. I’m sure I gushed revoltingly and talked too fast and too much, because that’s what I do when I’m nervous. (And sometimes just when I’m breathing.) And then I told him that I write the “Geeking Out with…” interview series, and would he maybe consider perhaps sitting down to a possible interview with me one day whenever it’s convenient please, sir? That time, I got a yes.

Improvisers, man. You gotta love ‘em.

As luck would have it, I didn’t offend David with my insipid questions. The interviews went well enough, I suppose, because TJ Jagodowski himself (!!!) sent me a message through Facebook saying that he enjoyed the articles. (I can assure you that receiving that message was pretty much the most exciting thing that happened to me in maybe forever.) Because it doesn’t hurt to ask, I asked TJ if he’d be willing to sit down with me for an interview. Because he’s an improviser, he eventually said yes. But never would I have dreamed that I would soon find myself sitting in TJ’s Chicago living room, asking him every question I could come up with about improvisation for three blissful hours of quiet terror.

A month or so later, as I prepared to post the final installment of the last interview with TJ on my blog, I found that I wasn’t ready to stop being in their heads. And I told them so, pretty much in those words. I wrote to them: 
“Dearest Mr. Pasquesi and Mr. Jagodowski, 

With TJ’s “Geeking Out with…” article coming on the heels of David’s, I’ve had the rare and wonderful opportunity to spend many, many hours transcribing, reading and re-reading, editing and reflecting upon your words. I must say it’s with a bit of a heavy heart that I end my visit into your heads. Not only has it been a great pleasure and honor, but also I’ve learned a tremendous amount about improvisation on a practical, theoretical and even spiritual level. (I hope that wasn’t too precious for you, but it’s true so tough titties.) So, again, thank you. 

You both have so much knowledge to offer the improvisation world. In fact, someone just emailed me today to let me know he’s using our interviews as a textbook in his classes. Which gave me an idea ... Should you ever decide to write a book, I hope you will consider me as a collaborator ... I think a “TJ and Dave” book would be a slam dunk because you have a niche audience to whom you regularly perform, a built-in, large fan base, and, most of all, a plethora of unique perspectives and theories to share. If I can help in anyway to bring your approach to improvisation into the hands of eager, evolving improvisers, it would be my great honor to do so. If, in the end, the only role I play is buy the book, I will do that too. With pleasure. 
Thanks again, kind gentlemen. I look forward to the next show.
Looking back, it was an okay thank you note – though I think I jumped the shark with “plethora.” (Plus ... "Dearest?!?!" WTF, Pam?) But, hey, what did I have to lose? I hit send. 

And then I forgot about it because ... c’mon, you guys ... let’s get real. 

Two weeks later, one day before my 46th birthday, I checked my phone to find this note from (Holy shit!) David Pasquesi: 
“Pam. We would love to discuss the idea of a book with you.” 

When I re-checked my phone, the note was still there. I showed it to my husband, and he saw it too. You guys, I GOT A TEXT FROM DAVID PASQUESI! If it had ended there, I would have been perfectly happy.

Despite the fact that he practically professed his undying love for me (okay, so I might be extrapolating a bit … but he did say “love,” so you do the math,) it would be months before we would have that discussion as I spent the winter of 2012 trying to muster enough baseless confidence to convince TJ and David to let me help them
Taking the next first steps.
(Yes, I'm the dork who saves
life-changing texts.
I'm only sorry I couldn't put it on
my vision board.)
write their book. (See that second life-changing text over there? That was after David sent me a document with some ideas they'd jotted down. I didn't hear from them for weeks afterwards.) Somehow I fooled them, and by the shortest days in the season when we began to fear the snow would never melt, TJ, David, and I started to write. By the time the flowers finally opened their faces to the sun, we were firmly dug into the writing process. Even so, I spent a lot (A LOT! Like at least some portion of every single fucking day) of that spring thinking the fellows would come to their senses and fire me at any minute, but I kept doing the work every single fucking day on the off-chance that they didn't. And finally in the late summer, as the apples started to look like proper apples rather than teeny tiny mini dollhouse apples on the trees outside my window, I relaxed fully into the work, figuring that I had written too much for them to can my sorry ass at that point. By the time the first snows fell again at the end of 2013, I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, I might not be the worst person in the world for the job. By the time we were working on the last bits of writing the first draft, I took a moment as the sun set too early every winter day to feel grateful for all the wisdom and orneriness and laughter and faith TJ and David have honored me with.

So how did I end up writing a book with TJ and Dave? Luck. Fortitude. Talent. I forgot that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I let myself wish for it to happen. 

But really, I just asked. 

The next installment of this series:
In Which I Am More Elaine Benes Than Julia Louis-Dreyfus

If you're interested in reading more of my slurry, check out

Or perhaps you'd like to read interviews with great minds in improvisation in the Geeking Out with... series here?


Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in Western Massachusetts. Pam writes (and performs) the Geeking Out with... interview series. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle."   TJ Jagodowski,  David Pasquesi, and Pam are the co-a "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book,"  due out Spring, 2015. Currently, Pam teaches  "The Zen of Improv Comedy" and "Mindfulness Through Laughter" in Western Massachusetts.


  1. Pam, yes you asked. But you were the right person to ask at the right time.

    PS- I thought that I'd trademarked the term "improv boner." Damn, I forgot to turn the freakin paperwork in...

    1. Guess I'll owe you a nickel every time I see a show, Bob! :)